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Information about the Bedford Physical Education Archive

The Bedford Old Students Physical Education Association, in conjunction with University of Bedfordshire, are the custodians of an archive consisting of memorabilia bequeathed to us by the students of Bedford College of Physical Training (which later became Bedford College of Physical Education). The Archive is a wonderful place to visit for any researcher or student interested in women’s sporting and social history.

The memorabilia, dating back to 1903, consists of old film, photograph albums, cassette tapes of old students talking, uniforms, dance, gym and PE kits through the ages as well as immaculately maintained records of syllabi and curriculum. They provide a unique insight into the development of women’s Physical Education, women’s sport and provide important information about social conditions and history during the twentieth century.

The founder of the College at Bedford, Margaret Stansfeld, is a figure of national importance and the archive clearly shows the part played by women PE teachers in front line delivery of combating illness, promoting good health and well being in children via Physical Education. Bedford College of PE produced teachers of sports and PE who, in many instances, were competitors of international standing themselves.

The archive is an important resource for ‘A’ level students, as well as current students and international researchers. We are keen to provide access to this wonderful resource, so please contact us if you would like to visit or if we can assist your research in any way.


Archive News 2013

The making of the Bedford Physical Training College DVD during World Wars.

CLICK HERE for the digital diary of the making of the DVD Bedford Physical Training College During world wars One and Two.Copies of the DVD are available from Steph Daniels by email.

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We've moved

The most important news is the archive has moved! You can find us in H Block room 0.04. It has taken a long time to move all our items and unpack in the new Space. We still have a way to go, decisions have to be made about pictures and photos to hang on a limited wall space. We have re-used the old book shelves from the Library and now have plenty of book and documents space. All valuable documents are stored in a cool storage room and their cataloguing continues. At some time in the future we hope to have an open afternoon for you to come and see us.

Planned visitors – year 13 students from Queensbury Academy studying OCR 'A' level physical education will be visiting archive in December. Aspects of their syllabus the archive is able to address include women pioneers in physical education, the early curriculum, 1919 and 1933 syllabi and the 1950's 'Moving and Growing' and 'Planning the Programme' schemes.

A researcher from the National Hockey Museum is interested in coming here to study the development of the women's game in England. We have many hockey photos dating from 1903 and many of the early hockey Internationals came from Bedford.

BLARS - the Archive Director took a variety of archival items for display to BLARS (Bedford and Luton Archive and Resource Services) at Bedford Borough Hall during National Archive week .

The Heritage Lottery Project 'Bedford PT Students during WW1 and WW2' is developing. The DVD is almost completed, a WW1 poem has been written and a dance inspired by the poem is currently being created by Dance Lecturer, Maggie Killingbeck, with a group of university students. If you haven't booked your place for this event it is not too late, but please get in touch by October 31st . Just to remind you of the date: Sunday December 1st 2.30 at the Theatre, Polhill Campus, Bedford.

University Sport and PE students are starting to use the archive for their dissertations and research projects – but we welcome students from anywhere if they need to see a working archive or learn more about social history, women's history or significant people. We have audio interviews of former students, CDs DVD's and lots of photos for students to browse through.


Archive News 2012

Significant Former Students and Staff

A few members have started to write biographies of significant former students. So far we have completed: Veronica Sherbourne (Tyndale Biscoe), Margaret Boyd, Geraldine Stephenson, Olive Andrews, Phyllis Colson, Lorna Wilson, Marion Squire, Eileen Alexander and Phyl Allinson. Contributions are most welcome to add to this collection. Anita Tedder is also completing a recording project of interviews with former significant students focusing mainly on students through 60s-80s, building on Sheila Fletcher's earlier recordings and enhancing our understanding of a time of great change in our history

Phototographic Competition

I often wondered why we had so many wonderful photos in our albums. The invention by the Kodak Company of the Brownie Box Camera at the turn of the twentieth century had appeared to enable our earliest students to start a tradition of photography. However, I recently read in some early magazines that there were often college photographic evenings and competitions. In 1938 two lecturers, Miss Read and Miss Goodrich, organised one for the 'best picture of motion':

'We have had one or two business-like photographic evenings, when the new- room has resembled a film studio with little boxes and other suitable apparatus used for tripods. The result of these photographic evenings have been quite successful in some cases, and we have managed to get some indoor photographs for our albums. The photographic competition was held for the first time this year and although we would have liked more entries standard was high. First place was shared by Miss Tod and Diana Mellor with two excellent photos. Miss Rowlett has very kindly offered a prize valued £1 for next year, which we hope will stimulate a lot of interesting entries.'

These photos have proved to be a long lasting invaluable resource. I cannot offer a photographic evening but I send out to all of you another challenge. Let's have a photograph competition, the subject being 'Movement'. I will give a prize for the best entry and will publish the best in the next Report.

I like to finish my news with a few items of interest that I have come across, mostly from early reports :

How times have changed !

1934 Audrey Moore, Tanganyika Province, extract from a letter about students' news: 'I have just shot my first crocodile and recently shot a lion (not one of our pets) so I am quite 'blooded.'

1945 To improve the comfort of the next group of students in a practical way, Hilary Corlett's leaving set made a present of a bicycle foot pump and in 1946 P. Pedley's set gave two ironing boards.

1951 Proposal: 'Students should be allowed to wash college blouses.' This was passed but ... 'pyjamas and handkerchiefs however must be washed in college and special permission must be received before washing cotton dresses.'

1958 Jane Morgan won the Women's Squash Championships for the ninth time in succession in what must be one of the shortest finals of these championships – she defeated her opponent in 23 minutes and was said to be 'playing better than ever.' Does anyone know what happened to Jane?

2011 Overheard in the College Archive, a student asked 'Did the students in the 1920's have to do lesson plans and did they use computers?'

Visitor to College

We have always had many important visitors from all walks of life at College and, in light of Sir Patrick Moore's death in December 2012, I would like to remind you that as plain Mr. Patrick Moore, F.R.A.S., he paid us a visit and gave a lecture in 1958 on 'Mars.' Is there anyone who attended it?

College Colours

There are a number of clothing items in the archive with the college colours sewn on - blue and yellow. It was decided to abolish College Colours in 1953/4 as it was felt that the honour of playing in a College Team should be sufficient. Does anyone know why the current teams play in red? Should we start a campaign to go back to our original colours? How did you feel when you no longer got your colours?

Do check out the Archive University website, no pass word required. Please feel free to visit us or help by purchasing our postcards, notelets, cards and books and if you would like to help with the DVD War project get in touch. This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Stephanie Daniels, Archive Director


A Treasure Trove

The Physical Education Archive at the University of Bedfordshire was a little known treasure trove – until the Olympics. Simon Wesson popped along to find out what this Aladdin's Cave contained.

An almost hidden gem within the University of Bedfordshire hit the limelight recently when television crews arrived to film the Bedford Physical Education Archive.

Archive Director, Stephanie Daniels, was interviewed on Clare Balding's BBC documentary; the history of women in sport and the Olympics and appeared on Anglia TV as part of its cover on the number of British women who won medals at the London 2012 games.

The Bedford Physical Education Archive, in Room 0.02, Block A, at the Bedford Campus of the University - originally known as the Bedford Physical Training College - charts the history locally, nationally and internationally of women's role in sport from as far back as 1903.

Its setting is not exactly glamorous, but within a room probably no bigger than your lounge at home is a place where you could find yourself engrossed for hours.

Its growing collection of memorabilia and documents bequeathed by former students provides a unique insight into the development of women's physical education and sport, and also provides intriguing information about 20th century social history.

Among the collection - including uniforms, kits, old films and photographs, bats, balls and other sporting items - is a story about how important Bedford was in shaping national Physical Education.

It unwinds from the college's founder Margaret Stansfeld - a figure of quite some national importance.

Miss Stansfeld ensured PE was firmly in the school curriculum; enabling women to train as PE teachers, to have a career at a time when traditionally women stayed at home. She also ensured schoolchildren would be fit and healthy.

From reading about Margaret you will be sent on a trail, featuring oral interviews from former staff and students, as well as important admin, syllabi and curriculum documents, all of which reveals how Bedford produced teachers of International-competition standard, and how many significant women trained there.

These include Phyllis Coulson OBE, who is the founder of Central Council for Physical Recreation, Phyllis Spafford OBE, who is the founder of the Keep Fit Association, and Veronica Sherborne, who became internationally known for her work with children with physical, learning and emotional difficulties when she founded Sherborne Movement, as well as Baroness Sue Campbell, Head of UK Sport, Professor Margaret Whitehead, architect of the concept of physical literacy, and Professor Celia Brackenridge, a key figure in safeguarding young sportspeople.

Between 1919, the first archival recording of Internationals, and 1939, when War interrupted play, some 135 full international caps were awarded to our students, in sports including hockey, lacrosse and cricket.

The total of international caps now stands at more than 700!

Combining all the history with a forever-growing archive (information is updated year-on-year) is not only important for the now, but also the future according Stephanie Daniels.

The published member of the International Society of Olympic Historians, well known for her research into women's Olympic history, said: "Students studying at the University, particularly those studying Physical Education, have the Bedford PE legacy as part of your inheritance.

"Ensuring this inheritance turns into Olympic Legacy is key!"

For this reason alone, the Archive is worth dropping by.

For a visit - or to even volunteer - contact Stephanie or Karen Davies, Archivist, on 01234 793257.

The War Project

I have just completed (October 2010) an archive project for the Old Students and the University of Bedfordshire. Entitled 'Big Societies: Bedford Physical Training College, World War One and Two, the research looks at College during the World Wars.

air raid sheltersThe students from World War One (WW1) are no longer with us to tell their stories of training at Bedford during these turbulent times, but using our archive collection and other sources I have tried to draw on some of their experiences and show a little of life in war time Bedford and at College. While many students who studied during World War Two (WW2) have also sadly passed away, I have been fortunate to be able to consult some of those who are still very much with us. I am most grateful for their first hand memories and their reflections of this period.

During 1914, over 30,000 Highlanders were stationed in Bedford, training for the war front. The College gymnasium became a medical room for the soldiers. Miss Stansfeld, our Founder and Principal, along with her her students did what they could to look after those soldiers billeted around Lansdowne Road. Gymnastics and dancing exhibitions were popular with the soldiers, competitive matches were played and even a Highland Games organised.

digging trenchUnfortunately during the Highlanders stay in Bedford there was a measles outbreak and in the first winter (1914-5) several hundred cases were diagnosed. Most of these young soldiers came from remote villages in the Highlands, had never experienced measles before and had no immunity against the disease. Sadly, 65 never made it to the war front and died in Bedford from a 'childhood' disease. 33 are buried in the cemetery here. They are remembered every year on the Sunday before November 11th by the Bedford's Scots' Society and those from Bedford who know about them. Just last Sunday (6th November) fellow Old Student Anita Tedder and I attended a Remembrance service at the Bedford Cemetery in Foster Hill Road to commemorate the Bedford Highland Divisions. We were both lucky enough to accompany Bedford war historian and bagpiper, Richard Galley, as he played a lament in full Highland uniform over the grave of a young Highlander. The chilling sounds, along with November 11th looming, brought the enormity of the experience of both wars very close to home.

firewatchersMiss Stansfeld never forgot 'her' Highlanders and was given a Cairngorm pendant by the mothers of her soldiers as a thank you for all her care and kindness.

There are many, many stories about College and the War. If you live locally, do visit the archive and, if there's enough interest, it may be possible to produce copies of my research for wider reading.