The story of women’s football in Chesham

Women’s football has a long history in Chesham. The first ladies’ football match in Chesham was in 1895, and the first match between 2 Chesham ladies’ teams was in 1922. This is the story …

Advertisement for Lady Footballers who will play a grand match Reds v Blues in Chesham, 16 September 1895

The Lady Footballers at Chesham 1895

The first recorded women’s football match in Chesham was in 1895. From March 1895, a team called the British Lady Footballers played exhibition matches around Britain, which drew thousands.  Chesham Town football club booked the Lady Footballers to play a fundraising exhibition match, on Monday, September 16, 1895, with kick-off at 5:15pm.  Tickets were sold ahead of time.  The match was advertised along he Metropolitan Line and some people came up by train from London.  

There was a record crowd of 1,500 people at the Chesham ground to witness the first known women’s football game in Chesham.  The players were attired in blue bloomers, blouses and wore shin pads. The Blues team wore blue and white striped blouses and the Reds team wore red and white striped blouses.  The final score was Blues 5 – Reds 2.  The newspaper report said that the “play for not very fast, bit was exceedingly skilful, and good combination form was shown.”  According to the local newspaper the “ladies expressed themselves well satisfied with the unusually kind and cordial reception given to them by the public of Chesham”.

After Chesham, the Lady Footballers also played at other places in Bucks: on November 11, 1895 at Loakes Park football ground in Loakes Road, High Wycombe; in September 1896 at Burnham; and on November 7, 1896 at Aylesbury.

Moor Ladies v Beechwood Ladies 1922

The first known match between two Chesham women’s football teams was held a century ago in 1922, at the Moor, between the Moor Ladies and Beechwood Ladies. The Moor Ladies team was started by Elsie Shirley, Lol Spiers, Daisy Wilkins, Lilly Bedford, Dol Keen, G. Keen, F. Coughtrey, E. George, Edie Wilkins, Alice Thorn, Annie Brownsell, Winnie Keen and Doll Birch.  Dol Keen was captain and Elsie Shirley the goalkeeper.  The team was organised and trained by Mr Kevy Howard, helped by Mr Jack Keen and Mr Sonny Morton.  They wore white and blue, and looked smart.  The team was called the Moor Ladies, because they played on the Moor at Waterside. 

A photo of the Moor Ladies football team - 11 women and 2 men are in the photo, 6 women seated with the rest stood behind them
The Moor Ladies

Another team was formed by ladies from the Beechwood Brush Factory in Bellingdon Road, Chesham.  Beechwoods Ladies consisted of B. Ringsell (captain), M. Simmonds, R. Wright, E. George, H. Beaumont, D. Dwight, N. Dwight, D. Mayo, P. White, D. Reading, and W. Ringsell. (The women of the Beechwoods Brush factory also formed a ladies’ cricket team.) A game between the two teams was played on Good Friday, April 14, 1922.  The local newspaper noted that “there was a splendid crowd to see the ladies revelling in the mud…”, who “gave a very fair and clean exhibition of football, they were as keen as mustard, and they threw themselves into the fray with vigour.” 

The Moor Ladies had a very strong defence in Misses Edie Wilkins and Lol Spiers who defended sturdily and stubbornly. Elsie Shirley was in goal and saved a penalty, and finished with a clean sheet. The Moor Ladies won 3-0, with a penalty taken by Alice Thorn and goals from F. Coughtrey and E. George.

Ladies v Gents 1923

On Whit Monday, May 14, 1923 the first recorded Ladies v Gents football game was held in Chesham.  The Moor Ladies, played a men’s team formed by the Chesham Institute, at their ground on the Moor.  A collection was taken for Chesham Cottage Hospital.  The Moor Ladies team consisted of A. Thorne, B. Ringsell, D. Peto, A. Beaumont, D. Keen, (captain), G. Keen, E. Brownell, E. George, E. Wilkins, F. Coughtrey, and E. Peto. 

Royal Bucks Laundry v Chiltern Toy Works 1936

In 1936 a Chesham United Supporters Club was formed.  One of the first events that they organised was a ladies’ football cup.  Two Chesham teams entered from the Royal Bucks Laundry and the Chiltern Toy Works

Royal Bucks Laundry, Waterside, Chesham had their own men’s cricket team, which used to play at Dungrove, and a men’s team who played matches against other factory teams.  However, most of the employees were women.  They played women from the Chiltern Toy Works who were based in Bellingdon Road, and were known for making teddy bears. 

Royal Bucks Laundry Ladies team who played in blue shirts.  Their team consisted of M. Beaumont, M Burgiss, C. Hyslop, D. Windsor, V. Hollybee, J. Randall, O. Wright, E. Randall, D. Gilder, Butterfield and E. Cooper.  There were two reserves Misses Sessons and Salethorne. 

Chiltern Toy Works wore white shirts and dark shorts.  The team consisted of Nora Cook (goalkeeper), Elsie Munday, Queenie Aldridge, Lily Aris, Alice Cooper, Glad Riddick, Edie Reading, Hilda Graham, Doris Sills, Vera Cheney and E. Day. 

A black and white photo of Royal Bucks Laundry football team. The photo, of low quality, shows the team with some seated and some standing behind them. There is a women standing in the middle of the seated team members
Royal Bucks Laundry football team

The match was held on Saturday, September 5, 1936 and kick-off was at 4 o’clock.  Chiltern Toy Works won and were presented with a silver cup, for what was hoped would be annual event.  However, the following year with no more matches, the Chiltern Toy Works returned the silver cup to the Supporter’s Club to re-use for another event.

Photo shows Chiltern Toy Factory team with their trophy and teddy bear mascot. Another women stands next to the team.
Chiltern Toy Factory football team – trophy winners

Beechwood Bouncers v Spa Sweeties 1965

The idea of a Beechwood Brush Factory ladies football team was briefly revived for a one-off game in 1965.  A game was arranged by Chris Mason of Beechwords, who formed the Beechwood Bouncers, a ladies football  team drawn from Beechwood Brush Factory in Bellingdon Road.  They played their rivals, the Spa Sweeties from Spa Brushes Ltd, Alma Road, Chesham. 

The game was played under strict FA rules and refereed by Mr Gus Leitrim, Chesham Reserves goalkeeper. The Bouncers scored after 12 minutes, but the goal was disallowed for being off-side.  In the 18th minute Jean Peddar scored.  After half-time 2 further goals were scored by Corinne Thorn and Pamela Cargill.

Modern women’s football

In August 1968, a women’s football team was started in Amersham called the Amersham Angels, and in 1995 Chesham United Ladies Football Club was formed. 

This article was first published in the pages of the Bucks Free Press, Amersham and Chesham edition, on 15th July 15th, 2022.

About the author

Neil Rees

Neil Rees lives locally and has had a long love of local history. His main interests are family history, wartime exile groups living in Bucks, the history of local faith communities and the history of Chesham and Ley Hill. He writes a fortnightly local history Nostalgia page for the Amersham and Chesham edition of the Bucks Free Press newspaper, which is usually on page 12. He wrote "The Czech Connection" about the story of the wartime Czechoslovak community in Bucks which was translated into Czech. He also wrote "A Royal Exile" about King Zog of Albania in exile in Bucks during the war, which was translated into Albanian and made into a 2-part documentary for Albanian television. He also wrote "The Church by the Woods" the story of St George's Church at Tylers HIll and "The Chapel on the Green, the story of Ley Hill Methodist church. He gives talks at many local groups such as local history societies, WIs, church groups, Rotary Clubs etc

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