1. Beginnings

In the early 1970s a proposal to build sport facilities where the current complex stands was gaining momentum. Colin Thurstance, who played football and cricket for Ickleford recalls that both clubs lost their home pitches at Ickleford Manor in 1973. A village referendum was conducted which found 99% in favour of there being local sports facilities - a clear mandate on which action could be taken. Colin was part of the Ickleford Social Sports Club who made representation to Ickleford Parish Council to request new land for sports in the parish. The Parish Council came through with the land where Ickleford Sports and Recreation Club (ISRC) remains to this day.

The local press article from 24th April 1975 sets out the broad plan including levelling and seeding the field and the construction of a pavilion. There were questions over the funding. Colin recalls that at the time, money was very short. The article from The Comet dated 1st May 1975 details how village residents contributed funds and set up fund raising events. The second article again from The Comet, dated 28th August 1975, reports the Olde English Fayre ran on Saturday the 23rd August. David Morgan, at the time club secretary, said that the village came together and there was a spirit of can do.

2. Squash Starts

At about this time Letchworth Hall Hotel Squash Club, led by Noel Parkhouse, faced losing their two courts and contacted to enquire whether the pavilion could include two squash courts. After much discussion it was agreed that Letchworth's funds could go into the pavilion to provide two squash courts and Ickleford Squash Club was born.

David features in the press article at the time (undated but likely 1975). The membership fees were proposed as being £15 annually and court costs were £0.50 for half an hour in peak time. To save money the pavilion was largely breeze block construction and bizarrely includes a pair of David's glasses that he dropped during construction. Mick Morris built the bar, "Mick's Bar", which was initially staffed by members.

3. Ickleford Sports and Recreational Club first shoots

The playing field was levelled and seeded in 1976. For a long time there was no grass and first came the weeds, but to the relief of the committee underneath the weeds were the first shoots of grass. In early 1977 the club was named ISRC and consisted of Cricket, Football and Squash and Colin joined the Parish Council to give ISRC a voice. Colin remains on the Council to this day and attended a Queen's Garden party to thank him for his service. The pavilion was constructed by Planwell Properties Ltd, whose Managing Director, David Phillips and his late father, both played squash to a high level. The Architect was Mr.Tony Doling.

Attached is the covering letter to the agreement between ISRC and Ickleford Squash Club to David from John Biggs, representing the squash club where he still plays in the leagues, and where he met his wife. Apparently John has never booked a court online!

4. Ickleford Squash Club "Heyday"

Neil Stevenson, a club member since a junior and still playing in the leagues, recalls some of the better players being Derek Thorpe, Herts Ladies number one Pat Green a former Scottish international and Mike Thurgar who was at the time the UK number 2 amateur. You can see some of the names on the winners board in the bar above the main entrance. Keith Hooton, long time Ickleford Squash Club Chairman and active member, spoke about the heyday of squash with members joining for the kudos of being a squash club member. Colin remembers there being nearly 200 members and 30 active leagues.

At one point there were both men’s and a ladies team and a push for a third court as the week's courts were largely booked up by the Tuesday of the week.

5. Thanks of History

My thanks to all of those who contributed to this history, especially those whose efforts led to the establishment of the club or have kept it going since. I'd love to hear from anyone who has any photos linked to the club. There are rumours of photographic evidence of club members with a professional player who visited and pictures of one of the "forfeit" tournaments held at the club.

Photo: left to right; John Biggs, David Morgan and Colin Thurstance at the club after meeting at the courts to discuss the club's history, 20 October 2019.