The establishment of the Hockey Association (HA) in 1886 was a timely event as the drift away from association football by the middle class had begun and rugby was in turmoil over growing professionalism, brutality, greater working class participation and its loss of its gentlemanly games ethos that had stemmed from the public schools. This scenario was summed by one journalist in 1889:

Every sport has its day of prosperity and fashion. Football is not only played with greater roughness at the present day than it was ten years ago but the good tone and sportsmanlike feeling which were then universal are now in many parts of the country conspicuous by their absence; and it is consequently not surprising that many keen lovers of hard exercise and friendly competition have been looking about for another amusement. The want thus felt seems to have been supplied by the time honoured school game of hockey in at least two centres of the country.[i]

The two centres were suburban London and the affluent suburbs of Liverpool and Manchester.  At the start of the 1889-90 season the HA would have 40 members but many of the new clubs were not yet affiliated. The suburbs of Liverpool and Manchester had hotspots of hockey. The Wirral soon had five clubs: Bebington (1888); Birkenhead Park (1887); New Brighton (1888); New Brighton Wanderers (1888); Oxton (1888) all running two sides and the New Brighton clubs would have three sides by 1893. South Manchester was another hotspot with Kersal (1887) Timperley (1887) Bowdon (1888), Bowdon C & H (1888) Brooklands (1889) Didsbury (1888) Sale (1888) South Manchester (1887) Chorlton cum Hardy (1889) Alderley Edge (1888). By 1890 there were sufficient clubs for Liverpool and Manchester to have their own district associations and leagues.

This sudden explosion of new clubs with their upper middle class and professional memberships would soon be followed by many more in the 1890s who had drifted away from both codes of football. Summer sportsmen such as cricketers, cyclists, (Rhyl 1890, Warrington Royal)  and rowers (Leander, Hereford, Westoe) had found a new winter sport to maintain their fitness and their social interactions provided by membership of a sports club.

The Leander HC Burton upon Trent 1904

The suburban clubs of London, Liverpool and Manchester would be formed by public school old boys and local prominent businessmen. Clergymen could often be found playing in these teams, but they were not always founder members or captains. Whereas in many shire counties clergymen could be found actively involved in the formation of clubs. Hockey’s  development across the country would be led by the Anglican clergy who would facilitate it becoming a national sport. Young Anglican curates were playing the game for themselves. They were often travelling far from their own parishes to play in the new clubs or were helping form clubs in their own or adjacent parishes. Whether worried by middle class secularism and apostasy and or their place in the new industrial society the clergy seized upon hockey as their sport and would be in the vanguard of its development across the country.

The “sporting parsons” who had taken to playing cricket for many a year  would now spend their winters playing hockey rather than football or rugby. Since the 1860s, many within the church were prepared to speak of sporting recreation as clerical responsibility suggesting that it should be one of the duties of every clergymen, if not to actively engage in, at least actively to interest himself in all the games, sports, amusements and the recreations of his parishioners.[ii] Nevertheless, observers from within the Anglican church such as the Dean of Buxton and the Dean of York noted that their athletic clergymen often used their games skills to integrate themselves with the upper classes rather than their lower class parishioners which was reflected in the membership of their newly formed hockey clubs.[iii]

The enthronement of Joseph Barber Lightfoot brought to Durham a bishop who was a Trinity College graduate and considered one of the nineteenth century’s greatest scholars. He set about improving the low standard of the local clergy by inviting a group of Oxbridge graduates to complete their ordination under his supervision and then serve in the local parishes.[iv] The Auckland Brotherhood, as they were known were keen hockey players and would help develop the game in the North East. In 1882 they had been playing with thin sticks and a string ball but soon adopted  the heavier and wider sticks of the southern hockey clubs. These ordinands became Auckland Castle HC and on completion of their ordination could be found playing in their parishes for local clubs such as the Revd M.C.H. Collett (Nondescripts HC), Revd W. M. Davidson (Novacastrians HC) and the Revd A. Bowcock (Coxhoe Hall HC).  The Durham county team of 1896 would see Revd H. Westcott and Revd M. S. Ware playing against Yorkshire. Westcott was the son Bishop Brooke Foss Wescott who had succeeded Joseph Lightfoot after his death in 1889. Revd Martin S. Ware had captained Cambridge University in 1893 and could found playing for Stockton HC alongside the Revd Arthur R. Dolphin (Rossall School & Oriel College Oxford) and Revd Marmaduke. J. G. King (Pembroke Cambridge University).

Auckland Castle HC 1897

The Auckland Brotherhood were not the only hockey playing trainee theologians. The theological colleges such as St David’s Lampeter Wales, St Bees Cumberland, and St. Aidan’s Birkenhead  would each have their own hockey teams. In Yorkshire the Leeds Clergy School, a theological college set up in 1876, could be found thrashing Holbeck Church HC 6-0 in 1899 and being on the receiving end of a 9-2 defeat to them in 1904.[v]

St David’s College, Lampeter, Wales 1910

The first hockey club in the north of England was Farnley United (1879) who became Almondbury United in 1880 and the first Yorkshire club to join the Northern Counties Hockey Association in 1888. Many of the players were past and present King James Grammar School boys including the son of the Vicar of Meltham James L Watson who would  attend Rossall School and would return from Cambridge to set up Armitage Bridge HC (1890). Playing alongside him at Almondbury and for Yorkshire was Harold Brownrigg who would also return from Cambridge becoming the curate at All Saints Halifax. He started Sowerby Bridge HC in 1890 which with the help of local chenille rug mill owner Henry J Homfray became Halifax HC 1891.

Across Yorkshire the clergy were actively founding clubs,  playing and often captaining them. The first practice match at York HC (1895) had three members of the clergy playing including the Revd. E B Firth who would play for Yorkshire in 1896. Wakefield HC (1894) had three clergymen (Revd R. Phipps, Revd S.K. Smith, Revd A.W. Thomas) in the team that lost 3-1 to Bradford in both clubs first season.[vi] Founder members and captains included: Hedon (1894) the Revd John H Richardson with vice-captain Revd Edwin Evers; Holbeck Church HC (1895) the Revd. Herbert J . Glennie; Brighouse Parish Church HC (1896) had the Revd G. Bubb who would be followed by the Revd G. Dangerfield as captain playing alongside the Revd Herbert L. Puxley and the Revd R. Shipman. Ripon HC (1900) would have the Revd Henry F.B. Shuckburgh as founder member and captain playing alongside the Revd Ernest Swann. Of the first ten Yorkshire teams that would be affiliated to the HA it appears that only Bradford HC  did not have a hockey playing clergymen amongst their ranks.

York HC 1897
Revd E. B. Firth appears in the middle row with beard
Source: York HC 1895-1945 p4

Withernsea HC (1901) would be founded and the team captained by the Revd A.E. Hall who was accused of  allowing “unnecessary rough play” by the Hull Newington captain in 1903. Under Hall’s leadership the men’s team had a poor reputation losing most of their games each season though they did beat Hull Old Boys 2nd XI 6-2 a week after the Newington game. At one point, there was even a call in the local newspaper for them to disband due to its poor performances and management and in a Hull Daily Mail theatre review it was stated “the cast in Liberty Hall given at Withernsea on Tuesday were all members of the Withernsea Hockey Club with one exception. They appear to be more successful at amateur theatricals than at hockey.”[vii] Withernsea HC represented the growing Edwardian trend for new clubs to have teams for both men and women and to also play mixed hockey.

Like so many clubs, the clergy and their sons could be found playing hockey whilst many others were officials in their local clubs such as the Revd Dr. Joseph Malet Lambert, Vicar of Newland who was president of Hull’s first club Newland HC (1894) and as a member of the School Board promoted hockey playing in the Hull schools.

In the west of Cheshire  Bebington, Birkenhead Park, Chester, Helsby, Tattenhall Road, would have clergymen founder members whilst nearby Wrexham HC (1896) would have four members of the clergy playing in their first season. Muscular Christianity was alive and well at a grassroots level. The founding committee of Chester HC (1894) epitomises the fact that muscular Christianity was active in the sport. Three were members of the clergy (Revd Arthur J. Jameson (Rossall & Cambridge) vice-captain, Revd James R. Fuller (Clare, Cambridge, Assistant Master King’s School) treasurer, Revd Walter N. Mayne (Cambridge rugby blue 1888), one a member of the aristocracy Capt. A Lawley (later to be Baron Wenlock) and four of the remaining five were ex public schoolboys. Mocatta, Poggi, Brierley and Royle. They were regular attendees at St Marks without Walls Parish Church were the Revd Mayne was the curate and they were members of the local temperance society. Brierley was the church organist who later moved to Eaton Chapel to play for the Duke of Westminster.

The committee members were widely reported in the local press attending church functions, temperance society meetings, amateur dramatics, educational lectures and society charity balls for the local infirmary or other good causes. They were also keen cricketers turning out for either Boughton Hall CC or Saltney CC in the summer. Their social lives were seemingly revolving around church, sport, temperance and musical soirees reflecting the values promoted by muscular Christianity.

Chester’s nearby rivals Wrexham HC (1896) started when the Revd Evan Worthington Powell and former public schoolboy Arthur P. Smith recruited two teams to play each other and start a club. The Revd Powell played in the first international hockey match when Wales met Ireland in 1895 at Rhyl. Wales lost 3-0. Powell was then a member of Oxford University & East Sheen HC. He next appeared for Wales in the 1897 as a Wrexham player in the game against Ireland playing alongside the Revd W.T. Davies founder member of Colwyn Bay HC. Wrexham’s first competitive game with three clergymen in the team was at Grove Park in January 1897 against Tattenhall Road HC captained by its founder member the Revd Charles L. Arnold a Jesus College Cambridge graduate. Tattenhall Road H.C., a village team, had been formed in October 1895 and their greater experience was sufficient to see them run out 4-2 winners.[viii]

Back across the border in rural Shropshire members of the clergy would lead hockey’s development. In the north of the county, Wem HC (1902) had the Revd G.H.F. Vane as president and were led on the pitch by founder member and captain Revd C. D. Rogers. They would be unbeaten in 1904-05 winning 10 of their 11 games, a feat they nearly repeated in 1906 when they lost only once in 15 games. Meanwhile in the south of the county, Church Stretton HC (1899) led by its first president the Revd Charles Noel-Hill and vice-captain Revd Richard P. Dansey would go unbeaten in 1903-4 thanks to the arrival of Westminster School and Pembroke College Cambridge old boy the Revd Frederic Percival Farrar. Son of the archdeacon of Westminster, the Revd F. P. Farrar, who would become Chaplain to both King Edward VII and King George V. Farrar, was travelling some 30 miles across the county from his post as curate at Child’s Ercall to play each week but he soon became a founding member of Market Drayton HC (1904) close to his parish.[ix]

Clergymen were evident elsewhere in the county as founding members Shrewsbury (1900) had three (Revd A.H. Colvile, Revd Merlin Davies, Revd J.E. Evershed) Clun HC (1902) had Revd A. Auden as captain and the Revd H. Mason as vice-captain and Bishop’s Castle HC (1902) had the Revd C. E. Warner and the Revd R.D. Stamer as captain and vice-captain.

Modern hockey may have started in the London suburbs of Middlesex and Surrey and spread to the affluent suburbs of Liverpool and South Manchester, but it would be the clergy who would take the game to the shires and the industrial towns and even to other cities. Birmingham Orientals (1890), the Midland’s largest club and probably the most successful was founded by the Revd Martin J  Hall who played alongside the Revd H.T.G. Kingdom before he left to undertake missionary work in Uganda. Wolverhampton’s Penn fields was founded by the Revd. Richard J Glenn and “a group of disillusioned footballers.”[x]

In London and the southern counties clergymen could be found playing hockey at club and county level but they were less likely to be leading the formation of clubs and captaining them in their first season as there were many experienced public school old boy hockey players who were just as keen to be involved in forming clubs. Nevertheless, the formation of Bedford HC (1892) would be led by Revd Hugh W. Evans (Sidney College, Cambridge) who would captain the 1st XI playing alongside Revd Dr. Poole (vice-president) and the Revd L. Matson.[xi] West Ham HC(1894) had founder member and captain Revd William E. R. Morrow who was ably helped by the Revd Canon R. A. Pelly, vicar of West Ham.[xii] The first meeting to form Tunbridge Wells HC (1898) was presided over by the Revd A. Downes Shaw who was a permanent fixture in the 1st.  XI whilst the Revd Reginald A Bull (Harrow, Trinity Cambridge) was a regular in the 2nd XI.[xiii]

Revd W.E.R. Morrow Founder of West Ham HC
Source: The Hockey & Football Player 25th March 1907

From the Isle of Wight (Cowes HC Revd L. Smith), unfashionable middle class suburbs of London (West Ham HC Revd Richard A Pelly, Revd William E Morrow), the industrial towns and cities of the Midlands and the North, the rural shires to the Scottish borders (Carlisle HC & Cumberland Revd Sidney Swann) the Anglican clergy can be found bringing together the local middle class sportsmen to form hockey clubs

Hockey, like a number of sports, including golf and tennis bears the historical imprint of middle class agency and that its sporting culture was ‘made’ by Oxbridge graduates of both sexes.[xiv] The Anglican clergy had taken the men’s game, popular in Middlesex and Surrey and the affluent suburbs of Liverpool and Manchester across the country creating social clubs mainly for middle class gentlemen making the game a national sport

St Aiden’s Theological College Hockey Team Birkenhead


Article © of James Ormandy

Read Part 2 of Hockey’s Religious Foundations discusses how the Nonconformists Led Hockey’s Downward Social Diffusion by clicking HERE 



Support and help form Mike Smith & Shane Smith of the Hockey Museum Woking


[i] St James Gazette 23rd February 1889

[ii] D. Erdozain The Problem of Pleasure: Sport, Recreation and the Crisis of Victorian Religion (Woodbridge, The Boydell Press 2010) p137

[iii] P. Bailey Leisure and Class in Victorian Britain (London, Routledge, Kegan & Paul 1978) p138

[iv] T. Beeson Priests and Politics: The Church Speaks Out (London SCM Press 2013) p48

[v] Yorkshire Evening Post 4th March 1899 and 26th March 1904

[vi] Bradford Weekly Telegraph 2nd February 1895

[vii] Hull Daily Mail 7th February 1908

[viii] Chester Chronicle 9th January 1897

[ix] Shrewsbury Chronicle 6th May 1904

[x] Birmingham Gazette and Express 26th January 1907

[xi] Bedfordshire Times & Independent 14th October 1893

[xii] The Hockey & Football Player 28th March 1907

[xiii] Kent and Sussex Gazette 18th November 1898

[xiv] John Hugheson The Making of Sporting Cultures (Abingdon, Routledge 2009) p69