Club Focus – Morpeth Mens HC
The town of Morpeth is in mid-Northumberland about fifteen miles north of Newcastle. However Morpeth Cricket, Hockey and Tennis Club is located within the grounds of Longhirst Hall, an historic and picturesque Georgian mansion, now a conference and leisure centre about three miles out of town to the north- east.
Our first eleven features in the North East Premier League and our seconds, thirds and fourths are in the lower divisions.
Hockey in Morpeth began in 1922 when some interested men met in a town-centre café and discussed setting up a club to participate within the embryonic Northumberland and Durham Hockey Association.
One of these men was a local farmer who offered the use of a section of a field and also volunteered to build a shed to store posts, nets etc. And thus on 1st September 1922 the first match was played. All matches were classed as ‘friendlies’ for it wasn’t until 1972 that league hockey was to be introduced.
For many years away match transport was from Morpeth railway station where a bloc of twelve cheap rate tickets could be obtained.
Club colours were maroon and blue halved shirts with white shorts and maroon stockings.
In the 1938-39 season the possibility of relocating to the town centre’s Cricket Club was discussed but within days of negotiations beginning war was declared and the club decided to disband for the duration.
Post-war, in 1947, discussions recommenced and the outcome was an agreement that out – of – cricket- season hockey could be played on two outfield pitches.
One of the stipulations was that the hockey section henceforth use the cricket colours of green and gold on their strips.
By now ladies in the town were forming a team and tennis was also ‘on the up’. So since 1948 there has been Morpeth Cricket, Hockey and Tennis Club with four distinct sections under the ‘umbrella’ club management. This format has remained since.
Various achievements followed, not least the appearance of the Morpeth men at the National Indoor Finals at Maidenhead in 1977.
But the greatest honour in the club’s history was to come in 2010 when England Hockey awarded its highest accolade – Club of the Season – to Morpeth. This came at the culmination of events at a glitzy England Hockey award ceremony in Nottingham and to which a group of Morpeth members had travelled in hope more than expectation.
In 1993 league rules stipulated all games must henceforth be played on an artificial surface so for a short while both hockey sections hired a pitch in firstly Sunderland and then Newcastle. A big problem!
To the rescue came an invitation from Longhirst Hall – now an annexe of the University of Northumbria, a conference centre and an hotel – for the Club to sell up and form a partnership. So the town centre ground – once a defunct council tip bought for twenty pounds in 1909 by two old ladies and gifted to the Cricket Club – was sold to developers for £1.2m! One million pounds of this was to be invested in state of the art sporting facilities within the grounds of the Hall. Although the land was leased, the Club bought the lease in the spring of 2012 to become masters of its own destiny.
But in the meantime, in 2006, and following a rigorous and time-consuming application process, a grant for £140,000 was awarded by Sport England to finance the recovering of the astro. This money also allowed various other pitch-side improvements to be made.
To assist its finances the Club rents out its facilities and the hockey sections together host an annual August Bank Holiday weekend tournament. Many tours take place, in particular to the Blackpool Easter Festival where long-serving club stalwart George Robson has been President of the Festival since 1991.
We invite you to visit our website and do not hesitate to get in touch with us for any reason. We are justly proud of the magnificent setting we are placed within, our history and the vitality of our membership.
By George Robson