Bridgwater Hockey Club History
(with thanks to Andy Norris).
'It was proposed by Mr. Bateman and seconded by Mr. Rood and resolved that a Hockey Club be and hereby is formed to be known as the Bridgwater Hockey Club'.
These are the exact words written by a Mr. McCombie and taken from the original Minute Book of the Bridgwater Hockey Club. The date was Wednesday 2nd September 1925.
The preliminary meeting of the Bridgwater Hockey Club was held at the offices of Chartered Accountants Butterworth & Bell (now called Butterworth, Jones & Co.) of 27 Cornhill, Bridgwater. They have though now moved to another part of Bridgwater having offices in Burnham, Langport, Somerton and Taunton.
Bridgwater played on grass on the outfield of the Bridgwater, Durleigh Road with a strip of black and white quarters and dark blue shorts. Yearly subscriptions were set at £1 for 1s and 'only those with cars' provided transport to away fixtures. Thirteen fixtures had provisionally been booked for the 1925/26 season and the side was to be captained by F. P. Coles with vice-captain J. Rood. A second XI was introduced for the first time for the 1931/32 season. It appears that things didn't go too well for a few years as the original notebook says in 1937 that the members should show more support for their club!
A fixture card dated 1938/39 tells us that changing was at the Cottage Inn, Wembdon with the ground at Blackmore Lane, Cannington, 3 miles from Bridgwater. After a 10 year gap for the 2nd World War, Bridgwater reformed in 1951 with just a single team.
Bridgwater continued to play at 'The Parks' until 1975/76 when they moved to Chilton Trinity School and a couple years later to Sydenham Community School Sports Centre. Both these pitches were of the red-gra/shale type. With the move from The Parks in 1975 came a change of strip to yellow shirts and black shorts.
The West Hockey league started in 1977/78 with sponsorship from Debenhams, and became the Sun Life West Hockey League in 1980 when the Sun Life Assurance Society took over as main sponsors.
Bridgwater's performance was at best mediocre for the early years, then from 1981/82 with interest in hockey growing and the formation of a Bridgwater 3rd team, the results started to improve. After finishing runners-up in South Division II for three consecutive seasons promotion to Division I was finally achieved in 1984/85. During this four year period Bridgwater had only lost two of 36 League games - winning 26.
A move from Sydenham was necessary due to the size of membership and existing setup (change and play at Sydenham Sports Centre and then to the Halfway Inn for tea). So during 1984/85 season Haygrove School pitch became available with changing, shower, tea and bar facilities provided by Bridgwater Cricket Club.
The excellent facilities and friendly atmosphere generated at the Cricket Club clubhouse when two or more teams and their opponents were present after a game, were recognised by many away teams and league umpires, as one of the best in the south west.
Bridgwater had a poor start in Division I in 1985 having lost four out of the first six, then confidence picked up after the realisation that Bridgwater were as good as the rest, and five consecutive wins placed them a creditable 2nd in the final League table. With only one promotion slot, runners-up in the first season at this higher level was an excellent performance. Bridgwater proved that this was no fluke by finishing runners-up again the next season and 4th in the League in 1987/88.
The 1988/89 season for Bridgwater started off extremely well when the 1st XI played twice a week to reach the Somerset & Avon Knockout Cup final only to lose 3 - 0 to National League side - Firebrands of Bristol. This did however give Bridgwater a place in the National Cup competition for the first time ever, unfortunately failing at this stage.
This Cup run seemed to have put the dampers on Bridgwater's league chances as the two events overlapped. They only managed a draw in the first match although having over 90% of the play, and losing the second to the eventual runners-up in the Division. But, after the Cup programme finished, Bridgwater won their last 11 consecutive league matches to win the division by 3 points. Bridgwater, at that time were into the top echelons of hockey in the west, giving them their toughest ever season to come.
The 1989/90 Season looked like being one of the most interesting and toughest years the Club has ever had. Prior to the start, the Bridgwater Ladies Hockey Club amalgamated with the Men to form a single club consisting of 12 teams - 7 Men, 2 Ladies, Colts, Mixed and a Midweek/Floodlit XI. The added bonus of a mixed club in terms of possible future grants and sponsorship outweighed the enormous task integration. t The first Season as a single Bridgwater club was nonetheless regarded as a success both on and off the field.
The Men's first appearance in the Premier Division ended in a 0-0 draw with signs looking good against a side finishing 5th last season. But Bridgwater's results deteriorated as the enormous difference in standard between Premier and First Division Hockey took its toll on the pre-Christmas schedule. Bridgwater suffered 7 consecutive League defeats, including the worst for nine seasons, to languish at the foot of the table.
In the New Year, confidence had slowly picked up from the experience gained. The team then won three of the last five League matches, but it was not enough to take them above the relegation zone. The hard earned 10 points would, in the past eight seasons, have ensured Premier Hockey on merit for the following season. A saviour was to come, however, in the form of the brilliant Firebrands side who won the Premier Division, and then gained National League status in the play-offs. This gave Bridgwater a second chance to consolidate a Premier League place next season, having gained useful knowledge & experience from a more successful second half of the League program.
The 2nds XI's first experience of league hockey was shown in a solid, if defensive, display. The team finished 5th out of eight and lost the least matches in their Division. Had they converted just one of the 7 draws, then promotion to the 2nd XI Premier League would have come their way as only one point separated four clubs.
The Bridgwater Ladies 1st XI also gave a solid performance finishing fourth in their first season at the higher level. Their best achievement however, came in the Somerset Cup, whereby they appeared in their 3rd consecutive final and won for the second successive year. With the Bridgwater midweek XI winning a local Floodlit Knockout Tournament these successes, although not as obvious as previous years' achievements, underline a need for Hockey at the high standards Bridgwater deserves.
The phenomenal growth in the interest in Hockey, particularly in Bridgwater, continued so much so that from 1985/86 to 1990/91, the number of teams fielded on a Saturday afternoon rose from 3 to no less than 7, and on occasions some prospective players having to wait to get a game for Bridgwater. The cause of this rate of expansion must go down not only to the success of the 1st XI in recent years, but to the exploits of England in the World Cup in 1986 and the Great Britain gold medal winning side at the Seoul Olympics. At that time, Bridgwater had more than 80 regular members on the books from which to field the 7 teams, and with that number of players, Bridgwater Hockey Club was one of the largest clubs in the south west and certainly one of the fastest growing.
During this six year spell, Bridgwater was by far the most successful sports club in the area, but in recent years however, Bridgwater Hockey club has seen a decline in membership and overall club standard as Bridgwater have failed to 'pull in' very good players. Recently Bridgwater has seen good young players emerging, and currently Bridgwater fields five Men's teams and two Ladies teams.
Sponsorship for a club the size of Bridgwater Hockey Club is fundamental for the future success of the club. In 1985 the Birmingham Midshires Building Society sponsored shirts for the first team with a change of shirt colour to red.
From 1986-1991, Magnus Developments were the shirt sponsors and a final change for all teams to red shirts was agreed with completion in the 1987/88 season. Provision of good quality kit, particularly goalkeeping outfits which singularly cost about the same as equipping a whole team with shirts, is essential.
Travelling is one of the biggest costs due to the large distances needed to travel to play against good opposition. The hire of artificial pitches and clubhouse, and the cost of providing teas all add up to a significant yearly bill. Subscription and match fee costs go a long way to covering all of these expenses. Fund raising events and sponsorship play their part in keeping the fees to players at a minimum. Currently, Bridgwater is actively seeking a sponsor or sponsors to support the team.
The club continues to thrive and nowadays plays its home fixtures on the artificial pitch at the sports centre adjacent to Chilton Trinity School in Bridgwater (with changing facilities at the sports centre). The men's match teas are now at the Lime Kiln Inn on Salmon Parade in Bridgwater, with the ladies making use of the facilities at Chilton Trinity..
Training is on Tuesday evenings, with junior coaching during term time on Tuesday evenings from 6:00pm to 7:00pm.
Resumes on Tuesday 4th September at 7:00pm
Resumes on Tuesday 4th September at 8:15pm
Resumes on Tuesday 11th September at 6:00pm