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On Saturday 10 September, over 300 former students from Bedford College of Physical Education (BCPE) came together to be awarded honorary degrees from the University of Bedford. The first student to be invited to receive her degree was Hilda Moore (nee Hammond), a former England hockey player, who at 100 years of age is thought to be the oldest living recipient of an honorary degree.

Hilda was given an amazing ovation by the assembled students and guests and was visibly moved.

 

Hilda Moore Honorary Degree 10th Sept 2022 University of Bedfordshire      Hilda 100 credit family of Hilda Moore
     

Hilda Moore receiving her honorary degree
from the University of Bedfordshire.

Credit: University of Bedfordshire.

 

Hilda Moore celebrating her 100th birthday with
a card from Her Late Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II.

Credit: the family of Hilda Moore.

 

Hilda Hammond was born in 1922 and went to school at St Leonards School in St Andrews where she developed her love of all sports. After qualifying from BCPE in 1942 her hockey career developed and she was selected to play for England in 1947. After marrying Darrell Moore the same year, Hilda moved to Cambridgeshire to become a farmer, a life she loved until retirement 40 years later. Now living in Field Lodge Care Home in St Ives, Hilda celebrated her 100th birthday back in May.

Hilda was delighted to receive this recognition of her achievement all those years ago, although she did admit to not now remembering much about it after all this time. What Hilda did recall, however, was playing hockey for England: the white shirts and cherry red skirts – “a bit heavy to wear when it rained” – playing hockey at The Oval cricket ground in front of thousands of people and the iconic gasometers, and playing inside Mary Russell Vick who she remembers as a wonderful player – “You just had to pass her the ball and she would rush off down the pitch and score a goal”.

 

1947 England Hilda Moore Bedford Archive
 

The England women's hockey team in 1947. Hilda stands in the centre of the front row,
to the immediate right (as we look) of Mary Russell Vick who is wearing gloves.

Credit: Bedford Archive.

 

A Brief History of Bedford College of Physical Education

The students who attended this special event all qualified between 1942 and 1978, at a time when the BCPE was not able to award degrees. After a six-year campaign led by Margaret Peggie, Jackie Gregory and Maggie Jackson, all former students and members of the Bedford Physical Education Old Students Association (BPEOSA), the University of Bedford agreed to recognise the depth and quality of the academic course at BCPE and award all former students an Honorary Degree.

 

Bedford College of Physical Education
 
Bedford College of Physical Education Lansdowne Road c1950
 

Bedford College of Physical Education, Lansdowne Road, 1950s.

Credit: Bedford Physical Education Old Students Association (BPEOSA).

 

For the greater part of the twentieth century, BCPE was one of the primary colleges for women intent on a career in teaching PE. It claims to have trained more PE teachers than any other UK institution. The College was founded by Margaret Stansfeld in 1903, at a time when women were not encouraged to take up a profession. Margaret was much influenced by Madame Bergman Ӧsterberg and her pioneering ideas of physical training. She decided to use her own money to purchase Wylam Lodge (37 Landsdowne Road, Bedford) and establish a college of physical education for women. Thirteen girls were selected to become the first entry of students and while they needed no academic qualifications, they all underwent a rigorous interview conducted by Miss Stansfeld herself.

In 1919 the two-year course was extended to three years. Four more properties were bought in Landsdowne Road to accommodate an increasing number of students. Over the following years the College continued to grow in size and reputation and in 1939 Margaret Stansfeld was awarded an OBE for Services to Physical Education. She also received the Swedish medal conferring the Grand Titre Honorifique de la Federation Internationale de Gymnastique Ling, making her the first English women to be so decorated.

BCPE trained students across a wide range of athletic disciplines including dance, gymnastics, lacrosse, rowing, swimming, cricket, and hockey. Their international honours boards demonstrate the strength and depth of Bedford’s sporting prowess with more than 700 international caps being awarded to its students. Hockey appears prominently in this list, with over thirty students going on to achieve international hockey honours for England. Among them: Mary Knott (England, 1923-1939; Captain 1931-1939); Biddy Burgum (England 1950-1960); Brenda Read (England 1964-1971); Chris Aspinwall (England 1967-1971; Captain 1969-1971); Sue Slocombe (England 1977-1981); and Mandy Pickles (England 1988-1997 and Great Britain 1990-97). Bedford students have also gone on to achieve hockey honours in other countries: Olive Andrews became the college’s first hockey international when she was selected for Scotland in 1918, and Iris Davies played for Wales in goal (1967-1977). All were great players in their time, but they also went on to significantly influence others in the years to follow, be it in teaching, lecturing, coaching or administration.

 

Shirley Nicholl Glynis Culley Stephanie Daniels
 
Shirley Nicholl (former England and Bedfordshire hockey international), Glynis Culley
(former England cricketer and Ealing and Middlesex hockey player) and
Stephanie Daniels (one of the event organisers and Trustee of the BPEOSA).

 

The Bedford alumni who attended had the opportunity to browse through a display of records, photographs and official documents from the University of Bedfordshire Archives. These detailed the rich history of the College from over a century of teaching. The display was curated by Stephanie Daniels (BPEOSA Trustee, pictured above) and Anita Tedder. Many memories were rekindled from time spent browsing through the wonderful selection of scrapbooks and year group photography on display.

 

Additional links

The University of Bedfordshire ceremony was reported in The Guardian newspaper: Over 250 women to receive honorary degrees at University of Bedfordshire | The Guardian

Hilda Moore's 100th birthday celebration was reported on by local newspaper The Hunts PostHilda says tipple before bedtime is secret to long life | Hunts Post

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