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The Hockey Museum (THM) has acquired two photographs that are thought to be the oldest taken of the modern game.

Three of the Museum’s trustees attended the annual awards luncheon of the Hockey Writers Club at the Royal Thames Yacht Club in London’s Knightsbridge on 22 January. One of the guests at the function was John Willmott, the President of Southgate Hockey Club. Surprising everyone, he brought with him a copy of a very old photograph. The picture was labelled Southgate Second XI and the date on the photograph is 1893. John naturally asked us: "Is this the oldest hockey photograph of the modern game in existence?" We were delighted to see the photograph and it was certainly the oldest any of us had viewed.

However, another surprise was in store for us archivists. The very next day, Mike Smith, our Curator, was back in the Museum at Woking cataloguing a recently acquired collection originally held by Marjorie Pollard, the legendary figure of the women's game in the middle of the last century. He opened a newly arrived box of Pollard’s photographs and immediately discovered one that was very old. It was of an early ladies' team. On the back was written, "East Molesey LHC 1891. Believed to be the oldest photo known of a ladies' team".

Within twenty-four hours the Museum realised it had come across the oldest known photographs of modern hockey for both men and women; and the Molesey photograph was older than the one from Southgate. East Molesey unfortunately no longer exists but the photograph reveals their 1981 ladies look groomed and immaculate, which could hardly be said of the well heeled aristocrats of Southgate. John Willmott will have to be content that he and the Museum have copies of the oldest known men’s photograph.

On the back of it, there are the names of the players and the team’s playing record for that season. The player on the left is Sir Ambrose Heal and it was his grandson who unearthed the photograph. The playing record of the Southgate team that year was: played 17, won 14, drew 2, lost 1.

Mike Smith was allowed to speak at that Hockey Writers luncheon about The Hockey Museum and to encourage the guests to consider donating their old hockey memorabilia. His speech created a lot of interest. Several felt they had potential material for the Museum and contacts were established.

Pat Rowley, February 2013

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