The History of Hemel Hempstead Town FC – 1885 to 1922
Of the clubs that merged over the years to form the club as we know it today, the history of Apsley FC goes back furthest. Apsley played at Salmon Meadow and although it is widely believed the club was formed in 1885 (the year “Apsley End FC” hired the Salmon Meadow ground), many of the players featuring in early starting line ups had featured in the starting eleven of Boxmoor United, who had the previous year had competed in friendly matches at a pitch on the moor, opposite the Gasworks. The Hertfordshire Football Association had been organising Senior competitions since the associations formation in 1885, the club affiliated in 1887 and the earliest ever record of entering a competition is a Herts County Cup entry in 1889 as Apsley End FC. The parish of Apsley End, formed in 1873, dropped the “End” to become plain Apsley in 1893, the football team followed suit.
Apsley End was one of the founding member clubs of the West Herts Football Association and entered their first league competition in 1891/92, kitted out in their original colours of claret and blue. Apsley won the Division One championship in 1894/95; the first honour in the clubs history, but then did not compete in the West Herts League for two seasons, although a Apsley Reserve team competed in Division Two in 1896/97. It is not clear where Apsley’s first team was competing during this time, this was before the formation of the Herts County League, however it is been noted that in 1897/98 Apsley competed in the Wolverton League for just one season. Maybe there are missing records of Apsley having competed in the Wolverton League for the previous two seasons. The first cup final win on record is the Herts Junior Cup, won by the reserve team in 1897. Apsley returned to the West Herts League in 1897/98, upon their return they finished where they left off and won the Division One championship again.
In 1898/99 the Hertfordshire County League was formed and Apsley entered that league as a founding member club. Apsley often competed in both the West Herts and Herts County leagues at the same time, as did many other local clubs, due to the small number of teams in each division and subsequent small amount fixtures each season. As you will see from the final league positions, following the formation of the Herts County League Apsley did not always compete in the West Herts League and on some occasions they did not fulfil their fixtures. Apsley also had a reserve team who competed in the lower divisions of the West Herts League. At one point during the clubs early years, Apsley FC was accused by the press of “poaching” players from other local clubs! In March 1899 The Herts FA Emergency Committee met to discuss problems encountered during Apsley’s fixture away to Berkhamsted. The match referee and secretary of Apsley FC had complained about the behaviour of spectators. The outcome was that Berkhamsted were ordered to post notices at their Sunnyside ground to the effect that any person guilty of improper conduct towards the referee would have been expelled.
In 1899/00, Apsley’s second season in the Herts County league, they finished in first place as unbeaten champions, and then finished as runners up in 1900/01. Following Apsley’s 13-1 home win against Berkhamsted that season, the West Herts & Watford Observer reported that that game had been played on a “snow covered wet pitch”. The Herts County league was split between regions the following season and Apsley finished in 3rd, one place below fellow league founder club Berkhamsted, before finishing the following season (02/03) as County League Western Division champions. This resulted in a play-off for the County championship, which Apsley won (by default) against St Albans Amateurs; this was after the opponents failed to raise a side for the second leg (the first leg had finished goal-less). The West Herts Division One championship was won by the club again in 1904/05, then 1906/07 saw Apsley’s next success; after again finishing as County League Western Division champions Apsley went on to beat Herts Northern Division champions Hitchin Union Jack 5-3 on aggregate. Apsley continued to finish in respectable positions either side of the War before leaving the Herts County League in 1922. During this time, Apsley were Herts Senior Cup winners in 1906, 1908 and 1909 (1909 winners medal pictured courtesy of Tony Taylor), as well as runners up to Ware in 1922 in the second replay following two cup final draws.
In 1920, the local press reported that during Apsley’s fixture against Tring YMCA, the unsportsmanlike tactics of Tring were taking the interest out of the game. Apsley winger Young had to leave the field after Tring’s right back jumped at him, catching him on the throat and chest. Apsley went on to win 2-1 thanks to goals by Oldham and Dowse.
Apsley’s local rivals during this time were Hemel Hempstead FC; despite the name this club has played no part in the history of the current Hemel Hempstead Town FC. The old Hemel Hempstead was based at Gadebridge Meadow, fixtures between Apsley and Hemel would attract crowds upwards of 600. Another team competing in the West Herts League was Watford St Mary’s, they were the first winners of the competition and in 1899 they merged with Southern League club West Herts FC in 1899 to form Watford FC.
The first record of Apsley entering the FA Cup was in 1901/02, when the club lost 13-1 away to Luton Town in the first qualifying round. Apsley entered at the Preliminary Round the following season and won 7-1 at home to Berkhamsted Town, only to fall at the next hurdle 2-1 away to Bedford Queens Works.
1922 to 1939
In 1922 Apsley left the Herts County League to join the Spartan League, competing in Division Two. Apsley did however enter a reserve team in the Herts County League for one more season. In their first Spartan League season, Apsley finished 11th in a league of 13 teams. Despite the move away from the regional set up of the Herts County League, there were still many local away fixtures with; also making the move to the Spartan league from the Herts County League that season were local rivals Berkhamsted Town, previously known in the County League as Berkhamsted Comrades, while already competing in the Spartan League were Aylesbury, Chesham and Leavesden. More local sides, Watford Old Boys and Amersham, later joined the league.
1923/24 was a vast improvement on the previous season, with Apsley finishing as runners up, although they suffered an 8-0 defeat away to Barnet in the Extra Preliminary Round of the FA Cup. Then the club finished third in the table the next season with noticeably impressive results being 7-0 and 9-0 wins in a double over Aylesbury United Reserves. Due to league expansion, Division Two was regionalized in time for the 1925/26 season with Apsley being allocated to Division Two Section ‘A’. This season, Apsley only lost one game at home and recorded a 10-1 victory over Metropolitan Railway, however a poor run of away form led Apsley to a fifth place finish. Apsley won both the Herts Senior Cup and the Herts Charity Shield this season. The following season (1926/27) Apsley finished runners up, 4 points behind league champions Berkhamsted Town. The play off between Division Two Section ‘A’ and Section ‘B’ champions was held at Apsley’s home ground this season, with a crowd of 2000 watching Berkhamsted Town beat Ware 4-0.
1927/28 was a blip for Apsley, with the club finishing ninth, although the club did record an 11-0 win at home to Wendover. This season was Apsley’s last at their Salmon Meadow ground, for the 1928/29 season Apsley played their home games at Gee’s Meadow. The division Apsley competed in was by now known as Division Two West, and Apsley finished third in the table, scoring an impressive 78 goals in 24 league games. Yet more restructuring in 1929 led to the formation of a Spartan Premier Division, Division One, Division Two East and Division Two West – Apsley were allocated to Division One and finished tenth, this was also Apsley’s first season at their new home ground at Crabtree Lane, where they remained for over 40 years.
Fifth then second place finishes followed, along with an appearance the Herts Senior Cup final as runners up to Hitchin Town in 1932. Also in the 1931/32 season, Apsley were knocked out of the FA Cup in the Preliminary Round by Leavesden Mental Hospital. As Leavesden played at Woodside Road in Abbotts Langley, just 5 miles from Apsley’s ground at Crabtree Lane, it must have been the one of the most local FA Cup fixture the club has played. This must have turned in to quite some local derby, as the clubs met in the early stages of the FA Cup again in 1934/45, 1935/36 and 1936/37.
After the second place finish in 1931/32 season secured promotion, Apsley competed in the Spartan Premier Division for the first time in 1932/33 season. Apsley finished second from bottom and were disappointingly relegated at the first attempt; this was the clubs first relegation in its 48 year history. 1933/34 saw Apsley bounce back, not only winning the Division One championship, they recorded a 13-0 win at RAF Uxbridge and also beat Premier Division Champions Maidenhead United 6-3 away from home in the Dunkles Cup, an annual Spartan League challenge between the Premier and Division One champions. However, Apsley finished second from bottom of the Premier Division for two consecutive seasons and by 1936 they were back in Division One, the only highlight during that time being a Herts Charity Shield win in 1935. In 1935 Apsley FC became an Associate Member of the FA
Another runner up spot in the Herts Senior Cup beckoned in 1937, this time to Leavesden, along with mediocre league finishes until 1938/39 when the club finished third. With the Second World War on the horizon, this was Apsley’s last competitive season until 1945/46, Apsley managed to squeeze in a 3-1 away win against Saffron Walden before the 1939/40 season was abandoned.
The club reached the First Round proper of the FA Cup for the first and only time during the 1938/39 season, winning 2-1 at home to St Albans City in the Preliminary Round, 0-4 away to Hoxton Manor in the First Qualifying Round, 1-2 away to Hoddesden Town in the Second Qualifying Round, 2-1 at home to Golders Green in the Third Qualifying Round, 4-1 at home to Leytonstone in the Fourth Qualifying Round, prior to exiting the competition at the hands of Bromley, 2-1 away from home.
In 1926, 25 year old Apsley forward Joe Groome was signed by Northampton Town. After scoring 6 goals in 13 appearances for the Cobblers he was signed by Watford in 1927, scoring an impressive 14 goals in 17 appearances for the Hornets before signing for QPR in 1929. In 1935, 20 year old Apsley defender Reg Dudley signed for Millwall. Dudley went on to play for QPR and Watford, making 101 professional appearances in total.
Apsley continued to field a team in the West Herts League during this period. Although it was very likely to be a reserve side, the team competing in the West Herts League was just known as Apsley. To confuse matters further, in 1925/26 there were teams known as just Apsley in Divisions One and Two of the West Herts League, one can only assume they were “Reserves” and ”A” teams; then the following season it was back to one team in Division One this time known as Apsley Reserves! The club entered a team in the West Herts League up to the 1929/30 season; Apsley’s exit from that league coincides with Apsley Reserves entering the Spartan League in 1930/31. During the 1930’s, Apsley’s reserve team competed in Division Two West of the Spartan League, however the Reserve teams only point to note from that period was the team conceding an extraordinary 111 goals in the 1932/33 season.
Away from League action, Apsley won the Herts Senior Cup in 1926 and finished runners up four times in this period. Apsley also brought home the Herts Charity Shield as winners in 1926 and 1935.
1945 to 1952
Apsley were one of 29 clubs who rejoined the Spartan League in the season immediately following the war, with the clubs being split between Central, Eastern and Western Divisions for the first season. Apsley took their place in the Western Division and finished bottom of the table, losing 13 of their 18 league fixtures. In the FA Cup that year, Apsley faced neighbouring village side Kings Langley in the first and to date only time Kings Langley entered the competition. Apsley lost 4-7 at home in what must have been a thrilling game. The following season, with more clubs joining, the Spartan League formed a Premier Division along with Division One Eastern and Western Divisions. Apsley competed in Division One West, and an improved run of form saw the club finish mid-table, recording an 11-1 win over Amersham Town on the way.
The last game played as Apsley was on 16th May 1947, when the club entertained Rickmansworth in the Apsley Charity Cup Final. At the start of the 1947/48 season, the club changed its name to Hemel Hempstead Town. Spartan League records state that this was due to a merger with Hemel Hempstead Rovers, however, this is not corroborated by those knowledgeable of the history of Hemel Hempstead Rovers. What can be corroborated by league records however is that Hemel Hempstead Rovers competed in the West Herts League prior Apsley’s name change, and then in 1947 they disappeared. Around this time, the new Hemel Hempstead Town formed a reserve team which compete in the Great Western League, where they remained for six seasons. The departure of Hemel Hempstead Reserves from the Great Western League coincides with Hemel Hempstead Rovers joining the Herts County League in 1955, so it may be the case that for a short time Hemel Hempstead Town and Hemel Hempstead Rovers were affiliated.
The change of name brought luck and Hemel finished as runners up for the 1947/48 season, on the way chalking up a 2-1 away to Berkhamsted Town in front of 2587 spectators. This was followed by a slow decline with third then fourth finishes over the two following seasons. This period featured a 16 goal thriller against Marlow, with a 9-7 home win in 1949/50. Hemel finished as Division One West runners up in 1950/51 season, winning all but one of their home games in the process (the only loss suffered against champions Wembley). At the end of that season, the Spartan League lost nine clubs to the newly formed Delphian League, and in the reorganisation Hemel ended up in the Spartan Premier Division. Hemel finished in fifth place in 1951/52, competed in another thriller with Marlow (8-3 win at home) and also won the Herts Charity Shield. This was Hemel’s last season in the Spartan League, being one of a further two Spartan clubs leaving for the Delphian League. This season Hemel were again winners of the Herts Charity Shield. In 1952 Hemel Hempstead Town FC become a Full Member of the FA.
During this time, Watford FC must have scouted Hemel regularly, as a few of our players were signed by the Hornets. In 1946, Watford signed Hemel’s 24 year old Goalkeeper Stan Hopkinson, who went on to make just one appearance for Watford. In 1951, Watford signed 18 year old Hemel forward Ivor Harper, who made three appearances for Watford. The Bateman Brothers Ernie and Colin both left Hemel to play for Watford, with Ernie returning to Hemel as Player Coach in 1960. Ernie joined Watford in 1952 and made 22 appearances before signing for Sittingbourne in 1957. Colin joined Watford in 1953 and after making 50 appearances, he also went on to play for Sittingbourne, signing in 1958. The Spartan League records state that Ernie teamed up with fellow former Hornet Frank Jackett at Hemel, although research shows that Jackett played for Adeyfield United in the Herts County League, which later became Hemel Hempstead United.
1952 to 1963
The 1952/53 season was Hemel’s first in the Delphian League, it wasn’t exactly a flying start as the club finished second from bottom for the first two seasons. In 1955 Hemel’s reserve team won the Herts Intermediate Cup. Hemel didn’t set the Delphian League alight, finishing in the bottom two of the division on five occasions during eleven seasons. The clubs best finish in the Delphian League was as runners up in 1961/62, this success was unable to be built upon as the following season continuous poor weather caused the Delphian League to be abandoned after Hemel had played twelve games. An emergency competition was organised giving Hemel a further eight fixtures, however the Delphian League disbanded once the season finished in 1963 and the clubs formed Division Two of the Athenian League.
There was little to shout about in Hemel’s FA Cup exploits during the Delphian League years, the furthest the club progressed in this time was the third qualifying round in 1962/63, losing 4-3 away to Oxford City. In January of 1962 the attendance record at Crabtree Lane was set when 3,500 spectators paid to watch the first time the club had played in the First Round Proper of the Amateur Cup, Hemel lost 1-3 to Tooting & Mitcham after missing two penalties.
In 1955, former Luton Town defender Les Hales signed for Hemel, a year after assisting the Hatters winning promotion from Division Two, Hales had made 79 appearances in eight seasons at Luton and was 34 years old by the time he signed for Hemel.
1963 to 1972
In their opening season in the Athenian League, Hemel finished fifth in Division Two and were subsequently promoted to Division One due to restructuring. Hemel also gained revenge over Oxford City in the FA Cup, by beating them 5-0 at home in the Second Qualifying Round (Hemel exited at the next hurdle at the hands of Maidenhead United, 2-1 away from home). In 1964-65 Hemel finished as runners up in Division One, winning promotion to the Premier Division. Hemel’s reserve team won the Herts Intermediate Cup again this season but things didn’t develop well for the club as a whole – Hemel only lasted three seasons in the Premier with a best finish of ninth in 1966 before two consecutive relegations saw Hemel start the 1969/70 season in Division Two, a level which Hemel remained for nearly 30 years! Furture Wimbledon and Newcastle manager Joe Kinnear made four appearances for Hemel in 1965, scoring one goal during his short spell. 1962 and 1966 saw Hemel reach the final of the Herts Senior Cup but Hitchin Town then St Albans City kept the trophy from Hemel’s grasp. In 1967 Hemel reached the final of the Herts Charity Cup for the first time, losing 0-1 to St Albans City. During this period Hemel also reached the final of the Herts Charity Shield five times, although only won in 1964.
Hemel parted company with Manager Bill McGrae at the end of the 1967/68 season. Hemel opened the 1968/69 season with a home match against Dorking, with new manager Harry Gibson taking charge for the first time. After 11 minutes the referee took the players off of the field because of a rainstorm and play was held up for five minutes. Hemel went on to win 3-0. Gibson was eventually replaced by player-Manager Brian Pettifer.
Former QPR player and Addmult Manager George Powell, who led Addmult to the South Midlands League Championship two seasons earlier, was appointed Manager for the start of the 1970/71 season. However, by the end of the season, Powell had been succeeded by then club secretary and former Manager Bill McGrae, who led the team as caretaker boss until the end of the season. Powell cited “personal reasons” for his departure; he resigned after a 4-0 loss at Edgware that left Hemel fourth from bottom of the league.
1000 spectators watched a friendly between Hemel and Luton at Crabtree Lane, with local press reporting that a large uniformed Police were present due to rumours that Watford supporters were attending to “run-the-eye” over their Luton counterparts. Also this season, local press reported Hemel goalkeeper Martin Skelton was involved in a skirmish with Wealdstone supporters at Crabtree Lane when two spectators jumped over the fence and began jostling Skelton. Play was halted and one man was treated for a mouth injury, Hemel went on to win 3-1. During Easter 1971, the press reported that Hemel had 16 players injured or unavailable for the weekend’s fixtures. Another team selection was hampered when striker Micky Young was getting married on match day with striking partner Derek Smart being his best man! Hemel were warned by the Disciplinary Committee of the West Herts FA about the number of cautions Hemel players had received. Despite the apparent lack of discipline, Hemel went on to win the St Mary’s Cup 2-0 at Crabtree Lane against local rivals Berkhamsted Town. On route to the final, Hemel Hempstead Town met Hemel Hempstead United in the Quarter Final in front of Crabtree Lane’s biggest crowd of the season; Town won 5-2 after extra time.
Déjà vous at the start of the 1971/72 season, just like three years previously Hemel started the season with a new manager and a home win, and just like three years previously the referee took the players off of the field due to a rainstorm and play was held up for five minutes again! Hemel went on to beat Eastbourne 1-0 under new boss Dai Price, who had previously spent nine seasons at Crabtree Lane as a player.
Local press reported in April 1971 that Hemel Hempstead Town had confirmed that the 1971/72 season would be their last at Crabtree Lane, adding that the club was fairly confident of taking over another ground in the locality. Following the sale of the clubs home at Crabtree Lane, Hemel Hempstead Town merged with Hemel Hempstead United in the summer of 1972. The new club took the simple name of Hemel Hempstead FC and made United’s Vauxhall Road ground its home.
Hemel Hempstead United
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, who 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.
1972 to 1977
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.
1977 to 1997
Hemel joined the Isthmian League in Division Two, and this was a level the club struggled to progress from. Mid-table mediocrity was the norm for many years and numerous restructuring failed to kick start The Tudors – shuffling to the Isthmian League Division Two North in 1984, then back to just Division Two again in 1991. Hemel managed to finish in the top half of the table just five times in the next twenty years, with the best effort during this time being a fourth place finish in 1993.
Opponents during this era included the likes of Stevenage Borough, St Albans City and Aldershot Town, all high flyers these days, along with local derbies against Berkhamsted Town and Tring Town.
In 1978, former Watford striker John Fairbrother signed for Hemel. Fairbrother also played for Peterborough, Mansfield, Northampton and Torquay before playing non-league with Bath City and Barnet before joining Hemel. (He wasn’t the luckiest of players, having been relegated with three of his professional clubs; however he did score 152 goals as a pro). In 1989, 24 year old Hemel winger Julian Hails was signed by Fulham. He went on to play for Southend in a pro career which lasted until 1999. In 1992, Hemel signed former Watford, Scunthorpe and Maidstone defender Paul Rumble.
In 1992 Hemel fought bravely against Barnet in the Herts County Senior Cup final, losing 4-1, although the score line doesn’t sound generous towards Hemel, it was superior fitness and three late goals and which clinched it for the Football League Division Four side. It was downhill from there, in November 1992 Hemel’s Vauxhall Road ground was rocked by fire, the destroyed clubhouse and changing rooms were replaced by temporary structures, which remained for over five years.
1993 was the closest Hemel had been to promotion, missing out by two points to local rivals Berkhamsted Town who clinched third place and the last promotion spot. 1996/97 saw The Tudors concede 125 goals, score only 34 (an average of less than one goal per game!). Hemel went 14 consecutive games without a win, losing 11 on the trot and suffered 10-4 and 9-2 defeats at the hands of Metropolitan Police and Collier Row respectively. Hemel finished rock bottom and relegation to the Isthmian Division Three loomed. This was only the fifth time in 112 years the club had suffered relegation.
1997 to 2015
The clubs current Management Committee, headed by Chairman David Boggins, gained control of the club in the summer of 1997. The last thirteen years have been very eventful for Hemel with various ground improvements, two league championships, a play-off final win, two automatic promotions, promotion through restructuring, and a relegation, not to mention nine changes of manager.
The first task of the new Committee was to install successful Leverstock Green manager and ex-Hemel captain Mick Vipond as manager. Vipond had previous made 248 appearances for Hemel between 1975 and 1983. The result was a quick promotion with Hemel winning the Division Three championship at the first attempt, conceding only 28 goals that season and scoring 86, quite a turnaround from the previous season. This was the first league championship the club had won since 1934. During this season, work had also started on the refurbishment of the fire damaged clubhouse, which was completed at the end of the season along with new changing rooms and an all seated stand at the Tenzing Road side of the ground. After a stuttering start to Division Two, Hemel parted company with Vipond in December 1998 and ex-Watford star and 1985 FA Cup finalist Neil Price was appointed as manager.
Price guided the Tudors to 4th place and bettered this the following season, 1999/2000 when Hemel won the Division Two championship, only to be denied promotion due to insufficient ground grading. In this championship season Hemel conceded just 27 goals in 42 league games, the best defensive record in the clubs history. Hemel followed this up with a 6th place finish and in the summer of 2001 Price was replaced at the helm by former Barnet goalkeeper Gary Phillips. By this time various ground improvements had led to a “B” grading for Vauxhall Road which made the club eligible for promotion.
Hemel failed to find their feet in the 2001/2002 season and following the resignation of Phillips after a 6-1 defeat at the hands of Chertsey, ex-Hemel player Tony Kelly was appointed as manager. Kelly turned the club around from relegation candidates to a mid-table finish. After FA restructuring of the non-league pyramid, 2002/03 saw Hemel competing in the newly formed Isthmian (Ryman) Division One North and Kelly led the team to 4th place, narrowly missing on promotion to the Ryman Premier. Hemel reached the final of the Herts Charity Cup for a third time, but it was no third time lucky, losing 1-2 to Bishops Stortford. A 6th place league finish followed this up in 2003/04, which was vital due to yet more restructuring by the FA. Hemel secured 6th place thanks to a 1-0 win against Arseley on the final game of the season. This restructuring saw Hemel leave the Isthmian League after nearly 30 years and for the first time Hemel competed in the Southern League, starting 2004/05 in the Premier division.
It was never going to be easy settling in the new league but Hemel struggled, with Kelly being replaced by ex-Arseley manager Nicky Ironton in November. Just 3 wins in 12 games saw Hemel slide in to the relegation zone and Ironton was replaced by Hemel’s 3rd manager of the season Byron Walton, who inherited a side 10 points from safety with 12 games to go. A short unbeaten run was not enough and Hemel were relegated to the Southern Western Division. Something to be upbeat about was the end of the Herts Charity Cup jinx, the Tudors beat Bishops Stortford 2-0 to win the final.
Despite a confident start to the 2005/06 season which saw a run of 12 unbeaten games and a brush with 4th place in the table, Hemel began to slip and Walton was replaced by ex-Hemel player and former Chesham and Berkhamsted manager Steve Bateman. A nail biting end to the season saw Hemel beat Brackley Town in the play-off final to secure promotion back to the Southern Premier Division at the first attempt. Hemel continued their good form in to the 2006/07 season and the club finished fourth, securing a play-off position. Hemel were defeated in the play-off semi-finals by Team Bath.
In the summer of 2007, Hemel striker Anthony Thomas was signed by Barnet following an impressive goal scoring record over the previous two seasons at Vauxhall Road. Inconsistent form throughout the 2007/08 season saw the club finish seventh in the Premier Division, narrowly missing out on a play-off position. However, a 5-1 victory over Oxhey Jets saw the Tudors bring home the St Mary’s Cup for the second consecutive season.
In 2008/09, Hemel started brightly and by Christmas the club was in a play off position having just beaten league leaders Farnborough. Former star striker Anthony Thomas returned to Vauxhall Road and things were looking good for the Tudors. However, a poor start to the New Year led to the sacking of Steve Bateman on the 16th February, the eve of the clubs appearance in the final of the Herts Charity Cup. The next day, Hemel beat Ware 2-1 to lift their first silverware of the season and former Celtic and Southend midfielder Paul Byrne was appointed as Bateman’s successor. A good start under Byrne was followed by inconsistent form; however Hemel fought their way in to the play-offs, with Thomas again finishing as the clubs top scorer as he overtook Hugh Boycott-Brown as the clubs all time leading goal scorer.
By the start of the 2009/10 season, Byrne had been replaced at the helm by Dennis Green, but the club was not on good form and he was replaced in October the season by Gary Philips, who was himself replaced in March by Dean Brennan. Hemel still ended up in a relegation position but were spared going down by the requirement of restructuring. Hemel finished the season with a St Mary’s Cup final win over Oxhey Jets.
During the summer of 2010, Hitchin manager Colin Payne was appointed the new Tudors manager in time for the 2010/11 season which saw the Tudors celebrate their 125 years in existence. The season started well but inconsistent form saw Hemel finish 15th in the league. Payne led the team in to the 2011/12 however with Hemel firmly attached to a relegation position he was replaced in October by former Salisbury manager Tommy Widdrington. Despite the team not enjoying much better form under Widdrington, there was at least a slow progress so it was a great disappointment to the club when he left his position after just four months to take up a job at Eastbourne. Mark Eaton and Alan Biley formed a partnership to manage the Tudors however their best efforts could not pull the club to safety and relegation loomed after finishing 19th.
Reprieved from relegation, Hemel appointed Dean Brennan for his second spell as manager for the 2012/13 season. Brennan brought in a lot of new faces in to the squad and after a flying start to the season Hemel found themselves top of the league table, where they spent a total of 19 games before a dip in form saw eventual champions Leamington take over. Hemel finished the table in a club record fourth place and made it to the play-offs, facing third place Chesham United in the semi-final. Hemel won 0-2 at Chesham and set up a home tie against Gosport Borough in the final. 2254 eager fans packed in to Vauxhall Road to watch the game that was to decide Hemel’s fate; Gosport went 2-0 up in the first half but Hemel fought right to the end and scored 2 late goals to draw level. After a goal-less extra-time, Hemel lost on penalties. Hemel did gain some silverware though, winning the Herts Senior Cup for the first time since 1926, beating Potter Bar in the final. Hemel’s last honour this season was the Sir Stanley Rous Memorial Trophy, awarded by the Herts FA to the club or individual that has brought the most prestige to Hertfordshire. 2013/14 was a fantastic season for Hemel. The Tudors got off to a flying start, despite losing the opening league game at Hitchin, Hemel went on to win ten consecutive games and went on to spend the majority of the season well clear at the top of the Southern League Premier Division league table. Hemel were also in the draw for the FA Cup First Round proper for the first time since 1938 after drawing 3-3 with Conference South high fliers Sutton United, but unfortunately lost the replay. With just the league to concentrate on, Hemel went on to break records with striker Ben Mackey scoring a club record 43 goals in all competitions and ‘keeper Laurie Walker keeping the most clean sheets by a single goalie in Hemel’s history. The Tudors had the Southern League’s highest average attendances and Vauxhall Road entertained nearly two thousand fans against both St Albans City and Chesham United. It was at home to Chesham on Easter Monday that Hemel lifted the Southern League Premier Division winners shield, having secured the championship away to Hungerford two days previously.
It was the start of a whole new era for Hemel Hempstead Town FC in August 2014, the clubs first season in the second tier of the English non-league game. The Tudors first ever game in the Conference South was an away win at Basingstoke Town, however stuttering form during the seasons early stages led to numerous changes of playing personnel, with some of the previous seasons championship winning side leaving Vauxhall Road to make way for some more experienced players and some young professionals loaned from some of the area’s leading clubs. Hemel’s form improved as the season developed and the club was still capable of reaching the play-off’s within a few weeks of the season ending. A respectable 9th place finish was accompanied by cup final wins in the Herts Senior Cup and the St Mary’s Cup, while club record runs were achieved in the FA Cup (first round) and FA Trophy (third round).