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The Hockey Museum (THM) was founded in 2011 to record and preserve the history of hockey in the UK and beyond. Modern field hockey, which developed in England in the 19th century, was the culmination of more than 4,000 years of hockey-type games in which players propelled a ball-shaped object with a club or stick. This is such a natural form of recreation for humans that records of similar games have surfaced in ancient cultures as far apart as Egypt and North America. Meanwhile, artefacts from the later, more standardised versions or the game are even more numerous.

The Development of Modern Hockey

Hockey games have developed in many different directions over the years. It is likely there existed some early precursor to Canadian ice hockey among the tribes of northern Europe, and polo has sometimes been called ‘hockey on horseback’. However, the first recognisable set of field hockey rules dates back to the Book of Sports published in England in 1810, which contained a written synopsis of a game that was once played regularly in British schools. The writer of this account, it seems, had not played the sport since he was at school nearly 30 years prior. Nonetheless, when the first hockey club formed in Blackheath in 1862, the playbook was rather similar.

Following the same pathway as cricket, hockey gained popularity as a club game through the latter half of the 19th century and a men’s league, the Hockey Association, was formed in 1886. The All England Women’s Hockey Association came into being 10 years later. In 1893 a hockey magazine began regular coverage of games and in 1895 the first international game took place between England and Ireland, with England winning 5-0. Men’s hockey made its debut in the Olympics in London in 1908 and England again won, this time taking home a gold medal.

Why a Hockey Museum?

Hockey is still a favourite pastime and competitive sport for school children in the UK. Fiyaz Mughal, a long-time activist against religious extremism, developed his team spirit on the hockey field where he played until he was 18. As an adult, he remains passionate about watching the game and the legacy that THM seeks to preserve.

The museum’s archives include information on all 4,000 English clubs, and museum officials and volunteers are still collecting and registering more. Calls have gone out for photographs and other memorabilia that tell the story of the game. The museum’s collected artefacts include sticks, balls, patches, medals, scrapbooks and clothing from hockey’s 150+ years of documented history, as well as records, art and historical data from further afield. In addition to the permanent collection, visiting exhibitions focus on individual topics and players, such as the 2017 special exhibition on Wilhelmina Augusta Bauman, one of the best-known female players from the ‘20s and ‘30s.

THM is about rediscovering our cultural and social history as defined by recreational activities like hockey. It is fascinating for hockey lovers, but also for those who make a point of studying human development and interaction through sport. Located in Woking, the museum has regular hours every first and third Wednesday of each month, with information and news updates available online.