Swanage Rugby Club was formed in 1953 as a direct result of three or four players taking it into their heads that they were fed up travelling to Bournemouth to play for them. They had to go over the ferry at Sandbanks, or when the weather was bad, it meant a long trip through Wareham and Poole to the Bournemouth ground.
The first official meeting was between Peter Chadwick, Chris Farwell, Mike Codling and Tony Gurner Jones, and on the 14th September 1953 an inaugural meeting took place at Forres School where 26 people attended. Peter Chadwick was elected Chairman, Mike Codling as Secretary and Tony Gurner Jones as Treasurer. The original colours were white shirts and blue shorts and blue or black stocking. Swans first game was against Bovington Camp and by the next meeting, held on 23rd December 1953 Swanage had played eight games, winning four of them. At this meeting the rules of the club were formulated, and it was decided to change the strip to maroon shirts, blue shorts and maroon stockings. “Tinny” Dean, who played for Cambridge University, Harlequins and England in 1931, was elected the Club’s first President. A friend of Tinny Dean, one Peter Scott, the renowned wildfowl artist, was persuaded, free of charge, to design the clubs badge, (the original drawings being on display on the main clubhouse wall). The clubs first changing rooms were at Oldfield School, part of the old Swanage Grammar School, and the club played on Days Park in Swanage and later on King George’s playing fields, moving to the Swanage Laundry as changing rooms. The club went from strength to strength and by 1956/7, under the captaincy of John Strange, they played 32 games, won 28 and only lost 4, also starting a second XV. It was decided at the AGM of 1957 that non-playing members would be elevated to Vice-Presidents, a term which the present club maintains.
One Malcolm Van der Pant, a P.E. teacher from Wareham Secondary Modern School, was a great influence on the Swanage club. He started the boys at Wareham Secondary Modern playing rugby in 1956, and that school team stayed together for 3 years, winning most of their games. In 1960 Van der Pant suggested the Old Boys should form a separate club, and with the help of officials from Swanage Rugby Club they did so. The Wareham Old Boys first captain was Micky White who eventually became Swanage & Wareham President. Wareham Old Boys played in maroon and white hoops, and the Old Boys enjoyed considerable success playing against 2nd & 3rd XV’s from the other Dorset club sides for some six years. Wareham Old Boys played at the Modern School and most of their social life was in the Red Lion, run by Tony Gurner Jones, one of the founder members of Swanage Rugby Club. However by 1966 Swanage were having trouble finding facilities, their pitch at King George’s playing field was becoming flooded in the winter. Under the influence of Tinny Dean and committee, meetings were held between the two clubs with a view to amalgamation. A third team, run by John Proctor, called Purbeck Colts which was set up round about 1964, whose first captain was Dave “Jock” Middleton also came on board and the new club was formed calling itself Swanage & Wareham RFC. The clubs first pitch was on John Proctor’s farm, at Bestwall, the 2nd XV still playing at the Modern School. The new club eventually found premises close to the farm, on the old allotment site, their present ground. Much of the work on the new ground was done by Grantley Smith a farmer and player from Norden with help from the other players. The Club moved into the new Clubhouse in 1968.
Most of the Clubs players come through the youth policy which was started by Stan Jones around about 1972/3, and this has developed into a healthy turnout of youngsters from under 6’s up to the Colts being at the club every Sunday morning.
The advent of the League system was a boon to Swans, as the club was beginning to stagnate, finding it difficult to find fixtures against the “better” clubs. Swans (as they became known), started in the Dorset/Wilts league, but soon progressed to the Southern Counties league, winning it in 1992/3. The Club spent seven years in what's now known as South West One East before eventually becoming champions in 1999/2000, then 'enjoying' two seasons competing at Level 5, South West Premier level, competing against teams of the caliber of Cinderford, Olney, Barnstaple and Bridgewater. Swans returned to South West One East for eleven consecutive seasons, until being relegated in 2012/13. Swans spent a short period moving between South West One East and the Southern Counties league before disappointingly dropping, in a tough relegation battle, to Dorset & Wilts One. Swans quickly rebuilt and with a young squad, immediately bouncing back to the Southern Counties League in 2018/19 and finished the last competitive season in a respectable fifth position in this league.
Over the years Swans have developed a deserved reputation, as a highly successful cup side, winning the Dorset/Wilts Cup for the first time in 1988/9 and then winning it 11 times out of 12 finals in the years between 1995 and 2007, a period in which the Swans were without doubt the leading club in the twin counties. During these years the Club had successful National Cup runs beating higer league opponents and playing teams like Blackheath and Barking, losing by three points who drew Leicester in the next round!
In Dec 2016/Jan 2017, Lily Carr created the Swans Ladies team and after building the player pool, joined the league system in the 2018/19 season. They lost every game that first season with their aim of just getting a try and fielding 15 players! Lily left at the end of that season and Chris Burton stepped in as head coach and Gareth Jones joined as the assistant coach. Under the leadership of their captain Hannah Reynard, the following year Swans Ladies went on to secure wins against Dorchester and Melksham.
The team has grown in popularity with the help of community boot camps and word of mouth, looking to continue their development and success year on year.