Please cite this article as:

Evans, M. Women’s League Hockey and its Early Development, In Day, D. (ed), Playing Pasts (Manchester: MMU Sport and Leisure History, 2020), 120-136.

ISBN paperback 978-1-910029-56-5


Chapter 8



Women’s League Hockey and its Early Development

Mark Evans




With the setting up of The Hockey Association in 1886 and The All England Women’s Hockey Association in 1895 the sport of hockey, like many other sports at this time, formalized rules and structures that helped to develop it into the sport we know today. However, unlike other sports such as rugby and football the history of the game has not attracted much interest. This is now beginning to change. The Hockey Museum, situated in Woking, is helping in this process and its many volunteers are helping to bring the history of the game to the fore. As one of these volunteers I have been looking at the issue of women’s leagues and how they developed. The problems they caused for the women’s establishment, the development of a second Association to look after the leagues, and the playing of international matches with Ireland and Scotland are just a few of the factors that make the story a fascinating one. In this chapter I take a look at these aspects. There are though many things still to consider, one of which is why the men did not follow the women’s lead and set-up leagues in their game. Work for the future, no doubt. Now though, we consider how the early women’s leagues began and what effect they had on the game of hockey.

Keywords: Women, Hockey, Leagues, Cup Competitions, Internationals.


The development of women’s league hockey is a subject that has not attracted much research, but it is a fascinating story and one that deserves further investigation. People within the hockey world believed that women’s league hockey only really began in the late 1970’s evolving into a national Premier competition in 1989/90. However, the first women’s league in England was formed in 1910 in Manchester. This was followed by several other leagues, mainly in the North and Midlands. As we shall see many were very successful and yet despite the success of women’s league hockey the men did not follow, and it was many years before they began playing league hockey. Why they resisted the lure of the leagues is not yet fully understood but I am sure many must have been tempted.

There is very little written material in relation to ladies’ league hockey although Jo Halpin (2017) in her article ‘Thus far and no farther: the rise of women’s hockey leagues in England from 1910 to 1939’ provides an insight into the subject up to 1939.[1] Local newspapers have proved to be the most useful source as several them carried articles on the leagues, usually weekly, in which there would be match reports, player profiles, results, league tables and often some comment by the reporter on what they regarded as important issues within the hockey world. Before we look more closely at these early leagues it is important to consider how hockey developed. Various forms of ball and stick games have been in existence for centuries. M.K. Howells in his book A Centenary of Modern Hockey 1871 – 1971 gives an explanation into how the modern men’s game developed.

In the early 1870 two versions of hockey were developing, one played by Blackheath with teams of 15 a-side using a black cube of solid rubber as the ball and the other played by Teddington Cricket Club, using a cricket ball as the ball.[2]

On 18 January 1886 six clubs, Teddington, Surbiton, Wimbledon, Ealing (later Mid Surrey), Molesey and Trinity College, Cambridge met at the Holborn Restaurant and formed the Hockey Association (H.A.). This became the men’s governing body. Blackheath attended but could not persuade the other clubs to play their form of the game and they formed a Hockey Union with ten other clubs in 1887 which was dissolved in March 1895 with the Union clubs switching to the Association game.[3]

In the women’s game Marjorie Pollard, in her booklet Fifty Years of Women’s Hockey records that some form of hockey was being played at Oxford University around 1887. It was played with plain ash sticks and a string covered ball. Cambridge took up the game with the Newnham College Hockey Club being formed in 1890.

In Ireland the game was popular and the Irish Ladies’ Hockey Union was formed in 1894. During the Christmas holidays of 1894–5, The Alexandra College, Dublin invited the Cambridge ladies to Ireland to play a series of matches. The English ladies returned with the intention of forming their own Association and after an international match of sorts on April 10 they elected some officers. However, it was not until November 23, 1895, the first meeting of the Ladies’ Hockey Association was held. In September 1896, the word Ladies was replaced with Women’s and the title ‘The All England Women’s Hockey Association (A.E.W.H.A.) was adopted.[4]

The ladies tried to join the men’s association, but they were informed by the hon secretary, Mr Stanley Christopherson that ‘The Hockey Association had been formed entirely in the interests of men’s clubs and that it could not officially recognise the existence of the new association’.[5] The refusal of the Hockey Association to allow the ladies to join led them to decide not to allow men to serve on their committees, a belief that they stuck to for many years and one that was to impact on the ladies’ leagues that were soon to form. However, despite their differences, both associations were against playing in leagues and for cups. They believed in playing for the love of the sport. These friendly games were often arranged during the week when many people were working, restricting the number of people who could play. The hockey clubs formed were private clubs with membership fees which many could not afford and so in some areas of the country the number of hockey players was restricted.

In 1910, though, things in the ladies’ hockey world changed when the first ladies’ hockey league was formed in Manchester. The league seems to have been known by a few different names. The Lancashire and Cheshire Ladies Hockey League, Manchester and District Ladies Hockey League and the Ladies Hockey League are three of the titles I have seen. In the first season there were enough teams to form two leagues. The first division consisted of the following teams; Leigh, St Margaret’s, Levenshulme, Saddleworth, Ashton, Urmston, Oldham, Clarendon, Clifton and Withington and in the second division teams from Holyrood, Leigh, Ashton, Dukinfield, Gorton, Levenshulme, Coldhurst, Oldham, Withington and Clifton competed.[6]

At the end of the season a presentation evening was held, a feature that became popular with women’s leagues. The Leigh Chronicle reported on the night:

The Ladies Hockey League has many enthusiastic members, and at their first gala, held at Belle Vue on Saturday, there were 1,500 spectators, mostly ladies. The League was formed at the beginning of this season by way of dissenting from the policy of the All England Women’s Hockey Association, which is governed practically from the South of England. The new body is the only hockey league in existence, and despite the fact that in all other games prizes and trophies are played for the A.E.W.H.A. debarred from membership all clubs which have joined the League. This drastic procedure has, however, in no way deferred its progress, and the movement has spread over Lancashire, Yorkshire and Cheshire. During the last season 20 clubs, comprising 600 members, entered the competition and for next season sufficient applications have been received to form another division.[7]

The article highlights one of the main issues the leagues were to face. The A.E.W.H.A, initially barred the clubs that joined the league from membership. The relationship between the Association and the leagues was a difficult one from the start and it eventually led to the setting up of a second Association, who would help to support the leagues. Leigh were the first league champions and retained the title the following year.

The Leagues’ first season had been a success, despite the A.E.W.H.A., and it continued to flourish. As yet it has not been possible to determine how long the league was in existence, but it was the springboard that saw the introduction of leagues in women’s hockey. There was a second league in Manchester, known as the Manchester Sunday School League, but not much is known about this league, although we know in the 1937–1938 season both leagues played in the Northern Counties tournament, held at Scarborough.[8] Other leagues followed and currently there is evidence for twenty-two leagues in England, three leagues in Ireland and two in Scotland. Many of the leagues were in the industrial towns of South Lancashire, although, there were leagues in Yorkshire and the Midlands. I have chosen a few of these leagues to show how they were formed and how they developed.

1915 Bolton Sunday School Social League

In 1890, the Bolton Working Lads Club was formed with the aim ‘to provide healthy and natural exercise and amusement for the working lad’. By April 1894 it had become the Bolton Sunday School Social League, which is still in existence and is known as the Bolton Sports Federation. The ladies’ hockey league was not one of the original members, but in March 1914 an article appeared in the local sports newspaper, The Buff, which reported on a meeting at Cheadles Restaurant where the Chairman of the Manchester league spoke,

He said skirts must be 8/10 inches from the ground/goalkeepers to have cricket pads, others ankle guards/plain skirts looked better. Football rules apply.[9]

Figure. 1. The first Bolton Sunday School Social League Champions
Fletcher Street Wesleyans 1915 – 1916.

This led to the Bolton Sunday School Social Ladies Hockey League being formed in 1915 and to them joining the Bolton Sunday School Social League. In the first season there were six teams, all from Church groups, like many other sports teams of the age. The league had 112 players signed on. The chair of the section and the secretary were both men, which as we have seen, the A.E.W.H.A. was not in favour of. Fletcher Street Wesleyans were the first Champions and in 1922 a Welfare section was formed enabling mill girls to participate in league hockey.[10] The league is still in existence today and is the oldest surviving ladies hockey league in the country.

1917 Liverpool

A league was formed in Liverpool but there is some confusion as to whether it was formed in 1917 or 1918. Evidence from The Lancashire Daily Post, January 25th, 1939, indicates the date the Liverpool Ladies League was formed was 1917 as their hockey correspondent spoke to a long-standing player and administrator, Miss Seddon, about the long services of hockey players and she told the correspondent,

…she was elected first match secretary of the Liverpool League when it was formed in 1917.[11]

The Liverpool Echo though in an article in 1948 refers to ‘The Liverpool Ladies Hockey League, which was formed in 1918’.[12]

There may be some discussion about when the league was first formed, however, what is not in doubt as the Liverpool Echo’s correspondent ‘Onlooker’ in April 1927 reported is:

…the eighty–odd clubs now playing under league auspices would ever be able to find regular bookings by themselves…the fact that the league is in existence has provided the incentive for the formation of new clubs who would certainly not have seen the light of Saturday afternoon otherwise. So, we can at least owe, to this big Liverpool Ladies Hockey League, the credit for increasing the personnel of the code a hundredfold.[13]

The league continued to develop and during the late 1930’s had eight leagues. It was to become one of the more important leagues and John Leishman, the secretary of the League for a number of years, was one of the driving forces behind the setting up of a Leagues’ Association.

1919 Farnworth and District Sunday Schools Ladies Hockey League

This was one of the smaller leagues that developed and though it only lasted for ten years it had a big impact in the area. Farnworth is on the outskirts of Bolton and the Farnworth Weekly Journal and Observer, carried weekly reports on the league. On August 23, 1929, however, it reported on the sad demise of the league but indicated what the benefit had been to the ladies of Farnworth:

It will be with much regret many of our readers will learn that the Farnworth Hockey League has ceased to function – at least for the present. A meeting was held during the week, when it was learned that only five Sunday schools could organize teams…They were not enough to run a league and so, although, the district has half-a-dozen other clubs functioning, it will for the time being take second place to other localities. The League…has done a great deal to encourage cleanliness in sport and given the girls an opportunity for exercise.[14]

It is not surprising the league only lasted for ten years as there were bigger leagues close by, including Bolton, which several teams joined after the leagues demise.

1921 Stockport and District

Figure. 2. Stockport and District Ladies Hockey League Championship Cup
Presented to the winners of Division One of the League.

In a letter to the editors of the Stockport Advertiser and the Stockport Express Mr S. Dearden in March 1921 said:

He had watched with pleasure the growing popularity of hockey in Stockport and the surrounding districts, and seeing that we as a town provide so well for all other sports, I shall be glad to enter into correspondence with any persons who are sufficiently interested in the game with a view to promoting a Ladies Hockey League in this district.[15]

A meeting was organized on April 14, 1921, and it was decided to form a league. The league began on 1 October 1921 with thirteen teams from a radius of seven miles of the town centre. The winners of the first league title were Stockport Adult School. In the second season there were two leagues with 670 registered players, an increase of 300 from the first. Cheadle Heath Junior Sports Club were the first division champions and Heaton Chapel St Andrew’s were the second division champions.[16] It is believed the league continued until 2007 when the remaining teams joined together to form one club bringing the league to an end.

1930 Leyland and District Ladies Hockey League

The Leyland and District Ladies League was formed in 1930 but by 1932 it had become the Lancashire Central Ladies Hockey League. This league is still in existence. The league was forward looking and keen to improve the standard of play. In 1938 they looked at a coaching scheme involving the umpires, mainly men, acting as coaches. The Bolton League had a similar scheme and the idea was that the league would arrange supplementary games for players who were not picked for their team on Saturday and new players who would like to take up the game, where they would receive coaching from the umpires.[17]It is not known how successful this scheme was and whether it was actually put in place. It would be interesting to ask today’s umpires, players and clubs what they thought about the scheme. Would it attract more players into the game? Would it improve the standard of play?

As with other leagues presentation evenings were an event to look forward to. The 1941 evening was no exception,

…the Lancashire Central Women’s Hockey League trophies were presented at the annual dance at…Over 300 attended and a competition for 100 cigarettes raised £5 for the Red Cross.[18]

I am not sure if a raffle for 100 cigarettes would feature at any hockey presentation evening now! However, with over 300 guests it does show that these evenings were popular and an important part of the league calendar. Other Lancashire Leagues were formed including; Middleton and District Sunday Scholl Ladies Hockey League, Rochdale and District Ladies Hockey League, Wigan and District Hockey League, Leigh and District Ladies Hockey League, Bury and Radcliffe Ladies League, and Swinton and Pendlebury Ladies Hockey League.

Sheffield Ladies League – formed in 1919

The Yorkshire Post in June 2012 indicates when and how the Sheffield Ladies League was initially formed:

The Sheffield and District Women’s Hockey Association was founded from ‘lowly beginnings’ in 1919, when 10 hockey teams met in the corner of the hockey pitch at High Storrs Grammar School in Bents Green, Sheffield and decided to begin competing against each other.[19]

In 1922, the league changed its name to become the Sheffield and District Women’s Hockey Association. It is not clear why League was replaced with Association, perhaps it was to please the A.E.W.H.A., as the Sheffield League arranged matches with Lancashire, Nottinghamshire, Lincolnshire and Derbyshire county elevens as well as matches with the Bradford and Leeds leagues.[20] There is also evidence for leagues in Leeds, Bradford, Hull, North Tyneside, Birmingham and Leicestershire.

The league system did not work for everyone though, as a report in the Sports Special (‘Green ‘UN’) in 1920 points out. Their correspondent ‘Sticks’ notes that,

at the last meeting of the North Lindsey Hockey League Committee, it was decided to alter the constitution of the body to that of an Association, thereby dropping a league table…The committee…are also taking the initial steps towards the resuscitation of the Lincolnshire County Association.[21]

The new leagues consisted of a variety of teams. There were church teams and a number of the early leagues contain the title ‘Sunday Schools Ladies Hockey League’. Works based teams were encouraged to join the leagues and the Bolton League had separate divisions, a Sunday School league and a Welfare or works league. This was in part as a result of a drive to raise moral during and after the First World War when many of the munitions factories and the other factories where women were being employed, had welfare officers coming in to encourage the setting up of sports teams. Dick Kerr’s, for example, who played in the Central Lancashire League, were a successful hockey team but had a much more famous ladies football team. Schools were another source for teams. Girls had played hockey at school and wished to continue playing after leaving. The opportunities to join the established A.E.W.H.A. teams may not have been an option and so they formed their own school teams with ex-pupils and some current pupils playing.

There were other areas interested in setting up leagues although evidence to confirm their existence has not been found. In Burnley an article by ‘a Lady Contributor’ featured in The Burnley News on November 22, 1919,

The Charlon Ladies’ Hockey Club, which is being well supported, is now in its third season, and is still progressing. Already many matches are booked for this season, the match today (Saturday) being against the Bacup and Rawtenstall Secondary School. Perhaps in the near future one may see the formation of a Burnley Ladies’ Hockey League. Why not?[22]

In Coventry, The Midland Daily Telegraph in 1921 published a letter from the captain of Daimler Hockey Club:

Ladies Hockey League. Sir, – I was very pleased to see ‘Enthusiast’s’ letter in your Monday evening’s edition, which I am sure voiced the feelings of many ladies playing hockey in this district. If only a few keen ladies and gentleman could be brought together and a suitable person found with the necessary interest and ability to act as secretary, the success of such a league is almost assured. Already there is a sufficient nucleus for a ‘works league’ in the ladies’ teams already playing, as the published results in your Saturday night’s edition testify. In addition, there are many ladies playing in ‘mixed’ teams who might be induced to run ladies’ teams in connection with their offices and works with profit to themselves and other players of less ability. I trust as the results of this correspondence, something may be done in this way to foster outdoor sports of a suitable nature among the ladies of this city, and thus fill a long-felt need.[23]

Cup competitions

The A.E.L.H.A. was not only against teams playing in leagues, they did not want them playing in cup competitions. However, in these newly forming leagues, cup competitions became a major part of the season:

The Liverpool League compete for Messrs Lewis’s Cup in the Senior Section, the Diamine Cup in the Intermediate Section and the Mrs. Arthur Moore’s Cup in the Junior Section. The Bolton League compete for the J.F. Steele Cup in the ‘A’ Section, the Davenport Cup in the ‘B’ and a trophy presented for the newly formed ‘C’ Section. The Stockport League have their Senior and Junior Flags. The Lancashire Central League the Douglas Cup, the Wigan League the Swift Cup, the Leigh and District League the Arthur Crooke Shield and the Bury League the Rose Bowl competition.[24]

There were cups in other leagues; the Rochdale League played for the Turner Cup and the Kershaw Cup and the Sheffield League had the Sheffield Challenge Cup in which the first division teams were exempt. The Farnworth and District Sunday Schools Ladies Hockey competed for the Mitton Challenge Shield and I mention this Shield as it has recently been rediscovered after years of been hidden in a loft. The Bolton League were celebrating their centenary year and placed an advert in the local paper for items to help them celebrate the anniversary. One of the items they were offered was a shield which turned out to be the Mitton Challenge Shield. They took possession of it and, through the League Chair, I became aware of the Shield and began looking into its history.

The Farnworth Weekly Journal and Observer (‘The Journal’), reported on the league and from these reports I was able to uncover the history of the competition. It only lasted for six years beginning in 1924 and finishing when the league disbanded in 1929. Hollands School were the most successful team winning the Shield on four occasions 1924, 1927, 1928 and 1929.

Figure. 3. The Mitton Challenge Shield
(The Hockey Museum, Woking)

In the first year of the competition, Hollands School and Walkden St. Paul’s, made the final. The match was played at Hill Top, the ground of one of the other league teams, Wesley Hall. Both teams were well supported, and a record crowd turned out to watch what was to become a controversial final. The Journal carried a report of the game, which after 70 minutes had finished 1 – 1.

It was at this stage there was a dramatic turn of events which changed a splendidly fought contest into a complete fiasco. The rules governing the competition state that ‘failing a definite result being arrived at the end of the usual seventy minutes’ play, twenty minutes extra time must be played’. It was the extra time Walkden St. Paul’s refused to play. The referee whistled for the commencement of the extra period, but Walkden would not toe the line with the result that the referee again blew his whistle, Holland’s went away, scored a goal, and in this way became the first holders of the Shield.[25]

The game caused some controversy and The Journal received several letters about the match. A representative of Walkden St. Paul’s, J. Twist, wrote to the paper providing an explanation for the action of the team. He explained that the decision was taken by the club’s officials and that they had no intention of breaking the rules and he was not sure they had as he claimed there was no rules about extra time:

We considered that having played a game of so vigorous a nature, we had no right to expect them to continue further. I take it that in fostering games for our girls we are out for recreation which means re-creation – the art of recreating, amusing, or refreshing spirits or strength after toil. If we are going to ask them to overtax their physical powers, then we fail in our object, as they are thereby rendered less capable of fulfilling their other duties in life. I think all fair-minded people would agree that the physical powers of the female are not the equal of the male, and as many of the players were showing signs of distress in the interests of true sport we called ‘enough’.[26]

The explanation expresses a view of women’s sport that was widely held at the time. What current women players would think of the views expressed would be interesting to find out. There is no comment about what the members of the team thought about the decision, if in fact they were even asked.

The English Ladies Hockey Leagues Association.

Leagues were now successfully established and flourishing in the North. Was hockey going to go the same way as rugby and divide into two codes? The formation of the leagues had brought a problem for the ladies’ hockey hierarchy, the A.E.W.H.A. They were against leagues and cup competitions, although strangely enough, they were happy for university teams and school teams to play some forms of competitive hockey. They initially refused to allow membership to the teams who had joined the Manchester League and for a number of years discussion and debate about how to deal with the league teams ensued. The Association eventually allowed some league teams to join but the relationship was never a happy one. We know some leagues were affiliated to county associations and their league teams were regarded as ‘counties’ and could compete as counties in competitions.[27] However, some of the leagues wanted to have more control and eventually they formed a second association, the English Ladies Hockey Leagues Association (E.L.H.L.A.) in 1932. The Liverpool League was one of the main movers in the development of this new Association and their secretary John Leishman, was one of the main supporters.

Their main objective, as noted in the Lancashire Daily Post, in 1933 was ‘the organization of competitive games in which no distinction, save that of excellence in the field, can aid the player who is desirous of gaining the game’s highest honours’.[28] The Sports Special (‘Green Un’) named the leagues who joined the new Association, Liverpool, Manchester Sunday School, Lancashire Central, Stockport and Middleton and made the point,

All these, it will be noted, are in South Lancashire, so that the title, to say the least, is a trifle misleading.[29]

This was true, and despite its aims, the Association could never attract leagues outside Lancashire and Cheshire to join. Why this was so is not known and requires further research. The article lists what the new Association was hoping to offer to the leagues who joined,

The programme, as set forth in the last general meeting, provides for an Easter Tournament and also a competition for an English Cup, while an international game against an Irish team was mooted…’[30]

Easter tournament

Was the Association able to deliver on what it had set out? The first Easter tournament was held in Manchester in 1933 and was for league clubs. The tournament was to be over two days and teams from leagues in Manchester, Stockport, Liverpool and the Lancashire Central League entered A trophy had been donated by Sir Benjamin Johnson and Balshaw’s, Diamond, Pemberton, Bramhall and Leigh, all prominent teams in their respective leagues entered.[31] However, the format of the tournament changed and teams containing the best players in the leagues, chosen by league committees, competed as league teams for the E.C. Caley Trophy. Exactly why and when it changed is not known. When the E.L.H.L.A. disbanded in the early sixties, the trophy was given to the Lancashire Central League who still play for it. E.C. Caley was the first President of the E.L.H.L.A. and so it is possible the trophy was renamed in her honour or she donated it.

The English Cup

The English Cup was introduced in 1934 and teams in the different leagues affiliated to the Association played against each other. An article in The Lancashire Daily Post confirmed where the Cup originated.

The draw for the first round of the English Hockey Cup to be played on November 6th takes place tonight. The competition is played under the auspices of the English Ladies Hockey League Association to whom the cup was presented in 1934 by Mr. Frederick Johnson of Liverpool. Leyland Motors were the first winners beating Liverpool Olympic in the final as they did the following year. The present holders are Stockport.[32]

Little was known about the Cup and in fact the Hockey Museum, when they received an enquiry about it in 2015, doubted its existence. The enquiry had been sent by Alan Lancaster who had two pictures, one a team photograph, which Alan thought was Newhey Ladies Hockey team. One of the players was holding a cup, which was believed to be the English Cup. In the photograph were his mother Doreen Howles and her two sisters, Vera and June. The second photograph was of the three sisters with the Cup.

Enquires revealed that Newhey had won the Cup in the 1950-1951 season defeating Poynton in the final 1–0 with Vera Simpson, one of Alan’s aunts scoring the winning goal in the first half. A report in the Rochdale Observer states the match was ‘played almost entirely in hail and rainstorms’ but declares that Newhey were ‘worthy winners of a very hard game’. It also hints that the Association were struggling for money as, although the cup was presented by the Association’s treasurer, Mr W. Wood, ‘the finances of the Association do not allow them to give medals’.[33] One of the most successful teams was Leyland Motors, from the Central Lancashire League, who won the Cup on at least eight occasions. Cheadle Heath were another successful side winning the Cup on at least three occasions and finishing runners up on two.

It is believed the tournament ended in the early sixties when the E.L.H.L.A. disbanded. Recently, though, the granddaughter of John Lishman, Ailna Martin, has found new information indicating that the Cup was given to the Central Lancashire League and was renamed the Lishman Cup in recognition of the work her grandfather did for women’s league hockey. Although the original Cup has been replaced with a new Cup it is still being played for by teams in the Central Lancashire League. A history of the Cup is held at the Hockey Museum in Woking.

International matches

The third aim for the Association was to provide international matches and as with the other two they delivered. The initial plan was to play Ireland as reported in the Lancashire Daily Post,

The honorary secretary Mr. John Lishman reported that negotiations were going forward to arrange an international match between this association and Ireland during the season 1932–33.[34]

However, these negotiations fell through, although games were later arranged with Ireland, and the first ‘international match’ was a match against Scotland which was played in Glasgow on March 4, 1933 with England winning 2–1. These international matches continued during the 1930’s. Team selection could sometimes cause debate. In 1937, at the end of the tournament for the E.S. Caley Trophy, the Central Lancashire team, who had won, played the England team chosen to play against Scotland and defeated them 1–0.[35] In 1939, England faced Scotland at Cheadle Heath Sports Ground. They had already defeated Northern Ireland 7–0 on Easter Monday and five days later they defeated Scotland 4–1 and as The Stockport Express reported were presented with a trophy which had been donated by ‘Mrs. A Moores, of Liverpool, to be competed for by the Irish Union, Scottish and English Leagues’.[36]

It appears that after the start of the Second World War these games were suspended and replaced with games between an English Leagues team and The Rest team in aid of the British Red Cross. I have come across evidence for games in 1940 and 1944. At the present time it is unclear if the international matches continued after the War. How these international matches were viewed by others within the ladies game is not known. We do know that playing in goal for the English League team was Mary Tattlock, who went on to play for the A.E.W.H.A. and have a very distinguished career. She started playing in goal for St. Matthews, and then Francis St. Farnworth, both teams in the Bolton League. She then moved to Prestwich in the Manchester League and played her first international against Scotland on March 13th 1954 at Wembley. She gained 44 caps conceding less than a dozen goal.[37] The new Association had managed to achieve three of its main aims. The Association continued into the early sixties when it disbanded. Why and exactly when this happened is yet to be uncovered.

Inter-League games

Inter League games were to become an important part of ladies league hockey. Some of the earliest inter-league games were between Manchester and Sheffield and Sheffield and Bradford. The games were popular, and teams were chosen by the league committees with a number of leagues putting out second elevens. In 1939, a match between Bolton and Bury at the Eagley Mills ground in Bolton attracted over 300 spectators. A report on the match in the Liverpool Daily Post also notes the involvement of the E.L.H.L.A.,

Always an attractive fixture, Saturday’s game was the first time the two Leagues had met under the auspices of the English Ladies’ Hockey Leagues’ Association.[38]

It is clear that the E.L.H.L.A. worked hard to develop league hockey and it is only really now that its importance is beginning to be understood. The relationship it had with the A.E.W.H.A. is fascinating and gives an insight into twentieth-century values. I have tried to provide an introduction into how ladies league hockey developed and some of the problems it faced but there is still a lot to uncover about how the leagues influenced the game. Eventually, I hope to be able to tell the full story of the impact they had on women’s hockey and highlight some of the figures who were responsible for encouraging many women to play a game they may otherwise never have played.




[1] Jo Halpin ‘Thus far and no farther’: the rise of women’s hockey leagues in England from 1910 to 1939, Sport in History, 37:2, 146-163, DOI: 10.1080/17460263.2017.1318089

[2] M. K. Howells, A Centenary of Modern Hockey 1871 – 1971’, 7 – 9

[3] Howells, A Centenary of Modern Hockey, 17.

[4] Marjorie Pollard, Fifty Years of Women’s Hockey (St Christopher Press Ltd, 1946), 5 – 6

[5] Pollard, Fifty Years of Women’s Hockey, 6.

[6] ‘Ladies’ Hockey League’, The Chronicle, February 17, 1911, 7.

[7] ‘Ladies’ Hockey’, The Chronicle, April 7, 1911, 2.

[8] ‘Ladies Hockey, Plans For Scarboro’ Tournament’, Sports Special (‘Green Un’), December 18, 1937, 3.

[9] Bolton Sports Federation Ladies Hockey League Centenary Booklet, 10.

[10] Bolton Sports Federation Centenary Booklet.

[11] ‘Hockey Notes’, The Lancashire Daily Post, January 25, 1939, 9.

[12] ‘Ladies Hockey League’, The Liverpool Echo, August 17, 1948, 3.

[13] ‘The Hockey Outlook’, Liverpool Football Echo, April 23, 1927, 7.

[14] The Farnworth Weekly Journal and Observer, August 23, 1929.

[15] Stockport District Hockey League Hockey Record (Seasons 1921-2, 1922-3), 2.

[16] Stockport District Hockey League Hockey Record (Seasons 1921-2, 1922-3), 7–11.

[17] ‘Hockey Notes’, The Lancashire Daily Post, December 28, 1938, 2.

[18] ‘Women’s Hockey’, The Lancashire Daily Post, April 26, 1941, 3.

[19] The Yorkshire Post, June 15, 2012, page unknown.

[20] ‘Sports and Pastimes’, The Sheffield Daily Telegraph, Wednesday, September 27, 1922, 8.

[21] The Hockey Field, ‘By Sticks’, Sports Special (‘Green ‘UN’), Saturday, October 9, 1920 6.

[22] Local Hockey Notes, The Burnley News, November 22, 1919, 5.

[23] The Midland Daily Telegraph, March 16, 1921, page unknown.

[24] ‘Hockey Notes’, Lancashire Daily Post, January 11, 1939, 9.

[25] Farnworth Hockey League Challenge Shield Fiasco, The Farnworth Weekly Journal and Observer May 2, 1924

[26] ‘The Hockey Final’, Farnworth Weekly Journal and Observer, May 9, 1924.

[27] ‘On the Hockey Field, Looking After The Women’s League Interests; A New Association’, The Liverpool Echo, March 19, 1932, 7.

[28] ‘Women’s Hockey’, The Lancashire Daily Post, 23 February 1933, 11.

[29] ‘In the Women’s Hockey World, Sports Special’, (‘Green Un’), Saturday, October 22, 1932, 6.

[30] Ibid

[31] ‘Women Who Play Many Parts Prominent Players’, The Lancashire Daily Post, April 6, 1933 p10

[32] ‘Hockey Notes’, The Lancashire Daily Post, October 20, 1937, 9

[33] ‘Ladies Hockey, English Cup comes to Newhey’, The Rochdale Observer, April 11, 1951.

[34] ‘English Ladies Hockey’, The Lancashire Daily Post, July 11, 1932.

[35] ‘Hockey Notes’, The Lancashire Daily Post, April 7, 1937, 9.

[36] ‘International Women’s Hockey in Stockport’, Stockport Express, April 20, 1939.

[37] Bolton Sports Federation Ladies Hockey League Centenary Booklet, 11.

[38] ‘Women’s Hockey Notes’, Liverpool Daily Post, January 25, 1939, 11.