The club draws on the combined strength and ethos of two of the longest established clubs in Devon. Prior to the merger in 2007, Exmouth HC and Exeter Ladies HC had respected each other mutually over the last 20 years and enjoyed spirited on the pitch rivalry at annual events such as the Exeter Tournament, summer league and the Devon Cup Final. During this period of time there had also been respected player movement between the two clubs, which had helped to foster an interest in the `league progress` of both clubs. However, this spirit of cooperation had not historically existed as in the post war years the clubs were bitter rivals! Pre- 2007 here are the histories of Exeter LHC and Exmouth HC.
EXETER LADIES HOCKEY CLUB 1895-2007
Nomadic Exeter Ladies played all over Exeter (and beyond) in their 112-year history. Their first ‘ground’ was on a pitch laid out in a sports-loving family’s garden in Heavitree (now Heavitree Social Club). They moved on to fields at Marsh Barton, the grounds of the old Wonford Hospital, Priory (Isca) School and Woodwater Lane before finding a more permanent pitch in the grounds of Digby Hospital. When this closed the pitch at Exminster Hospital was used and the regular attention of residents ensured entertainment, variety and guaranteed support – not to mention the goalkeeper permanently standing on the 16yard line! Exwick also provided a temporary home by the banks of the river before the move to King George V Playing Fields at Countess Wear. In 1988 the first artificial pitch in the area was laid at the Colin Tooze Sports Centre in Ottery St Mary and this became their permanent home (10 miles from Exeter) for many years until they relocated to Exeter School in the late 90’s. In 2000 the Club joined Exeter City Council in supporting the lottery-funded pitch at West Exe and moved to the new pitch in 2001. The school rebuilding programme in Exeter in 2005/06 led to Exeter Ladies moving to the new pitch at St Luke’s Science & Sports in 2006 before a move to the latest home of Exe Hockey Club St Peter’s High School in 2012.
Exeter’s colours have been unchanged since they switched to royal blue socks in 1930 – the first club in Devon to wear coloured ‘stockings’! Wonder how long it took them to make that decision?
In the spring of 1988, Exeter came fourth at the West Clubs Tournament to gain a place in the newly formed West Premier League. The first season saw Exmouth win the League and become founder members of the English National League. New leagues were created in 1989/90 and the foresight of the Exeter committee at that time saw the Club enter 2nd and 3rd XI’s. The 2nds gained promotion in 1990/91 and again in 1992/93 to join the 1st XI (for one season only!) in the Premier League. The 1st XI only slipped out of the top flight twice in the 18 year history of the League – bouncing back both times at the first attempt. The Club experienced much success in Cup Competitions throughout its history – dominating, with Exmouth, the Devon Cup and Trophy. However, the pinnacle was undoubtedly the EH Trophy campaign in the 2005/06 season where the 1st XI lost out in the final v Hampstead & Westminster at East Grinstead.
Indoor hockey also featured strongly in Exeter Ladies’ history – back in 1963 a spell of severe weather resulted in many games being cancelled and the Club, hearing about indoor hockey experiments in the Middlesex area, started playing indoors at Priory school. The Club enjoyed much success at County and Regional level over the years with trips to the National Finals at Crystal Palace and spells in the Indoor National League in their history.
International honours came to the Club when Jenny Tippin was selected for England in 1974 and made captain in 1977 – watched by thousands of screaming schoolgirls as she led out the team at Wembley. Those were the days!
Junior hockey has developed at the Club since the junior section was started at the end of the 80’s and many players came up through the age groups and still feature in our Exe teams today…some now in the Veterans Team.
EXMOUTH HOCKEY CLUB 1920’s - 2007
Exmouth Ladies have been traced back to the 1920s and it is thought they played on the Maer (the grassy area on Exmouth seafront), where the town’s tennis and cricket clubs still play. A move was eventually made from this pitch (year unknown) to the sloping grass pitch at The Convent School, changing was in a wooden hut; tea made over a gas ring; crockery was stored in a locked trunk and there was a hole in the floor for a loo!! In 1960, there were just 14 members, match fees were 1 shilling (5p) and travel was no further than Exeter.
In 1963, Exmouth Men’s Hockey Team was formed - strangely to play on the Exmouth Cricket Field and prevent East Devon Council from putting a road across the sea end of the ground. In the mid 60s, the Ladies left the Convent School and played on both the Rolle College shale pitch and the cricket field. At about this time the ladies amalgamated with the men to form Exmouth Hockey Club.
This mixed club grew rapidly becoming an integral part of the Cricket Club setup with the best view of any clubhouse in the country overlooking the seashore. At the time the facilities were considered second to none in the West. Hugely popular Men’s, Ladies, Mixed and Veterans tournaments were developed and played on the three grass pitches at the cricket ground.
During this time a junior section was also formed. The junior teams were very popular and successful. At its height Exmouth Hockey Club was one of the strongest set-ups in the West. The men ran two teams whilst the ladies ran 4 league teams. The Ladies 1st team successfully reached the National League in 1989.This team were one of the founder members of the English National league and have been relegated from it only once, the club immediately won promotion back into the league the following year.
Players also featured in all County and West squads (in all age groups). Full international honours were gained by Roey Goodridge (England) and Angela Thorne (Ireland) in the 1990’s. The Ladies Veterans squad reached national finals on several occasions and in 2002 they became National Champions.
From the early 90s, all Exmouth HC home games were played at the Community College and connections with Exmouth Cricket Club were severed because of the lack of demand for use of the grass pitches. The club was originally formed to provide an opportunity for people of all ages to play and enjoy the game of hockey. It is hoped that the merger of the club with Exeter Ladies will protect and nurture those original aims.