The Hockey Museum is in the town of Woking, Surrey, just across from the railway station.
It is the world’s only museum devoted to hockey and is housed in a Victorian building over two floors. It celebrates
the history and heritage of the game, from grassroots level up to the international game.
“It collects and tells the story of hockey in Great Britain as well as chronicling the development of hockey internationally,” says Mike Smith, the curator of the museum, who is a lifelong hockey enthusiast and was given his first stick as a child.
The official opening was in May 2018. In 1992, the National Hockey Stadium was built in Milton Keynes and the earliest manifestation of what became the Hockey Museum was founded. “However, the fledgling museum lost its home when the English Hockey Association decided to vacate the stadium in 2002,” Smith says.
“All museum possessions were packed away with a feeling that they may never see the light of day again.” A chance conversation with Woking Borough Council in 2012 revealed that the town was interested in having a national sports museum and the beginnings of what has become the Hockey Museum started from there.
The museum has more than 50,000 objects. This does not include its photographic collection, which has yet to be catalogued. “We have the largest hockey library of over 1,700 titles, plus an amazing collection of magazines and handbooks,” Smith says. “This makes us a unique resource for students, who visit frequently.”
The museum also has artworks, clothing, the largest hockey stamp collection in the world, films dating back to the 1930s, oral-history interviews and an archive containing material that goes back to the beginning of organised hockey in the 1870s. The venue is engaged in a project to collate and record every match played by UK national teams, turning its largely paper-based records of player and match statistics into a digital database.
“There have been so many highlights that it has made my involvement with the museum a true delight,” says Smith. “The achievement of Accreditation in 2018 was a great tribute to everyone involved. It is strange to think that nine years ago when we got going, we had never heard of the collection management system Spectrum, nor did we have any idea of correct procedures. It’s been a steep learning curve.”
Last year, the museum received the President’s Award from the FIH, the international hockey federation, at its congress in Delhi. “This acknowledgement by the international hockey fraternity of the job that we are doing gives us enormous encouragement,” says Smith.
Help at hand
There is a full-time assistant curator, a part-time collections manager and around 50 volunteers. “The variety of skills among our volunteers is exceptional,” Smith says. “Not all of those involved are hockey people. Our project has attracted many individuals with no hockey background but who love the diversity of what we do.”
The early museum was funded by the volunteers and two early legacies. “With low overheads thanks to Woking council, we developed very nicely and in our second year we were noticed by the FIH, which was keen to see the history and heritage of hockey preserved,” Smith says. The FIH has provided funding along with England Hockey and the National Lottery Heritage Fund. Admission is free.
“Without enthusiasm none of this would have been created,” says Smith.
Modest so far, but the profile of the game is rising, which is good for the venue.
The museum’s target is a new permanent home that includes an exhibition hall, an education area, climate-controlled storage facilities, a shop and reception. “It’s a long wish list, but plans are in hand,” Smith says. “We hope to be in our new home by 2021.”
Louise Gray is a freelance writer