Club Information 12 of 14

12. History - Braintree Hockey Club

Braintree Men's Hockey Club was founded in 1903, with home matches played at Evegate Broad Road prior to moving to the Recreation Ground. There are no records available of the Braintree Ladies' Hockey Club, but in 1939 mixed matches were played with players selected from the Ladies' and Men's Clubs.

By 1954 the membership was sufficient to field two men’s elevens, with several ex-university players working for Courtaulds. The Ladies also fielded two teams in the 1960's, and it was during this period that the Braintree Dolphins Festival and Touring Teams were founded.

The early seventies saw a rapid rise in the membership of the Men's Club, with the first 3rd XI's fixture in December 1970. During 1972/3 season the 1st XI competed in the Essex League and the first 4th XI match was played. By the following year the Men's Club had five teams.

This rapid expansion resulted in pitch and changing facility shortages and, in order to cope, home matches were played at several venues including the College, Cricket Club and a field in Yeldham. By 1975 various sites were examined as potential grounds and, with the help of Tom Hunnable, who had been a loyal member for many years and also represented Essex, the present ground was purchased in 1981. The ground was levelled and drained in 1984/5, with the help of Braintree District Council and the Sports Council, and a second hand clubhouse was purchased from the Golf Club and erected during 1986/7. The facilities were opened by the Chief Executive of the Hockey Association, Stephen Baines, in 1987. Three years later changing rooms were built. During the whole of this period both Men's and Ladies' Clubs gradually amalgamated and became Braintree Hockey Club.

After 1987/8, when Braintree under 14's became Essex Champions, the Club saw a meteoric rise in junior members. Of approximately 150 junior players during the 1994/5 season, 50 (including 4 Captains) represented Essex, 12 with 1 Captain represented the East of England and 2 with 1 Captain played for England. Also during this period, Braintree's youth teams won many honours, including the Under-11 Girls twice making the National finals and the Under-11 Boys being crowned as National Champions, the Under-19 Girls were National finalists in both indoor & outdoor disciplines, the Under-15 Girls were National semi-finalists and the Under-13 Girls were regional runners-up. As a result of these achievements, Braintree Hockey Club was regarded as one of the most successful clubs in the country at junior level.

During 1995 it was decided that the Club should apply to the Sports Lottery Fund for the installation of an All Weather Pitch. A committee was set up and the planning, funding details embarked upon, and in September 1995 the application was submitted to the Sports Council. The Club had to wait until April 1996 to hear of its success. Building started in June of that year and the first match was played on the pitch on 14th September 1996, with Olympic Hockey player Nicky Thompson formally opened the Pitch on November 4th 1996.

Since 1996 the club concentrated on repaying in excess of £40,000 of members' loans. Once these loans were cleared, a sinking fund was started to contribute towards a replacement “carpet” with an estimated cost of £150,000 to £200,000.

Following the success of the nineties, the turn of the century proved less successful for Braintree Hockey Club, with a number of players moving to bigger clubs in Essex. However, it remained the starting point for a number of players who went on to represent their countries. The previously mentioned junior section still battled hard but as the years progressed in the 2000’s the teams didn't. This finally resulted in the Junior section almost folding after the 2007/08 season before being resurrected with high hopes for the future. Likewise the Men’s and ladies team’s suffered. In 2006/7 a men’s veterans team played, but had to be disbanded the following year, due to lack of players being able to travel to away matches.

Success still came to Braintree in 2006/7 with both first teams being promoted; however, disappointment followed in 2008/09, when all Men’s teams and the Ladies 1st team got relegated. The club knew it had to radically change or die as a serious Hockey club, and it was during the close season in 2009 that Braintree Hockey Club ceased to exist and was joined by Dunmow Hockey Club to form Phoenix Hockey Club, and start a new chapter at the Four Releet, as Phoenix Hockey Club.