The Hartley family lived in Shipton-Under-Wychwood, West Oxfordshire. There were seven children, 5 boys and 2 girls. Three of the boys, Richard (Dick) born 1884, Ernest, born 1895 and Frank, born 1897, were excellent sportsman excelling in cricket, football and hockey. Bill Williams has conducted research into the family and their sporting achievements and his article ‘Sporting Siblings and Brothers in Arms’ provides an excellent summary of their sporting lives. This article takes a closer look at the hockey careers of Dick, Ernest and Frank in the years just after the First World War.

Hockey at this time received a lot of newspaper coverage and thanks to the British Newspaper Archive Site we are now able to piece together information that helps to tell us about the hockey career of the three brothers. The Oxford Chronicle has been the main source of information on the brothers and The Hockey Museum have also provided details on the international career of Ernest.

In a report in the Oxford Chronicle in 1921, which was focusing on Frank and his football prowess, the hockey achievements of the three brothers are referred to and show how talented they all were,

‘The brothers Hartley are well known in Oxfordshire sporting circles. For many years Dick Hartley has played both cricket and hockey for the county, and Ernest is also a regular member of the Oxfordshire hockey team – and has also played for the South of England – while last summer he gained a place in the county cricket eleven. But to Frank belongs the unique distinction of having played for the county at cricket, hockey and football as well.’ 1  

Three Hartley Brothers ready for Hockey – Ernest, Richard (Dick) and Frank 2

Of the three brothers it was Ernest who was the most successful in the hockey world. Not much is known about the early hockey history of Ernest and it is thought he played very little hockey as a youngster.

We do know, that along with his brothers, he attended Burford School, which was a football school, and it is believed he did not play hockey while at the school. However, it must have been there where he was able to develop his sporting prowess. We know he joined his local club, Wychwood Hockey Club but information about the club is scarce and it is not known when he joined the club or when he left. There are though, articles in the local Oxford paper which show he was playing for Wychwood in 1919. After Wychwood, Ernest joined the Isis Hockey Club in Oxford, although, again little is known about his time there.

Ernest Hartley 3

England Team 1921-1922 4

In September 1914 he joined the Army and during the First World War he was stationed at the Curragh, Ireland. We know while in Ireland he was able to play hockey against the top Irish civilian teams as well as best military teams and it was during this time he developed into a half back. 5

The ‘Hockey World’ on February 8, 1924 featured Ernest on its front page and it outlined his hockey career. It says he first came to prominence in a Southern Trial game at Bromley in 1921.

‘Mr E. Hartley that day performed brilliantly, and many of us enquired, ”Who is that half-back?”

The article went on to say,

‘Mr. Hartley’s exposition at left-half are those of an artist and a stylist. Quick and deft in his stickwork, a reliable tackler, he is fast, recovers rapidly, and covers off an opponent with consummate skill. In fact he is quite facile princeps in making a wing forward, and we have seen him completely check and subdue a sprinting forward by his close attentions and rapidity of movement.’   6

He was chosen to play for the South and played against the East and Midlands, but do not progress further that season. However, the next season, 1922, he gained his first England cap.

His England debut was against Ireland with England winning 3 – 2. 7 In the same year he went on to play in the matches against Wales, which England won 8 – 0, France, winning 16 – 0, a record score at the time for an international hockey match, and Scotland, where England won 7 – 1. 8

Ernest was not the only multi-talented sportsman in the England team at the time. In Ernest’s second match against Wales, Herbert Leo Price who had,

‘Played so brilliantly at centre half against Ireland.’

had to miss the Wales game as he was,

in the English rugby pack against Ireland.’ 9

Like Ernest, Price was also an excellent cricketer and played first class cricket for Oxford University.

The England Team which beat Wales by 5 Goals to 1 in 1923
Standing, Left to right – Chilman, Routley, Miller (Umpire), Stevenson, Kirkaldy, Hartley, Speakman, MacMahon (Umpire)
Sitting, Left to right – Mansergh, Saville, Bennett, Macron, Price   10

In total Ernest played 17 games for England between 1922 and 1926 and captained them on three occasions in 1925,

March 14th v Scotland

March 21 v Ireland

April 4th v France. 10

In those 17 matches the team only suffered one defeat and that was to Ireland in 1924. They scored 111 goals and conceded 23. Table 1 shows a list of the international matches Ernest was involved in.

The English Team v Ireland at Edgbaston, March 21, 1925 12
Standing: R. Lightbody (Scotland, Umpire), Capt. C. J. R. Turner, W. Hunt, J. C. Masterman, F. E.    Nugent, H. J. Still, E. E. Brett, H. G. Nelson (Wales, Umpire)
Sitting: F. C. Harrison, K. G. Chilman, E. Hartley (Capt), A. W. Kirkaldy and G. F. Rowbotham.

In 1923 Ernest married Mrs Winifred Jane Whatley at St Mary’s Church, Fairford, Frank was the best man. Winifred was also a hockey player, having played for her county, Gloucestershire and for the West of England. 13

Ernest and Winfred on their wedding day 14

There were many complementary reports on Ernest’s performances and not just in the local papers.

In the 1924 season in the match against Scotland at Brooklands, Manchester, the Aberdeen Press and Journal reported that 5000 spectators watched the match and complemented Ernest on his performance,

‘Praise must be awarded to the English backs and halves, who were very steady under pressure, and, individually, Price and Hartley played magnificently.’ 15

In 1925 Ernest captained the Oxfordshire hockey team and played alongside his England teammate J. C. Masterman. Masterman was also the president of Oxfordshire County Hockey Association a feat the Oxford Chronicle noted by surmising

‘We should imagine he is the only active playing president of a county association and he occupies the dual position in the legislative chamber and on the actual playing fields entirely on merit.’ 16

On March 21st, 1925 Ernest played in the 4 – 2 win against Ireland at Edgbaston, Birmingham and in The Nottingham Journal, a report on the game said

‘Hartley, Turner and Kirkaldy, were a brilliant half line, and the former the outstanding man of the game.’  17

The Chronicle, also in 1925, noted Ernest had played for Oxfordshire in a match against Oxford University. It notes that a London morning paper had said Ernest had,

‘…played a masterly game at centre-half and kept the Dark Blue forwards well in check.’

The Chronicle goes on to say,

‘Ernest is one of the wonders of the hockey field.’ 18

It is interesting to note that Ernest was not playing in his usually left half position but this did not seem to affect his game.

Table 1 – Ernest Hartley’s International Hockey Caps (The Hockey Museum) 20

In 1930 Ernest suffered a serious head injury playing in a match between the Philistines and the Royal Navel College, Greenwich. He was stuck in the head by a ball and fractured his skull. He was treated in the Seamen’s Hospital, Greenwich and a report in the Sheffield Daily Telegraph said

‘Hartley’s condition is serious, but since an operation, is making slow progress.’  19

Ernest eventually recovered from the injury but it is not known if he ever played hockey after this injury. We do know that he was not put off all sports because he continued to play cricket for Shipton. Ernest died in 1969 aged 74.

What about Dick and Frank and their hockey achievements? Well looking at the newspaper reports it would seem Dick was more successful as a cricketer, while Frank was more successful in his football career. However, they were both talented hockey players and perhaps could have achieved more in the hockey had it not been for their skills in the other sports.

Like Ernest, Dick and Frank both played for Isis although it is difficult to find details of their time with the club.

However, I have found an article in the Oxford Chronicle from 1919 entitled ‘Review of the Isis H.C. season’. It mentions both Dick and Ernest. The report refers to a game between Oxford University and Oxfordshire in which Dick and Ernest were playing for Oxfordshire. It says,

‘….thanks to the brilliant combination of the three inside Isis forwards – J. C. Masterman, Farnell and E. C. Bethune – and the splendid defence of the brothers R. and E. Hartley (from Wychwood) the County won a finely contested game by 2-1.’   21

So in 1919 it appears Dick and Ernest were still playing for their local team, Wychwood Hockey Club, but performances like the one described must have impressed the Isis club and players and one wonders if the brothers were poached or just wanted to play with better players and so took the decision to join Isis.

Gamage’s Hockey Annual and Club Guide for the season 1922 – 23 contained a ‘Who’s Who’. The Oxford Chronicle says it is

‘………… indispensable book of reference for followers of the game’

There are entries for all three brothers, who now all play for Isis,

Ernest –‘…came into considerable prominence by his fine games for England and South last season; is now a great left half.’

Frank who the paper describes as the Oxfordshire County and Isis forward – ‘…played in the Southern trial last season and is a clever forward.’

Dick of Oxfordshire and the Isis is – ‘…. a very good full-back’  22

It is interesting to note that the brothers played in different positions, Dick playing in defence, Ernest in  midfield and Frank as a striker, as he did in his football, and as in his football, a regular goalscorer.

The Oxfordshire Chronicle featured the brothers a lot and in an article in November 1923 it hints at how Frank perhaps regarded his hockey career as second to football.

‘Frank Hartley, with a view to testing the soundness of his knee, had arranged to play one or two hockey matches during the week.’ 23

I am not sure how wise a decision this was as hockey is quite demanding on the knees and I suspect if the hockey ball had hit him on his injured knee he may have not been able to play football for a number of weeks.

However, Frank’s skills as a hockey forward were quite impressive. An article in December the same year reports on an Oxfordshire match against Buckinghamshire in which Frank and Ernest were both playing. Oxfordshire won 5 – 2 and the report says,

‘Frank Hartley played for Oxon, and he and his brother Ernest were in great form. Frank scored three of the five goals,….’  24 

Newspaper reports are often an excellent source, however, they can sometimes be misleading. In an article in the Banbury Guardian in April 1922 celebrating Frank’s call up for the Isthmian League football team it says,

‘…Hartley is also being honoured as a hockey player, and was in the England team that defeated Scotland by 7 – 1 on Saturday and rendered a good account of himself.’ 25

I have struggled to find many references to Dick and his hockey career, although there are plenty about his cricket career. However, Dick was older than his two brothers and as the 1921 article mentioning all three brothers mentions,

‘For many years Dick Hartley has played both cricket and hockey for the county’ 26

It is thought that Dick played for a hockey club in Burford in the early 1900’s and this could have been where Ernest and Frank’s got there first taste of hockey, watching their big brother playing. 27

One hockey related article I did find in relation to Dick, was in The Oxford Chronicle in 1921 and mentions that he played full-back for

‘.. the Whites in the Southern Counties’ Hockey Trial….’ 28

 Unfortunately his team lost 6 – 2 which perhaps was not the best result for a defender.

In a report on the county hockey match between Oxfordshire and Kent in February 1921, won 2 – 0 by Oxfordshire, all three brothers were playing but Dick gets a special mention,

‘……Dick Hartley played a sound game at the back for the winners,……’  

At this time the brothers were still listed as playing for Wychwood. 29

The brothers also played together in the Southern Counties team as in February 1923, The Oxford Chronicle, reports on a game against Oxford University,

‘The full Dark Blues team met the Southern Counties on Wednesday, when the ‘Varsity were in scoring mood and won 6 – 2 .The brothers Dick, Ernest and Frank Hartley played for the South.’ 30

It comes as no great surprise to me that the brothers were both excellent hockey players and excellent cricket players. The link between hockey and cricket goes back to the very origin of the modern game of hockey. In 1871 when looking for something to do in the winter, cricketers at Teddington Cricket Club began hitting the cricket ball around with sticks and it was this that developed into the modern game we know today. As cricket grounds were often ideal surfaces to play hockey on many cricket clubs formed hockey sections and there are many examples of cricketers playing hockey. Now the link is not so close. Artificial surfaces have taken over from grass and not all cricket clubs had the spaces or the finances to build an artificial pitch and hockey and cricket have drifted somewhat apart.

I think what is so interesting about the Hartley brothers is that Dick, Ernest and Frank excelled in a number of sports and were able to play together at such a high level both at hockey and at cricket, The hockey achievements of the three brothers is quite something in itself but when put alongside their other sporting achievements it is something amazing. I am not sure if there is another family who are able to claim such an impressive sporting C.V. Things were different at this time and the First World War had taken so many lives but I suspect that for the residents of Shipton-Under-Wychwood, the Hartley brothers helped to raise morale and were an inspiration to others.

It is time their achievements receive the recognition they deserve.

The Hockey Museum are currently working towards this, as they are in the process of identifying all hockey players who represented firstly, Great Britain, and then England, and presenting ‘caps’ to the players or their families to celebrate their achievements. Although ‘caps’ were awarded to footballers and Frank, gained his full cap playing football for England against France in 1923, Ernest would never receive a cap for his international hockey appearances. The Hockey Association, the governing body of hockey at the time, believed that the ‘playing was reward itself’ and ‘caps’ were never awarded to hockey players.

The Hockey Museum have been able to identify a number of former international players and it is hoped that they will now be able to award Ernest’s family an England hockey ‘cap’ sometime next year, an overdue recognition of his achievements.

The Hockey Museum G.B. ‘caps’ awards at Lee Valley during the Pro League matches June 2022. (31)

The Hockey Museum G.B. ‘cap’ presentation to Michael Walford’s family at The Hockey Museum on 30.06.2022 (32)



Article © Mark Evans – The Hockey Museum Volunteer



  1. The Oxford Chronicle, January 21, 1921 p14
  2. The Bill Williams Collection
  3. Hockey World, Vol. 11. No. 19, February 8, 1924, Front Page
  4. The Bill Williams Collection
  5.  Hockey World, Vol. 11. No. 19, February 8, 1924, Front Page
  1. Hockey World, Vol. 11. No. 19, February 8, 1924, Front Page
  2. Sheffield Daily Telegraph, March 13, 1922 p9
  3. The Sheffield Daily Independent, Monday, April 3, 1922 p3
  4. The Daily News (London), March 14 1922 p9
  5. Western Daily Press, Bristol, March 12, 1923 p3
  6. The Hockey Museum
  7. The Bill Williams Collection
  8. Oxfordshire Weekly News, January 31, 1923 p5
  9. The Daily Mirror, Tuesday, January 30, 1923 p9
  10. Aberdeen Press and Journal, Monday, March 17, 1924 p10
  11. Oxford Chronicle, November 13, 1925 p21
  12. The Nottingham Journal, March 23, 1925 p7
  13. The Oxford Chronicle, November 6, 1925 p20
  14. Sheffield Daily Telegraph, November 27, 1930 p8
  15. The Hockey Museum
  16. The Oxford Chronicle, April 11, 1919 page number unreadable
  17. 22. The Oxford Chronicle, September 29, 1922 p15
  18. The Oxford Chronicle, November 30, 1923 p21
  19. The Oxford Chronicle, December 14, 1923 p21
  20. Banbury Guardian, April 16, 1922 p2
  21. The Oxford Chronicle, January 21, 1921 p14
  22. Information from Bill Williams
  23. The Oxford Chronicle, January 7, 1921, p13
  24. The Oxford Chronicle, February 11, 1921 p15
  25. The Oxford Chronicle, February 16, 1923 p21
  26. The Hockey Museum
  27. The Hockey Museum