History

History of Badminton in Hertfordshire

Thanks: to those who gave time, thought and energy to contribute to this history. 
Apologies: to those who have not been given the mention their skills and/or support deserve, or whose participation is less than accurately described.
All input welcomed.. [This article was produced for the Millenium Directory, has had some updates but needs updating. Ed] 

The beginning

Although our records are patchy, they show that badminton matches were played across the county as early as the 1920’s.   Scoresheets dated November 1926 record Ladies, Mens and Mixed matches played by Ware teams against Hoddesdon, Bishops Stortford, Spirella (played at Letchworth), St Albans, Broxbourne, and Cheshunt. It’s interesting to speculate how players travelled to comparatively far-flung destinations in these early days. In 1937, apparently, the Christ Church Little Heath team missed the last tram back from a match in Hatfield, and had to be rescued by the vicar, Canon Edmond, a keen badminton player himself, who picked up the whole team in his Morris Minor! 

Early records from the Ware Badminton Club show that the club was running Invitation or Open Tournaments as early as 1931.   The newspaper report of the tournament held on Saturday 31 January 1931 at the Drill Hall, Ware establishes that there were about 90 entries including members of the following clubs: Ware, Alexandra Palace, Bishop’s Stortford, Enfield, Great Eastern Railway, Hornchurch, and St. Albans, and that there was an American Tournament for players knocked out in the Mixed first round. The paper reported a high standard of play, and close and exciting matches.

Olympian Jo Goode in Victorian badminton apparel at the Badminton Centenary, Badminton House 1999.


Ware records also reveal glimpses of the costs of playing badminton in those days. According to club Minutes the 1931 tournament entry fee was 2/6d per person per event. The tournament itself did not make a profit, but the refreshments made11/-. (So even in those days running a tournament was financially unpredictable!)   In November of the following year Ware annual subscriptions for the season were agreed at £1.6s 0d. for ordinary members (with a reduced rate of 17/6d for members playing one night a week), and £1.1s 0d for mistresses at Ware Girls’ School. Visitors’ fee was 1/6d, and entrance fees for new members were 10/-.

HBA itself was started in 1931. Mr PRR Dibber of Barnet Badminton Club wrote to Ware BC on 20 February 1931, proposing that a Hertfordshire County Badminton Association should be formed, the objects being to promote the game within the County; enter teams to play in the County Competitions; arrange matches against some of the well-known clubs; and generally foster progress and interest in the game.

Mr Williams, Ware Treasurer, reported at the next committee meeting on 16 September 1931 that The Hertfordshire County Badminton Association had been formed at the meeting he attended in Barnet in March, and that it was proposed to hold County Championships at the Ware Drill Hall as it was considered to be the most suitable hall.   It was left to the General meeting to decide whether the Club should join the HCBA.

At the General Meeting later in September, it was agreed that Ware should join the newly formed HCBA, and play in League matches. Members were asked to support the first County Championships, which were to be held at Ware Drill Hall in October. There were obviously several changes of plan soon after this, because a later committee meeting reports that the County Championships could not be held at St Albans as planned, and it was therefore proposed to hold them at Ware on 1st and 2nd January 1932. By the November committee meeting someone had realised that a New Year’s dance was to be held in the hall, which might not be in a suitable condition for a match the following day!. So the County Championships were eventually held on 15th and 16th January.

The first County League fixtures were arranged between the following clubs: Bishops Stortford, Radlett, Ware and Whetstone. 

Increasing growth

By the 1952/53 season, records held by SWHerts League identify the following four leagues affiliated to the Hertfordshire Badminton Association:

  • Senior League with 6 teams: Totteridge, St Michaels, Bishops Stortford, Feathers, Bushey and Park House (Ware joined the following year)
  • SWHerts League with 8 teams: St Johns (Hemel Hempstead), St Marys (Watford), Hastoe (Tring), Little Bushey, Ministry of Labour (Watford), Kings Langley, Garston, Horse Shoe (Garston)
  • Ware and District Area League (which by the following year appears to have become the Hertford Area League with 10 teams): Hunsdon, Ware, Hertford, Bishops Stortford, Sharp & Dohme, Hoddesdon, Sawbridgeworth, Roydon, Buntingford, Nazeing
  • St Albans Area League with 5 teams: Casuals (St Albans), St Stephens, Townsend, Marlborough Road, St Michaels 2 (by the following season the league had grown to 7 teams: St Stephens, St Michaels 2, Townsend, Harpenden, Brookmans Park, Marlborough Road, Hatfield Technical College)

A North Herts Area League with 7 teams appears in the 1954/55 results.

Great changes took place in 1955/56: Hertford Area League now had two sections of 7 teams each, and a Welwyn Garden City League appears in the results. A tournament appears to have been organised between the winners of the 6 area leagues, with a play-off between the two sections which now make up the Hertford Area League, and Quarter, Semi and Final to decide the winning team, which held the President’s Shield for a year and was promoted to an Intermediate League. To create the Intermediate League for its first season, seven teams - winners of the established Area Leagues, and runners-up in the St Albans, Hertford and North Herts Area Leagues -   were promoted to it.   Although the leagues consisted of up to 8 teams, all fixtures were required to be completed by mid February - did they have greater access to courts in those days, or were they just more realistic about utilising their resources?

The Hertfordshire Badminton Association continued to grow throughout the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s and 80’s. By 1960/61, there were 3 County Leagues: Senior, Intermediate and Division III; Hertford Area League consisted of 4 sections. Fixtures were also arranged that season against other counties: Hampshire, Essex, Middlesex, Bucks, Bedfordshire and Berkshire, with home matches played at Wimbledon Squash and Badminton Club. Records for the year also mention several level American tournaments and a Junior American Handicap tournament held at Ware, as well as an Annual dance at the Town Hall St Albans in March.

Records for 1966/67 identify 4 Men’s, 2 Ladies and 4 Mixed divisions in the County League. The Area leagues appear to have played only Mixed, with the exception of Hertford Area League which also ran Mixed, Men’s and Ladies teams. But the leagues continued to expand, and by 1987/88, SWHerts Area results record 7 Men’s divisions, 6 Ladies divisions, and 9 Mixed divisions. The League charged a refundable deposit of £10 for trophies, which remains the same today.

The growth of the leagues in Hertfordshire, as in the rest of the country, has unfortunately not been maintained during the last decade. South West Herts decided to become an independent league from season 1992/93, and of the others only Herts Area remains of the Area leagues. However, in all of Herts-based unaffiliated leagues between a quarter and a half of clubs are affiliated. The County League is also reduced in teams, although it continues to attract new clubs from within and outside the county.

 Other leagues

Records of our smaller leagues are even more patchy, but at least two, the Stevenage Mini Badminton League, and Bishop’s Stortford and District Badminton League (founded 1980), appear to have started because some players did not want, or found it difficult, to travel miles and miles to play a match, arrive home in the early hours, and struggle in to work the following morning. Many of the officers of these leagues (see section on Organisations and Leagues) have been giving their time for many years; some for well over a decade.

 Big names

 
Gail Emms, ranked 4th, at National Grand Slam in Bath 1999

English International Players who qualified and played for Hertfordshire include H T Findlay (33 international appearances between 1955-1964), N J Ponting (56 between 1988-1996), Gill Gowers (a resounding 123 between 1983-1996) and A B Goode (an astonishing 128 between 1978-1994). Andy Goode went on to become England’s first Olympic Team Manager.

The Goode name appears regularly in our badminton history: Bill Goode has coached in Herts for 40 years; sons Tim, Nick and Andy have all won National Junior Championships, and between them held the Herts Mens’ Doubles Restricted Championships trophy, presented by G Robarts, for 11 years. 

Andy Goode coached an England Elite Squad at Parmiters, Watford. W E Andrew (formerly of Herts BA) and his wife, Brenda, have between them won the All-England Veterans’ Championships Mixed Doubles (together), Men’s Doubles and Ladies’ Doubles in over 50 and over 55, as well as recent Men’s, Mixed, and Ladies’ Doubles in the English National Veterans’ Championships.
 
At County level, our first County team maintained their position in the Premier B division from 94-95 season; were promoted to Premier A in 98-99, and came second in Premier A in 99-00. First team players Caroline Hale (Coombs) and Chris Patten have both won all three titles in the annual Herts Restricted Tournament: Singles, Level Doubles, and the Mixed Doubles together. Gail Emms and Natalie Munt won the Restricted Ladies Doubles in 94-95, and this season (99-00) were unbeaten in the Premier A division, winning all seven of their county matches. [Ed: As we went to press, in 1999 there was a record 80 entries in the Herts Open tournament at Herts University, in September.]
Text Box:  Jo Goode with Gill Gowers in the quarter finals of the Nationals in Norwich in 1997But our biggest name in 2000 must be Herts resident Jo Goode: World Mixed Junior champion 1989; National Mixed and Ladies Doubles champion for several years; World Champion following Mixed Doubles winner of All England and Swiss Open 1999; Commonwealth Games triple gold medallist 1999 for   Ladies, Mixed and team events; Asian Open Ladies Doubles Champion 2000, and English Ladies Bronze medalist in Olympics 2000.
In 2004 Natalie Munt and Gail Emms were part of the team that went to the Olympics.  Gail with partner Nathan Robertson won silver in the mixed.

Big events

Unfortunately, our County First Team’s matches are all played in three centres a fair distance from Hertfordshire and the nearest a national ‘Grand Slam’ event has come is at Picketts lock in 1998.   However, our other county teams’ home matches are played in sports centres within Herts (See the Newsletter for details).

In recent times, the most memorable event in Hertfordshire must be the England v China match held on Saturday 14 November 1998 at Stevenage Leisure Centre after a full day of coaching activities for all: young and old, beginners and would-be coaches. The hall was filled to capacity (and more!), the audience were thrilled by the speed and skill on court at such close proximity. Herts’ Gail Emms played particularly well with Ian Sullivan (Glos.) in the Mixed and in a scratch pairing with Herts resident Jo Goode in the Ladies. But the best was the last event: an electrifying Mens Doubles in which Ian Sullivan & Anthony Clark (Notts)  were eventually beaten 15-7, 9-15, 6-15. The England team played well, but the young China team played better. Apart from the excitement of the match itself, the event was also memorable for the number of willing helpers (about 85) who volunteered to help organise both before and on the day. 

Another big event in the history of HBA was the collating and publication of our development plan, which enables us to obtain funding and resources that would otherwise not be available to us from organisations such as local government and the Sports Council. Even more recent has been the arrival of Vicky Read, our first Badminton Development Officer for Hertfordshire, and her activities with clubs, local authorities’ sports officers and policy-makers to develop badminton opportunities in Hertfordshire.

Herts Schools Badminton & Junior Development

HSBA was formed in 1965 by the efforts of (among others) Fred Chinnery (Chairman) and Pam Chinnery (Secretary & Treasurer), Malcolm Fraser, and Byron Perry.

Initially HSBA was centred on schools participation, but now junior clubs have become equally important. Many of the HSBA supporters became involved because their children were talented players, and stayed on – often for years – to encourage badminton in schools and to promote the talents of other young players.   They include Tony Clarke (organised County Junior squads for over 19 years); John Smith (15 years or more); Marion & Duncan Conway (15 years or more); Eva Gray; Barbara Redway; and Megan & Malcolm Lumb.

Text Box:  Suzanne Rayappan who won the Young Player of the Year Award.  Seen here collecting the Stevenage Award for Sporting Excellence in 1999HSBA has always had a strong tournament tradition. Barbara Stevens was involved in organising Junior tournaments (we believe in the late 1960’s) which were initially held at Harlow Leisure Centre because there was no Leisure Centre or other suitable venue in Hertfordshire at that time. Gary Walters took over organising HSBA individual tournaments at the age of 16, and ran them and the Primary Schools Team Tournament for many years. Now living in Canada, he is an International Referee and Court Manager for the last Olympics and the Sydney Olympics - living proof that HSBA developed not only playing skills! His mother, Joan Walters, also ran junior tournaments for a time, succeeded by Barry Watts, and then the Conways and Lumbs.

Byron Perry, Fred Chinnery and Ray Fair were among the coaches of the original U16 squad. A turning point was 1981, when Herts came 29th in the U16 Inter County Tournament (ICT). The then committee of Gary and Joan Walters, Malcolm Fraser and coach Tony Clarke set the target of getting into the top 10 at ICT within 10 years. This target was achieved after only 7 years, and Herts Juniors have continued to develop. In ICT and National Team Tournaments, U13 came 5th, just missing medals; U15s came 7th; and U17s reached the top 10 for the eighth consecutive year, having won the Championship in 1997. Recent individual successes of our junior players include, in the top 25 National (adult) rankings: Ladies Singles Natalie Munt (7th), Kelly Matthews (7th), Sarah Lattimore and Lindsay Orchard; Ladies Doubles Suzanne Rayappan (7th), Liza Parker(9th), Natalie Munt (10th), and Sarah Lattimore; Mixed Doubles Natalie Munt, Liza Parker, Suzanne Rayappan and Sarah Lattimore (with Kelly Matthews 27th).   This year, Suzanne not only won the Under 19 Women’s and Mixed doubles but also received the BWA/Dorothy Hinchcliff Young Player of the year award from renowned champion Gillian Gillks (who also lives in Herts).

HSBA and HBA continue to work together to broaden the opportunities to all Herts youngsters and clubs to facilitate the transition of more of these into life-long players at senior level.

 

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