Exactly 138 years to this day, on the 4th December 1800, Swinton Lions met Salford Red Devils for the very first time.
Swinton Lions were formed in 1866 and their rise to the top of rugby at the time was dramatic.
Between 1875 and 1878 they achieved three entire seasons unbeaten, which led them to the signing of England international Ted Beswick and their first match against local rivals Salford.
Salford were founded in 1873 under the name ‘Cavendish’.
They also rose up the rugby ranks and met Swinton in 1877/78 for the first time, however the Lions were a much superior side for this tie and only fielded their reserve side.
In an effort to engage local support, Cavendish changed their name to Salford in 1879.
Swinton agreed to a match against newly renamed Salford on 4th December 1800, the Lions won the tie 2 goals to nil (there was no “points” scoring system at this time, and a goal was of superior value to any number of tries. If a try was “converted”, then only the goal would count).
The two goals were kicked by full-back Billy Cooke, and tries were scored by Harry Hope and Joe Mills.
Hope was a forward from the Hazlehurst area of Swinton, whilst Mills went on to become one of Swinton’s most famous names of its early history.
On the field he was named reserve half-back for England and captained Lancashire, before eventually chalking up 267 club appearances. Off the field he became a Local Councillor, a Magistrate, and was landlord of both The Football and Bull’s Head pubs in Swinton.