Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Pre-War Croquet Prize Lists

Last time, we took a look at sports in which the Mills siblings, George, Agnes, and Violet, were engaged prior to World War II, including the briefest of glimpses at croquet [featured in the advert, left, courtesy of an amusing friend who sent it along]. There actually are no records of George having participated in any, which, given his classification of "B III" in the First World War, is probably not surprising.

George's half-brother, Arthur, was a lifelong avid golfer, never living far from a golf course. George, it seems, was the late bloomer of the clan, at least athletically.

Thanks to the welcome assistance of Chris Williams of The Croquet Association, we have been able to track the croquet careers of the Mills. We've examined their post-war accomplishments, and today we'll travel a bit further back in time and look at the years between the World Wars.

Before we dive in, let's review a key Chris sent for reading the results:


OS = Open Singles
HS = Handicap Singles
HSC = Handicap Singles C Class
OSB = Open Singles B Class
HD = Handicap Doubles
L = Ladies

The number after the event means position, so 1 = winner, 2 = runner up,
3 = semi finalist. Number in [ ] is handicap

Here is an excerpt from Chris's e-mail dated Thursday, February 24, 2011 [my emphases]:

Agnes appears in the 1931 Prize list as having won the Handicap Doubles at Bournemouth with W Evans Linton. Her handicap was a starred 12 and was changed to 12D10 at the end of the event. 12D10 means that her handicap was 12 when she played singles, but 10 when playing doubles. A starred handicap means that it is a new one and had not yet been officially ratified.

The results show that Agnes lost in the first round of the handicap singles to Mrs AV Pawson (12) by 7.

The report of the event includes

The Doubles, as usual, supplied plenty of amusement and thrills as there were a great number of very close finishes. Two high-bisquers, Miss A.E. Mills and Mr Evans Linton, proved to be the fairly easy winners thanks to their superabundant bisques and the good play of Miss Mills, who seemed to be very generously handicapped.

Agnes [*12] Bournemouth (Sept), HD, 1 [*12(D.10)]

A quick look at the late 1930s list shows that Agnes appeared to have played a lot pre war. I don't have much time in the evening to copy to many so it will take a week or so to do the rest.

Another player from the Bowdon photo [right] who gives hits in Google and who Agnes played is Basil (BVF) Brackenbury who appears to have been a headmaster in Ramsgate.

Another prominent player in that era was Handel Elvey or rather George Frederick Handel (GFH) Elvey. He was a vicar and produces loads of hits in Google. He does not appear to have played Agnes, but she played his wife, Nora.

Monty Spencer Ell is another famous player of the day who gives hits on Google. He lost both arms in the first World War but played croquet to quite a high standard. He also appears in Agnes's opponent list.


Thanks, Chris— now I have a few more players to chase around on the worldwide web!

Regarding the year 1931, I had wondered if the father of Agnes and Violet Mills, the Rev. Barton R. V. Mills, disapproved of his daughters participating in competitive sports. For quite a while, I had no record of either of them playing golf, tennis, or croquet before his death in late 1932.

Of course, the patriarch may have approved of croquet, while frowning upon sports such as tennis and its ladies' whites, and golf, in which some ladies wore trousers [left, in 1936]! There is no record of either daughter participating in organized tennis or golf before his passing.

What a shame it would have been had he prevented Violet, for example, from sharpening her game and becoming competitive with the renowned women golfers of the era. While she legally could have done so without her father's consent, it is unlikely that considering that possibility would have been more than a defiant passing fancy.

Anyway, we can, indeed move forward in croquet, and we find Agnes involved and playing a great deal before the Second World War.

That information is culled from this e-mail dated Wednesday, March 02, 2011:


Here are the final Prize Lists, ie the ones from 1931 to 1939. Many of the venues mentioned here did not survive the War as croquet clubs, namely Ranelagh, which is in London, Leamington, Bude, Fleet, Felixstowe.


Agnes [*12] Bournemouth (Sept), HD, 1 [*12(D.10)]

Agnes [*12(D.10)]; [12D10]; Bath, OSD, 1, HD, 2 [10]

Agnes [10] Fleet HSC, 3, HD, 1; [10(D.9)]; Leamington (Sept), HSEx, 3; Bath, HSA, 2; Middlesex Union, HS, 3

Agnes [10] Fleet, HS, 3; Hunstanton (Aug), OSC, 2; Bude, HSB, 3, HD, 2

Agnes [10] Bath, OSD, 2, HS (Luard Trophy), 3; Middlesex Union, HD (Captain's Prize), 2; Ranelagh (Oct). HS, 1

Agnes [9] Ealing, OSC, 1; Bath, HSB, 3; Leamington (Sept), HSX, 1, HD, 3 [*7]


Agnes [8] Ranelagh, HS, 3 [7]; Leamington (July), HSB, 1 [6];
Hurlingham, OSC, 3, LHD, 3; Felixstowe (Sept 19th), HS, 1, HD, 2, HSX, 3 [5]; Ranelagh (Oct), HSB, 3

Agnes [5] Brighton (May), HSB, 3, HD, 2; Lewes, HD, 1

Chris Williams

It's interesting to note that Agnes played Bude in 1934, the birthplace of George, Violet, and herself. We already know the siblings still had kin there among the Ramsay family, on their mother's side.

It's also possible she played there more often—these are just years in which one of the Mills family made the prize list. Croquet definitely seems to have taken the Misses Mills far afield. At this time, brother George was a married man and author, and we don't know how often, if ever, he may have accompanied his sisters. In fact, it is only speculation that Violet went along with Agnes on her croquet jaunts.

These lists take us through to the post-war era of croquet, in which we found Agnes playing upon moving to Budleigh Salterton in 1947, Violet appearing on a prize list in tournament play in 1948, and George joining them in 1957.

This may suggest that George wasn't fully a resident of their home, Grey Friars [left], until he was finished teaching school, circa 1957, and was ready to enjoy a retirement.

We know he was a schoolmaster in the summer term in 1956 at Ladycross in Seaford, and may have been teaching in England before that, following the war. Where that may have been is open to conjecture until some evidence comes to light.

Anyway, thanks once again to Chris Williams and everyone else in the CA who have been so kind and generous to me. I am extremely grateful.

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