At the Chelmsford Spectacular on August Bank Holiday 1989 Tom & Judy Anderson of the East Anglian Croquet Federation (EACF) ran come and try it sessions in the Sport for All section of the event. They were taking names and addresses of those who were interested in learning more, and Jackie & I put our names down for further information.
The following May (1990) we were invited by Chelmsford Council to partake in 4 free lessons in Central Park on Monday evenings. This we did along with about 12 others. At the end of the last lesson, council leisure services representatives were present and asked if there were enough of us interested in forming a club. The council would allow us to have 2 under-used lawn tennis courts to use along with a patch of grass outside the boundary of the courts. The EACF would lend us some mallets and balls to start us off and the council would also provide a £400 interest-free loan to be paid back within three years. To obtain this loan we needed to form a club, draw up a constitution and have three officers (Chairman, Secretary and Treasurer) to sign as guarantors for the loan. Thus on that night, the inaugural meeting was held and I became Chairman, Andy Cripps became Secretary and Peter Yates became Treasurer, we signed up for the loan and 11 of us became a club. The constitution was quickly constructed with advice from the council.
The council removed the wire fence along the side adjoining the piece of extra grass and planted a beech hedge to incorporate this into our area.
The area we had enabled us to lay out three half size lawns, which was later converted to one 13/14th size and one half size lawn.
Those four summer months of 1990 were our first season of play. Half size lawns on park grass were big enough. Over the next few years the club grew and when I retired in 1993 Cheryl and I started to improve the lawns removing the turf levelling the soil underneath and then replacing the turf. The club ran come and try it sessions at the spectacular to advertise our presence.
Over this time we built up good relations with Burnham-on-Crouch and Bury St. Edmunds clubs, playing home and away friendly matches with each. This taught us a lot as we saw different approaches to the game.
By 1995 we felt ready to enter the EACF Association league, but, to do so needed 2 full size lawns, so we approached the council to see if they had a bigger space that we could re-locate to. They couldn’t find us the required space so a move was necessary.
We investigated many options which included talks with Crondon Park Golf Club (which had just been created) and the Falcons bowls club who were themselves relocating to Springfield. All these options were rather costly as it would have cost at least £5000 per lawn to turn a patch of bare ground into a well drained flat playing surface.
In 1996 Cheryl Stephenson, with whom I had dug up and re-laid a large area of Central Park, had paid for herself to attend a groundsman’s course at Writtle college and negotiations began with Eddie Neath the groundsman about a suitable area for croquet. After discussions with Professor Alder, the Principal of the college and Richard Hughes, the Senior Lecturer in Sports Turf Management, followed by an EGM of the club, it was agreed that we would move to our current position as the provision and maintenance of the lawns would provide a project for students to work on.
The autumn of 1996 saw Cheryl, Jackie, myself and Peter & Marlene Lawrence filling the trenches, dug to create a bowling green, roughly leveling the top lawn, creating the bank between the lawns and removing soil from the top third of the bottom lawn (we could not remove the slope completely). The final preparation was then given over to the students.
The lawns were seeded and fleece covered to aid germination.
We finally moved to the site in the summer of 1997.
In early 1998 we heard that Bentley Croquet club had lost their ground so we offered them second club membership and use of our facilities for their matches.
1999 brought discussions with Maureen Brown about bringing golf croquet to the club (we had basically been an association playing club up until then) and Bentley Croquet club about joining forces with us.
The merger of the three parts in 1999 formed the Chelmsford and Bentley Croquet; reverting to the Chelmsford Croquet Club in 2015.
Little did I realise what I was letting myself in for back in 1990 when I agreed to be chairman of that fledgling club!!
Garhame Goodacre- President