Beds, Herts & Bucks

Luton Town 'illegal' women's football player identified

Laura Wiltsher playing at Luton Town's ground in 1935. Image copyright Luton News
Image caption The family of Laura Wiltsher identified her in this photo from a women's match at Luton in 1935

The nephew of a footballer pictured at an "illegal" women's match in 1935 has said he feels "proud" of her.

Mervyn Lammiman spotted Laura Wiltsher in a photo discovered by Luton Town's historian, showing women's matches at the club's Kenilworth Road ground.

The Football Association (FA) had banned such matches, calling the sport "quite unsuitable for females".

Mr Lammiman said: "Without a doubt, I'm proud. The picture shows the ground was packed during women's matches."

Luton Town had appealed for help to discover more about two pictures showing women's football at its ground, in contravention of an FA ban that ran from 1921 to 1971.

Image copyright Mervyn Lammiman
Image caption Mervyn Lammiman is a lifelong Luton Town supporter and said he was "proud" of his aunt

Mr Lammiman, 71, from Hitchin, Hertfordshire, said: "When I saw a photo online, I thought 'She doesn't half look like one of my family'.

"Then I found out people had told my cousin Linda it looked like her mum, my auntie Laura."

Mr Lammiman's aunt died in 1999 but he doesn't remember her speaking about playing at Kenilworth Road.

"All we know is she used to play for M&S, and sometimes Woolworths," he said,

"It's an important part of our history; the door's been opened and this is just the beginning."

It is not known who the child in the photo is and, although both photos are believed to have been taken in 1935, they are not dated more precisely.

Image copyright Luton News
Image caption Another recently-rediscovered photo shows a women's match at Luton, also believed to be in 1935

His family has appealed for people with more old photos and memories to come forward, to help them learn more about the history of the women's game at Luton.

The Luton Town Community Trust has been looking through archives after receiving a £99,300 Heritage Lottery Fund grant to deliver a history project to local schools.

Community engagement officer Natasha Rolt said: "It is fantastic that we have been able to shed some light on the history of the match by identifying Laura Wiltsher as one of the players.

"It is also wonderful to discover her relatives are still attending matches at Kenilworth Road over 80 years since she played there herself."

Image copyright Mervyn Lammiman
Image caption Laura Wiltsher (far right) and her sisters, pictured in about 1980

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