Thurrock Hockey Club

by Ken Hayward

Members of the Thurrock Hockey Club in 1967

The history of Thurrock Hockey Club began on 19th October 1907 when the newly formed Stanford-le-Hope Club played it’s first match at Stanford Recreation Ground against Westcliff. In the 1907/8 season the club played a total of twenty games winning seven of them.

Newspaper reports of matches played over the next few years show that the club was playing regularly and fielding either men’s or mixed teams. However in 1914 the First World War brought an end to organised sport and it was not until 1921 that hockey again started to be played in Thurrock with Stanford’s first match being in October. Also in 1921 another club that had played briefly prior to the war, Grays & District, joined with a newly formed club playing near the Orsett Cock public house. The combined club was renamed Orsett and played it’s first match in November. In October 1922 Orsett moved to a ground at Mill House Field. The first match on this ground was the first time Orsett fielded a men’s XI. The club moved again in the 1925/6 season to Orsett Recreation Ground.

During the 1920s Stanford fielded teams on Saturday, either men’s or mixed while Orsett fielded both men’s and ladies’ teams each week. An Orsett mixed team also played on Wednesday afternoons mostly against teams from London. Reports of matches are infrequent during the 1930’s . In fact Orsett had taken a decision at their 1929 AGM to “curtail as much as possible the reports of the matches each week”. Stanford’s reports continued but were far less regular than today.

At the outbreak of war in 1939 men’s hockey ceased to be played but the ladies section of Orsett continued with a reduced fixture list. The number of games actually played was probably even less as a government permit was needed to purchase hockey balls and leisure travel was positively discouraged.

After the war Stanford began playing again in 1948 but Orsett men did not reform and the club became Orsett Ladies Hockey Club. They continued to build on their prewar successes and became one of the strongest teams in the South East. Stanford also enjoyed a fair measure of success and in 1949 had enough players to start a second eleven.
The 1960s resulted in major changes for both clubs. In 1961 Stanford began to play at King George V Playing Fields, Blackshots Lane and in 1965 the decision was taken to change the club’s name to Thurrock in order to be more associated with the wider area. This change took place in the 1966/67 season. In 1967 Stanford le Hope and Orsett Ladies combined to become Thurrock Hockey Club.

Colts teams were started in the 1970s as was indoor hockey. League hockey was becoming established and Thurrock Men's 1st XI joined in 1974. Thurrock was one of the first clubs in Essex to introduce mini hockey in 1985. The club ran it’s first tournament in 1988 and subsequent tournaments established Thurrock as one of the leading mini hockey clubs. Mini hockey did not fully develop on a county wide basis until the mid 90s but regular competitions are now held for age groups from U9 to U14 for both boys and girls.

By the end of the 1980’s Thurrock had seven mens and four ladies Saturday teams, mens and ladies indoor teams, mini teams, mens and ladies colts teams, Sunday teams and summer teams. However the increasing participation in leagues brought with it the requirement to have access to astroturf pitches. All of the Thurrock teams had joined leagues by 1998 and as there were no such facilities within Thurrock the club had to make use of pitches further afield. In 1991 the club left it’s men’s sections original home at Stanford le Hope to play at Waterside Farm, Canvey Island. Usage of the pitch at King George V Playing Fields, Blackshots Lane was also reduced and ceased entirely in 1994. Finally in 1998 all matches were transferred to astroturf and hockey ceased to be played Thurrock after ninety one years.

During the 1970’s the club had realised that if hockey was to flourish in Thurrock improved facilities had to be provided within the borough. In 1993 Palmer’s College decided to build an astroturf pitch and the club supported them with applications to funding bodies. In 2003 after several applications had been refused lottery funding was secured and construction was completed in August. Having the use of this pitch has provided an accessible local facility for training and a home pitch clearly identified with the club. The Club’s future now looks brighter than it has for some time and it can look forward to it’s second century with confidence.

For more details see the Thurrock Hockey Club web site