The English Curling Association was formed in 1971. It is a full member of the European Curling Federation (until this body is disbanded in 2014) and the World Curling Federation and is also a member of British Curling, the organisation which manages Great Britain’s Olympic and Paralympic curling programmes.
The English Curling Association aims to support, promote and develop the sport of curling in England, to unite curlers throughout England in the brotherhood of curling, to regulate the affairs of its members and to represent its members on International Confederations. It also sends teams to major International competitions.
The Executive Council of the ECA includes representatives from all areas of the country though curling can only be played at one location in England, Fenton’s Rink, Dundale Farm, Tunbridge Wells, Kent, but the Association hopes that further venues will be found as a result of Britain’s participation in the Olympic Games.
History of English Curling
The sport of curling is more than 500 years old and its true origin is hidden in the mists of time, but it was in Scotland where it evolved over the centuries and also where the mother club of curling, The Royal Caledonian Curling Club was formed in 1838. The sport has of course evolved through the years and the latest change on how it is played was introduced in 1990 when the free guard zone rule was introduced. In 1998 the sport became a full medal sport at the Olympics.
Early records indicate that curling was first played in the North of England at the end of the 18th century with a bonspiel being recorded as having taken place in 1795 between England and the Border Counties of Scotland. In 1811 a few Scots curled on the New River, a canal in North London, attracting such a large crowd that the ice was in danger of breaking and they were obliged to stop playing. A similar thing happened in 1847 when 2 Scottish Members of Parliament played on the Serpentine in London.
The first club was founded in Leeds in 1820, followed by Liverpool in 1839 and by 1914 there were 37 clubs playing in the North of England. England’s most important contribution to 19th century curling was the invention of a means of making artificial ice. In 1877 a rink opened in Manchester and the World’s first curling match on artificial ice took place in March of that year. The rink soon closed but another was opened at Southport, Lancashire in 1879 and survived until 1890.
After the failure of Southport some curling was played at Prince’s Skating and Curling Club in London and then in 1910 the Manchester Ice Palace opened and curling was played there until 1962. Following the closure of Manchester, ice was found at Blackpool between 1965 and 1970, but there has been no regular curling in the North since then.
Meanwhile, in the South, Richmond Ice Rink featured curling between 1951 and 1980. Since then a number of ice rinks in and around London have been used for curling - Streatham, Peterborough, Chelmsford, Aldershot, and Alexandra Palace in North London where 2 International Bonspiels and the Triangular International weekend (Scotland v England v Wales) were staged. Richmond (9 times), Streatham (1982) and Peterborough (1985 and 1987) have also staged International matches between England and Scotland.
In 1997 curling stopped at Alexandra Palace and for many years there was nowhere in England to play regularly. Thankfully, in 2004, Ernest Fenton decided to create a dedicated curling rink in Kent, near Tunbridge Wells. Fenton’s Rink is now the home of the South of England Curling Club, the Kent and Sussex Junior Curling Club and the London Curling Club and several other groups who meet there regularly.
Elsewhere in England there is a distinct lack of places to play curling. To hire ice time at one of the 42 ice rinks around the country depends on an organisation’s willingness to pay the highest price for a suitable time slot. Generally, curlers cannot compete with the hundreds of leisure skaters for prime ice times and the management of the rinks are not interested in maintaining the level, smooth and consistent ice surface required for the sport of curling to succeed. Currently the main area of interest is Sheffield where iceSheffield in Attercliffe offer curling to anyone who wants to place a booking, but it has no organised or regular curling sessions.
There have been many plans for further dedicated curling rinks over the years and one which looks like coming on stream soon is the Berkshire Curling Centre near Bracknell which is being developed by Stephen Hinds who has been playing curling for over 30 years.
By comparison, there are around 30 Ice Rinks in Scotland where curling is played with approximately one tenth of the population of England. With this imbalance in facilities compared to population, it is not surprising that Scotland is the dominant force in British Curling and has provided all the players for the Great Britain Olympic Teams! In 2012 ,however, a member of the ECA, Angharad Ward, was selected for the Great Britain Youth Olympic Games squad at the games held in Innsbruck.
Some English curlers outside the London area travel to rinks just over the Scottish border, such as Lockerbie and Kelso, or to Deesside in Wales, and many from all over the country travel to weekend competitions throughout Europe. As well as the clubs mentioned above who play at Fenton’s there are 2 other clubs which are currently active - Preston (who play at Lockerbie) and Glendale in Northumberland (who play at Kelso).
Teams have represented the Association in European Championships (men, women, junior men, junior women and mixed) and World Championships (men, women, junior men, senior men, senior women, mixed doubles and wheelchair). The best results have been bronze medals for the women in the 1976 European Championships and in the 2003 World Senior Women’s Championship. The best results for the men have been 4th in the 1990 European Championships and the 2005 World Senior Championship while the Wheelchair team came 4th in the 2004 World Wheelchair Championships.
In recent years, the addition of a B division in the European Championships has led to further medals, with the women winning a wonderful GOLD medal in 2007. Other medals have been: silver for the men in 2001 and the women in 2002 and bronze for the men in 2000, 2004 and 2011, and for the women in 2000, 2005 and 2006