Worthing Hockey Club: Pioneers through the years

As Worthing Hockey Club gear up for a big year of celebrations for their 125th anniversary, we continue our look at their rich history.

Friday, 18th June 2021, 12:31 pm
Action at Worthing Hockey Club in the 1950s

Early club records show that Worthing Hockey Club was formed in 1896 – five years before Queen Victoria died – and mention the first competitive match was on November 21, 1897 against Storrington Hockey Club, followed by a home win the next week against Brighton.

The first full season ended on April 2, 1898, with a match against Mr Wisen’s XI – with the opponents winning 4-1.

The first secretary was FB O’Neill; later LW Head and Berie Collett officiated in the years before World War I, when the club colours were different to those today, namely scarlet shirts, blue socks with red tops, followed in 1909 by white shirts and shorts.

Worthing were one of seven founder members of the Sussex Hockey Association forum in 1899.

Until 1901, Worthing played at a ground in West Tarring, then at Pavilion Road until 1926 and at Forest Road in 1926-27. From 1927 to 2019, Worthing’s headquarters were at the Manor Ground, Broadwater.

The First World War interrupted things and play restarted in 1919. Up until 1926, Worthing ran one team, playing 26 matches in that year of which seven were won.

MacCormack was captain and Bertie Lane vice-captain. By 1927, after a series of social events at the Berkeley Hotel, the club recruited enough players for a second XI and moved to the Manor Sports Ground in Broadwater, owned by Worthing Corporation. The club’s current gold and blue kit comes from the colours in the Worthing town crest. In the early days, the bar and after-match social was at the Cricketers Pub in Broadwater, as it was until the 1970s. In 1939 the club again went ‘into storage’ for World War II, with £9 left in the kitty, and The Manor Ground became home to the Army and a site for growing cabbages.

In late 1946, 11 pre-war members resumed activities under chairman Tom Clifford and president for the 60th anniversary Stanley Green. That season was notable as 13 of 20 matches were cancelled because of snow.

In 1948 the club expanded to three teams with new Sussex captain Peter Moulding setting the standard, with a fourth XI being launched in 1955.

The club institution The Circle was first published in December 1950 by team secretary Bob Streeting (a former Worthing Herald writer) and a series of dedicated editors, collecting match reports on a Monday morning, typing and printing ready for distribution later in the week - until the club newsletter was finally replaced by websites and emails in the early 2000s.

By its 75th anniversary the club had firmly established six regular Saturday teams and two Sunday teams.

In the 1971-72 season, the club was led by Don Spark who played for the club for many years as well as umpiring for the county and being President of the Sussex County Hockey Association.

In addition to regular season hockey, Worthing’s international Easter festival became well known.

It was started by Bertie Lane and his team including CB ‘Skinny’ Skinner in 1932 when 11 teams participated including Old Cranleighans, Beckenham, Brighton and Trojans.

After a break for the war, the festival restarted in 1948. Records from 1949 show that teams arriving by train would be met by members of Worthing Hockey Club and shown to their hotels.

Before 1964’s 25th Easter Festival, there were no games played on a Sunday and first Easter Festival game on a Sunday was London v The Rest.

One of the umpires that day was Paddy Selman who went on to be Worthing Hockey Club president from 1984 to 1991.

More in the Herald and on this website soon.