The earliest date for the formation of Chelmsford Hockey Club seems to be 1901. However, I have completed a booklet detailing the History, Life and Times of the Grove (Chelmsford) Lawn Tennis Club, and in my researches unearthed details of hockey activities in Chelmsford as early as 1898. The minute books of the Grove during this period are intact although details of events are fairly brief. I am quite confident that the following is a fair reflection on the founding details of the Chelmsford Hockey Club.
The Grove Lawn Tennis Club was founded in 1893 in Grove Road. In 1894 the Club moved to a site in Vicarage Road, where “Wellmeads” stands today. At that time the whole of the Moulsham area was yet to be developed and as well as renting the site for tennis courts, in 1898 permission was granted from the tenant, Mr Herbert Marriage, of Moulsham Lodge, for the use of a “field” behind the courts for a newly formed hockey section of the Club. This hockey section very soon became fairly independent of the Grove as formal correspondence passed between the respective secretaries.
Sample items contained in the minutes are a request to play hockey on the tennis courts, which was of course refused and a demand for the hockey players to pay an annual subscription of 2/6 for tennis members and 5/- for non-members. This was in January 1898 and a Mr Meeres, a Grove committee member was elected captain of the hockey section. Further requests were made for the use of the court marker and pavilion and terms were agreed. At the commencement of the 1898/99 season the hockey section of the Grove Tennis Club was now called Chelmsford Hockey Club, although they continued to rent the pitch, pavilion and equipment from the Grove Tennis Club.
The last entry in the minute books referring to the hockey club appears at the meeting in April 1900 when a cash demand was made to the hockey club for damage to the Grove’s lawn mower. At this time I suspect that the relationship between the clubs was deteriorating and that the hockey club was seeking alternative accommodation. A move would certainly have been necessary in 1902 as Mr Marriage was endeavouring to evict the Grove from their site due to the land being required for building purposes. Although the Grove managed to resist eviction for a further 67 years, I doubt if they managed to hold on to the field that they were sub-letting to the Chelmsford Hockey Club.
To summarise, these facts indicate that the Chelmsford Hockey Club was formed in 1898 by members of the Grove Lawn Tennis Club and their first ground would have been in the Oaklands Crescent – St Vincent’s Road area. They probably moved and became independent of the tennis club in 1901/02.
GORDON ELEY, Chairman, Grove (Chelmsford) Lawn Tennis Club.
More Recent History
In 1971 the 2 sections came together (as part of the newly formed Chelmsford Sports Club) at their newly-built ground of Chelmer Park. In 1987, the Youth Section was formed. In the Centenary Year of 1998, the separate clubs were finally dissolved and immediately reconvened as the Chelmsford Hockey Club. This appeared to be the catalyst to strive for even greater achievements. Foremost amongst these was the further development of the (re-named) Chelmsford Hockey Centre as a top-quality sports ground commensurate with the demands of National League hockey, not to mention being a venue of choice for fixtures at national and international level, such as the England v Japan match played in late 2003.
Ladies Chelmsford have always been amongst the elite of women’s hockey, both outdoors and indoors.Outdoor Chelmsford was one of the 10 founder members of the National League in 1989. Prior to this they had often featured in the National Club Finals. In 1979, they became National Champions and made their first foray into Europe the following year when they travelled to Leningrad and Barcelona as England’s representatives in the European Club Championships and came 5th. After that they made further appearances in the National Club Final and Semi-finals. Take a look at the other tabs for more details.
Chelmsford Men’s Hockey Club was consistently one of the top clubs in Essex and East Anglia throughout its history. East League Champions and Essex Cup winners on numerous occasions, the Club also were Essex Indoor League Champions at one stage. Since the Centenary year and the amalgamation of the two clubs in 1998, the Men’s 1st XI took that record to the highest level and became one of the top 10 teams in the country. This was achieved through a policy of nurturing talent from within the Club, coupled with a judicious blend of more experienced and outstanding players from outside the Club, especially from overseas. First promoted to the National League in 1991, life was a struggle for Chelmsford despite, or perhaps eventually because of a rapid influx of senior players. While their capabilities and experience were not in doubt, the majority of their playing careers were behind them and this left little time for younger players to be groomed to follow in their footsteps. Relegated to the East League, a decision was then made to reinforce the development of young talent, leading to a period of consolidation and a steady climb back to the upper levels of regional hockey. Promoted once more to the EHL in 1997, a further period of consolidation was the platform for promotion to EHL Division 1 in 1999, following a restructuring of the National League. By this stage, the heavy investment in the Club’s youth policy was beginning to show dividends and, with the addition of outstanding talent from outside the Club (and especially an influx of international players from South Africa), the first challenge for Premier Division status took place in 2001. Not gaining automatic promotion, a finely balanced play-off saw Chelmsford denied promotion by the slimmest of margins. Supplemented by outstanding coaching and a properly organised and inspirational management team, Chelmsford Men achieved promotion to the EHL Premier League in 2004, having already reached the last eight of the EHA Cup, beaten by only the third in a succession of Premier Division opponents.
With the successful outcome of the 2005 campaign, where they finished a very creditable 6th, Chelmsford Men were a force to be reckoned with in national hockey. The Men now play in East prem A (latest update was Nov 2016)
- The Club was formed on 26 January 1898.
- 1922/23 – the Club moved to New Writtle Street to share the ground with Chelmsford Cricket Club having played at various venues including Springfield.
- The last committee meeting before war broke out was in the Lion and Lamb on 3 July 1939. Informal games were played during the war years, but the Club was effectively in suspension.
- A Special General meeting was held at the Golden Fleece on 27 August 1946 to "reform" the Club after the end of the war with two Saturday sides being fielded.
- 1956/57 was the first season when a regular Sunday side was recorded in the fixture card.
- In 1962 the pavilion at New Writtle Street was destroyed by the exploits of an arsonist who seems to have destroyed about six other buildings in the location.
- 1964/65 – J G Burrell’s last of twenty-two seasons as President of the Club. This is the longest recorded period for which any member has held the same office in the Club.
- 1968/69 – Creation of the Chelmsford Sports Club (CSC): an affiliation of the Chelmsford Hockey Club, Chelmsford Ladies Hockey Club and the Chelmsford Cricket Club. The CSC led the negotiations with Chelmsford Borough Council for the location of the clubhouse and pitches at new playing fields at Galleywood to be know as Chelmer Park.
- 1971/72 – The first season at Chelmer Park.
- On 21 March 1971 the park and pavilion at Chelmer Park were opened by the Mayor of Chelmsford, Alderman D A Bellamy. The Chelmsford Sports Club clubhouse (our current clubhouse) was erected as part of the pavilion. Roger Thompson, Alan Gemmill anbd John Currie were the key driving forces in the hockey club for the new ground. The Club’s own official opening was on 23 April 1972 with hockey and cricket games between the three member Clubs followed by various celebrations!
- 1980/81 – A formal Saturday Veterans XI introduced for the first time.
- November 1986 – the launch of our thriving Youth Section!
- 1986/87 – Alan Gemmill’s 40th playing season for Chelmsford.
- 1989/90 – The first season using the artificial pitch at Chelmer Park. This was built as a joint venture by the hockey clubs and Chelmsford Borough Council with the clubs meeting 10% of the capital costs – raising £40,000 in one season! The pitch was opened on 26 November 1989 by the Mayor, Councillor Jean Norton, with an exhibition game which was against Havant HC. In the same season a second Veterans side was started – the ‘Evergreens’. The 1st XI were crowned Norwich Union East League Premier Division Champions…
With the inception of the National league, Chelmsford qualified at the first time of asking by being successful in the East region play-offs. They have played in the National League ever since. For the main part, they have played in the Premier Division, although they spent 4 seasons in Division 1, before winning promotion back to the top flight in 1999. At the end of the 2004/5 season Chelmsford finished fourth in the Premier Division and represented England in the 2005 European Cup-Winners Tournament in Cologne, winning the silver medal. They now play in National League East Conference.Chelmsford has always been a successful Cup side, rarely failing to reach at least the quarter finals. They made three appearances in four seasons in the semi-finals between 1998 and 2001, and again in 2005.
Chelmsford also has a long and strong tradition of indoor hockey. They have rarely been out of the top 4 since inception in 1977, when the National Indoor Championship began. Despite many appearances in both semi-finals and finals of the Indoor Championship at Crystal Palace, they have enjoyed their best success more recently since the development of the National Indoor League. They were National Champions in 2000, 2001, 2004 and 2005. As well as this, they have been play-off finalists since Finals Night was introduced in 2001. The 2004 season saw them enjoy their greatest triumph when they became Play-off Champions at Crystal Palace to add to their League title, winning all of their 10 indoor matches in the process. Chelmsford, England’s representative in the 2005 European Indoor Championship, won the bronze medal in Zurich and the Club hopes to build on this experience in years to come, having competed in the same competition in 2001.
- Chelmsford Ladies Hockey Club have enjoyed a successful time over the past 100 years, both on and off the field. The founding year of 1898 came about when members of Chelmsford Grove Tennis Club formed a hockey club to extend their leisure to a winter sport. Permission was granted by Mr Herbert Marriage, tenant of Moulsham Lodge, for the use of a field behind the tennis courts in the grounds. An announcement was made in the local press, and ladies and gentlemen were invited to join.
- Subscriptions were 2s. 6d. for tennis players and 5s. for non-players. The ladies’ team played midweek, and the men’s and mixed teams at the weekends – and Easter Saturday and Monday. Other grounds used for matches included Widford Lodge and Fingrith Hall – both also homes of Marriage families who had no fewer than twelve ladies playing for Chelmsford in the early 1900’s.
- In 1900 the Club moved to the large Rectory grounds in New Street, already used by Chelmsford Tennis and Cricket Clubs and for the annual athletic and cycling meetings. This ground extended from the railway line to Rectory Lane. Although travel was often by horse brake, a match report suggests that trains were used for example when the away game against Saffron Walden was played at Bishop’s Stortford. Other opponents from 1900 to 1903 included Bocking, Braintree, Brentwood, Broomfield, Colchester, Maldon and Ipswich.
- From a study of match reports in local papers, it would appear that members from many well-known families took park, such as Misses Bodkin, Buttenshaw, Fitch, Martin, Smith, Tregalis, and the three Misses Whitmore. In 1908 the Misses O. and M. Marriage played in the Essex ladies team.
- Chelmsford continued to play on the Rectory ground until 1912, when it was sold. The Marconi factory was built on the ten acres of the land, Marconi and Bishops Roads were constructed, and the remainder sold in lots by Messrs. Taylor and Co. A newspaper reported that the cricket club had disbanded, and it is probable that the hockey club had to follow.
- In 1911 the Old Girls’ Association of the Chelmsford County High School formed a hockey club, and were given permission to use the school pitch provided "heel-less shoes or galoshes were used". In 1914-15, the Old Girls’ team invited visitors to play for them. The club continued after the war, and was affiliated to Essex in 1920, the year in which Margaret Shanks was tested for the Essex team.
- In 1922 the Old Girls’ were unable to use the school pitch owing to building works. It was then resolved to form a ladies club in the town which the Old Girls Club would form a nucleus. A field was used behind Widford Hall, the home of Bessie and Mattie Hodge who were instrumental in forming the club and liaising with the High School Old Girls.
- Membership increased and in 1924 the club transferred to Crompton’s Athletic ground, Wood Street, with fixtures for two eleven’s. Captains and officials from 1924 to 1933 included Misses J. Shanks, M. Hodge, D. Britton, N. Shanks, B. Currie, B. Fleming, L. Bradridge, B. Hodge, M. Rowlatt, E. Sayers, N. Christy, R. Shead, E. Boulter, W. Jaggs, C. Currie and C. Cramphorn. Several played in Essex teams.
- According to personal accounts, travel would be by bicycle (time was unimportant), pny and trap, motorcycle, car or train. Most often two large cars were used, and after the game players either went to the cinema or to someone’s house for the evening.
- In the 1930’s the players travelled to Easter festivals at Bournemouth, Ramsgate and Southend. More cars were available, and would meet at the station before away games. Matches continued after the outbreak of World War Two, the last reported in the local press in October, 1940, when Chelmsford opened their season playing Brentwood.
- After the war a former member, Vivienne Wiseman, re-formed the club, hiring a council pitch at Admiral’s Park for home matches. A small pavilion provided changing facilities but not much comfort. There were no tea facilites, the club members relying on local cafes. Travel to home matches was still by bicycle, but to go further afield the journey was made on the top of a double decker bus which provided ample opportunity to exchange the week’s news. One or two ran small cars, which were filled to capacity. With three passengers in the front, the middle one did all the gear changing.
- The 1960’s saw a period of change and expansion. The club moved to Broomfield cricket ground in 1961, where the use of the pavilion for entertaining visitors made a welcome improvement, but an increase in membership led to the return to council pitches at Melbourne Park in 1966. Two teams began playing regularly with fixtures lists that gradually extended into the cricket season in both directions. Trials, tournaments and travel beckoned the keen and adventurous players.
- In 1964 two members joined a touring club visiting Lahr, Germany, and since then others have continued the association and enjoyed tours of Berlin and Hamburg, Rhodesia and South Africa, South America and Jamaica. Members have travelled to festivals at Southend and Ramsgate, and the club visited a Rotterdam club at Easter 1967. Several members gained county honours and Pat Donaldson played for England at Wembley, in 1968. The club has received invitations to various tournaments, in and out of Essex, and reciprocated when organising the ladies’ hockey seven-a- side section of the Chelmsford Festival of Sport from 1969.
- In 1971 Chelmsford Ladies renewed their association with Chelmsford (Men’s) Hockey and Cricket Clubs by combining to form the Chelmsford Sports Club and by building a joint clubhouse adjacent to council owned premises at Chelmer Park. Situated in the centre of the county, Chelmer Park has become the home of many Essex Ladies activities. The club is well represented on the County Committee, in the County teams and on the officially graded Umpires’ Register. Margaret Lintner, Pru Carter and Jean Pool, Lyn Bollington, Helen Bastian, Claire Liddell, have played for England.
- The hockey activities of the 1960’s continued and developed in the 1970’s with the addition of a third XI to accommodate junior members. The indoor hockey has become increasingly important for training as well as for competitions. All-weather pitches, often floodlit, provided useful surfaces for games when grass was waterlogged. Chelmsford Borough Council and Chelmsford Hockey Clubs raised money in 1989 to build our own astro pitch at Chelmer Park. Tournaments and festivals increased and the Championship Era began.
- The All-England Women’s Hockey Association organised a County Championship. In 1972, Essex won the East Anglian Counties’ title, and went on to win the All-England title. The Essex team included seven Chelmsford Ladies players. The championships became leagues in 1989, where Chelmsford remained for four seasons, before being relegated to Division 1, where they remained until promotion back to the Premier Division this year (unknown year of writing?). The All-England Indoor Club Championships have seen Chelmsford in the top four in England since. Mixed hockey has played a part throughout the century, with Chelmsford winning the Colchester Exiles tournament for 6 years running.
- As 1979 England outdoor champions, Chelmsford entered the European club competitions. In the preliminary round in Leningrad, they played champion clubs of Germany, France and Russia and qualified for the finals in Barcelona where they me the Welsh, Irish and Dutch winners. This section proved stronger than the other one comprising the Belgians, Scottish, Spanish and German winners. In spite of close matches, Chelmsford finished seventh.
- The £4,000 fund-raising year which preceded the European club venture tested the resourcefulness of members and the generosity of friends and well-wishers. Former members responded, and many from the 1920’s to the 1970’s attended the Club Reunion Day. A club register has now been formed of 359 former members from 1900.
- The Youth Section has boomed since the 1984 Olympics, and the World Cup in 1986. Both the Ladies and Men can boast the youth development throughout the past decade, with a number of players rising through the ranks. At the other end of the spectrum, the Vets have also represented the Club at the National level, reaching the Finals in 1994 before winning the national title in 1998 and retaining it in 1999. The 1990’s now sees five outdoor teams, four playing league hockey.
- The last 100 years have seen many changes in the Ladies Hockey Club, and their success is due to the members and friends of the club who have supported and given time to the club. We’re sure that the next 100 years will be as enjoyable and rewarding as the last.
- By Peggy Haddon
Having played at various venues in the Chelmsford area, including Springfield, the club moved to New Writtle Street in the 1922/23 season to share the County Cricket Ground with Chelmsford Cricket Club.
The move to our present location at Chelmer Park came about in the 1971/72 season just after the formation of Chelmsford Sports Club.
The Sports Club was formed to allow the three member clubs (Chelmsford Hockey Club, Chelmsford Ladies Hockey Club and Chelmsford Cricket Club) to share the newly built Clubhouse. While the pitches and pavilion at Chelmer Park were officially opened on 21st March, 1971 by the Mayor of Chelmsford, Alderman D A Bellamy, it was not until 23rd April, 1972 that the Clubhouse was officially opened.
The first major development after the opening of Chelmer Park was the laying of a sand-based artificial grass pitch in 1989. The pitch was a joint venture between the Chelmsford Hockey Clubs (Men and Ladies) and Chelmsford Borough Council, and was officially opened on 26 November 1989 by the Mayor, Councillor Jean Norton, with an exhibition game against Havant H C.
After several years of heavy use, the sand-based pitch was re-laid in 2002 as the first phase of a major development plan that was to provide Chelmsford Hockey Club with some of the best facilities in the country. The £1.6 million development was a partnership between Chelmsford Hockey Club, Chelmsford Borough Council and Sport England.
Phase two was the laying of a state-of-the-art water-based artificial pitch in the summer of 2003 and this was swiftly followed a few months later by the completion of a major clubhouse extension to provide a dedicated hockey block comprising changing rooms, meeting room, office and treatment room. The facilities were officially opened Sunday, 18th April, 2004 by the Mayor of Chelmsford, Cllr. John Hunnable.
The Next Chapter…
At the end of the 1997/98 Centenary Season, the members of Chelmsford Hockey Club and Chelmsford Ladies Hockey Club voted to dissolve their respective clubs. Immediately following these events, the members reconvened and voted to pool their resources to form a new Club – Chelmsford Hockey Club…
Members of Chelmsford Hockey Club who attended the final AGM and voted to dissolve the Club after a 100 year existence.
Members of Chelmsford Ladies Hockey Club who, like the men, attended their last AGM on the same night.
The inaugural AGM of the new, united Chelmsford Hockey Club.
Pictured seated at the front are the key Management Committee Officers (L-R) Gareth Kemp (Treasurer), Spencer Wilcox (Secretary), Alan Draper (President), Ursula Heelis (Chairman).
- 2000/01 – The Club announce ambitious plans to lay a new water-based artificial pitch, to relay the existing sand-based pitch and to build a new block on the Clubhouse to accommodate dedicated changing facilities, lecture/meeting room, physio treatment rooms and fitness suite.
- 2001/02 – The WaterPitch 2002 fundraising appeal is launched. The target is to raise £200,000 for the new facilities.
- 2003/04 – The construction of the new water-based pitch and changing facilities are completed at the start of the season. The Ladies win the Indoor EHL title for the third time in five years. The Men finish runners-up in EHL Division One and gain promotion to Premier One for the first time in their history. The new £1.6 million facilities at Chelmer Park are officially opened on Sunday, 18th April, 2004 by the Mayor of Chelmsford, Cllr. John Hunnable.