Yardley HC: A Strong Club History

Posted on 22nd July, 2020

YARDLEY HOCKEY CLUB: A Strong Club History

 

Yardley Hockey Club began playing during the 1932-33 season as Birmingham Municipal Hockey Club. The Club’s home base was at the Birmingham Municipal Club in Sedgemere Road, Yardley. This Municipal base also housed rugby, football and cricket and later tennis sections as well as ladies’ hockey. The quality of the maintenance of the grass pitches at the club during these early years was the envy of many other clubs around. Membership of the club was quite strict in that members had to be employed by the Council – so membership consisted mainly of workers in the Council offices in the city and teachers. There was a clause in the constitution to enable the inclusion of a certain number of non-council workers. In those days there were no youth teams.

 

Unfortunately, no records of these early years have been passed on. There will not be anyone left alive who could fill in the gaps. We know that up to the outbreak of the Second World War the club fielded two sides. After the war the club built up to three sides.

 

The earliest photograph in our collection is of the 1st team during the 1947-8 season. There are also a few others of teams in the 50s.

 

It’s not until the 1960s that more photographs have survived and more written records that give a useful insight into more recent club history. I have tried to include the best and most interesting bits in this publication. There is a complete collection of annual reports and fixture cards from the late 60s and 70s to the present day. From those documents a list of the officers of the club has been drawn up.

 

From the list of officials, we can work out that during the early years after the War, the club played with three teams. Opposition was drawn from mainly Worcestershire and Warwickshire, playing only as friendlies. Occasional friendly Sunday and summer fixtures also took place.

 

It was not until 1962-63 that the club started a fourth team. In 1970-71 the third and fourth teams were re-named as Swifts and Swallows respectively. The Swallows ceased playing in 1990-91 and then began again as a means of bringing on the younger players as the Badgers side. By 2007-08 the 3rd Team ceased playing due to a lack of players. Later, in 2008-09 the Second team withdrew from the league and then began as a non-league side playing like-minded opposition in the Fathom set-up.  So, at present the club plays with its 1st Xl, and a Badgers side. In recent years, our Under 10, Under 12 and Under 14 sides have taken part, when player-numbers allowed, in the Warwickshire Mini-league set-up.

 

The club has been lucky that it does not seem to have had many changes of Chairman. I’m not sure about the very early years but in the late 50s Ron Corlett held the post for 14 years, Jack Smith for 17 years in the 70s until the early 90s. Our late Chairman, Chris Wadhams topped them all with 27 years’ service, albeit after first serving 7 years as vice-chair. Our recently appointed and youngest-ever Chairman, Jeevan Chagger, has some way to go!

 

The club has enjoyed its entry into various festivals over the years. In the late 60s the early season was regularly taken up with the Pickwick Festival. Our own autumn festival ran for nearly forty years until we lost the use of the pitches at Sedgemere Road. Easter festivals have always been popular. Club sides regularly entered the local Dunlop Festival which later became known as the Motorways Festival. In 1968 a party of hardy souls entered the festival at Scarborough. This lasted for four years and before the Blackpool Festival took over. Torbay then became popular at first with our own club side, The Normans, then, as numbers dropped, combining with Barford Tigers. Some club members then enjoyed the social side without the bother of playing. In 2009-10 our own club side toured again after a break of many years, as The Normans and continue to do so this year.

 

The club has always prided itself over the range of social functions offered to its members. Over the years these have included, with varying degrees of success, barbecues, beer and skittles, barn dances, ‘Hundred’ evenings, curry and quiz Nights, dinner dances and then dinners only, and more recently race nights. In the early years the annual dinner dance was held in the banqueting suite at the Council House. When it no longer became possible to hold the function there, one or two other venues were tried before we came to the Westfield Court Hotel in Wylde Green. We are now in our 26th year there. The curry and quiz has always been popular since it began in 1984-85 and has enjoyed several quiz masters over the years. In recent years the race night has proved to be a good event to boost club funds.

 

Over the years the club has played at several venues. In 1990 the City Council decided to get rid of its employees’ sports club. At short notice the club had to find a new playing facility. After the joys of the decent grass pitches at Sedgemere, the problems with the closure, combined with the increasing demands of the league meant that the club needed to find Astro facilities. And so, in 1990-91 the 1sts and 2nds began playing at Holyhead Leisure Centre. The whole Club moved to play at the new water-based Astro at the North Solihull Sports Centre, Chelmsley Wood in 1996-97. We were the first club to use these new facilities. Finally, the club moved to play at its present ground, at Small Heath Leisure Centre in 2001-02.

 

In the early years the club enjoyed a strong 1st X1 playing friendly fixtures. The 2nds and 3rds were pretty good too if I remember. There was no league set-up until 1969-70. I recall that the club was somewhat hesitant over this move into leagues but felt that they had to join in as everyone else was doing. The 2nd team leagues also started. Thankfully the 3rds did not have a league!

 

Highlights from the 1st team league included being promoted as Champions from Division 5 West in 1984-5, and then again in 1994-95 after league re-organisation. In 2002-03 the 1st Team won their league, West Midlands 1, but could not say they were promoted as the leagues were again re-structured into their present format. Since then the team slipped downwards in 2005-06, and since has been playing in West Midlands Division 2. Thankfully there is no relegation from there!

 

The 2nd team enjoyed winning its league in 2001-02 but in 2007-08 a lack of players, meant a withdrawal from the league before joining the non-competitive Fathom set-up. Finally, a consistent lack of numbers meant that the 2nds finally ceased playing at the end of 2017-18 season.

 

Thankfully the club enjoys a strong youth set up. The Badgers side has brought on many young players and then moved them up. However, fluctuating numbers has also affected this team from time to time. Links with local schools with our coaching initiatives have long been a strong feature of recruitment at this level. These younger sections have been very grateful for a strong core of coaches and helpers.

 

Summer hockey proved very popular over many years giving added opportunity for some of the younger players to get the chance to mingle with more experienced players during the Summer League programme. However, as always, a growing lack of regular numbers and commitment and availability over the whole league period eventually led to swapping the league for the preferred occasional one-off tournaments – often 7 a-side and often mixed sides. This approach has remained the better option.

 

The club’s commitment its youth has been amply demonstrated with the awarding of the national ‘Clubmark’ and the partnership with the Calthorpe School and Sports’ Programme. The partnership awarded the club ‘Club of the Year’ in 2009 for its commitment to providing sporting opportunities for young people.

 

After several years of a growing uncertainty for the future, with dwindling adult player numbers and an ever more reliance on younger players coming through the ranks, it became a more difficult achievement to fulfill our fixtures without ‘doubling up’ or even at times making do with less than a full complement. During the season 2018-19. Early provisional discussions with the newly formed City of Birmingham Hockey Club, led to an informal partnership being struck up. This finally led to the idea of a formal arrangement being set up whereby Yardley Hockey Club would form the men’s section of this hitherto ladies only Club. In September 2019, a formal Extra-ordinary General Meeting led to a unanimous vote in favour of the merger. It was agreed that for the season 2020-21 that Yardley Hockey Club would play its fixtures under the new name of City of Birmingham Hockey Club. There is now positive hope for the future, the possibility of gaining new membership through university links and thereby re-introducing a 2nd team. Further, to assist in club administration, it has been decided that the new City of Birmingham Hockey Club would take effect from 1st June 2020. Many thanks must go to the Chairmen of both sections and other Club Officials who have worked to make this possible.

 

So, after some 87 playing seasons with a proud history, (60 as Birmingham Municipal and 27 as Yardley), we can look forward with renewed confidence to our future.

 

Peter Brainch

Yardley HC Club Secretary

(May 2020)

 

 

Supporting Archived Documents (click to view)

Birmingham Municipal Officers (Page 1)

Birmingham Municipal Officers (Page 2)

Birmingham Municipal Playing Record 1968-1993

Yardley Hockey Club Officials

Yardley Hockey Club Playing Record 1993-2020

Yardley Hockey Club History Timeline 1932

Yardley Hockey Club Annual Awards

Yardley Hockey Club Colours Awards 

 

 

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