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Bedford Physical Education Archive

The University of Bedfordshire holds a unique collection of archive materials on the development of women's physical education and women's sport during the twentieth century.

The Bedford Physical Education Archive is held in closed access at the Bedford Campus Library, Room Q0.10. Items are available to consult by appointment, Monday to Friday, 09.00-16.00.


The Archive documents the development of Bedford Physical Training College from its foundation in 1903 through to its absorption into the Bedford College of Higher Education in 1976.  The archive contains a wide variety of records, including:

  • syllabuses and examination papers charting the changing curriculum
  • reports submitted by the College in response to various Government initiatives which illustrate the contribution of the College in shaping the role of physical education in the nation's health
  • students' photograph albums showing life at the College as it used to be
  • oral history recordings from students and staff reflecting on how the College influenced their life and career 
  • artefacts, including uniforms

A copy of the catalogue is available here to browse.  The catalogue is also available on the Archives Hub.

Links to related collections in physical education and sport and general information for researchers can be found here.

Students swimming, Commercial Road Baths, River Ouse, 1903

1903- Students at Commercial Road Swimming Baths

Tableau from ballet choreographed by Ruby Ginner (1886-1978), modern dance pioneer, circa 1929

Students doing Greek Dance in 1915

The founder of the College, Margaret Stansfeld, is a figure of national importance and the Archive clearly shows the part played by women PE teachers in front line delivery of combating illness and promoting good health and wellbeing in children via physical education. The College produced teachers of sports and PE who, in many instances, were competitors of international standing themselves.

Further information on the history of Bedford Physical Training College can be found here.

College Medical Room 1915

Students in medical room 1915


The Physical Education in the 1950s blog is based on a collection of letters from a student who was at Bedford College of Physical Education in the years 1955-1958.  Through publication of the letters and related material from the archive collection we offer an insight into the life of a Bedford PE student 60 years ago.

The Bedford Physical Education in 50 Objects blog explores the history of Bedford Physical Training College through objects held in the Bedford Physical Education Archive.  In the blog we describe the function or purpose of the object and explore its historical significance.

Printed Collection

The Archive has a collection of books and journals which can be searched online through the Library Catalogue.  Items in the Printed Collection are available to consult by appointment, Monday to Friday, 09.00-16.00.

Guidance on handling items from the Bedford Physical Education Archive is available here.

University of Bedfordshire

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