One of the very early member clubs of the Cheshire County Hockey Association, Wilmslow Men‘s Hockey Club was founded in 1896/97. Little is known of its early history but a team photo from 1899 is believed to have been taken in the Rectory Field.
There was, however, no continuity of existence during the war years. Rev D, M, Brookes restarted things in 1947/48 with a Parish Church Youth Club team. This team played in the local Youth Clubs Mixed Hockey League.
The Club‘s first full season as Wilmslow Men‘s HC was in 1957/58, resplendent in royal blue and white halved shirts. One lively AGM in 1964, certain members fuelled by drink, decided the club strip was boring and clashed too often with the opposition. “Why don‘t we wear those luminous orange motorway shirts then we‘ll never clash with anyone?” quipped one member. This was greeted with hysterical laughter after which the evening degenerated further. The following day it dawned on the Secretary that he had to go and organise two sets of bright orange shirts.
After playing on the Rectory Fields (before construction of Wilmslow Leisure Centre) the Club moved to its new home at Oakwood Farm, Styal, with three grass pitches and a purpose-built clubhouse in 1980. This Clubhouse and surrounding grounds are now shared with a Lacrosse and Cricket section under the Wilmslow Phoenix umbrella. Due to rule changes the Hockey Club were required to play their matches on the Astroturf at Wilmslow High School and over this period the Club also developed its thriving Ladies and Junior sections. September 2005 saw the opening of the Club‘s own Astroturf by its Clubhouse in Styal which started a new era for the Club.
Wilmslow Ladies HC is believed to be one of Cheshire’s oldest ladies clubs however documentary evidence exists only as far back as 1930. In 1952 the Club was looking for a ground and the (then) Alderley Edge UD council offered to provide a pitch on the town’s playing fields. It was either a condition or a strong suggestion that the club should then change its name to Alderley Edge Ladies HC. This was complied with and the Club played under that name until 1968. By then matches were being played at Lindow CC and the Club reverted to its original name. (It should be noted that there is no connection with the recently-formed Alderley Edge Ladies organisation which is part of the Moss Lane club).
The sixties were an exceptional period for the Club on the pitch. In 1962/63 out of a total playing strength of only 21, 7 players were picked for Cheshire 1st or 2nd XIs. For a number of years we provided the captains of both county teams. Cheshire 1st XI captain, Dorothy ‘Dot’ Wilson also played for the North and in 1962/63 she was selected to play for England and was elected national captain. Dot played in both right and left back positions and captained her country until 1965, which included leading an England touring party to the USA.
The ladies continued to seek a permanent home and in the 80s had periods playing at Jim Evison Playing Fields and the High School pitch at Dean Row. Following lengthy discussions, in 1990 WLHC eventually agreed to move to Oakwood Farm, sharing the clubhouse and grounds with Wilmslow Mens HC. Over the next ten years the two clubs slowly moved closer. The ladies adopted the orange and black colours and now the two clubs are totally integrated.
Many hockey clubs boast about being sports clubs with an active social life. Wilmslow has tended to pride itself as being a social club which also plays hockey.
When ration books were finally put away after the Second World War, WHC started to attend the Isle of Man Festival. We played as the MYOBB and adopted the two finger badge. This continued until the early sixties. In mid and late sixties we went to Blackpool Easter Festival. Jim Barrow soon had his feet under the table and was invited to join the organising committee as social sec. In this role he organised a most successful ‘Evening with Blaster Bates’ tickets 10 shillings, at Blackpool CC. In 1968 we were reduced in numbers to only half a team; as were Hathersage HC. We joined forces and played alternate games as Withersage HC and Hatherslow HC! In the seventies the Club moved NE to attend Bridlington Easter Festival.
After a brief trip to Scarborough in 1980 (touring as the Pickled Eggs) we were invited to warmer climes at Bournemouth. We attended Bournemouth throughout the eighties re-adopting the old touring name of the MYOBB. Two Club representatives were invited annually to a Mayor’s reception at the Town Hall. On the first year one of our reps was being formally introduced to the Mayor who politely enquired as to the meaning of MYOBB. The response was greeted by a nervous silence but fortunately the Mayor quickly ‘got it’ and much mirth ensued (to the relief of all!). In the nineties the Llandudno Easter Festival was organised by the Knowles family, and scion of the family, Alex was currently playing for WHC Mens 1st so we were invited to attend. It was here that we fielded both a mens and ladies team for the first time.
In the mid nineties we moved to Clacton Easter Festival, which we attended for three years. The extended Short clan regularly went to Torbay with Cwmbran HC and one year a WHC raiding party joined them. Easter was not the only time for touring and Cheshire touring side, the Hillsiders participated in the Isle of Man Whit Festival for over thirty years with a sizeable WHC contingent. Newport Festival was held as a pre-season warm up and WHC men participated throughout the seventies and eighties, staying in such digs as the old Queens Hotel in the town centre. By the nineties we had moved upmarket to a country club and the Wilmslow WAGs joined us for the spa facilities. The Festival was originally played on the old Newport HC grass pitches, next to the rugby club, then at Llanwern and it finally moved to the Cwmbran astro.
In 1977 an enterprising group of club juniors, led by David Taylor decided to organise their own tours. With a ‘light touch’ of chaperoning by (nervous) club officials, the Juniors toured Blackpool, Nottingham, South Yorkshire and South Wales. David recalls playing on the beach in Blackpool and, wearing orange shirts, being chased off by a group of Blackpool FC visiting opposition fans! Juniors with the familiar names of Barrow, Birtles, Titterington and Dykstra featured. This precocious generation also spawned a mixed hockey touring side, The Rubber Ducks. The Ducks toured between 1984 and 1994, attending festivals at Dublin, Basingstoke and touring Bath, Bristol and Bedfordshire. Ever good club members, on one still-celebrated occasion, before the new changing room block was added and hot water was in short supply, they brought the concept of mixed hockey to the showers (the men wearing the red faces!).
At the other end of the age scale members of WHC Vets have spread their wings and have put in appearances in international festivals in Ireland, Canada, Fiji, Argentina and Australia. In 2009 Messrs Birtles and Kinsella played for the Irish geriatrics against the Dutch over 60s at Adelaide HC. Touring with the Hillsiders a WHC vets squad has been playing at Sevenoaks Vets Festival over the May Bank Holiday for around twenty years. There has also been a WHC presence at Cork Harlequins Vets Festival on many occasions. One year a small WHC vets squad joined forces with a small Tilburg HC party to form a mighty Anglo-Dutch alliance (however, failing to win any games!). On the theme of the Low Countries, one year in the nineties Jan Gregory took a WHC touring party to the Mechelen Festival in Belgium.
In 2001 Mens 1st XI skipper, Rod Smith took a mens and ladies squad to an OP Easter Festival at his home club of De Kieveten in Holland. Although hockey on tour was only a secondary consideration, De Kieveten took this concept to extremes so we decided that we next needed the purgative ‘bracing’ climate of Scarborough and we participated for two years until frostbite took its toll and there was a clamour for a more balmy climate. Easter 2006 found the MYOBB men and Wilmslow ladies playing in a bright green strip back at Blackpool. Hell bent on nostalgia, in 2008 the club went back to the Isle of Man. For the first time one or two of us old Manx hands actually got to see more of the island than the inside of a hotel bar! Wanderlust again beckoned us and the following year mens and ladies squads, included a number of junior, virgin tourists piled into a ‘chara’ and headed south to Weymouth Easter Festival.
In recent years, the club has gone from strength to strength and now runs 5 men's and 5 ladies teams with a thriving Junior section. Both Men's and Ladies 1s play in the North League, a level which was unthinkable just a few years ago. In 2018 and 2019, the club was nominated as England Hockey Club of the Year.
The refurbishment and extension to the Phoenix Sports Clubhouse was officially opened on Friday 20th January 2017 by Olympic gold medallist, Sam Quek. Organised by the Phoenix Club Committee to celebrate the opening of the new extension to the clubhouse, the evening was attended by representatives from all the sports sections associated with Phoenix as well as representatives from club sponsors.
Originally planned to provide improved facilities for lady members, the extension project rapidly increased in scope to include a complete rewiring, as well as new lighting, flooring and heating plus a new lobby with increased storage space.
In 2019, the decision was made to replace the existing sand-filled astro carpet with a new, FIH-accredited international standard sand-dressed surface. This was installed during in May 2019 and officially opened by President, Steve Kinsella, in September 2019. This was followed in 2020 with the installation of a 75 seat covered spectator stand, named in honour of Jim Barrow, founding member of the modern day Wilmslow Hockey Club and the man behind the club for many years. Jim was awarded the British Empire Medal for his services to the club and the wider hockey community.
Louise Broome, one of the stalwarts of the club, was honoured at the UK Coaching Hero Awards in Leeds in October 2021 and was recognised for her efforts in keeping hockey going during lockdown, making a considerable difference to people’s health and wellbeing. She was presented with this aware by HRH Princess Anne. To read more, click here.