As members of Bedford Physical Education Old Students’ Association, we have been closely involved in establishing an archive, which is now housed by the University of Bedfordshire, and over many years, we have been slowly uncovering our history. Former students have generously donated artifacts and memorabilia, in many ways similar to the AEWHA Collection held at Bath University, though on a much smaller scale. Many Bedford students won international honours a century ago, playing hockey for England, Scotland and later for Wales and so we wanted to find out who these women were.
The first Bedford Physical Training College (BPTC) Annual Report was published in 1911 and they have provided college and student news continuously since then. There are no match reports, results or details of where international matches were played, but the year a student or former student represented their country and the individual’s name (usually only initials of Christian names) are listed - and these reports gave us an invaluable starting point.
This basic information enabled us to start putting together an accurate Honours Board and to expand on the information we already had. Following a trip to The Hockey Museum (THM) in Woking, we were encouraged to visit the All England Women’s Hockey Association (AEWHA) Collection at Bath. If we could find Bedford students names and even photographs of them in international teams, we might begin to understand more about their lives and times.
The women’s hockey collection at Bath University has been an inspiration. We have been able to put so much more flesh on the bones of the lives and accomplishments of these wonderful Bedford Old Students. Scrapbooks of international tours as well as photographs in the numerous albums in the Bath collection have enabled us to further trace the histories of Doris Northwood, later Lewis, (BPTC 1912-14), Cicely Read (BPTC 1909-11), Violet Chamberlain (BPTC 1920-23), Muriel Bartlett (BPTC 1917-20), Ruth Brown (BPTC 1926-29), Barbara Eccles (BPTC 1929-32), Alice Crompton, later Greenhalgh, (BPTC 1927-1930) and Barbara Lloyd (BPTC 1926-29).
A star player of this era was Mary Knott who attended BPTC from 1916 to 1918. Mary played hockey for England at right back between 1923 and 1939, a record possibly cut short by war. Awarded 53+ caps and captain from 1934 to 1939, Mary travelled extensively with England and it was such a thrill for us to uncover at Bath photographs of so many of our Old Students seated with their international and former BPTC college team mates, including Mary Knott.
Now we have seen the faces of these players, we are able to go back to our own albums in the Bedford Archive to identify the players from our own photographs. This will add so much to our history and legacy and will be read about in the Bedford PE Annual Report of 2022 by our members, who still number over a thousand and live all over the world. As THM go through their work to complete the England international match records, they are reviewing, in particular, England touring team games and hope to upgrade some players to full international status. We hope that more Bedford Physical Training College players will be among them.