Club History

Quite frankly, we haven’t done any CUHC genealogy in a while (see Blues Varsity archive for the last time we did some!). We’d actually quite like to know when and where it all started!

We’ve made this page which contains everything we know. Elsewhere, there are blanks, indicating that these are things that we’d like to know. If you can help us please get in touch!

When it was just the blues

CUHC began in 1890, a fact that every member knows. The first men’s varsity match was played in the same year, with G. Lewis (Half-back, Trinity) and his side losing the affair 2-1 on 3rd March. However, Cambridge soon bounced back throughout rest of the decade, winning four of the first ten varsity matches (three drawn, three lost).

Since then (with the exception of two breaks for the two world wars), the Men’s varsity match has been played annually. 2020 saw the 120th University Hockey Match. Since _____, the University Hockey Matches have been played at Southgate HC. We don’t have many records of venues for earlier fixtures, but we know they were played all over London.

Our wartime heroes

The 23rd University Hockey Match (1912) was played at Beckenham in front of over 1500 spectators on 28th February (photograph below). Strongly regarded as favourites, Cambridge had played many games in the previous fortnight, which led to suggestions they might suffer from “staleness”.

Cambridge side of the 23rd annual hockey Varsity match
The players were R.P. Dalley (Pembroke) in goal; W.N. Scholes (Pembroke) and K. M. Robotham (Caius), backs; R. B. Lagden (Pembroke), H. M. Robinson, the Captain, (Pembroke) and D. O. Light (Pembroke), half-backs; B. S. Bland (Emmanuel), S. H. Saville (Trinity), A. H. A. Vann (Jesus), B. P. Nevile (Trinity) and J. M. Kendall (Corpus), forwards.
Thank you to The Hockey Archives at University of Bath

Cambridge took the lead, courtesy of “Harry” Vann’s opener on the ten-minute mark, but Oxford proved to be the better on the day, winning 3-1 on the day. The loss took many by surprise. The Cambridge review railed against the lack of combination of the forwards who “played like girls”. Their correspondent thought that it was a most disappointing finish to an excellent season and all that they could hope for was victory the following year. (Revenge was indeed sweet in 1913 when three of the 1912 Blues, Harry Vann, S. H. Saville and B. P. Nevile scored two goals each in the 7 -2 victory.)

Three years later every man in the 1912 photograph would be involved in a different kind of battle and it is a testimony to the men that all of them volunteered and served in His Majesty’s forces. Captain Harry Vann of the 12th West Yorkshires was killed in action at Loos on 25th September 1915 and Bernard Nevile, a Captain in the 7th Lincolnshires was killed in the Ypres salient on 11th February 1916. (Bernard had also played golf for the University and five first-class cricket matches for Worcestershire in July 1913.) Captain B. S. Bland of the West Yorkshires and Captain H. M. Robinson of the North Staffordshires were both wounded twice. Major R. B. Lagden of the Rifle Brigade was wounded and also won the Military Cross. Captain D.O. Light of the RASC was wounded and taken prisoner. Captain W. N. Scholes of the Royal Engineers was awarded the O.B.E. Captain K. M. Robotham served with the 2nd Ghurkha Rifles, Captain J. M. Kendall with the Norfolk Yeomanry, Captain S. H. Saville with the Essex Regiment and Lieutenant R. P. Dalley served in the Indian Army attached to the Sappers and Miners. Both Captain H. M. Robinson and Captain D. O. Light were mentioned in despatches.

Thank you to Charles Beresford, who came across the photograph during researches for a biography he is writing about Harry Vann’s brother Bernard, a Cambridge hockey blue in 1910. Lt. Col. The Rev Bernard William Vann was the only ordained clergyman of the Church of England to win the Victoria Cross in the Great War as a combatant. Charles’ Book, the Christian Soldier is available (ISBN-10: 1910777315, ISBN-13: 978-1910777312), and a detailed biography of Lt. Col. The Rev Bernard William Vann may also be found here.

Ladies hockey at Cambridge begins

The ladies side of the club began soon after. The earliest record of a result was in 1898, where Cambridge won. Cambridge then went on an amazing streak, only losing once between 1898 and 1915, before the aforementioned first world war brought about a break to the annual event.

The Ladies’ University Hockey match recommenced in 1919 and has been closely fought every year since. Since the turn of the millennium, results suggest that Oxford have been the dominant side, with only four wins for Cambridge.

The current standings of the University Hockey Matches are as follows:

PlayedCambridge WinOxford WinDrawn
Men120554718
Women120514524

Then two became four

The Men’s second team (better known as ‘the wanderers’ since ____) began in ____ and played their first varsity match in the same year. They first entered BUCS, the inter-university sports competition in ____. After the Men’s Blues decided to take a break from BUCS in ____ to focus on their new promotion to the National League, the Wanderers were also forced to exit the competition. On rejoining the competition, after just one season, the Wanderer’s started from the bottom and worked their way back to where they belong. Promotions every year meant that for the 2019-2020 season, the Wanderer’s returned to Midlands Tier 1; the league below the Men’s Blues.

The Women’s second team (better known as ‘the nomads’ since ____) began in ____. They played their first Varsity match in ____ and entered BUCS in ____.

The Wanderers and Nomads have played in the domestic league structure since ____ and _____ respectively.

Then four became six

The Men’s and Women’s third teams, who are best known as the ‘squanderers’ and ‘bedouin’ since ____, were formed in ____. They have never entered BUCS, due to the academic commitments of University of Cambridge students and financial constraints. Both teeams have played in the domestic league structure since ____.

In 2016, the club formed a Men’s fourth team to compete against Oxford at the 2s3s4s Varsity Matches (also known as ‘BDotY’). The team consists of Men’s third team squad players and college hockey players that attend CUHC’s College Academy.

Wilby became our home

The first home of CUHC was at ___. The club then moved to ____. Since ___, CUHC has played the majority of its hockey at the Wilberforce Road Sports ground. Up until 2018-2019, the club played some games at St. Catherine’s College Hockey Pitch, St. John’s College Hockey pitch and The Leys School Hockey facilities.

The Redevelopment of Wilberforce Road in 2018. View from the clubhouse balcony.

However, the redevelopment of the hockey facilities at Wilberforce Road, to include two additional new pitches, now means the so-called “Wilberfortress” is more impressive than ever. All of CUHC’s home games are now played here.

We all came together

For many years, CUHC and CUWHC were separate clubs. In 2003, the decision was made to amalgamate the two clubs. CUHC is now the largest and most successful sports club in the University. With six regular men’s and women’s teams, the club has over 120 members each academic year.