AS smoke billowed from the roof and fire ripped through the clubhouse, disconsolate members of one of the borough's oldest and most prestigious rugby teams looked on in horror.

Wednesday April 11, 2001 was the worst day in the long history of Pinner RFC, based at Shatesbury Playing Fields, Grimsdyke Road, Hatch End. The old clubhouse, built in 1954 and housing countless trophies, photographs and other memorabilia was burnt to the ground. It took six fire engines to extinguish the blaze.

Many believed the devastation would finish the club.

However, three and a half years on, Pinner are still alive and kicking. On Saturday, players and members will unveil a brand new, purpose-built clubhouse, completing an amazing rise from the ashes.

Club captain Andrew Wright said: "Pinner has a reputation for sportsmanship and a very welcoming atmosphere, which is respected throughout the local rugby playing community.

"The fire was a massive blow and the club's committee had to decide whether or not to rebuild. Between 2001-2003 Hatch End Cricket Club, who have a pavilion in the same park, offered use during the winter. Without this we would have struggled to survive. We are extremely grateful to them."

After protracted negotiations with insurance companies, Pinner found the money to start rebuilding in spring 2003.

Andrew said: "As with many things like this, it was not enough so we formed a fund-raising committee. With generous donations from past and present members and sponsorship from local businesses, the money was raised."

The new clubhouse has four changing rooms, showers, disabled facilities, and a kitchen and bar area.

Andrew said: "With these improved facilities we now run a girls' team and are looking into more ways to integrate the use within the local community."

Pinner RFC date back to 1880 and are one of the oldest rugby clubs in Middlesex.

The grand unveiling is on Saturday at 1pm. Anyone interested in joining should visit or call 07885 466473.