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Hullbridge Village History

Hullbridge Sports Club Ground.

The memories of Bill Congram

The club must grow

About 30 years ago (1978) Hullbridge Sports Club, had no meeting place of its own, but was able to be represented in many local sporting leagues for both males and females. It was very clear to the committee of that time that in the future the influx of many younger and new villagers would prove a headache for the organizers who were governed by the few playing facilities offered by Rochford District Council. It was very clear to all that without our own facilities we would be unable to meet the demand. The committee agreed to make a concerted effort to obtain a piece of land to suite our needs.
The aim of the club was to build successful teams but not at the expense of isolating or neglecting the villagers.
This has always been a bone of contention in the club and is still thought to be today.
If the club could not meet the villagers needs it was believed they would go elsewhere, which would eventually mean the demise of the club.

During this time, some members, including my son Gary, use to train on Wednesday evenings at the Pooles Lane Rec., they then would adjourn to the Park Country Club for a pint and a chat. The Park Country club at that time was managed by Reg and Maureen Peake ably supported by Ben behind the bar.

It was on one of these Wednesday evenings that a group of the newly formed social section:- Colin Chart, Chris Morgan Bob Palmer and myself were sitting around in our usual spot, right next to the bar, and were enjoying our favourite past-time of putting the world to right. The conversation got round to the possible demise of the club and how great it would be if we could find a nice piece of land and a pile of money. One of the group was Chris Morgan who in conversation happened to mention that the Ministry for Agriculture, Farm and Fisheries (MAFF)were now releasing land for sale that they had taken over during the war of which there was quite a chunk surrounding the village. That conversation together with a little luck changed the fortune and destiny of the club and in following years the lives of many people from the village.

The ensuing piece of luck was that I was working with a MAFF rep and it was this friend who introduced me and arranged a meeting with the departmental head of MAFF in Chelmsford. From that meeting the club were offered a piece of land. There was however a sting in the tail, it was that they would only sell the land to Rochford District Council. We had our first breakthrough but now to progress our task would be to convince RDC to buy the land and then lease it back to us. Although we were over the moon with the prospect of having our own ground we were well aware that it was imperative that we had to put a good story together to convince RDC that the clubs existence and therefore the content and happiness of the villagers depended on the outcome. A meeting was arranged with our then M.P. and at the Saturday morning surgery our position was put to him. It was pointed out the number of juniors already members of the club, the possible numbers expected in the coming years and all of these requiring sport facilities, mainly football, cricket, netball. The facilities in the way of pitches etc., available from RDC was grossly insufficient, therefore if we were able to lease the land we would be responsible for satisfying our own demand and take a lot of pressure off the shoulders of the council. Would he back our plan and perhaps get support from Derek Ives and his fellow Conservative councilors. We left feeling we had done our best but unsure of the backing. A couple of weeks later we were thrilled to hear we had been invited to a meeting with the councilors. We re-presented our argument, keeping our fingers and everything else crossed and at the end we were quite excited that they appeared to support our cause and that they had promised a reply within weeks.

We started getting nervous and a little despondent when a couple of weeks had passed and we had heard nothing. After about a month we were told that Rochford District Council had agreed to purchase the land and lease the majority back to us. They kept, for building purposes, the frontage of the land onto Lower Road.

We had a little gripe about their decision to retain some of the land for building but at long last we had what we wanted, a chance to have our own ground, we had agreed on a 25 year lease.

When the euphoria had passed, we came down to earth and realized that we had one hell of a mountain to climb. The club did not have enough money so we had to get some from somewhere. Approaches were made to a few businesses, none of which produced anything. We tried those in the sporting circles, some of whom were interested, but this interest had strings attached that were not favourable for us so we decided not to take any of them up. Eventually meetings took place with five brewers. Those involved in trying to negotiate with the brewers soon learnt a new word "BARRELAGE". We were told the size of any financial deal depended on the club's ability to "down the pints". A breakthrough came when RDC offered us two loans, with what we thought was a reasonable repayment time. The next good thing to happen was that we were able to secure a loan with the local brewers "Greene King". They told us how much "barrelage" we had to drink allied to the loan. Things were now looking better each week and we were getting drunk on our success so far.

Next on the list was to get a clubhouse. Having one built was too costly so we accepted that the way ahead was to get hold of a prefab type, or something similar. A couple of members set about the task of contacting demolition firms etc., and traveled hundreds of miles inspecting what was being offered, all with no success. It was a lucky chance that the Gas Board had heard of our plight and got in touch with us, so a meeting in Southend was arranged with the,. We were told that they were breaking down a site in Fulham and would we like to take a look at the buildings. We agreed and as one of our members was working in the vicinity we were able to get his opinion as to whether it would be suitable for our use. The report was favourable so another meeting took place to thrash out the price. That being agreed, it was our responsibility to dismantle and remove everything from the site. A firm from Wickford agreed a price for doing just that, only to squeeze us for a larger figure at the eleventh hour. The Gas Board in kindness reduced their asking price by the extra we had to pay for the removal and delivery to us. The day came when everything was arriving on site. Planning beforehand had taken into account where most of it should be stored. It was sheeted over with plastic, tarpaulins and other protective materials. It took us about 2 years of cleaning, painting and re-storing before building commenced. in this time meetings were held with Gas Board and Electricity Company about costs etc., When the time came to start erecting the building a couple of members with building experience came to the fore and as time went by, we were glad that they did ! Most of us were undoubtably good at our own jobs, but shovelling readymix concrete etc., soon spoils the hands ! Preparing and erecting the building was done most weekends and summer evenings. It was great to see how those who came along pitched in to the work in hand, even if they did not live in the village. Sometimes it was hard work , sometimes a little dangerous, sometimes raining, sometimes sunny but despite all this most of the time it was fun. As weeks turned into months the building was taking shape and throughout this time the club still functioned. It was important that football, cricket, netball and table tennis etc., still carried on. The managers of these teams were doing just as much for the club as those working on the ground, although many of them were doing both.

During the last stages of completion we had meetings with the Fire Authorities because without a Fire Certificate we would not be able to open. After several visits to the ground by the authorities we got the necessary certifications. Now all we wanted was Greene King to deliver the "Amber Nectar" and we would be up and running, or so we thought. We soon realized that we had to have bar staff to serve and someone to run the bar. We had to learn how to look after the beer, clean the pipes and order fresh supplies, we had to learn something of the licensing laws especially with so many juniors around. The dressing rooms and premises had to be kept clean. As time passed we gradually improved various things and finally got the pitches up and running and it was great when our first football match was played.

The club is now into its second 25 year lease with RDC and during this time improvements have been made in many areas, and one hopes that the club will carry on improving the facilities in the future. It would be a very sad day indeed, both for parents and children if everything the older members did to get the club moving, fell by the wayside.