Bristol Rugby (or Bristol Football Club as it was formerly known) was formed in 1888 and over the years some of the greatest names in the game have played for the Club from Len Corbett, Sam Tucker, Jack Gregory, John Pullin and Alan Morley through to Jason Little and Agustin Pichot in recent years.
Bristol Football Club was formed in 1888 when the ambitious Carlton Club invited its rival clubs Redland Park and Westbury Park to join in forming a representative city team. The word rugby is a very recent addition to the name.
Westbury Park declined the offer, although many of its players subsequently joined Bristol when Westbury Park folded. Redland Park however accepted and the Bristol club was born.
The County Cricket Ground at Nevil Road was leased for home matches.
The first match was a heavy away defeat against Cardiff and although the first season was reasonably successful the second was not the same with only three games won.
The Club went from strength to strength in the next few years under the guidance of the charismatic W. Tommy Thomson. Under his captaincy it turned the corner and in 1891 - 92, now wearing the more familiar navy and white hooped shirts, the Bristol team won twenty games out of twenty four and was an established club.
Over the ensuing seasons the fixture list went from strength to strength, consisting of most of the top English and Welsh sides. In 1900 J. W. Jarman became Bristol's first England cap. Further players were honoured in the first decade of the new century including Harry Shewring and Percy Down and in 1910 full back W. R. Johnston, an outstanding player, played the first of his sixteen England games.
Two major touring sides played Bristol during this period. The first New Zealand All Blacks defeated the club 41 - 0 in 1905 and in 1909 a combined Bristol and Clifton team lost to Australia.
James "Darkie" Peters was the first black player to represent England. An outside half, he made 35 appearances for Bristol from 1900-1902, scoring twelve tries. There is a lot of interest in Peters at the moment as there is an exhibition devoted to him in the museum at Twickenham.
According to Bristol's annual report of 1900-01, Peters joined the club from Dings Second XV. This does not necessarily mean Dings Crusaders as there were distinct teams called Dings and Dings Crusaders in existence at the time, with Dings being the stronger. There is also evidence that he played for the now defunct Knowle club.
A press report of one of his Bristol games criticises him for slow passing but states in his defence that he had been working all night. Another report says that Peters, who was used at least once as a winger by Bristol, had resisted inducements to go to Rugby League.
Peters moved to Devon early in the 1902-03 season where he joined the Plymouth club. He played for both Somerset and Devon and made the first of his five England appearances in 1906 in the 9-3 defeat of Scotland at Inverleith. He scored a try in his next international, a 35-8 drubbing of France in Paris. This was the first meeting between the countries.
Peters played in England's 17-9 defeat in Dublin in 1907 and then scored his second international try, England's only score in an 8-3 defeat against Scotland at Blackheath. He scored in the last minute and this was the only try Scotland conceded during the season.
Peters made his final England appearance at the unlikely venue of Ashton Gate. England lost 28-18 to Wales in farcical conditions as thick fog prevented anyone in the crowd from following the proceedings. Peters later played Rugby League for Barrow. He died in March 1954.