SHORT HISTORY OF WELWYN GARDEN CITY HOCKEY CLUB
Unfortunately, no documents could be found for the period 1921-1939, other than a Mens Fixture Card for the 1938/9 season, so the small amount in the first paragraph below is based largely on hearsay and local knowledge.
1921 – Pioneer settlers of Ebenezer Howard‘s second Garden City met together as a small social group playing mixed hockey on what was originally a farmer’s field – now Handside Playing Fields and the home of Welwyn Rugby Club.
In the years up to the Second World War separate men’s and ladies teams emerged and steadily grew in numbers. It was believed that mixed tennis was also played on that field and there was plenty of socialising.
1939 –1945 Hockey virtually disbanded as the majority of the Men and some Ladies saw wartime service of one sort or another. Some men regrettably did not make it home.
1946 –1950 Both clubs reformed and activity transferred to two rented Council grass pitches at King George V Playing Fields (KGV), alongside Hatfield Hyde Cricket Club (HHCC). Changing facilities consisted then of two (one male, one female) unheated wooden huts and buckets of cold water ! Teas were taken in local restaurants and pubs.
The then Mens Club Hon.Sec.Bob (RC) Carter placed an ad. in the ‘Welwyn Times’ seeking new members and ten Grammar School (now Stanborough School) boys responded which enabled the club to field two teams. The most ambitious and enthusiastic young males, particularly Peter Lord, Tony Warrington and Peter Willard, under the watchful eye of the genial Bob, and other Committee members, set about furthering the desire for some major improvements to accommodate an expanding and ambitious club. As a result, this very active Men’s Committee, with much support from the Ladies Committee, set the framework for a fairly dramatic expansion of the club both on and off the field. The HHCC Secretary, John Welch, proved to be an enthusiastic ally and gradually the Cricket and Hockey Clubs drew closer together in their mutual desire for improved facilities.
During this period both men and ladies teams benefitted from the coaching skills of two lady County players and some senior men players resulting in an impressive improvement in match results.
Gaps appeared in the mens ranks at this time as the lads were obliged to suffer the rigours of two years national service.
One player, Fred Flitney, a very good but belligerent full back turned fairly strict umpire was the only holder of the whistle I have heard of who threatened a player with physical violence if he used ‘that word’ again!
1951 –The Hockey and Cricket Clubs were gifted a second hand wooden pavilion,located on a site behind The Cherry Tree’ (now Waitrose), thanks to the generosity of the owners Whitbreads Brewery, actively prompted by Bill Cotton, one of its directors. This was transported in sections and re-assembled on the parcel of land at the rear of the ‘The Beehive’ also owned by Whitbreads and conveniently alongside KGV. During the re-assembly a contract was placed with Welwyn Builders(Bridge Road) for it to be enlarged to include male and female changing rooms, showers and toilets, c/w hot and cold, and a small bar. This acquisition formed the basis of a very happy relationship between the two sports and the formation of a limited liability company whose daily business was handled by a joint management company (the JMC). Once again a meeting with Bill Cotton enabled the JMC to negotiate a lease at a peppercorn rent and permission to open our own bar, supplied exclusively by Whitbread at advantageous prices !
1950s, 60s,70s and 80s – Having built up some finances the JMC funded the installation of enlarged showers and bar and as a result both mens and ladies clubs prospered culminating in 6 mens and 4 ladies teams using at one time five grass pitches. We were blessed with the co-operation of an enthusiastic Clerk to the WGC Council who provided excellent groundsmen whose work was cut out but they managed to produce some excellent playing surfaces. Every Saturday five sets of wooden goal posts, crossbars and nets had to carried out and assembled usually jointly by the groundsmen and players. The senior groundsman, Bill Turton, was a giant of a man and could carry the posts, backboards and nets for one goal at once and assemble these unaided. (They don’t make them like that any more!)
Balls in those days were stitched leather, generally‘Tugite’, which required painting weekly and this messy task would normally fall to the vice-captain.
Team selection usually took place on Sunday mornings which as far as the men were concerned required notification to approx.48 members inc.umpires mainly by written cards. Mobiles and e-mail had not been invented and not everyone had a telephone, so the majority were hand delivered by the indefatigable Team Secretary, Alan Smith ,either by cycle or motor cycle well into Sunday evening in all weathers.! This very labour intensive method gradually became modernised he is pleased to say.
In order to prosper the social side a number of discos were organised by Ann Davies , Peter Waghorn and Paul Dickson in this period producing handsome bar takings.
One very sad moment occurred in 1956 when Frank Clennell in his second year as President was tragically killed in a rail accident just to the south of WGC station. The Club lost an excellent Chairman and President and a real gentleman.
1971 – In celebration of our Golden Jubilee the Ladies 1st.entertained but lost to a touring team from Buenos Aires, whilst the Men supported the bar!
1973– The clubhouse was doubled in size with a brick built kitchen/tearoom extension, designed by architect player, Denis Saundery, later to become a club VP and President of Herts County Mens HA. The extra space created allowed the building of an even bigger bar which enabled the club to become the venue for numerous social events and many years of very financially successful Easter Festivals. These normally involved 12 Clubs and at times teams from Germany and Holland. The bar was the main source of income which was supplemented by a very profitable 200 Club, organised by Ken Webb and Quizzes organised by Brock Hoaran. Both clubs enjoyed more than average success on the field and ‘local derbies’ with Blueharts, St. Albans and Broxbourne attracted numerous and mostly partisan spectators.
We were a very sociable, family orientated club and a number of married couples produced numerous offsprings, many of whom progressed through the ranks to the highest levels. At certain special events, especially Presidents Day, it was not unusual to see two generations of a family playing in the same game! On Saturdays with five games finishing at roughly the same time the changing rooms, showers and bar were positively heaving! But these were great times for socialising and the bar was most prosperous! We were also able to field a Sunday Mixed team for a number of seasons.
With so much catering to provide we employed a lovely couple Fred and Lily Webster to
layout the teas provided by each team , keep the pots full and do all the washing up.
The Mens Club in particular benefitted from the arrival of University graduates working locally at ICI and Roche and the 1st.team produced some very good results.
There were some great evenings at the end of each season when the Ladies prepared and served the food for the Men’s Annual Dinner, followed by a cabaret, and the Men returned the honour by organising the Ladies Dinner a few weeks later. Who can possibly forget Mair Quartleys’ rendition of ”Nobody loves a fairy when she’s 40!” or Dick Roberts’ very convincing spluttery impression of Barrie Humphries, and last but not least John Bathurst’s very realistic and sexy impersonation of Lena Horne !
Mention must be made of Jimmy Findlay, public schoolboy and rubber planter in the Cameroons, who played when home on leave and in his retirement up to the ripe old age of 80,mostly on the wing, and of whom Terry Edwards once famously said,” he was the best player to miss the ball at that level!” In one game against Lea Hoe Jimmy manfully ignored two brutal tackles by the opposing rather crude half back but following the third he gave the fellow a sharp tap on the ankle with his stick which produced a roar and the words …” if you do that again I’ll effing well kill you” to which Jimmy replied in his best public school accent … “ if you do you’ll be sent orrf!”
Playing Greats — At one time the Ladies boasted players representing Scotland(Myra Clarke) and Wales(Mair Quartley) and junior players selected for the England Under 18’s and Under 21’s. Not to be left out the men included County and East players and one in the England under 23 squad. In the 60s the men fielded an outstanding 6-a-side team led by Carl Norris winning all of the local events and twice reached the final of the London 6’s, the most prestigious tournament in the South of England.
Here’s something for modern forwards to reflect on Nobby Beattie scored 100 (yes 100) goals in one season and Freddie Cox almost got there with 99 goals ! Goalies in those days though played in cricketing pads and thinly padded kickers, without a face mask!.
In more recent times Paul Kimber (PK) has been the club’s most prolific scorer regularly notching up 30+ goals in a season against goalies wearing spacemans’gear.
Umpiring Greats – A number of players turned to umpiring and some reached County and Regional level status , and two, David Marshall and Bryan Humphrey, progressed to the dizzy heights of FIH/Olympic recognition.
1991—The Ladies and Men’s clubs merge and continue to flourish and embrace the introduction of League Hockey and a consequent demand for all-weather pitches. We were fortunate that there was one such artificial turf pitch at Gosling Sports Park with vacant possession, but 2 miles from the clubhouse. The downside to this was the necessity to fit a number of home matches on to one pitch with staggered times which meant the first game often starting at10 a.m and the last game finishing at 6 p.m. The inevitable result was fragmentation of the club and sadly the gradual breakdown in the social atmosphere.
1993—Following lengthy debate and much heart searching it was decided that the best long term interests of the club would be served by moving our base to Gosling Sports Park(GSP) alongside their all weather pitch .So following detailed negotiations with GSP management we sadly said goodbye to KGV,HHCC and the JMC. This new arrangement worked fairly well for 12 years but continuing problems with the pitch surface, floodlights and catering facilities caused some unrest and as GSP were unable to offer any short term solutions we resolved to look elsewhere. As a result we commenced negotiations with the Director of Sport at the recently opened Herts Sports Village at the Herts University site in Hatfield. He offered us favourable terms in respect of pitch hire, changing rooms and membership of the adjacent DeHavilland Sports Club, (DHSC).
1996 – Our 75th.celebration took the form of a most enjoyable formal dinner at the Sopwell House Hotel, St Albans attended by approximately 80 past and present members.
1999 – The Club Mixed team, captained by David Jeffery, had a great triumph in winning the 1998/99 Timpson National Mixed Plate Competition Final played at the Milton Keynes Stadium. The following year they lost in the final but gained some more headlines for the Club.
2005–We became the first users of a new generation sand filled pitch at the Herts Sports Village and an arrangement to use the catering facility and bar within the DHSC. Regrettably the relationship with the Sports Club was not that happy and when their lease was not renewed by the University the latter assumed catering responsibilities which also had its problems. Fortunately these are now to some extent resolved but in the long term there is a heartfelt wish to terminate our nomadic existence and find a suitably equipped site in WGC with an artificial grass pitch alongside a changing and catering facility or even better our own clubhouse. The present Management Committee has set itself the unenviable and formidable task of attempting to achieve this objective.
2006 – Yet another milestone was reached when the club elected its first Lady President, Sue Lord (nee Bloomfield) which at that time we believed was unique within the County.
2008 – The Club was awarded the prestigious Clubs 1st. Accreditation by England Hockey and Clubmark by Sport England mainly in recognition of our Youth Development Policy. Many thanks are due to the efforts of Jane Kinghorn, Sue Owen, Ros Dakin, Julia Hume and Alan Smith. These awards are subject to a three year audit and our internal procedures have to be re-submitted and assessed by EH and thanks to Sue Rowe who carried out this time consuming duty unaided on the Club’s behalf in 2011.
Chris Perry celebrated 50 years in hockey , not all with the club, but he was a player, Club Secretary ,President, captain and umpire . What an achievement ! At the peak of his playing career he was selected for the East. Practising as a local solicitor he is the Clubs’ legal advisor.
Many members, regrettably too numerous to mention, have contributed over the years to the building of a most successful club, both on and off the pitch, and a number of these have been acknowledged as Life Members and Vice- Presidents. But in recent times Brock Hoaran stands alone having sponsored and managed 25 Annual Quiz Nights and 19 Golf Society Meetings . For a number of years he edited, printed and distributed quarterly the eagerly awaited but regrettably now defunct, amusing and borderline libelous publication “Lies & Rumours”.
Other generous sponsors in more recent times have been local firms Cereal Partners, Cheerios, Hallmark Executive Catering and Key People.
In the build up to the 2012 Olympics, hockey in WGC has a display board in the Sports Avenue in the Campus West building of WH Borough Council.
So there is much to reflect on, feel grateful for and celebrate as the Club moves into its 90th.year.
October 2011 Compiled by Alan Smith
1. The above is I believe a fairly honest and reliable account of the events and personalities involved in the creation of what was in its time one of the largest and most prosperous clubs in the County. I would like to acknowledge the assistance given by so freely by a number of past members in its preparation.
2. It was not possible to include the names of all those who contributed so much time and effort over the years, however, I have attached as Annex I a Roll of Honour for Presidents, Chairmen and husband / wife teams.
3 Also Annex 2 which hopefully includes most of the involved members’ names, sponsors , umpires and some trivia. My sincere apologies to anyone who may have been overlooked.
ROLL OF HONOUR ANNEX 1
1938/9 W.S.C. Bremner
1946-54 A.L. (Toby) Elliston
1955-56 Frank Clennell
1957-76 Jack Howard
1977-82 Peter Lord
1983-85 Bob Pomroy
1986-93 John Bathurst
1994-95 John Symonds
1996-97 Chris Perry
1998-2005 Tony Goodburn
2006-08 Sue Lord (nee Bloomfield)
2009-2011 David Searle
2012- Chris Perry
1946-50 Geoff Bullock
1951-53 Ron Shepherd
1954-56 Frank Clennell
1957-61 Jack Howard
1962-65 Bob Carter
1966-70 Bob Pakes
1971-73 Dennis Saundery
1974-76 Peter Lord
1977-78 Tony Royall
1979-91 Alan Smith
1992-93 Rick Tinner
2006- 08 Bob Griffiths
2009-2011 Paul Kimber
2012- Alan Clarke
HUSBAND & WIFE DUOS
Bob & Bonnie Carter
Peter & Shirley Lord
Tony and Lavinia Warrington
David & Brenda Marshall
Ian & Nanette Smets
Ken & Lisa Boon
Terry & Ros Dakin
John& Jill Symonds
Rick & Sally Tinner
Paul & Julie Kimber (nee Evans)
Irene Brooks ( Captain )
Evelyn Bradly (Captain)
David Marshall FIH
Bryan Humphrey FIH
ROLL OF HONOUR ANNEX 2
Members making a significant contribution to the Club, roughly in date order.
Denis van der Meijden
Handside Playing Field
King George V Playing Fields
Gosling Sports Park
Hertfordshire Sports Village