The Early Years: 1904 to 1985
There are no official records in existence stating when the club was formed, although a game with the “Gentlemen of Reading” against a Garrison XI was mentioned in the Reading Mercury in 1904., so we have adopted this as when we were officially formed.
During both World Wars games were suspended, although some were played on an ad hoc basis against local Services sides who were based in the area at that time.
The games were played at Sol Joel Recreation ground and the teas and changing rooms were shared (!) with a local Ladies side – The Scarlet Runners!
After several years Berkshire Wanderers Rugby club based at Holme Park in Sonning offered the club a pitch to use. Although this was the first time that the club had to maintain their own pitch, so members took it in turns to roll the pitch prior to games.
In the immediate post war years, fixtures were played against many local towns such as Maidenhead, High Wycombe, City of Oxford and Marlborough – much like todays opponents!
It seemed that the club were too strong for these oppositions and Peter Carter managed to obtain, help from Hounslow Hockey Club, fixtures with some other London clubs.
The formation of the Berkshire Boars in 1953 by Roy Turner, John Way and Peter Carter fulfilled the need to have a touring festival side and also provide a the club with bigger social events. The first festival the Berkshire boars attended was at Weston Super Mare in 1954, and from then on, there were regular Sunday fixtures against other touring sides.
During the 1950’s the club was asked by the Hockey Association to organise an international between England and Wales, this was such a success that the Association asked the club to hold the England v South Africa match in 1957 (the first of many International Matches that the club has helped organise!)
1954 was the 50th anniversary of the club and a dinner was held at the George Hotel in Reading with guest speaker HA Saville (37 caps for England).
In 1959 the hockey club amalgamated with Reading Cricket club to form the Reading Cricket and Hockey Club. This meant that the club now had a base at Church Road and now had two grass pitches to roll and much better changing rooms and facilities.
In 1972 the club was admitted to the London League which at that time was the Premier League.
Around 1979 the club membership was expanding fast and so started looking around for more ground and pitches to use for their eight Saturday teams and the Berkshire Boars who played on the Sunday and Wednesday afternoons.
In 1981 the Ladies Section was formed and steadily progressed up the leagues into the National League. In the season of 1985/86 there were ten men’s and five ladies teams, the Berkshire Boars and a mixed side (nearly as many as we have today!)
The move to Sonning Lane in 1986.
It was becoming clear the the Church Road site was not big enough for such a successful club. After a number of sites and attempts, Sonning Lane was deemed to be the ideal place to move to. However it was owned by Berkshire County Council and being farmed by Reading University! After a number of discussions the land became available with numerous planning applications, objections and appeals. Finally the club could pull in many favours, notably Crest Homes in building the Clubhouse, in order for the site to be prepared and developed at low cost.
Plans were drawn up for two cricket squares and six grass hockey pitches!
The Heineken Astro was opened in 1989 and was a test surface for the Barcelona Olympics. Although as now, lines were an issue with the new pitch….they were painted in the wrong place, so the D was about 137cm larger than normal, although this was very quickly changed, you could still see the old lines on a rainy day!
Heineken also sponsored the bar and the Club dinner!
In 2001 the Lottery Funding was given for a new pitch, and was the first in the country to have a “surround” – the club had to pay for this themselves and the Lottery Funding deemed this to be unnecessary. The pitch was designed to last 10 years (we have managed to get 13 years of near constant use out of it).