International Hockey at Great Comp Garden

England’s women hockey players celebrated their incredible Commonwealth gold medal two weeks ago but did you know that women’s hockey and latterly women’s cricket had an important home here in Kent?

At the turn of the 20th century, Frances Heron Maxwell and her husband Patrick  bought Great Comp Garden in Platt near Sevenoaks. Frances, known as Max, was an enthusiastic hockey player and formed the Pilgrims team in Kent. Max became the chair of the Women’s Hockey Association and promoted the game with great enthusiasm.

In 1908 she met visiting hockey player Vera Machell Cox.

They became great friends and Vera came to live with Max and Patrick at Great Comp. Vera went on to become a true international England hockey star between 1908 and 1912.

Vera had to give up hockey and moved to cricket due to an injury, but that didn’t stop her hockey career, as she became an international umpire and selector for England.

From their base at Great Comp, these two women pioneered the sport and both sat at the highest table of hockey as Chair and president of the women’s game. They moved into cricket and turned the gymnasium on site into a pavilion and Max built her own Oval in the ground where the Australian women’s cricket team visited in 1937 and practised. Max and Vera then went on to use the women’s hockey Association model to set up the first women’s cricket Association.

Frances Thompson, Vera Cox’s great grand niece is visiting from Australia and is currently researching her family’s letters which are held at the Bodleian library in Oxford. Along with the Hockey museum in Woking, and researcher Katie Dodd (a former international England player), Frances and Katie are working with Great Comp to share archive footage, images of the hockey matches that occurred at Great Comp.

On Monday, the 22nd of August, a team of hockey players from Sevenoaks and Teddington, including former GB captain Sue Chandler, came together to honour the hockey women of Great Comp.

A hockey match was played in period dress from 1908 on the now private home next to Great Comp garden where the hockey gymnasium and cricket pavilion still stands.

It was a happy day and wonderful to connect with the modern day superstars of Hockey, local hockey players and Vera’s family.