Soup Kitchen Soccer II

Women's football in South Yorkshire during the 1921 coal dispute

I am grateful to Pam James and Gilbert Bromage for their help in compiling this account.

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The main article on this subject describes in detail the efforts of women in the mining communities of north-east England to support their families during the two major coal disputes in the 1920's. While researching another project I came across a number of references to the footballing women of South Yorkshire during the same period. The information is scant; if anyone can add to the story, I would be grateful if they would contact me. Photographs of the footballing women of South Yorkshire would be particularly welcome.


South Yorkshire

As in the North East, womens' football matches in South Yorkshire did not commence until after the end of the normal football season. The earliest appears to have taken place on 7th May 1921 at Thurnscoe, when the ladies of Thurnscoe East played Goldthorpe Ladies at the Thurnscoe Park Avenue ground. The players had to contend with heavy rain, which started shortly after the commencement of the match, but they held out until half-time when the game was abandoned with Goldthorpe leading by a single goal, scored by Miss A. Turner. A collection was raised at the ground for the Goldthorpe and Thurnscoe Relief Funds.

The initiative of these women was quickly imitated; on 27th May 1921 the Doncaster Gazette reported "Football as a sport for women has rapidly grown in popularity in the Doncaster district.....teams have sprung up in Bentley, Woodlands, Highfields, Adwick and Carcroft." Several unreported matches had already taken place, including a victory by Highfields Ladies, said to be the oldest team in the district, over Woodlands Ladies. The same issue also carried reports of two games: in the first, Highfields defeated Adwick by four goals to one. Mrs Wragg scored a hat-trick, with Mrs Arthur getting the fourth. Adwick were a new side, comprising the wives or relatives of the local branch of Comrades of the Great War, and were relatively inexperiences compared to their opponents. The collection taken at the match raised £7, and a return game was planned for Saturday 28th May.

The second report concerned a match at Woodlands on 23rd May 1921, between the local team and a side from Bentley. The game attracted 4,000 spectators, who saw Bentley run out 3-1 winners with goals from A. Warren, F. Shaw and Lucy Bromage. Woodlands' consolation goal was scored by M. Nillington.

Bentley Ladies began life as the "New Village Ladies," New Village being the name given to the area added to the village when Bentley Colliery opened in 1908. They quickly established themselves as the premier women's team in the area; on 3rd June 1921 they took on a side from Nottingham, attracting what was described as "a capital company" to Doncaster Rovers ground. The locals were not to be disappointed; Bentley proved themselves superior to the visitors, winning 5-1. The following day Highfields defeated Carcroft 4-0 in what was described as a return match, though no report of the earlier game has been found. Mrs Wragg was on the ball again for Highfields, getting 2 of the goals, the remaining two being scored by Mrs Hart.

Bentley Ladies

Bentley Ladies FC

seated from left: Lucy Bromage, Gladys Bromage, -, -, Maggie Murphy; goalkeeper (in white) - Ivy Moulton
(photograph courtesy of Gilbert Bromage)

On Thursday 9th June Bentley entertained Thurnscoe Ladies at home, and put on what was described as "probably their best performance." Thurnscoe scored first, and held on to their single goal advantage until half-time. In the second half Alice Warren equalised from the penalty spot, and a few minutes Lucy Bromage scored the deciding goal. The crowd was larger than at any previous game in the village, but the collection was disappointingly small at only £4 7s. 1d. The teams met in a return match at Thurnscoe on the following Monday (13th June), and 500 supporters travelled from Bentley to see their team win again, this time by 3-1. The report goes on to say that "the rivalry between the teams and the spectators reached an unpleasant pitch by the end of the game," but does not give any further details. Interestingly, the Thurnscoe team was described as "Thurnscoe West," suggesting that there were now two teams in the village.

With the settlement of the coal dispute on 29th June 1921 the inter-village women's charity matches ceased, or at any rate they ceased to receive coverage in the press. The team from Bentley however were destined to go on to greater things. On Saturday 7th July 1921 they travelled to Wakefield to play Paynethorpe Ladies for a silver cup, presented by Mr. Tom Walton of Wakefield. The match, which was played at the Wakefield City ground, took place in extreme heat, but this did not seem to affect the Bentley players who "combined well and kept up the pressure from the start." The outcome was a convincing 5-0 win for Bentley. Molly Hickey, who scored the first goal, received a gold brooch for her achievement, but "woman of the match" was Lucy Bromage 1, who achieved a hat-trick. The remaining goal was scored by Maggie Murphy. Virtually the whole population of the village turned out to greet the women when they returned home at 11pm, and the celebrations went on into the night. This was said (erroneously), to be the first cup won by a ladies' football team in England, but in view of the poor organisation of the game at the time this mistake is understandable.

Bentley Ladies in 1921

Bentley Ladies FC with the Walton Cup

Walton Cup medal

Walton Cup Medal
(photograph courtesy of Joyce Westlake)

In total, the Bentley Ladies' team raised £30 for local soup kitchens up to the end of August. Their contemporaries in the other villages would have raised similar amounts. Unlike them, however, Bentley Ladies appear to have been the only "Soup Kitchen" team to make a serious attempt to carry on playing after the end of the coal dispute. They were scheduled to play Hey's Brewery Ladies of Bradford on Boxing Day 1921, but on 5th December the FA placed a ban on women's teams playing at affiliated grounds, and this charitable event had to be cancelled 2, 3.

1. Lucy Bromage was the daughter of goalkeeper Harry Bromage, who had played League football for Derby, Burton United and Leeds City prior to WW1, and who ended his career at Doncaster Rovers. During the miner's strike she was the only source of income for her family thanks to her job in the woollen mill. On 18th February 1922 she guested for Hey's Brewery in a match against Dick, Kerr Ladies at Bradford, and scored one of the goals in an exciting 4-4 draw.

2. The team continued in existence despite these difficulties, and joined the English Ladies' Football Association. The (poor quality) photograph above appeared in the Doncaster Gazette on 17th March 1922, the accompanying report stating that the team had played 14 games since being formed, winning 13, drawing none and losing one, and had scored 47 goals with only 12 conceded. They participated in the first (and only) staging of that Association's Challenge Cup competition, reaching the final, where they were defeated by Stoke Ladies, and suffered the indignity of being referred to in the press as "Doncaster Bentleys."

3. Doncaster-Bentley Ladies did eventually meet up with Hey's in a match played at Bentley on 13th May 1922. Hey's came with an unbeaten record, but the home side proved too strong for them, winning 4-2 with goals from Maria Bull, Lucy Bromage, Maggie Murphy and Alice Smith (pen).

Sources

1. The Doncaster Gazette - available at Doncaster Central Library.

Summary of matches reported

DateResultNotes
1921
1921-05-07Thurnscoe East 0
Goldthorpe 1
Played at Thurnscoe Park Avenue; match abandoned at half-time due to rain.
1921-05-21Highfields Ladies 4
Adwick Ladies 1
Venue unknown; date approximate
scorers: Mrs Wragg (3), Mrs Arthur 1
1921-05-23Woodlands Ladies 1
Bentley Ladies 3
Played at Woodlands before 4,000 spectators
scorers: Alice Warren, F. Shaw and Lucy Bromage for Bentley; M. Nillington for Woodlands.
1921-06-03Bentley Ladies 5
Nottingham Ladies 1
Played at Doncaster Rovers.
1921-06-06Highfields Ladies 5
Carcroft Ladies 1
Venue unknown
scorers: Mrs Wragg 2, Mrs Hart 2
1921-06-09Bentley Ladies 2
Thurnscoe West 1
Played at Bentley, raising £4 7s. 1d
scorers: Alice Warren, Lucy Bromage
1921-06-13Thurnscoe West Ladies 1
Bentley Ladies 3
Played at Thurnscoe.
1921-07-07Bentley Ladies 5
Paynethorpe Ladies 1
Played at Wakefield City for the "Walton Cup"
scorers: Molly Hickey, Maggie Murphy, Lucy Bromage (3)

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