Joan Wall Obituary

Created by : Amy Fendley On : Mon, 02/27/2023 - 21:28
Posted in :


Joan Wall, 1933-2023

Joan Wall early 1950s
Joan Wall (née Barnett), early 1950s.
Courtesy of the family.

 10.10.1933 – 05.02.2023

The Hockey Museum (THM) is saddened to report the recent death of Joan Wall (née Barnett) – an ex-England international player who also had an outstanding record in the development and promotion of hockey before becoming one of the first volunteers to support The Hockey Museum (THM). Additionally, Joan had a fine career in athletics at county level before serving with distinction in various administrative capacities for both sports.

What follows is a personal appreciation of Joan by THM’s Honorary Curator and President Mike Smith which complements a formal obituary. Mike was Curator when Joan started as a volunteer. Funeral details follow at the end.


An Appreciation of Joan Wall

By Mike Smith

I first met Joan in the earliest days of THM’s first home in Butts Road, Woking, on 16 March 2012. In those days we could drive right up to the museum with easy parking. It was a Saturday morning and Joan pulled her car up to the front door. She had come to deposit her collection with the Museum – we were actually the National Hockey Museum then. I don’t recall how Joan had come to hear of us, but she was very keen for us to have her collection. Joan was very keen, full stop!

We carried her material in from the car and I showed her round, such as there was to show at that time! She asked if she could help and Joan became one of our first volunteers. Over the next few years (during which time we moved premises to Poole Road) Joan did the usual volunteer jobs, mainly entering and cataloguing collections which were coming in in at the rate of two per week. Yet Joan wanted to do more. Having been very heavily involved with the early days of women’s indoor hockey she decided to write a history of the subject. We are still waiting for someone to write the men’s history!

I vividly remember discussing her next project with her, which was to try to list all the hockey clubs that have existed in England since 1871. We still don’t know how big that figure is, but Joan made a great start. She would go through the handbooks on her visits to the museum and then take the list of clubs home and spend the evenings trawling the internet for information. Occasionally she would find brief club histories on websites and these she would copy, print and file within our filing cabinets. We had to do this because clubs are very good at deleting information on their websites! This is an amazing project that needs revitalising.

With Joan it was also a case of ‘buy one, get one free’ because her son John also became a volunteer. Initially John escorted Joan on the train when she could no longer drive, but even though he was not a hockey player he caught the bug and is one of our staunchest supporters.

Joan was a wife, a mother, a teacher, an England hockey player, a coach and an administrator. Her drive even saw her found two hockey clubs in Nottinghamshire. Also, if you look at her scrapbook, you will learn that she was no mean athlete in her day, a true all-rounder.

My abiding memory of Joan will be that first day when I first met her. She presented us with her England blazer and then handed me her stick, with the words, “I played with that at Wembley”. As I held it, I thought, this stick has played on the hallowed turf of Wembley, that is true history.

Thank you, Joan.


Joan was an early supporter of The Hockey Museum. In 2013 she attended our display at the Investec World League Semi-Final at Chiswick where upon she handed over a cheque donation for £1,000. Joan is pictured here front and centre accompanied by the Museum's founding trustees; from left to right: Pat Rowley, Dil Bahra, Katie Dodd, MIke Smith and Ian Wilson.



An Obituary of Joan Wall

Joan Barnett was an only child, born in Bermondsey although evacuated during the war. Returning to London, she was inspired by her gym teacher at Bromley Grammar School to take up hockey in her early teens. Joan played for her school and local club Atalanta before attending County trials where she was selected for Kent Schools and then East Juniors.

Having made an early impression in the game, at 17 Joan was invited to take part in a 7-a-side exhibition game at the Festival of Britain in 1951.

She progressed to playing for Kent 1st XI before relocating with her new husband, Leslie ‘Les’ Wall, to Nottingham in 1955. Les was appointed as a junior school teacher in Nottingham whilst Joan became a teacher and hockey coach at a nearby secondary school, although she took several years out from teaching when her two children arrived – John in 1962 and Lynne in 1966.

Changing her hockey allegiance to Nottinghamshire, Joan was selected to represent the County, the Midlands and then for an England touring side which travelled to Germany in 1958. Following a series of convincing wins against German club teams, the England side met Germany in Berlin. This necessitated crossing the border into East Germany at which point the ladies were all required to open their cameras – thus losing all the pictures they had taken!

Joan’s international career was confirmed by selection for the full England team to play Scotland on 7 March 1959 and then South Africa at Wembley the following week. South Africa was the first non-European nation to play at Wembley as they were en route to the International Federation of Women’s Hockey Associations (IFWHA) Tournament to be played in the Netherlands shortly afterwards.


1959 England Wembley
The England team that beat South Africa 4-1 at Wembley in 1959. Joan Wall is second from the left with her early Indian-head hockey stick.


Joan also played in this event, where, helped by ‘speedy Wall’, England were crowned unofficial world champions following a round-robin tournament. Capitalising on her notable speed, Joan was also an athlete of some note; she held county records at 100, 200 and 400 yards for many years. No doubt her athletic prowess aided her rise to international hockey recognition.


England touring team Amsterdam Tournament 1959
The England touring team that were crowned unofficial world champions in Amsterdam in 1959.
Joan Wall is third from right.


Joan was awarded 14 international hockey caps for England over two years between 1959-60. During that time England won 13 matches and drew one, against Australia. Joan played in all these matches as a half back. She was one of the first England international players to play with an Indian-head hockey stick and was moved to write to the Hockey Field magazine to complain that umpires were blowing her for obstruction just because she played on the reverse side!

After her international hockey career came to a close, Joan continued to exercise her love of the game by founding, in 1961, the first junior hockey club in the country – Sherwood Juniors Hockey Club for 15-18 year olds. Not content with that, 10 years later Joan founded another club, Carlton Ladies Hockey Club, which later became Redhill Ladies Hockey Club after they moved to a nearby all-weather pitch in 1978.

When the new women’s hockey league was set up in Nottinghamshire, Carlton LHC were the first winners – in their inaugural season! Joan was a key member of the fledging club for many years until she moved to Hampshire.

Redhill LHC celebrated its 50-year anniversary in 2022 (delayed by the Covid-19 pandemic). The current Club Secretary, Melissa Lau, commented: “Redhill has gone from strength to strength in recent years and now has a permanent base at Goosedale Sports Club, running three teams and with active junior and masters sections – we have a lot to thank Joan for starting all those years ago.”


Nottingham Carlton Ladies HC badge


Joan was also active in the indoor game, becoming Indoor Secretary of Nottinghamshire Women’s Hockey Association, then Midlands Indoor Chairman and an England Indoor selector for 10 years, seven as Chairman. She also served in several administrative roles culminating as Secretary of the new joint men’s and women’s Nottinghamshire County Hockey Association.

She also found time to qualify as a coach and official for all athletics track and field events and, perhaps inevitably, got involved in athletics administration. In 1980 she became President of Midlands Women Amateur Athletics Association and Nottinghamshire WAAA and the Midlands WAAA in 1987.

Her skills as a sports administrator were much in demand and she became heavily involved in the East Midlands Federation of Sport and Recreation and the East Midlands Regional Sports Council serving on their Executive Committee and their Strategy and Investment Panel.

Notwithstanding all these commitments, Joan was still teaching until taking early retirement in 1989 whereupon she became a Food Advisor for Sainsbury’s until 1998.

Joan was a devoted wife, and mother to Lynne and John who recalls growing up always surrounded by various pieces of hockey and athletics equipment. Joan remained competitive in later life and joined local bowls clubs after moving to Farnborough, Hampshire, in 2010; although she left at least one bowls club as they were only really ‘social’! For over 30 years Joan and John travelled the world from Mexico to China – she particularly loved Egypt – and John continued to accompany her during her volunteering with THM.

Joan’s infectious enthusiasm and dedication to hockey were evident well into her eighties.

She will be sorely missed by John and Lynne and fondly remembered by her friends at the Museum and by the wider hockey family.


Funeral arrangements

Joan Wall’s funeral will take place on Thursday 16 March 2023 at 12:15 at Aldershot Crematorium. The service will be followed by memorial drinks at The Hockey Museum in Woking, Surrey from 13:30.

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