Worthing Hockey Club – The first 75 years : 1896 – 1971

Early club records show that Worthing Hockey Club was first formed in 1896 and mention the first competitive match was on 21st November 1897 against Storrington Hockey Club followed by a home win the next week against Brighton

The first full season ended on April 2nd 1898 with a match against Mr Wisen’s XI – with the opponents winning 4-1. The first secretary was F.B O’Neill and later L.W Head and Berie Collett officiated in the years prior to the 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 was one of seven founder members of the Sussex County 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.

First WHC Committee at Manor Ground 1927

The First World War interrupted the club and play restarted in 1919. Up until 1926, it ran 1 team, playing 26 matches in that year of which 7 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 2nd 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 showing the links with the town through its history. In the early days, the bar and after match social was at the Cricketers Pub in Broadwater (this carried on well into 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 growing cabbages.

After the war in late 1946, 11 pre-war members picked up under chairman Tom Clifford and president at the 60th Anniversary Stanley Green. That season was notable as 13 of the 20 matches were cancelled due to snow ! In 1948 the club expanded to 3 teams with new Sussex captain Peter Moulding setting the standard, with a 4th 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 was published by a series of dedicated editors, collecting the 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 2000’s.

By its 75th Anniversary the club had firmly established 6 regular Saturday teams and 2 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 throughout the hockey community. First started by Bertie Lane and his team including C.B ‘Skinny’ Skinner in 1932 when 11 teams participated including Old Cranleighans, Beckenham, Brighton and Trojans. 

WHC Diamond Jubilee programme 1956

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 and that the bar was open from 11am to 7pm on Saturday only. Before 1964 and the 25th Easter Festival, there were no games played on a Sunday and first Easter Festival game on a Sunday was London v ‘The Rest’.

The London team included players from clubs such as Old Cranleighans and Tulse Hill, whilst ‘The Rest’ included Queens University Belfast, Aldershot Armed Services, Cheltenham and Norwich. One of the umpires that day was Paddy Selman who went on to be Worthing Hockey Club president from 1984 to 1991.

Coming soon, more on the 125 years of the club, the members, the achievements. Keep an eye on our News page for part III.