Celebrating Women in History Month with great croquet players from the past – Edith Joan Warwick

Edith Joan Warwick, always known as Joan, was a very successful international hockey player before becoming an international croquet player.

Born on 13th June 1898, Joan was the youngest of three children of Harry James Warwick and Clara Edith (nee Barford). Her father was an auctioneer and valuer and they lived at 103 Park Road, Peterborough, a house that Harry and Clara bought when they first married in 1891 and which remained the family home for Joan until 1957.

When Joan was less than two years old her father died leaving her mother to raise her and her two brothers alone. Further tragedy struck on 10th March 1917 when Joan’s eldest brother John Douglas Barford Warwick was killed in action in France, dying from the effects of gas poisoning after a gas shell exploded. He was 23 and a Major in the Huntingdon Cyclist Battalion.

The following summer Joan became a British Red Cross Volunteer at the Auxiliary Military Hospital in Peterborough where she remained until February 1919.

After the war finished Joan and her second brother James Guy (known as Guy) were back at the family home in Peterborough where they appear on the 1921 census with their mother. It has to be assumed that Joan started to play hockey during this period because on 22nd April 1927 she was aboard the SS Chitral heading to Melbourne to play hockey for the All-England team against Australia. She returned home in September that year and on Nov 25th 1927 she was appointed as a Sunday School teacher at St. Mark’s, Peterborough.

In November 1934 Joan was travelling with the hockey team again. This time it was the British Wanderers and she was photographed with some of her teammates leaving St Pancras station on route to Egypt. (Picture 1)

In 1937 Joan stood in elections in February and October for Peterborough County Council. It is not known if she were elected in that year but she certainly became a County Councillor. However, she was soon on her travels again, this time heading to Auckland aboard the SS Remuera on 28th April 1938 as manager of the 15 strong British Women’s Hockey Team. From New Zealand they travelled to Australia. Joan is reported to have been relieved to have a more informal schedule in Australia saying:

“The team knows my speeches off by heart, and, after all, they should, as I made 40 of them and gave 10 broadcasts in seven weeks.”

At the outbreak of war in 1939 Guy and Joan were still living with their mother at 103 Park Road, Peterborough. Guy was a registered architect and a special constable in the Peterborough City Police. Joan was an auxiliary in the Territorial Service – a company commander of 10th Huntingdonshire Co A.T.S. By 1945 she was a Senior Commander.

After the war Joan travelled again but this time it was not for hockey but perhaps in relation to her new business venture as a home help organiser. She is recorded in the Northampton Mercury and Herald in July 1947 attaining the Women Housing Managers certificate. Later that same year she was heading to New York aboard the SS Queen Elizabeth, a trip she repeated in 1949 aboard the SS Queen Mary.

By now Joan was in her fifties and although she had given up playing hockey, she co-authored a book on Umpiring for Women’s Hockey. We don’t know when she started playing croquet but her mother played so she may have played in the garden for many years. In 1955 her mother died and after playing in a croquet tournament with her brother Guy at Budleigh Salterton, the two of them finally sold the family home and moved there in 1957. They bought a house on Westfield Road which is about as close to the croquet club as it is possible to be. Picture 2

Success on the croquet courts came quickly to Joan. She was selected to play in the Ladies Field Cup that same year. In 1958 she and Guy appear in a photograph of a match against the London Club (presumably Hurlingham). Picture 3

Joan went on to win the Women’s Championship in 1960, 62, 65, 66 and 68 and the Ladies Eight five times. She played in the President’s Cup four times, although never emulated the win that both Lily Gower and D.D. Steel did in that event. Probably her greatest croquet achievement was to play in the MacRobertson Shield for England against Australia and New Zealand in 1963. Once more Joan played for England in New Zealand, nearly 30 years after she played hockey for England there. Joan won all her singles matches and all but one of her doubles matches.

She became a stalwart member of Budleigh Salterton croquet club and loved introducing new people to the sport, until her death in July 1973. Her obituary appears in the Gazette-127.pdf page 2. Picture 4

Much of the carefully researched material in this article comes from Who is George Mills?: June 2011