In a letter to the East Grinstead Observer in June 1932, Jury Cramp (born 1846) wrote that in the 1860's "Good Friday was the hockey day, played in the High Street as an institution, till removed by he tradesmen's protests to the Brewhouse Lane (Hermitage Lane) much to the annoyance of Messrs. Pearless & Sons, solicitors, who then lived in The Hermitage". Presumably this was only an opportunity for local lads to let off steam on one of the rare public holidays and although we do not know how long the custom survived, we can no doubt assume that it did not presage the formation of the Hockey Club !
According to an article in Hockey World on 23 January 1925, the East Grinstead Hockey Club was formed in 1893 as a "mixed club". Early Club records are no longer in existence, so that early history has to be gleaned from desultory repots in local newspapers and hockey magazines of the period. Reports in the E.G. Observer date from 1899 and consist of match reports and a report of the Annual General Meeting on 3 October 1899 at the Victoria Hall, which read as follows:
"Mr C.R. Miller was in the chair and there was a good attendance. Mr C.W. Edwards was elected Hon. Secretary and Treasurer in place of Mrs R.A. Dendy, resigned and the Rev L.H. Dahl, Captain of the club for the ensuing season. The following were elected as a committee to carry out the arrangements for the coming season: Mis Sommerville, Mss M. Thorp, Mr C.R. miller, Mr F.s. White and Mr J. Sommerville. A hearty vote of thanks was tendered to Mrs Dendy for her past service as Hon Secretary. The first practice game will take place today (Sat.) at 3pm on the Club's ground in Imberhorne Lane. From the remarks about Mrs Dendy resigning we can deduce that the club was certainly in existence for at least two years prior to 1899.
Not inly "mixed" matches were played; both men's and ladies' matches appeared in the magazine "Hockey and Winter Sports" in 1900 and 1901. The teams played included Worthing, Brighton, Tunbridge Wells, Rottindean, Portslade, Eastbourne and Beckenham and presumably for the away fixtures has to travel by train !
The names of members who played most frequently at this time in addition to those mentioned in the AGM report were:
Men: A. Corbett, R.A. Dendy, C.W. Edwards, Rev W.P. Evans, F.C. Poynder, G. Harbord, E.P. Whitley Hughes, S. Hughes, E.G. Moore, F.M. Pigott, H.Y. Radley, H.G. Rice, H.A. Stenning and Capt Thorp.
Ladies: Miss E. Blakiston, Miss M. Blakiston, Miss J. Harbod, Miss G. Hoare, Miss J. Thorp and Miss A. Thorp.
It can be seen that there are a number of families involved in playing for the club and there are some other facts with came to light during the research which may be of interest namely:
The Rev. L.H. Dahl was curate at St Swithun's between 1897 and 1906 and incidentally the most prolific goalscorer for the club. He was, according to a later report, the originator of the Club.
The Misses E. & M. Blakiston were daughters of the Rev D.Y. Blakiston, the vicar of St Swithun's between 1871 and 1908.
Mr F.S White was a local solicitor who became Clerk to the Rural District Council in 1902. The E.G. Observer reported in 2901 that "On Thursday Nov. 1st, F.S. White (Captain of the Cricket Club) entertained the playing members at dinner at the Ship Hotel."
E.P. Whitley Hughes was a partner in a firm of solicitors Whitley Hughes and Luscombe and was Clerk and Solicitor to the Urban District Council. F.C. Ponder M.B. was a local general practitioner. No records for matches in 1902 have been found and although the article in Hockey World of 1925 stated that the Club "became defunct" in 1900 this was not correct since reports of men's matches for the beginning of 1901 appeared in Hockey and Winter Sports as mentioned previously. The Hockey World article went on to say that the Club "......Was revived in 1903, mainly owing to the energies of Mr. P.A. Robson, at this time resident in East Grinstead, who was before this a member of the old and famous Blackheath H.C. and was one of the original five members who reorganised this, the oldest of all hockey clubs, to play the "association" instead of the "union" game. As stated above, the East Grinstead Club was revived in 1903 under the secretaryship of E.G. Moore, and became completely a men's club.
The ground used in those days was a poor one near the present Mount Noddy Recreation Ground, and good play was impossible. In 1905 by kind permission of A.D. Cochrane, an ardent supporter, the Club had the use of ground in his private ground at "Stoneleigh". At this period the number of playing members totalled twelve and many matches found the team with one or two short, and "makeshifts" had to be secured.
The ground was again changed in 1906 back to near the old one on the recreation ground, and in 1907, owing to lack of members, the Club had again to be disbanded. However, thanks once again to the energies of Mr. Robson, a new ground at Dorman's Park (four miles from East Grinstead) wasprocured, and in 1908 the Club started again." The grounds left much to be desired as the following match report, one o fthe earliest discovered, indicates quite clearly. Brighton v. East Grinstead - Played at Dormans Park, East Grinstead, on Saturday Dec. 7th Result: Brighton 2, East Grinstead 0. Owing to the length of the journey it was past 3 o'clock before the game started, but before five minutes play had taken place Brighton scored twice, P. Hill (2). After this the game could hardly be called hockey, the ground being quite unfit for the game, no further scoring took place and the game ended as above stated.
Owing to the heavy rain during the night the ground was nothing but a quagmire and East Grinstead would have done well to scratch. This extract is from the edition of"Hockey" published on PLAYERS at this time laments the quality of many grounds and emphasises how essential the improvement of pitch quality is to the development of skills of the game. The same journal in the following year claims there are about 600 clubs in existence. This statement is made in the context of an appeal to raise €75 "to enable the Hockey Association to entertain their visitors in a manner benefiting this occasion". The occasion was no less than the entertainment of the Olympic Games Hockey teams! A contributionof 2/ 6 (15p) per club was suggested! Until the Club procured the use of the West Street Cricket Ground for the 1909-1910 season, the Dorman's Park ground continued to be used for home games. During the period 1903-1910 the Club captains were Spen- cer Hughes and P.A. Robson and the President was Edward Blount. Club officersand committee members were Blake, Genge, Heasman, Hooper, Moore, Smith and White (no ini- tials given!) and other playersinclude Dahl, Dendy, Gardner, Gordon, Lamkin, Maplesden, Matson, Mead, Moreley, Pearless, Rowan, Stenning, Tyler, Vavasour, Walford and Winsel. Spencer Hughes and Hooper were selected for the County in 1905. The teams played included Hastings, Royal Sussex Regiment, Malden, Brighton, Seaford, Redhill, Horsham, Haywards Heath, Lowfield Heath, Frant and Tulse Hill. Leading clubs in the game at this time were Hounslow, described as "not far from being the best southern club", Southgate, Staines and Hampstead. Many other familiar names such as Blackheath, Bromley, Richmond, Spencer and Surbiton appeared regularly in the results columns. Others such as Brondesbury, a club from the Worcester Park area who regularly ran five sides, GWR (Great Western Railway), War Office and Norwood (three sides) have long since disappeared. Very few match reports have been found for the period 1910- 1915 althoughthe Hockey World article stated that "in 1910 ..... good fixtures were obtained, including Beckenham First XI, over whom asensational victory of 1-0 was registered." F. Heasman and F.C. Maplesden w e r ejoint Hon. Secs in 1911-1912 and on April 13th a concert was held at the Whitehall forHockey Clubfunds. No indication was given of the amount of money raised! Rev. W.E. Sealy, who appears in the photographon page 5, was assistant master and later Headmaster at Fonthill School from 1908, certainly until 1943 and possibly until the late 1940's. P.A. Robson remained Captain until the Club suspended play in 1916 at which time C.J. Tree of Fonthill School was Hon. Secretary.