According to a club handbook from 1895 hockey ‘was introduced at Ashbrooke in the winter of 1892-3’ as ‘an enjoyable means of exercise and recreation’. The Echo for October 1893 reports a home game against Northern ( 1-1) and an away game against Northern Second 11 ( lost 5-2). In the same year nine of the side played for the county which made the honouring of club fixtures difficult.
In the years leading up to the First World War two club players stood out – Frank Pickersgill who played 120 games for the county and had international trials and Cecil Tindell Green who made seven appearances for England. In the 1960s John Land starred as a hockey Olympian and, more recently, current club members Robin Wilson and Steve Crute have become veteran internationals.
For years hockey was played on a grass pitch on the field immediately in front of the pavilion (although from time to time the hockey club moved elsewhere when there were disputes over the use of the pitch).
Today hockey is played on artificial surfaces beyond the club but Sunderland Hockey Club has maintained both its organisational and social links with Ashbrooke. Some members may recall how, in post war years, the ground was used for international hockey matches for both men and women. In March 1953 England Ladies played against Wales and in March 1956 England Ladies hosted Scotland. (Across the years a number of ladies’ club sides have used Ashbrooke as a base and there have also been occasional forays into mixed hockey).
In April 1959 it was the turn of the men’s side to host Scotland. In 1953 an Echo reporter noted that a stand was being set up ‘for 1,000 people’ at Ashbrooke– not to celebrate the coronation but for ‘hockey’. It was also noted in the Echo that 6,000 tickets had been sold in advance. On this occasion England ended up as worthy winners by 6 goals to 2. An newspaper account of the 1953 international has turned up recently and, after sleuthing, it was confirmed that the writer of the account was the father of a current and long serving bowls member!