Colchester Croquet Club was founded in November 1926 and in 1930 moved to its present site off the Lexden Road, the money for the purchase of the ground being raised by members’ loans. Two courts were set up at the more level end of the land (the Elianore Road side) whilst the top area was leased to Lexden Hill Tennis Club and three tennis courts were laid out. This arrangement continued until June 1962, when the lease expired and the tennis club was asked to vacate the ground.
Meanwhile more land had been sold by the original owners to permit a new housing development (now Sanders Drive) and the Club obtained the surplus soil from this development to improve and level the four courts. At the same time the Borough Council agreed to sell a strip of land fronting Elianore Road, which allowed vehicular access and a car park to be provided for the club.
Now with four lawns, in 1971 a purpose-built, brick clubhouse was opened (much of the money for construction being provided from the demised Chelmsford Club). This excellent building consists of two large changing rooms, a clubroom with glass doors opening on to a roofed verandah looking over the courts, together with a fitted kitchen and bar.
Throughout the 1939-45 war the club continued to function. Edward Duffield had joined the club in 1934, became secretary in 1939, took over as Club Chairman in 1965 and continued in this capacity until 1973, when he became President, a position he was to hold until 1991. Edward also served as Chairman of the CA from 1952-54 and President of the CA 1975-77.
Next chairman was Roger Bray, an international player, and he served from 1973-82, handing over in 1982 to Rita Stanley-Smith, who in turn handed over to Pat Hetherington, chairman 1987-97. Roger was Chairman of the CA 1978-80 and is the CA’s current Treasurer. The club has been the venue for several international matches, hosted the President’s Cup in 1991 and holds regular CA tournaments and events.
The club has attracted many players and has a steady core of members. Martin Murray, Mike Heap and William Prichard were all club champions at various times and the late 1980s saw a rush of new talent, most prominent of whom are five-times world champion Robert Fulford, former world champions John Walters and Chris Clarke and internationals lan Burridge, Steve Comish and Debbie Lines (Cornelius). More recently Jack Wicks has played internationally.
A croquet club was set up by J J Freeland (a former secretary of Colchester Croquet Club) for Chelmsford in January 1939, about half of the members of which were also members of Colchester Croquet Club. One of the members offered the fledgling club use of land at Great Baddow with the option to purchase at a later date; the courts were marked, fenced and play began. Sadly the 1939-45 war meant that because of travel restrictions and petrol rationing many of the members were no longer able to participate and the club suffered from an incendiary bomb which caused considerable damage.
Nevertheless, after the war, the option to purchase was taken up, but unfortunately the club never attracted sufficient members to make it a viable proposition. The building boom of the late 1950s brought the offer of purchase of the courts for housing development and, after many months of anguished discussion, it was decided in 1965 that the club would merge with Colchester and the assets from the sale would be used to enhance the Colchester grounds. The Chelmsford site was shut down at the end of the 1968 season.