Croquet was introduced to Bush Hill Park by Enfield Council Leisure Department in 1991 and Enfield Croquet Club was founded in 1993.
The Club has always played at Bush Hill Park Recreation Ground.
A brief history
Bush Hill Park recreation ground has seen numerous changes to the various activities played out within its boundaries since the official opening on 18 April 1911. One such change was in the early 1990's when our Croquet Club was established.
Once upon a time the tennis courts had to be hired from the Enfield Parks Department and money was collected by the Park Keepers (as they were then known) for the hire of these courts by the hour.
This then was clearly in an era when each of our local parks had many more full-time personnel working specifically for each of them and far fewer sub-contractors. In those days there was more
on-site manpower and the park workers were primarily on site full time. When you compare this to Jim and Charlie who retired this year (2016) and who had to look after the entire park and all of its
facilities, I find it quite amazing. The most annoying thing is that as with most of Enfield’s parks the staff have to spend way too much of their time clearing rubbish which is strewn and blown over
a vast area rather than actually caring for the park itself. That’s quite apart from the many other green spaces within the borough that they work on, but we digress.
As well as being able to hire a tennis court in the 1980's there was also the possibility of hiring a putter, golf club (usually a rather tired 7 Iron) and a battered golf ball to play on the putting greens in the area, broadly speaking, which is currently taken up by the croquet lawns. These putting greens appear to have been on the site as long ago as 1935 according to the map shown on the Friends of Bush Hill park history section.
Speaking as a local resident I don't recall this particular area being fenced off when it was used for putting. The course included some small shallow bunkers, grassy mounds and a less than even surface on the 'fairways'. This obviously required much work prior to it being converted into lawns but that has remained the principle reason 'lawn one' has never really had a level surface which had been promised but never delivered. In 2011 Tom Heard did a lot of levelling work which still didn’t quite solve the problem due to the poor soil used. Although it did at long last provide the potential for a third lawn for the first time in the Club’s history.
In July 1991 Enfield Council's Leisure Department offered a one month course which introduced croquet as a new sport to local residents. Interested parties were asked to attend the basic instruction which was run by Ron Welsh and an Association Croquet player/coach from Reigate and Redhill whom we believe was possibly Richard Hildreth. This course was repeated the following year in an attempt to gain sufficient members to establish a club.
Those who completed the course were invited to form a club and were offered a section of the old football changing rooms, some say Lacrosse changing rooms, in Bush Hill Park, which could be utilised as a storage area and would just about pass muster as a clubhouse. You will see from the white tiled walls and flooded floor fittings that our 'kitchen area' was quite clearly originally used for showers in what were the old football changing rooms. Although some members refer to our section of buildings as the clubhouse our hut has never been used for much more than our Annual General Meeting (when we had far fewer members), toilet facilities, a storage area for hoops, mallets and other equipment, displaying notices, plus of course the inevitable tea-making.
Most of the initial equipment was supplied by the Council but more was to follow thanks to the Croquet Association. Much of this original equipment can still be found in use today, although the
vast majority of our current membership now own their own mallets, much as cricketers own their own bats.
A small core of those attending the initial training sessions as founder members included Sheila 'follow through' Rudling. The founders were soon joined by others but Sheila, now in her 24th season as at 2016, is our only current member to have attended that original course. As it happens she was also responsible for the introduction of two key members. These of course were Basil and Joan Lawrence, Basil and Joan knew Shelia through playing badminton together.
As not only the best player and leading light in the Club (until 1999 when Ken equalled his Association handicap low of 14) Basil coached all the new members which over the years has amounted from
anywhere between absolutely none and 19 new recruits per year. Quite a task when you consider that over the years up until his retirement as Chairman Basil had seen approximately 150 members come, go
Always smiling, always there with a friendly word or timely advice. The high esteem in which Basil is held resulted in our Club committee honouring him as a life member and creating the post of Club President which he still was as he celebrates his 90th birthday in 2011.
Basil recalled a meeting at the Civic Centre, which he believed was in 1992, after they had started playing. At this meeting Basil was elected Chairman, he also recalled Marion Friend and Frieda January being present as were a number of other others. The formation of our Club in 1993 saw an initial membership of 23.
There have been many fine individuals throwing their hats into the ring and helping out as Club committee members over the years. But it is fairly obvious that the principle stalwarts have been Basil Lawrence with 18 years as chairman, Joan with 13 years as Secretary and a further three as the treasurer to which can be added Sheila's 14 years as treasurer and many more years serving on the committee. Basil not only took on the role of an extremely hands-on Chairman but also, being a very talented player, the role of chief-coach whilst introducing numerous individuals to the game. Being a talented player also meant that Basil acted as Club captain for a number of years. As Chairman he contended with the local council, improved our lawns as much as he could, acted as match organiser, recruited members and under his stewardship subsequently introduced golf croquet to Enfield. He was invariably the chief enthusiast and the sort of leader who cleaned the clubhouse, built the hoop remover and then spent his winter refurbishing the club mallets, hoops, trolleys and the like. Basil Lawrence remained in the post of Chairman until 2009 when age and the ill health of his wife Joan forced him to retire from the game.
Following his retirement from the Chairmanship of the Club at our 2009 A.G.M. the new committee in their first subsequent meeting felt it was entirely appropriate that we should pay tribute to Basil's tremendous long-term service to the cause. It was therefore unanimously agreed that in recognition of his services Basil should become Life President of our Club. For those more recent members who may not be aware Basil was not only one of our founder members in 1993 but also a key element in developing the Club and has also done much sterling work over the years not only in encouraging and coaching members but also as both Club Captain and Chairman, for which we will all be forever in his debt.
As not only the best player and leading light in the Club (until 1999 when Ken equalled his Association handicap low of 14) Basil coached all the new members who over the years numbered from
anywhere between absolutely none and 19 new recruits per year. Quite a task when you consider that over the years up until his retirement as Chairman Basil had seen approximately 150 members come, go
Always smiling, always there with a friendly word or timely advice. The high esteem in which Basil was held resulted in our Club committee honouring him as a life member and creating the post of Club President which he proudly held until his passing in 2016.
Basil Lawrence our former Honorary Life President receiving the 'Diploma for Services to Croquet' awarded by the Croquet Association. It was presented by Sheila Rudling, our longest serving Club member, at our AGM. It was also Shelia who did us all such a huge favour when she introduced Basil and Joan to the Club way back in 1993.
A clearly delighted Basil made a fine speech to the members whilst clutching his Diploma
It certainly is not obvious to anyone joining the club these days but up until 2005 the only code of croquet played on the lawns at Bush Hill Park was Association. Golf croquet was only introduced
in 2005 in an attempt to attract new members during a phase of the Club where recruitment had somewhat stagnated. Advice regarding this alternative form of croquet was sought from Watford Croquet
Club by Wendy Spencer-Smith and Michael Ruggins. Golf proved an easier code to learn for many and remains so today. See also Golf Croquet below.
The size of the Club membership has been dictated to a large extent by two principle factors: the enthusiasm of its members and the quality of the lawns. The Club started with two lawns but also had a practice area which was in the area currently occupied by the 'nearest the hedge' half of lawn three. Croquet can of course be played in a garden or the outfield of other sports pitches but the quality of play and enjoyment is greatly enhanced when the lawns are cared for in the manner that ours have been cared for by both the parks staff and a hard working gang from its current crop of members. And this has possibly effected the rise, fall and retention of memberships more than any other issue.
One thing I was reminded of recently is the story about our earliest members learning to play the game (only association was played initially remember) on half lawns whilst under instruction. A
year later the coach returned to see how our members were progressing only to find that they were still playing on half lawns because they knew no better.
Early subscription records show that during the 1993 season the club had a membership of 23, some of whom joined over the course of the year. However of these only 12 signed on again as members in 1994. Up until 2009 the membership has fluctuated between a high of 28, in 2006 and 2008 and an all-time lows of 17 in 1999 and 2004. The average number of members was 22 between 1993 and 2005. As mentioned the state of the lawns plays a major part in how enthusiastic the members have been to re-join. However the introduction in 2005 of what is generally regarded as a less complicated game to learn, namely golf croquet* has also been a big factor in increasing enthusiasm for the sport locally. Some members remain golf croquet enthusiasts whilst others have seen the more complex tactical aspects of association as being more demanding and thus a greater challenge. Both codes clearly have their respective merits. That said the more advanced golf croquet players who have been able to establish a lower handicap generally migrate to association at some point. Or as many of our lower handicap players do – they play and enjoy both codes. *The story of how Golf Croquet came to be played at our Club can be found below in the Golf Croquet section.
Our 2009 batch of 10 newcomers included Brian Havill, Brian Dawes, Terry James, David & Margaret Lygoe and David Minihane, all of whom have since represented Enfield in Inter-Club competition matches and have also helped push the club forward with the introduction of club competitions, a club directory plus a revamped and expanded website. The website helped considerably in recruitment for the 2010 season, which not only saw the retention of all the members, bar one, but also managed to up the membership by an unprecedented 19 new members - an almost 60% increase. These included such key members as Tony Elliott, David Frost, Peter Brock and Valerie Zaater all of whom are currently Committee Members. By 2014 membership had expanded over the 40 mark and has continued to rise steadily ever since.
Of our current membership the longest serving members, as at January 2015, are Sheila Rudling 1993, Alan Foott 1994, Ken Pickett 1998, Michael Israel 1999 and June Israel 2001.
Basil Lawrence 1999 to 2009
Ken Pickett 2010 to 2015.
Brian Dawes 2015 to date
Marion Friend to 1993
Joan Lawrence 1993 to 2005
Keith Davis 2006 to 2007
Alan Foott 2008 - 2009
Brian Dawes 2010 to 2015
Marian Cuckson 2015 to date
Sheila Rudling 1991 to 2005
Joan Lawrence 2006 to 2009
Terry James 2010 to 2013
Valerie Zaater 2013 to date
Basil Lawrence from when we commenced competitive play until 2005
Ken Pickett 2005 to 2016
Basil Lawrence 1999 to 2016
Sheila Rudling 2016 to date
Further research would be required to determine exactly when our Club started playing competitive matches against other Clubs but we know that Ken played his first league game in June 1999, which
was in his second season and that the Club played matches before that time.
We also know that Enfield won the Beds and Herts Association League in 2000 and then went on to win the East Anglian Croquet Federation play-offs. As a result we went on to represent the league the following year in the Secretary's Cup which is played between area winners across the country. Unfortunately we lost to Bowden in the first round. Bowden Croquet Club being a large established club from Cheshire who are the 7th oldest club in the country and have 4 lawns. Team representatives for that season were Ken Pickett, Basil Lawrence, Wendy Spencer-Smith and Keith Davis* (who moved to America a few years later). *This particular Keith Davis was one of two by that name who have been Club members, the other Keith Davis, the late husband of another ex-member Sheila Davis, was Club Secretary between 2006 - 2007.
2003 won the Beds and Herts Association Croquet League but lost in the EACF play offs
Ken Pickett, Basil Lawrence Michael Israel, Alan Foott, Michael Ruggins, Joan Lawrence(?)
2004 Basil Lawrence, Ken Pickett, Alan Foott, Alan Watts, Michael Ruggins and Wendy Spencer-Smith. Unfortunately we played all our Association matches away from home in 2004 and 5 because our lawns were just too poor to accommodate inter-club matches.
2005 Ken Pickett (4.5-3.5), Alan Foott (18), Wendy Spencer-Smith (20), Alan Watts (18), Peter Chadwick (20), Gareth Bushill (14).
2006 Ken Pickett (3.5-2.5), Gareth Bushill (14-12), Alan Foott (16), Wendy Spencer-Smith (20-18),
2007 Ken Pickett (2.5-2), Alan Foott (16), Wendy Spencer-Smith (18-16), Michael Ruggins (8),
2008 Ken Pickett (2), Alan Foott (16-18), Wendy Spencer-Smith (18-12), Dennis Graham (2.5)
2009 Ken Pickett (2-3), Wendy Spencer-Smith (16-14), Alan Foott (16), John Street (18-16)
2010 Ken Pickett (3.5), Alan Foott (16), Wendy Spencer-Smith (16-18), Michael Israel (18), John Street (16)
2011 Ken Pickett (3.5-3), John Street (16), Wendy Spencer-Smith (14), Alan Foott (18), Brian Havill (20), Tony Elliott (20)
2012 Won the Beds and Herts Association Croquet League [The Hector Shield] and won in the EACF play offs [The Chairman’s Cup] against Colchester North to qualify to represent the league in the Secretary’s Shield.
Ken Pickett (3-2.5), John Street (16), Wendy Spencer-Smith (18), Alan Foot (18), Brian Havill (18-11), Brian Dawes (20), David Frost (18)
2013 Lost in the final of The Secretary’s Shield to Nottingham. Finished 3rd in The Longman Cup beating Nottingham.
Ken Pickett (2.5), Brian Havill (9-8), John Street (14-11), Wendy Spencer-Smith (18-16), Tony Elliott (18-9), David Frost (18-9), Brian Dawes (18)
2014 Finished 3rd in The Longman Cup beating Reigate Priory. Players representing our squad that season were:
Ken Pickett (2), Brian Havill (8-4.5), John Street (12-11), Tony Elliott (9-8), David Frost (10-8), David Minihane (20), although Ken wasn't eligible for our Longman Cup games.
2015 Won the Beds and Herts Association Croquet League [The Hector Shield] and finished runners up in the EACF play offs [The Chairman’s Cup].
Ken Pickett (2.5), Brian Havill (4.5-2.5), John Street (11), Tony Elliott (8-6), David Frost (8-7), David Minihane (18)
2016 Won The Longman Cup beating High Wycombe.
Players representing our squad that season were: Ken Pickett (3), Brian Havill (2.5-1), John Street (10-9), Tony Elliott (6), David Frost (7-5), Michael Broadway (20-14), Brian Dawes (18), Alan Foott (20), although neither Ken nor Brian H were eligible for our Longman Cup games.
Golf Croquet (GC)
In June 2005 Ken Pickett was playing at East Dorset in their June tournament. He was having a drink with Tom Weston (-0.5) after their game and was asking about playing golf croquet because he happened to be one of the Country’s best players. Tom suggested they had a game as there was a lawn free. It seems he taught Ken an awful lot in that session. It was this chance meeting that turned out to the catalyst for golf croquet at Enfield. Because whenever an AC game finished early enough Ken got everyone playing golf. It quickly became popular as it was easy to learn.
The following spring in 2006 Enfield entered a team in the EACF Golf Handicap League and on the 3rd June we played our first GC match against Southchurch Park winning 15-3. The team was Ken Pickett, Gareth Bushill, Wendy Spencer-Smith and Alan Foott. Ken also introduced 'One Ball' which Tom Watson also taught him, but this proved to be less popular than GC, although in 2007 the Club did play it in a CA charity event in which Gareth Bushill represented the Club in the finals at Winchester CC where we believe he came 3rd or 4th.
2007 Enfield won the Eastern Area of the East Anglian Croquet Federation and went on to finish as runners up to Watford in the final.
Ken Pickett, Michael Ruggins, Wendy Spencer-Smith, Alan Foott
2009 Enfield won the Eastern Area of the East Anglian Croquet Federation and went on to finish as winners beating Stony Stratford in the final.
Ken Pickett, John Street, Wendy Spencer-Smith, Alan Foott, Michael Ruggins
2010 Enfield (E) won the Eastern Area of the East Anglian Croquet Federation and went on to finish as runners up to Stony Stratford in the final.
Ken Pickett, John Street, Wendy Spencer-Smith, Alan Foott, Tony Elliott
Enfield (W) Terry James, Margaret Lygoe, David Lygoe, Brian Dawes
2011 Enfield (E) won the Eastern Area of the East Anglian Croquet Federation and went on to finish as winners beating Leighton Linslade ‘B’ in the final.
Ken Pickett, Brian Havill, Tony Elliott, David Frost, Alan Foott, Peter Brock, David Minihane
Enfield (W) John Street, Wendy Spencer-Smith, Margaret Lygoe, David Lygoe, Brian Dawes, Helen Lucas
2012 Enfield won the Eastern Area of the East Anglian Croquet Federation and went on to finish as winners beating Watford in the final.
Brian Dawes, John Street, David Frost, Alan Foott
2012 Also saw the introduction of the Level Play league.
Ken Pickett (0), John Street (5), Brian Dawes (6-7), David Frost (8)
2013 Enfield (E) won the Eastern Area of the East Anglian Croquet Federation and Enfield (W) won the Central Area. Enfield (E) after beating Enfield (W) went on to finish as runners up to Ipswich in the final which went to a tie-break.
In winning their area Enfield (E) recorded an 18 – 0 win over Chelmsford & Bentley
David Minihane, David Fenner, Brian Sturt, David Frost
Enfield (W) Brian Dawes, John Street, Tony Elliott, Peter Brock
Level Play league Ken Pickett (0), John Street (7), Brian Dawes (3), David Frost (3-2)
2014 Enfield (E) David Minihane, David Fenner, Brian Sturt, David Frost
Enfield (W) Brian Dawes, John Street, Tony Elliott, Peter Brock, Andy Davis
Level Play League John Street (5), Brian Dawes (3), David Frost (3), Tony Elliott (5-4)
2014 saw the club enter the Murphy Inter-Club Shield which is a national competition. Knocking out the holders in the first round success was short lived losing to Hurlingham in the next round.
David Frost, Brian Dawes, David Minihane, Tony Elliott
2015 Enfield (E) won the Eastern Area of the East Anglian Croquet Federation and went on to finish as runners up to Hunstanton in the final.
Enfield (E) Brian Sturt, David Frost, Tony Elliott, Des Taylor, Henry Hobbs, Andy Davis
Enfield (W) Brian Dawes, John Street, Peter Brock, David Fenner, David Minihane, Michael Broadway
Level Play League Ken Pickett (0), John Street (4), Brian Dawes (3), David Frost (2-0), Tony Elliott (4), David Minihane (3)
2016 Enfield (E) Brian Sturt, David Frost, Tony Elliott, Des Taylor, Henry Hobbs, Alan Foott
Enfield (W) Brian Dawes, John Street, Peter Brock, Michael Broadway, Frances Broadway, Marian Cuckson
Level Play League Ken Pickett (0), John Street (3), Brian Dawes (3), David Frost (0), Tony Elliott (3)
The bulk of the information for the history was kindly supplied through notes provided by Sheila Rudling, Joan Lawrence, Basil Lawrence and Ken Pickett, with additional assistance from
Brian Dawes, Chairman, 2016 2015