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Part Eight - 1972 to 1977
This was the start of a new era, with Hemel Hempstead Town and Hemel Hempstead United merging at Vauxhall Road, where the club remains today. The land on which Vauxhall Road and the football ground was built used to form part of Cox Pond Farm, which dated back to 1567. In the early 1930’s the land was it was purchased by Arthur Brock, the firework manufacturer. He was moving his firework factory to Hemel Hempstead and purchased Cox Pond Farm in order to build houses for his workers and to establish a sports club for them. The old farm buildings were then demolished. The Brocks Fireworks Factory was based at nearby Woodhall Farm from 1933 to the 1960’s. Both Vauxhall Road and nearby Ranelagh Road were built in the 1930s as residence for workers of the factory, the names Vauxhall and Ranelagh refer to two gardens in London where spectacular firework displays were held by Brocks. Henry Brock, the founder of Brocks Fireworks, allocated part of the land to serve the employees of Brocks, and the football pitch and clubhouse started out as Brocks Social and Sports Club, with a Brocks team competing in the West Herts League. The founder of Brocks, Henry Brock, died in 1938 and is buried at Holy Trinity Church in nearby Leverstock Green.
The post war years saw major housing development in the town of Hemel Hempstead. In March 1948 the Hemel Hempstead Development Corporation compulsorily purchased land in the Adeyfield area for the site of its labour camp, the arrangement included the clubhouse and playing field of the Brocks Social and Sports Club. The first ‘community association’ of the New Town of Hemel Hempstead named themselves Greenhills, and Brocks Social and Sports Club was handed over to them as their base. Greenhills Club was officially opened early in May 1948 and after six months the development corporation was so delighted with the way the club was going, it promised to supply two extra huts, 200 chairs and a new roof for the clubhouse. During the early new town years Greenhills was to be the home of entertainment for many of those arriving in their new home from London - everything from baby shows and fancy dress parades to dances and more importantly the chance to make and build new friendships. During the development of Hemel Hempstead, the development corporation held exhibitions at Greenhills to show models of the houses to be built in the first stages. In 1950 a BBC Television unit visited Hemel Hempstead for a programme on making fireworks, based on the Brocks Fireworks Factory; it was narrated by Richard Dimbleby and included a firework display arranged at the Greenhills Club. In 1951 a film premiered at the Festival of Britain which featured the Greenhills Club. “A Home of Your Own” starred Harry Locke (a big star of the time) and was about a bricklayer who brings his wife to live in the new town of Hemel, away from the “squalor” of Willesden, and featured dancing in the Greenhills Club before ending in nearby Longlands.
Hemel Hempstead United had been competing in the South Midlands League, only the previous season they had been promoted to the Premier Division. United were the fourth club to have been based at Vauxhall Road, following Brocks, Greenhills, and then Adeyfield Athletic. Records show Greenhills replaced the Brocks team then ceased to be when Adeyfield Athletic formed, and in turn United formed when Athletic ceased, so it would be safe to assume that it was the same club which changed its name over the years. Former player John Bagley corroborated this, stating that he joined the club when it was called Adeyfield Athletic, went on to play for them as Hemel Hempstead United, John also confirmed the clubs roots were as the Brocks team.
The first record of a club based at Vauxhall Road was Brocks Pyrotechnics, the company social club was based at Vauxhall Road and the football team competed in Division Two of the West Herts League in 1934/35. They finished ninth in a division of 10 clubs, losing twelve of their 18 games and conceding 61 goals in the process. The following season they finished bottom, conceding an unimpressive 104 goals on 18 games and were relegated to Division Three for the following season, where they finished fifth. Brocks did not enter a team in the West Herts League for the final two seasons leading up to the War. In 1947, by now known as Brocks Sports, the club applied to join the Herts County League, however the application was denied.
The next record of the club competing at senior level was in 1953/54 when Greenhills entered the Herts County League and finished third in Division Two, scoring 154 goals in 28 games with a goal difference of 116! The following year, the club had changed its name to Adeyfield Athletic and finished seventh in Division One, whilst also fielding a Reserve team in the second division. Athletic had a new local rivalry for the 1955/56 season, it could have been the towns closest ever Derby fixture: Hemel Hempstead Rovers joined the Herts County League and at the same time moved in just around the corner from Vauxhall Road at their current ground in Reith Fields, off Longlands.
Athletic were unsuccessful, finishing second from bottom of Division One and subsequently relegated. 1956/57 saw the introduction of the Herts County League Premier Division, restructuring meant Athletic competed in the new Division One while Athletics’ reserve team competed in the new Reserves Division. Athletic now faced another local side, Leverstock Green, who had entered the County League two seasons previous. Athletic obviously didn’t stand up to the pressure of competing against other local sides, as they again finished second from bottom. This was followed by a Division One mid-table finish in 1957/58; this was to be the last season in the County League as despite some fairly mediocre league positions, the club made a step up to the South Midlands League Premier Division for the 1958/59 season.
Athletic finished their first South Midlands League season second from bottom, but avoided relegation and went on to finish 10th the following season, 1959/60. It was around this time Frank Jackett signed for the club, Jackett was a former Swansea, Watford and Leyton Orient player who moved to the area in the 1940’s. Jacket was a hard tackling midfielder who was in his 30’s by the time he signed for Athletic, having just been released by Margate. His son, Kenny, played for Watford and Wales in the 1980’s.
The clubs name changed to Hemel Hempstead United prior to the start of the 1960/61 season, the new name bought success as United won the Premier Division championship, losing only three games on the way. The championship was followed by fourth, seventh and fifth place finishes over the next three seasons, United also reached the final of the St Mary’s Cup in 1964, losing 1-0 to Berkhamsted Town of the Athenian League. In 1964/65 United finished second from bottom with an unlucky 13 points, United were subsequently relegated to Division One. Mediocre finishes beckoned over the next few seasons with the club not threatening for a promotion spot until 1970/71, when the club went back up to the Premier Division thanks to a third place finish.
United played in a blue and white strip, the clubs local rivals in the South Midlands League were Rotax, a company team based just around the corner at Maylands Avenue who later changed their name to Lucas Sports, and Addmult who played at Wood Lane End. Another company team based at Wood Lane End was Kodak; they spent three seasons in the South Midlands League during the 1960’s but were never in the same division as United.
Following promotion to the Premier Division, United competed only once more; after finishing second from bottom in the 1971/72 season they merged with Hemel Hempstead Town to form Hemel Hempstead FC.
With ground moves, mergers and (almost all of) the name changes out of the way, the club as we know it was born. Hemel remained in the Athenian League for a further six seasons, during that time it was only the last two seasons Hemel shone with two consecutive fourth place finishes. In the FA Cup during this period, Hemel failed to get past the First Qualifying Round. In 1976 Hemel again reached the final of the Herts Charity Cup, this time losing 0-4 to Hitchin Town. Six Herts Charity Shield finals beckoned over the forthcoming years, but The Tudors were only victorious in 1977 and 1984. In 1977, Hemel left the Athenian League to join the rapidly expanding Isthmian League, who boasted to be the south of England’s premier football league.
Hemel Hempstead FC, Athenian League final positions, 1972/73 to 1976/77
Collation of information/statistics and additional research by Marc Willmore. Please do not reproduce without consultation: firstname.lastname@example.org
Updated 19:57 - 13 Dec 2018 by Marc Willmore