Friday, July 22, 2011

Goodbye Herne Bay Pier Pavilion, the “Cathedral of Roller Hockey”

Probably the unique rink over the sea in the World
When Herne Bay’s Grand Pier Pavilion was opened on 1st December 1910, competitive rink hockey was 30 year’s old and there were talented players already in the town. The Herne Bay rink hockey and skating club was formed just over a week later on 10th December 1910. There were competitive matches from the world go with teams from all over the country and Herne Bay winning more often than not. There was a particularly keen rivalry with Faversham’s classy team.
The Kent League (Kent Amateur Rink Hockey Association) was formed on 19th October 1912 being instigated by the team from Canterbury but strangely coming together with just Herne Bay, Rochester and Margate. The Kent League grew well and spread across Kent and into London so that in the 1950’s teams from Alexander Palace and Forest Gate were regular names on the bill at the Pier Pavilion.
Herne Bay quickly became a major venue for international rink hockey picking up where London’s Crystal Palace left off. After the 1914-1918 war European Championships were inaugurated and Herne Bay players took rink hockey to the World playing for England and becoming European Champions time and time again. These tournaments used two alternate venues Herne Bay and Montreux in Switzerland. Herne Bay’s Pier Pavilion had now become the World’s “Cathedral of Roller Hockey”.
Herne Bay and England’s leadership in rink hockey continued until the 1939-1945 war after which there was a sea change in roller hockey. The rink hockey players of Herne Bay continued to be talented and charismatic and the Pier Pavilion was home to many exciting matches and international tournaments but internationally the game had moved on, tactics had changed and players were beginning to become professional. Internationally, the game became dominated by Portugal, Spain and Italy and then Argentina.
The Pier Pavilion was closed for repair and refurbishment but in 1970 this work resulted in the building catching fire and it was destroyed. The replacement building was opened by PM Edward Heath in 1976. There were only 8 rink hockey players left playing in Herne Bay but the sport quickly re-established itself and all three of the local clubs were soon operating to full capacity.
The new building broke away from seaside tradition and was of modern architecture which did not please everybody but it was built to international rink hockey standards and provided excellent spectator facilities. As a result the history of staging international events resumed and Herne Bay is the only place capable of holding international roller hockey (the name has changed from rink hockey in England even though it’s international designation is still “rink hockey”) in the UK.
While the Herne Bay and Herne United clubs were successful in the 1970s and 1980s it was Southsea that had become the Champions of England and who monopolised the England team. It was not until Herne Bay United gained promotion to the Premier League (then called the Superleague) in 1992 and dislodged Southsea in 1993 that Herne Bay once again became the dominant force in English roller hockey. HBU has won the title 16 times in the last 18 years and is challenging to win again in 2010/2011. The final Premier League match against arch rivals Middlesbrough is at the Pier Pavilion on Saturday 4th June and the winner will take all.
On 23rd July, the National Cup Finals will be at the Pier Pavilion and this will mark the end of roller hockey above the sea at Herne Bay after 101 years.
The Pier Pavilion is due to be demolished and roller hockey will transfer to the new arena at Herne Bay High School. International rink dimensions have increased since the Pier Pavilion was built and the new arena is built to the new size with regulation barriers and spectator facilities. Herne Bay has the setting for a new generation of players to come through and keep Herne Bay as the heart of UK roller hockey. With money pressures mounting in the sport throughout Europe it could also provide the opportunity to once more move up the international scale.

Ron Barker 31/5/2011
With acknowledgement to Roger Pout’s book “The Early Years of English Roller Hockey 1885 – 1914”

Tomorrow,23rd July, the National Cup Finals at Herne Bay Pier Pavilion

Schedule of the Tournament
The NRHA Cup Finals is on Saturday 23rd July at the Pier Pavilion Herne Bay and this is for the very last time as it is being demolished in September.
The first Cup Final of the day starts at 10.30am and the last one starts at 4.45pm.
After which the presentations will take place.
We are also having as much Roller Hockey memorabilia as we can get, on display in the Cafeteria by way of a tribute to the Pier.
Anybody wishing to bring items of interest are more than welcome.







Good bye to one of the First places where Roller Hockey was played!!

All info at:


  1. I have been at this historical place, playing first for Highworth Roller Hockey Club and after for Southsea, becoming Veterans Champions in 2006 and after 1st Division Champions; it is sad to see this place being demolished, however the memories associated with it will survive forever! It's like a part of the Roller Hockey family losing one of the most important member, and losing members, clubs, rinks and enthusiasm have been lately a characteristic of the Roller Hockey all over the world; it is time to replace these losses with a new philosophy for the Roller Hockey, but not under the rules of Mr. Harro and su muchachos!!

  2. Tens toda a razão, será para sempre um dos berços do hóquei...
    Quanto à ultima parte concordo contigo, é necessária uma nova filosofia para o hóquei urgentemente... e tanto espanhois, portugueses, alemães não têm sido capazes de a implementar

    Grande Abraço

  3. Unfortunately we won't see anything like the original roller rink ever again