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If you ever have cause to visit St John the Baptist Church in Burley, Hampshire, in the UK, be sure to look out for the hockey sticks! For among its many memorials is a stained-glass window dedicated to Constance Applebee, the British woman credited with popularising hockey among women in the United States of America.

Constance Applebee window
The stained-glass window in the St John the Baptist Church in Burley dedicated to the memory of Constance Applebee.


Constance Mary Katherine Applebee was born in Essex in 1873. Discovering a love of exercise and sport, she went on to gain a diploma at the British College of Physical Culture in London. After teaching in Yorkshire, 'The Apple', as she became known, first demonstrated the game of hockey to students in the USA while attending a course at Harvard University in 1901. She then toured women’s colleges in the north-eastern United States to give coaching and instruction to the students. She was later hired as full-time athletic director at Bryn Mawr College, Pennsylvania.

In 1922, Constance helped co-found the United States Field Hockey Association (USFHA) and, shortly afterwards, established an annual three-week hockey coaching camp at Mount Pocono, Pennsylvania, which ran for more than 70 years and attracted countless players of all ages. She continued to return to help coach at these camps until 1964 when she was 90. Constance’s influence in developing women's hockey in the United States spanned generations as her students in turn became influential teachers and coaches. She also helped establish lacrosse as a sport for women in the United States.


Applebee in wall of fame     USFHA Hall of Fame Ursinus College Philadelphia
Left: Constance Applebee during a Mount Pocono camp.

This photograph featured in a celebration of Constance Applebee as part of the USFHA Hall of Fame, which formerly hung at Ursinus College near Philadelphia (pictured). The Hall of Fame has since been removed to an unknown location.

Images courtesy of Jane Claydon.


‘The Apple’ died in 1981, aged 107, and is buried at the church in Burley. Her many friends and admirers in the hockey world and beyond wanted to create a fitting and lasting memorial to her life and work – and so the idea for a stained-glass window was born.

Details of the window are recorded in a letter – in The Hockey Museum’s collection – from former US international hockey player, USFHA President and umpire, Betty ‘Shelly’ Shellenburger to All England Women’s Hockey Association (AEWHA) official Marjorie Butcher.


Constance Applebee window letter

The letter to AEWHA official Marjorie Butcher from USFHA President Betty Shellenburger suggesting amendments to the design for Constance Applebee's memorial window.


The windowpane’s central figure, Saint Catherine of Siena, the patron saint of philosophers and spinsters, is surrounded by small border blocks with images of apples, bees, and hockey and lacrosse sticks, as well as a Native American girl (symbolising the Mount Pocono camps), primroses, daffodils, and sheaves of wheat (presumably to sustain the bees).

Constance always wore a brown tunic, and Shelly indicated in her letter that she would ask the window’s designer – Ronald Page, of G Maile & Son Canterbury – to change the colour of Saint Catherine’s robes to reflect this.

This request was not acceded to, however, as the robes are blue – but the seals of Bryn Mawr College (three owls) and the College of William and Mary (the Wren Building), Virginia, with which Applebee also had a long association, were included in the final design, as Shelly asked.

More than enough money was donated for the window, so a bronze plaque was also fitted below it, stating that the window had been given by “Apple’s hockey friends from all over the world”. In addition, a book with all the names of the subscribers was placed in the church.


Applebee memorial symbols sketch
Sketch detailing the iconography of the Constance Applebee memorial window.


Close up of lower part of CA window
Detail of the Constance Applebee memorial window showing the dedication.


This is not the only stained-glass window in the church associated with Applebee. In 1936, ‘The Apple’ purchased one in memory of Mary Warren-Taylor, with whom she lived for more than 20 years on Bryn Mawr’s campus. As well as living together, the women would have worked closely with each other, as New York-born Mary was secretary of the college’s athletic department. Mary’s failing health led to the couple relocating to Burley in the UK in 1929, where she lived out her final years in the New Forest.

In addition to the window, Constance also purchased a pulpit and choir stalls in Taylor’s memory, at a total cost of £465 – an amazing tribute; the donation would be worth in the region of £25,000 in today’s money. When Constance died, she was buried alongside her long-time friend, Mary, whose grave she had helped to pay for 45 years earlier.


Choir stalls pulpit windows     Applebee Taylor grave

Left: The Constance Applebee window (left) alongside the Mary Warren Taylor window (right) above the pulpit and choir stalls commissioned by Constance. The Mary Warren Taylor window was likely the inspiration for the commissioning of a memorial window for Constance Applebee by her US friends.

Right: the shared graves of Mary Warren Taylor and Constance Applebee in the cemetery of St John the Baptist Church.


Constance Applebee is still remembered by several of the Burley parish church congregation and the Church Warden, Pam Mason-Smith, kindly provided us with additional information and images.

So, if you are ever in Hampshire, be sure to pop into Burley parish church, where the life and legacy of a true hockey pioneer is literally and colourfully built into its fabric.

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