Club president, John Slack, has undertaken considerable research into the origins of St. Neots Hockey Club. John has written articles for the English Hockey Association’s newsletter ‘Backboard’ and local papers, and a fascinating book available from the Club. Here he summarises our history.
St. Neots Hockey Club originated from two directions. First, a local ladies club was founded in 1898, and secondly, the 1901 men’s club came from a group of men who were keen exponents of a game called Bandy, still played commonly in Scandinavia today.
Bandy was played in the Fens, from the 1700’s, on a pitch marked out on ice and similar to today’s field hockey. The pitch has the same shape, slightly larger dimensions, 25-yard lines, same sized goals and 11 players using a 5-3-2 formation. The sticks were cut from willow trees, were 36 inches in length and weighed 20-23 ounces.
When ice was not available boys played the game in the local High Street, making a nuisance and frightening horses. The town council passed a by-law in 1870 banning hockey and instructed the local police to arrest anybody playing the game in the street. The local vicar read the ‘riot act’ twice in school assembly telling the boys the police were on the lookout for offenders.