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The Early Years

Whilst hockey was played in Harrogate prior to 1949 little was known apart from records showing that J Waddington played for Yorkshire in 1927.  We now have documentary evidence that a Men’s and Ladies club was playing in Harrogate in 1913-14.  A Fixture Card and a Silver Plated Water Jug, which was a wedding present from Harrogate Athenian Ladies H.C to Constance Keysill Savill in 1914, were donated by members of her family (all involved in Kent Hockey) on behalf of her surviving daughter Barbara Baker in New Zealand.  Thanks to  Helen Gurney for all her efforts in returning these items to Harrogate.  The Jug is displayed in the cabinet in the Bar.

Harrogate Men’s Hockey Club was re-formed in the Autumn of 1949.  An advertisement in the Harrogate Advertiser invited prospective members to a meeting at the Victoria Hotel.  A committee was formed with the brothers Keith and Peter Southcott as joint secretaries.  Games were initially played on The Stray with the odd game at St Aidan’s or adjacent to St George’s Cricket Ground  

The Merger

In 1950/51 an amalgamation took place between Harrogate and the Air Ministry hockey clubs which resulted in Alan Druett and several distinguished service players joining the Club.  At the AGM held on the 3rd October 1952 the Club’s first set of Club Rules were agreed.  

After the amalgamation, the Club moved to Knaresborough Cricket Ground to play on the notorious sloping pitch with a ‘midden’ at the bottom corner.  The facilities did not match up to modern standards with an earth toilet and one cold tap for washing.  Teas and meetings were held at the Elephant and Castle, where Chris Wellington, a playing member, was the landlord.

Prominent players in this era included Tony Beck, Duncan Jackson, Peter Coulter and Jim Lapish.  A new player to the Club was Bob Nash who would have a considerable influence on the club over the next fifty years.  

Into the Sixties

From the early 50’s to the late 60’s the Club struggled to obtain pitches  suitable for hockey.  Over the years games were either cancelled or spoilt by playing on wet or waterlogged pitches.  The quest for suitable pitches continued and it was agreed that the club would leave Knaresborough C.C after the 57/58 season as it did not allow good hockey to be played.  Over the next few years the Club played at a variety of locations including Beechwood Grove and the second pitch at St George’s Road when available.  With problems on these two pitches and Oatlands Stray talks were held with Railway Athletic Football Club about playing on their second pitch.  This proved to be very poor and extremely wet and it was claimed the reason for continuing to play there was despite the pitch being appalling the company in the ‘Dripping Dagger’ and Railway Hotel was interesting. 

At this time the only local school playing hockey was Ashville College and provided a number of players including Derek Mitchell, Charlie Sproull, Mike Hawkins, Ted Crabtree and Adrian Gange thus helping the Club to run two side and ultimately a third

In 1960 the Army Apprentice College came to the aid of the Club and over the years a variety of surfaces were played on.  The shale was a major improvement on the local grass pitches and the tarmac parade ground pitches were firm but unfriendly to knees and elbows.  An agreement was reached with the Civil Service in 1960 to use Beechwood Grove which was to be redrained.  The expenditure on drainage was not a success.  

Plantation Road Pitch

A major step forward was the offer of a 7 year lease from Harrogate Borough Council on the Plantation Road field at Harlow Hill for a rental of £20 p.a.  This was agreed at the AGM in August 1963 and work to make it playable began.  At the time there were no facilities at the pitch and changing and bar facilities were provided by Harrogate C.C.  Teas were also provided by the Harrogate Arms Hotel.  A Drainage Contract was awarded to Suttill’s which unfortunately led to Legal Action against them in 1970.  Despite the problems the pitch was available for use in September 1968 albeit later than anticipated.  In addition a formal lease was signed with the Army Apprentice College for the use of one pitch.

Harrogate Ladies

Harrogate Ladies Hockey Club was reformed in 1953 although its history goes back to at least 1913/14 when it played under the name of the Harrogate Athenians H.C. In 1953 there was no Harrogate Hockey Club Ladies Team nor any home venue. Maureen Tennant (now Maureen Robshaw) arranged with local hockey teams to play all the first season, as away matches (due to the lack of home venue). Maureen placed an advertisement for interested participants in the local newspaper and Harrogate Hockey Club Ladies Team, as we know it today, began from there.

In the early days the club played at Bilton and Pannal Ash and in 1969 moved to Knaresborough C.C. A permanent social base was established at the Stables with the allegiance with the Men’s section. Dorothy Cabena, Honorary Secretary and 1st XI captain, Daphne Pruden, Elizabeth Powell and Judy Lupton were key officers at this time. It is worth noting that in the 1950’s Maureen Robshaw, Honorary Secretary, was a mainstay in organising the Club’s five international festivals held on York Place Stray. It was not until 1988 that the Ladies again hosted international guests at the Crawfurd-Porter Tournament.  

Dacre Hockey Club

1970 was a momentous year.  It was announced that Dacre Hockey Club had amalgamated with Harrogate.  This brought into the Club such distinguished players as Roger Gill, Charlie Webster (only Phil Sharpe had a better eye for the ball) and the incomparable Dr T E Crawfurd-Porter who was to play a significant role in the next stage of the club’s development.

The Stables

Negotiations took place in 1970 with Dr Crawfurd-Porter (TCP) regarding a lease for  the first half of the ‘Stables’ situated adjacent to the leased hockey pitch to allow the building to accommodate changing and entertainment facilities.  The members converted a derelict building with a budget of £1,200 which became the headquarters of the Harrogate Hockey Club incorporating both Men’s and Ladies sections.  A 14 year lease was signed with Harrogate Borough Council for the Plantation Road pitch.  This enabled the Club to obtain a 50% grant from the CCPR towards the £3050 cost of redraining the pitch.  

The Men were now running four sides and the Ladies two sides so the availability of shale pitches at the Army Apprentice College, Rossett High School, St Aidans  and Granby High School was a lifeline for the Club.  Despite all the efforts of the Ground Chairmen the Yorkshire weather and clay subsoil made grass prone to being rather wet particularly if more than one match was attempted.

First Crawfurd-Porter Tournament

In May 16th 1971 the first annual Crawfurd-Porter Tournament took place.  Organised by Adrian Gange the 1st XI Captain.  Initially this was a tournament for 1st XI teams and was aimed at obtaining fixtures with a wider variety of clubs.  Still running after 43 years it is now a Men’s and Ladies veterans tournament.

Dr T E Crawfurd-Porter

At the AGM in 1971 Dr T E Crawfurd-Porter was elected President a position he retained until his death in 2000.  During his years in office he helped and supported the Club in many ways.  In 1973 he generously granted the Club a 99 year lease on the Stable Clubhouse at a nominal rent of £1,000 p.a.  This helped the Club to decide to undertake a major development later on land adjacent to the Stables.  He was also noted for his kindness to visiting sides when he umpired as he always felt that they deserved the consolation of a goal if they has travelled any distance and extra time was almost obligatory on a nice day and when ‘you are all enjoying yourselves’.

The first part of the development referred to in the previous paragraph was the building of two Squash Courts in 1973 at a cost of £10,000. The Official Opening of the Clubhouse, Courts and Ground took place on September 1st 1973.  To increase the number of grass pitches additional land was purchased at Bluecoat Wood in 1978.  Despite efforts of Martin Minett and considerable expenditure both Bluecoat and Plantation Road proved difficult to maintain and the arrival of shale pitches was a lifeline for the Club.  Despite all the hard work and the support of Bingley Turf Research the perfect grass surface was never achieved.  Pannal Ash C.C joined as full members which benefited the Club as they maintained the Bluecoat facility in the summer months. 

Finally after the completion of the glass-backed squash court in 1974 at a cost of £10.000 the club became the Harrogate Hockey and Squash Club with Derek Mitchell as the first chairman, followed by T E Crafurd-Porter 75/76 and Dinty Moore 76/78 and then  a year later by Peter Southcott who remained in that position until 1999 when the hockey club moved from The Stables to the new headquarters at The Granby Hockey Centre.

The Advent of Astro Turf

The development from 1975 was really directed at improving playing standards of the club and increasing membership.  This was largely the result of the introduction of Yorkshire League Hockey for the Men’s 1st X1 in 1978 followed by other teams over the next decade.  Eventually the 1st X1 found that they were obliged to play on astro-turf which was the ideal surface and not subject to the vagaries of the weather.  Unfortunately the nearest available pitch was in Bradford until the first astro-turf pitch in Harrogate at Rossett School.

It was quickly realised that playing home games in Bradford was not ideal.  A floodlit astro-turf pitch at Plantation Road was considered.  This was vigorously pursued and the Harrogate Borough Council Planning Committee gave permission for the project.  This immediately led to considerable local protest and the decision was overturned by the full Council.  The Club did have some supporters on the Council and it was suggested that a move to Bluecoat would be backed.  Planning was sought for a pitch at Bluecoat, re-development of The Stables and housing on the Plantation Road pitch.  Outline was granted for the The Stables but refused  for Bluecoat, an area of natural beauty, and also refused for housing on the pitch which was deemed not suitable for housing.  Ironically a few years later  the Council applied for housing on the pitch and this was granted.  The Council proposed to use the proceeds of the sale, which were above expectations to fund the astro-turf pitch at Rossett School along with improvements to the Stonefall Crematorium.  The Club agreed to give up their lease from the Council to enable the development to proceed and were offered either free use of Rossett or £100.000.  It was felt that the money would be more beneficial to the club and later helped fund the new development at Granby.

After the failure to get astro-turf at Plantation Road the club examined other potential site for siting a pitch and clubhouse.  Protracted discussions were held with Harrogate Grammar School which failed over local objections to floodlights.  Further talks with John Fisher and Harrogate Adult College failed to reach any agreement but talks with Granby High School, now renamed Harrogate High School, were far more successful and led to agreement.  The Squash section voted to remain at ‘The Stables’ and the Club again became The Harrogate Hockey Club on relocating to Granby. 

The Granby Development

The facility at Granby is undoubtedly one of the best in the north of England and we should all be proud of it.  This did not come without a great deal of effort to ensure we got the necessary  Sports Council Funding.  Members are indebted to Geoff Phillips, Robert Lawson and Jonathan Edwards, headmaster of Granby High School, among others who worked not only on the grant but liaised with North Yorkshire County Council to ensure that there were no delays and obtain a 99 year lease.  We were one of the first Clubs to obtain an 80% Lottery Grant in a partnership agreement involving Club, School and Community  The pitch was available in September 1998 and the Clubhouse in September 1999.  The Opening Ceremony was on Sunday October 31st 1999 and officially opened by David Oxley, Chairman Sport England Community Projects Panel.  It was attended by representatives of all the bodies who had been involved in the project.

Harrogate Hockey Club now have modern facilities and its own astro-turf pitch.  Prior to 1998 training for both Juniors and Seniors was at Rossett School but now we have the opportunity of fixing training times and hire times to ensure regular income.  The future of the Club is the Junior section and under the initial guidance of Sue Couture, Maggie Bale and currently James Berman not only have the numbers steadily increased but the standard has improved.  A steady flow of Juniors into the Senior sections is good to see and hopefully will continue to put pressure on the older players.

The Club in its new headquarters flourished and with 6 Men’s teams and 4 Ladies teams and a strong Junior section was making full use of its new facilities.  In 2003/4 season the Men’s 1st XI achieved promotion to the National League and the Ladies XI were in the North Hockey League Premier Division.  National League hockey on Sundays at Harrogate was a great attraction and helped put Harrogate on the hockey map.  Maintaining a competitive team became a problem and at the start of the 2007/8 season we lost a number of players who had joined Harrogate to play a high standard of hockey.  We had insufficient players to fulfil our commitment to the National League so withdrew our team.  This was disappointing but a salutary message regarding the requirements of that league.  The club recovered from that and agreed to play at a level that could be met with club players.

The Club has a responsibility to maintain the clubhouse and pitch.  In 2009 the original sand filled pitch was replaced with a sand dressed Tiger Turf carpet which was regarded as an improvement and would help hockey skills.  It is good to note that in 2013/14 after many years of a depleted Management Committee we now have every position filled which if this continues bodes well for the future.  Thanks to Robert Lawson who retired in 2012 after 42 years as Treasurer and Derek Mitchell who retired in 2013 after  32 years as Secretary and  Chairman.

The Future

The Club has a Development Plan which will enable it to further progress and one aspiration is a second pitch which will have significant benefits when installed.  A strong and united Management Committee fully supported by all members is essential to achieve all the objectives of the Plan.