BEDFORDSHIRE COUNTY SQUAD 1960-62
Left to right Back Row: B. Marsh, J. Stone, Nancy Morris, K. Pye, B Rands
Left to right Front Row: D. Southgate, S. Eastley, M. De Bretton Gordon
From Humble Beginnings……To Netball Excellence
We are indebted to Bedfordshire stalwarts Sylvia Eastley, Jean Stone and Jan Burke for their input in allowing me to pass on their memories.
The foundation for the Bedfordshire County Netball Association was laid in 1950, almost single handedly by Nancy Morris, a tireless and forward thinking visionary for netball within the County. With a small group of interested people the county committee was formed.
Although not participating in sport herself she recognised that if Bedfordshire was to take its place in the already legendary East Region, someone had to take up the reins and set the ball rolling.
At that time, the only structured competitive netball was played in Luton through its many works teams, with entry restricted to the employees. This situation was to remain throughout the l960’s. In the northern part of the County i.e. Bedford, there was no organised netball, just informal friendly games.
In approximately 1957 the decision was made to form a county team. Attendance was almost self selective, Luton players did not want to give up their regular Saturday netball to participate in what was perceived to be a lower standard of netball. Stalemate resulted until it was decreed by AENA that the 1st Saturday of the month was to be allocated to county matches.
In the early days of county netball in the East, teams played each other on the basis of home one season and away in the next season. There were 6 counties in the region comprising Essex, Hertfordshire, Norfolk, Cambridgeshire, Suffolk and Bedfordshire. In the 1970’s, Essex split to include East Essex and Essex Thurrock.
In the early years, Bedfordshire was consistently bottom of the pile, relying predominantly on players from North and Mid Bedfordshire. As the intake of trialists began to widen from Luton and Bedford College, the steady climb to the top culminated in 2005 when Bedfordshire won both the Inter County Championships and the English Counties League.
Over the years, Bedfordshire has also had its share of national honours – three International Umpires; 3 England Coaches; and countless England Players. A fantastic record considering the County’s lowly beginnings.
We are also proud to have been involved in other significant developments within the county such as the successful Lottery Bid of £826K for the development of dedicated floodlit courts at the Bunyan Centre; encompassing and supporting involvement with the Active Sports programme and more recently the involvement of Bedfordshire personnel in the setting up and running of the National SuperLeague Team, Mavericks.
The continued growth of our local Leagues, with the introduction of both Youth and Junior netball leagues is testament to the dedication of the many volunteers around the county whose hard work and commitment in many different roles make Bedfordshire Netball special, a fitting tribute to Nancy Morris.
The Bedford League was also Nancy’s brainchild. The County Committee set up the League’s administration in the early 1970’s until it became self sufficient, it currently runs with 66 teams.
At the same time the Luton, Dunstable and District League lifted it’s restrictions on works teams and has continued to flourish.
In 1998 the Heritage League, covering Mid Beds, was formed and continues to grow each season.
Bedfordshire Netball now looks to the future particularly to its youth development programmes to ensure the continuance of excellence, which it has, produced over the past 60 years.