Milton Keynes may be a relatively new name on the map of England, but the history of women’s football in the area goes way back beyond the town’s foundation in 1967.
Local villages Olney and New Bradwell formed women’s teams in the 1930s, with Wolverton and Stony Stratford following suit. No formal records remain of these early teams and matches, but further south in the 1960s, another team – Chiltern Valley Ladies – gained the headlines.
Started by bus driver Harry Batt and his wife June, some of the Chiltern Valley Ladies were to find international fame. Having played under the name of The British Independents in an unofficial European Championships in Italy in 1970, the following year this ‘England’ team went to Mexico to play in an unofficial World Cup. The British Independents’ first game, against Argentina, drew a crowd of 25,000 and when they faced Mexico in the Azteca Stadium, 90,000 fans were there.
However, the team did not have required permission from the WFA to attend and when the Chiltern Valley Ladies and their teammates returned, they were suspended from playing football for either three or six months, depending on their age. Harry Batt was given a lifetime ban.
Understandably, the women who played for Chiltern Valley Ladies have some stories to tell. As do the women in Milton Keynes today who play football recreationally and professionally.
• All these stories have been brought together in an exhibition in the city’s UEFA EURO 2022 Fan Party area. You’ll find the exhibition in Station Square and it’ll run throughout the tournament.
In addition, Milton Keynes Museum and Living Archive MK are collecting memories, photos and objects related to local women’s football past and present. You can find out more here.
To preserve the stories and images of today’s players, a partnership has been formed with the MK Dons Sports and Education Trust. This partnership has seen photographer Katherine Green take portraits of current players, alongside their reflections on what football means to them. You’ll be able to see the results of Katherine’s work in the Fan Party exhibition.
To hear and see some of the women who feature in the history of women’s football in and around Milton Keynes, please click below:Free Outdoor Exhibition
Milton Keynes | Station Square | MK9 1LA
Celebrating Community Women’s Football in Milton Keynes
Newly commissioned portraits of players along with their experience of playing recreational football as part of a touring Library exhibition
Central Library | 16 June – 2 July
Bletchley Library | 4 July – 8 August
Kingston Library | 9 August – 3 September
Stony Stratford Library | 6 September – 1 October