On the 28th September 1869 a meeting was held at the Bull Hotel, Preston at which the following resolution was passed: ‘That a club be at once formed in Preston to play football with the Rugby Rules of the game but without hacking. That the club be called ‘The Preston Grasshoppers.’
This meeting took place a few months after the idea to start playing Rugby Football in Preston was conceived by five men who had attended rugby playing schools; A.C. Dickson, C. Threlfall, G.H. Dickson, J.H. Threlfall & Bamber They duly approached the Headmaster of Preston Grammar School, G.C. Tatham, and the idea of a good winter game for the pupils appealed him. The result of this was that the Grammar School pupils were given instructions in the game under the leadership of Mr Dickson and his friends, making sufficient progress to induce them to challenge Lancaster Royal Grammar School. The game was played at Lancaster 27th February 1869, and the school, assisted by some of its instructors, received a good beating! Subsequently, such progress was made, that in the return match, Preston lost by only a single goal. Interest in the game had now been aroused and Mr F.C. Hulton drove the suggestion that a Rugby Football Club should be created. It is recorded that the first formal meeting took place at the offices of Messer’s George Paley & F. Beesley in Walton’s Parade before the formation meeting at The Bull Hotel. The name ‘Grasshoppers’ was chosen, as among the founders were several old boys of Cheltenham College. This school had a game ‘Fireflies v. Grasshoppers’ which is believed to continue to this day. Historians tell us that Football was developed in the Public Schools, then Universities during the early to mid 1800’s. It moved from being unruly ‘Mob’ or ‘Street Football’ into some sort of order but with a variety of regulations. Consequently the schools had their own types of football, played to various rules, shape and sized balls. It wasn’t uncommon for a game between two teams to consist of different rules played in the same match. One half one set of rules, the second another. Frustrated, undergraduates at Cambridge tried to unify the regulations in the mid-to-late 1840s and those rules would largely be accepted on the morning of 26 October 1863. Representatives from 12 clubs and schools from the London area met to agree a code for the game. One of these, Blackheath, refused to accept the non-inclusion of hacking and walked out but the 11 others agreed to form The Football Association, Soccer. From this point the rugby game went one way with Blackheath and soccer the other. Presumably Cheltenham College played the version ‘Hoppers adopted in 1869, with the first committee deciding to play rugby but without ‘hacking’. Once the Rugby Football Union was formed in 1871, Grasshoppers’ adopted the official laws of the game, which officially outlawed ‘Hacking’ & ‘Tripping’, although only applying to join the organisation in 1875. The Rugby Union Annual records of the time show that we were members in 1876 until 1886, more of this later. Hacking is best described as where anyone lying in a ruck was fair game, and could be kicked below the knee until retreat was the best option. The sketch below illustrates this most graphically, although it would appear a couple of unfortunate chaps have had their faces mistaken for shins! Whenever a match was played against Rossall School, the game had to be played by their rules, which was an adaptation of The Eton Field Game. It was played with teams of 11 players, Goalkeepers were used and the result was determined by goals scored by the ball passing underneath the crossbar of 11′ x 8′ goal posts. Games versus Brookhouse, which when played in Blackburn were to the Harrow rules. This was a mixture of Association and Rugger, a very rough game by all accounts.