In the Beginning
Although in partial existence since the late 19th Century and with intermittent periods of play in the first half of the 20th Century, Henley Hockey Club really began in earnest between 1947 and 1951 as Old Henleians Hockey Club when a number of like minded young Henley men and women, many of whom had originally known each other and played their sport at the old Henley Grammar School, got together for some social hockey. Many of them had started playing during their 2nd World War duties or National Service, had enjoyed it, and could now use hockey as a fitness and social activity. The previous incarnations finally metamorphosed into the current Henley Hockey Club during the 1951~1952 season.
Hockey began in Henley-on-Thames following a letter to the Henley Standard in December 1892 suggesting that a club be formed in the town. A later letter read "All ye who have hockey sticks, hunt them up and prepare for practice". Some years later still a ladies club was formed and became a formidable side right up to the start of the first world war when all hockey was suspended for the duration.
In the mid-1920s hockey resumed in the town with the ladies club again becoming a force to be reckoned with.
In the 1928~29 season the Ladies 1st XI played 17, won 15 and drew 2, scoring 97 goals and conceding 31.
In 1930 a men's club re-formed and played as the "Chestnuts". For their first game they travelled in a converted hearse to play Wallingford Grammar School and won 2-0.
War again intervened and then in 1947 former pupils of Henley Grammar School formed the Old Henleians Ladies club. This very soon became a mixed club and continued to play as O.H.H.C. until 1951.
In 1951, following a trip in an old bus which they had purchased and driven to the French Riviera and Monte Carlo, the O.H.H.C. members called a meeting and decided to form Henley Hockey Club.
The 1951 tour is also responsible for how the club came to wear its amber kit! One of the founders, Ken Clarke, recalled how they were accompanied by a life-size cardboard figure of Amber Solaire (possibly very similar to the one shown above - or it could be *the actual one*). We do not know how they acquired the cardboard figure; Ken never said... but Amber Solaire did provide us with freebies at our 50th Anniversary!
Home games were played at Henley YMCA ground and a few years later the club moved to the Henley Grammar School ground.
During the new Club's early years, changing "accommodation" was merely the bushes at the side of the pitch until use of the old Town-Band hall in Gravel Hill Henley was obtained.
The 1956~1957 season was a particularly successful one for the ladies and for their captain, Pauline Brackston, who also captained Oxfordshire and the South of England and played in an international against Germany.
Early Days at Dry Leas
After its early, somewhat nomadic, start fledgling new Henley Hockey Club began to share facilities with Henley Rugby Football Club (now Henley Hawks) at the Dry Leas site on the northern outskirts of the town. Both clubs went from strength to strength during this time and by the early 1970's each was in the throes of expansion. Henley RFC were utilising other pitch locations in the close vicinity and Henley HC had been making use of land rented from the Henley Royal Regatta to add to their playing capabilities.
1958 was a turning point in the club's history as they took up a lease on the ground at Dry Leas, Marlow Road, and for the first time had their own headquarters.
Much hard work went into converting two ex-army huts into changing rooms and a clubhouse and maintaining the on-site pitch and, from later in the 1960's, the other pitch locations which were rented from the Henley Royal Regatta at Lion Meadow and Butler's Field along Remenham Lane.
In 1960 the club organised its first mixed tournament and these highly regarded hockey/social events then continued annually at the end of April, as the last club activity of each season, until 1996.
About this time a club alcohol licence was obtained and a bar installed.
Henley Ladies reached the final of the Oxfordshire Tournament in 1964 losing 1:0 to Oxford Etceteras. At that time one of the Henley Ladies team was Great Britain's Golden Girl of the Tokyo Olympics, Mary Rand, who set a world record in the Ladies Long Jump and won Gold, Silver and Bronze medals in three events.
By 1966 the club was running five teams and the men won their first trophy, the Oxfordshire 7-a-side Cup.
Then, in 1968 the Men's 1st XI won the Marlow Easter Tournament, and a joint Henley /Bracknell XI were winners of the Blackpool Easter Tournament.
Finally, at that year’s club AGM Ken Clarke was elected as the Club’s first President after 4 years as Men's Captain and ten years as Chairman.
The Peewits Club from Leiden, Netherlands, were the club's first overseas visitors in 1970~1971.
The men's 1st XI record for that season was won 21, drew 5 and lost 2. They also celebrated their 20th anniversary by winning the Pressed Steel Tournament.
A mixed party undertook the club’s first overseas tour in 1972 with a visit to the Rood-Wit Club in Heemstede (Netherlands) where they won all four matches played.
League hockey was introduced during this season and HHC 1st XI finished in third place in Division 1 of the Berks, Bucks & Oxon League.
The men's 1st XI also won the Oxfordshire County Tournament, beating Bicester 2~0 in the final.
The Genesis of Henley Outdoor Sports Centre
Following discussion and lobbying of the Town Council of the day, the opportunity arose for the Henley HC to move to a new outdoor sports centre being built on the southern outskirts of Henley, a move which was finally completed in 1974. This new site had three fresh grass pitches and (in those pre-astro days) a state-of-the-art shale ("all-weather") pitch. These improved facilities gave Henley Hockey Club and the other migrating sports clubs a new lease of life and their teams went from strength to strength between the mid 1970's and late 1980's.
Plans to build a new clubhouse at Dry Leas were shelved when the development of Henley’s Mill Lane Sports Centre began.
In 1974 Rood~Wit (Netherlands) visited Henley and a mixed squad from the club went on tour to the Channel Islands.
With the opening of the new sports complex at the Mill Lane site a grand Hockey Club opening was held in September 1974 with an international men's team and Oxfordshire Ladies county team taking part.
In 1974~1975 the men's 1st XI won Division 1 of the Berks Bucks & Oxon League and were promoted to the Regional League. They also reached the final of the Oxfordshire Tournament but lost 2-0 to Oxford Hawks.
Henley Ladies were joint winners of the county tournament, drawing 0-0 in the final with West Witney.
The ladies also won the Pressed Steel Tournament and the Camberley 6-a-sides.
Both the men's and ladies' teams started playing indoor hockey in 1974 and the men won Division 2 of the Berkshire League and reached the finals of the Southern area, Benson & Hedges National Indoor competition.
A cricket section was started during the spring/summer and they won the local Harpsden 6-a-side trophy that summer and again the following year.
A ladies 3rd XI was started in 1975 and a Men’s Veterans XI in 1976.
In this year the club won the Marlow Men's Easter Tournament, the ladies were again joint winners of the Oxfordshire County Tournament and the Men's 1st XI beat Oxford Hawks 2~1 in the final of the county tournament.
The men's 1st XI repeated their success against Hawks, the ladies won the Pressed Steel tournament and Henley Colts recorded their first success by winning the Old Tauntonians Tournament at Southampton.
1st XI captain Phil Leaver became Oxfordshire county captain.
By 1977 Henley HC were fielding ten teams on Saturdays.
The club's 2nd & 3rd XI Easter Tournament was established during this season and Henley 2nd XI reached the final but were defeated by Maidenhead 1:0.
The club inaugurated 7-a-side ladies, men's and Colts tournaments and a weekend Veterans Tournament also took place with an invited Dutch touring side from Arnhem taking part.
This was the start of a friendly relationship between the two clubs and in 1978 Henley Veterans visited Arnhem accompanied by a colts team.
In 1979 Henley again won the Pressed Steel Tournament and the Veterans were winners of the Harrogate Festival. Goalkeeper Ian Blundell was selected for England under 21 Indoor Squad and no less then 10 members of the club were playing in Oxfordshire County sides at this stage.
The Henley mixed team beat Amersham in the final to win the Henley mixed tournament for the first time since its inauguration twenty years earlier.
Annual tours to the Worthing Festival also began and then continued for a number of years.
An Australian men's touring side from Canberra visited Henley in 1981 playing Henley 2nd XI who won 2:1.
The men's 2nd XI also won Division 1 of the Four Counties League.
Henley Ladies won the County Indoor Tournament and represented Oxfordshire in the Southern Counties Championships.
Terry Adby was selected for the England U/21 squad in 1982, Liz Davidson became Oxfordshire Ladies Captain and Sian Jones played for South of England junior ladies.
Henley Veterans reached the final of the Penarth Veterans 6-a-side tournament losing on penalty strokes to Whitchurch but then went on to win the Henley Veterans Tournament.
The men's Indoor team were winners of Division 2 of the Henley Indoor League and the men's 2nd XI won Division 1 of the Three Counties League and were promoted to Regional status.
A mixed squad visited the Isle of Wight festival for the first of an eleven-year run of tours (1983-1994).
In 1984 the Men's 2nd XI beat Reading in the final of the Henley 2nd & 3rd XIs Easter Tournament.
Henley 'B' won Division 2 of the Henley Indoor League.
Men's and Mixed teams went on tour to play in the Isle of Man Festival.
Henley Exiles, a team of former club members, returned to win the Henley Mixed Tournament which attracted 28 teams.
In 1987 Henley Ladies were elected to Division 1 of the BB&O Women's League
The men' s 1st and 2nd XIs both won their respective leagues.
A men's XI were again winners of the Marlow Easter Tournament and also the Wokingham Invitation Tournament.
Henley Veterans undertook their first tour to Guernsey in 1988.
Henley Men's 1st XI again reached the Oxfordshire County Tournament final but then, after a 1-1 draw, lost to Banbury on penalty strokes.
The Mixed XI ended the 88/89 season by winning the Fleet Mixed Tournament.
The mixed team also reached the final of the Oxfordshire County tournament losing 2-1 to Witney but won the Pressed Steel Tournament.
The Henley Colts won the Oxfordshire section of the Nationwide Anglia National Tournament
The Phoenix from the re-built Sports Centre
By the early 1990's the original outdoor sports centre location was looking distinctly dilapidated which was also causing problems for local sportsmen as it reduced the opportunity for them to improve their own play to the levels being reached by clubs in the surrounding region. Tesco's decision to seek planning permission for an out of town store gave the Town Council the opportunity and the funds to enhance the facilities, providing new grass surfaces and a sand-based synthetic turf pitch for use by sports clubs from the area. The Hockey Club (with a long lease remaining on its clubhouse) negotiated for a new clubhouse facility on the site (within 100m of the STP) and moved into the new facility in 1995.
Since then, the quality of hockey played by all the club's members has improved significantly and both Men's and Women's teams have improved their playing standard and the league levels at which they now play. New high quality players are now coming to the club, helping to improve the level of play of the higher and lower teams, whilst coaching and umpiring qualifications are now eagerly sought by current players which will lead to even greater improvement in the coming years.
In 1990 the Henley Town Council confirmed that they would be up-grading the sports centre at Mill Lane and that a scheme put forward by the Hockey Club would be considered.
Henley H.C. were now running an U/12s team as well as U/14, U/16 and U/18s.
In September 1990 a number of Henley players visited Australia as members of the "Hot Dogs' and "Cool Cats" teams playing in Perth, Sydney, Brisbane and also in Bangkok.
A club Development Committee was set up in 1991 to look at the various alternatives in connection with the proposed astroturf pitch and new clubhouse following the sale of part of the old sports centre for the Tesco development.
Greater emphasis now being given to the training and coaching of younger members and youth teams ranging from U/12s to U/18s have been in operation since this time with considerable success.
A number of these young players have been selected for various county teams and, in 1999~2000 we currently have boys and girls in the Oxfordshire and South of England XIs.
A Ladies Veteran XI was formed in 1994 and produced some excellent results finishing as runners-up in the Cressex Summer League.
Much of the Club officers' time during this period was taken up with the proposed development.
Plan after plan was drawn up, rejected and redrawn.
Suggestions that we might have to move to at least two alternative sites were put forward, which led to the sports centre area and facilities in general becoming somewhat run down.
The new astroturf facility is finally opened and available for use for the last couple of matches of the season and during the summer for training ready for a fast start to the 1995~1996 season.
After a bleak period during which the old clubhouse and changing rooms were knocked down and members and visitors existed in temporary accommodation, clambering over rubble and making do without many of their usual facilities, plus having to travel away for most of their matches, came the great day December 17th 1995.
The new clubhouse was opened by Great Britain and Olympic hockey star Jane Sixsmith, an event attended by a large gathering of current and former members.
The advent of the astroturf pitch and new clubhouse attracted new members and the men's 1st XI celebrated 1996 by winning their league and promotion to the M.B.B.0. Division 1 with a resounding 8-1 win over Birkbeck College in their final league match.
The Ladies 2nd XI also won their league, ending in style with a 6-0 victory over local rivals, Marlow.
At the start of the 1996~7 season Henley Ladies reached the final of the Oxfordshire County Tournament but after a 1-1 draw with Oxford Hawks eventually lost on penalty strokes.
Henley Boys U/14s, became Oxfordshire County Champions and Johnny Loose earned an international cap playing for England U/15s against Wales.
The Men's 3rd XI ended the season by finishing in second place in their league and gaining promotion.
Not to be outdone the Ladies 2nd XI were promoted for the second year running, moving up from Division 4 to Division 2 in the two seasons.
Henley Ladies U/19s won the Oxfordshire Junior Cup and went on to finish 3rd in the-South of England U/19 Championships.
1997~98 again produced winning teams from the Club with the Men's 2nd XI ending on top of their league and beating Banbury 3-0 in their final game to gain promotion to the MBBO Regional League.
Henley Colts U/9s won their first trophy, beating Wallingford 2:0 in the final of the 1998 Headington 7-a-side tournament.
In their final game of the season the Ladies 3rd XI were 0:0 against Sonning with 8 minutes to go but by the final whistle they had scored 5 goals to bring a very satisfactory conclusion to their season.
The Men's 1st XI were in devastating form at the start of the 1998-99 season, beating Mill Hill 6:1, Wallingford 11:1, Aylesbury 5:0. Morris Motors 6:0, Bicester 9:1 and Headington 5:1 in the first few weeks.
At the tail end of the season, after destroying Leighton Buzzard 13:1 they overcame British Airways 14:5 and finally ended in second place to Tring, with whom they had previously drawn 4:4.
The 1st XI were also runners-up in the Oxfordshire Cup.
No mention of Henley Men's Veteran XI winning trophies in recent years does not mean that they have not been active. Far from it. ,the Veterans do not play league or cup hockey and most of the previous veterans tournaments have been phased out. Their fixtures are all friendly matches and Henley Veterans have been playing regularly since being formed in 1976. They continue to arrange an annual tour which from time to time takes them abroad and also social functions including occasional golf matches which are an integral part of the season’s activities.
Halfway through the current 1999~2000 season the Men's 1st XI sit at the top of the reconstituted Middlesex, Berks. Bucks and Oxon League, Division 1.
Now we enter the new Millennium with the possibility of more changes ahead. Yet another move of clubhouse is being mooted as Tesco consider expansion and so we wait to see what the future holds for Henley Hockey Club.
The Men's 1st XI beat West Hampstead into 2nd position to take the MBBO 1st XI championship and gain promotion to the 1st XI MBBO Regional League for 2000/2001. Meanwhile Henley Men's 2nd XI retained their 2nd XI MBBO Regional League status but the 3rd and 4th XIs are relegated to the MBBO Open League Divisions 2 & 5 respectively. All three Women's league teams maintained their Trysports positions.
Henley Men's 1st XI made a brilliant start to their new position in the 1st XI MBBO Regional league and finished 2nd to what ended up as an almost unbeatable Ashford side. If the Henley Men's squad can maintain and improve its playing quality and strength during 2001/2002 they could end up as champions. Now that really would begin to get Henley on the hockey-playing map.
Meanwhile the Women's 1st XI finished their season 6th in the TrySports League Division 1 - the best position they have achieved for many years.
With Manny Kochar and Simon Mason coaching, respectively, the Men's and Women's 1st/2nd team squads during the 2001/2002 season Henley should be able to look forward to even better things.
In the lower XI's, all but two teams maintained their divisional positions but particular congratulations were due to the Women's 3rd's who were runners up to Wychwood and thereby gained promotion to the TrySports League Division 4. On the other hand, commiserations were the order of the day for the Men's 3rd XI who dropped to MBBO Division 3 after a season which saw many changes in squad composition and less consistency than might be hoped.
The Men's Veterans' continued their winning ways with a final tally of 111 goals which was only bettered by the Men's 1st XI with a total of 113 during the year.
On the Tournaments front, both Men's and Women's 1st XI's won their respective Oxfordshire Cups and the club had the privilege of running the South Mini-Hockey Finals for Under-11 and Under-13 teams representing all 8 counties in the South Division. These finals were eventually won by St George's School and Marlow HC respectively. The Men's 1st XI had the dubious pleasure of an away fixture to Jersey in their EHA Trophy 3rd round match and were soundly beaten on the Saturday afternoon. All was not bad news though as the trip gave them and their "groupies" the chance for a great Saturday evening's entertainment.
Once again the Henley Regatta Festival provided excellent mid-summer "relaxation" and an opportunity for many old hockey-playing friends to get together again both on the hockey pitch and - more importantly - in the clubhouse and bar throughout the weekend.
Hopes that the proposed Tesco expansion might give Henley additional upgraded sports facilities were dashed when the plans were rejected by the planning committees but...... who knows what might happen next season.
The Club's 50th Anniversary Season (since the true formation of the Henley Hockey Club) got off to a flying start, on Saturday 1st September, with an intra-club celebration including junior and senior hockey and the opportunity for past, present and future club members to get together to enjoy themselves and to refresh friendships and acquaintances with a little/lot of reminiscing.
The Mens' 1st XI had an exceptional season and achieved promotion to South Premier League Division 2 from South MBBO Regional 1. Meanwhile the Women's 1st XI had one of there best seasons moving into the Trypsorts Premier division for 2002 and from there must be potential promotees for the 2003/2005 season.
The Ladies 1s won the National Trophy competition for the first time.
The Men's 1s got promoted from MBBO Regional 1 to the South Premier Division 2. The Ladies 1s won the National Trophy for the second consecutive year. Meanwhile the Men's Over 40s Vets also won their trophy competition, on the first time of entering.