Saffron Walden Hockey Club was founded in 1954 and began with one men’s team, one ladies' team, and a mixed team that played on Sundays. Contrary to thinking, the Club was not founded by the Cricket Club to use the grounds at SW Cricket Club but played first on the Common.
The Anglo-American Playing Field was funded by the local American Air bases as a memorial. They put in £1 for every £1 raised by local people, with the proviso that the grounds would be used for sport. The Memorial gates were officially opened in August 1955 by Viscount Montgomery and Major General Rosco Wilson of the 65th Fighter Wing, USAF and the Memorial Ground was offered to the Cricket Club on the basis that they would give up the use of the Common. The timber boarded changing room pavilion was moved from the Common to the new grounds, and renovated in the early 60s with the cost covered by the balance of the memorial fund money. It was re-built in 1984.
The Cricket Club was given the powers to sub-let the ground which is how the Hockey Club originally got its ground and was leased from the 30 September to the 31 March when the Cricket Club did not need it.
The main founder and instigator of SWHC was Ernie Watson, a local solicitor of Adams & Land (senior Partner!) His son Tony then ran the firm, currently known as Adams Harrison. He also played for the Club and the firm still acts as the Club’s solicitor.
The club was born through Ernie calling a meeting in his office and the Saffron Walden Building Company (now Ridgeons) donated material money for goalposts through Ireton Custerson. Ernie asked everyone to bring a white shirt which was then dyed purple to the colour it is today, and socks were amber, to represent the colour of the crocus – the symbol of Saffron Walden.
Ernie Watson was the first Chairman and Ellis Rooke, the Mayor, was the Club’s first President. Other founding members were John Raynham, Frank Brookes of Rookes the Builders, Ted Pratt, Ben Ellis, Peter Balaam, Will Newman (retired Major), Abry (father of Glyn who played Sunday hockey), Bob Furze (whose wife organised the ladies) and Ken Duke. John Raynham and Molly Newman (who later married) were the first secretaries.
Vice Presidents were well known local figures such as Goddard,Godrrey, Goodridge, Haylock (father of David), Ingle Madeley, Vice Admiral Gilbert Stevenson and others.
Ben Ellis started as the First Men’s Captain, followed by Ken Duke, and Joan Furze (Bob’s wife) was the first Ladies Captain. The new club usually managed to get 11 players for both Mens and Ladies teams from a squad of about 12 to 16 although it often had to scratch around to get a team. When they were short, anyone was asked to play with Wilf Newman in goal for the men! Others that first played in the first few years for the Club were Dennis Wright and Terry Perrit . Of the others only Bob Furze and John Raynham with his brother Peter were still playing when in 1967/68. George Fisher (Andy’s father) was a sprightly left wing!
On the Ladies side, the leading lights apart from Joan Furze, were Muriel Gaillard (PE mistress), her sister Betty George and Valerie Micklewright. Other early members were Beryl Swain, Molly Newman, Molly Glover, Connie Hatchett, Mary Chambers and Jill Fairhead.
Local clubs were contacted and games were arranged on a home and away basis. Some teams were played 5 to 7 times to fill out the fixtures. The early subscriptions were 1 guinea for seniors and 10 shillings and 6d for juniors. The match fee was £2 and 6 shillings. The Club was first affiliated to Essex County HA and Essex Women’s HA from 1954 to 1973 when the affiliation was changed to Cambridgeshire. In 1956 Essex A played a County game on the ground for the first time, against Huntingdonshire 2 and then played a match a season at the ground up until 1973.
The Club’s fortunes took another turn for the better when John and Margaret Hammond joined in the Easter of 1969. Up until then there were not many youngsters in the Club. The local hockey school was the Friends School but only supplied a couple of players. The make up of the Club was still essentially adults. Both John and Margaret were teachers and John was the main instigator in building the Club by bringing in many youngsters such as Martyn Webb, Paul Mallins, Colin Andrews and others when they were only 15.
Stalwarts in the club at that time on the ladies' side were Rachel Sullivan and Joan Reed, and on the men's side Jim Nightingale, John Hammond, Dennis Wright, with John Raynham and a few others from the early days. By this time there were two men's teams (the 2nd team starting in 1967) and one ladies' team on a Saturday and a strong men's Sunday team which was stronger then the Saturday 1st team. There was also a mixed Sunday side. Eventually many of the Sunday team joined the Saturday 1st XI. eg Tony Cox.
The ladies formed a second team in 1969 and in 1972 John Hammond and Cyril Pearce formed a 3rd XI. A few years later, the same members formed a 4th XI, and later a 5th XI.