The Papers of Celia Brackenridge

Scope and Content

The papers of Celia Brackenridge relate to her involvement with lacrosse as a player and coach, and her interest in the history and development of the game.
They comprise of scrapbooks, photographs, press cuttings, memorabilia and equipment from her lacrosse playing career; correspondence and related papers on coaching, umpiring, rules of the game and her match analysis research; and articles, visual recordings, and assorted publications on the history and development of lacrosse.

Administrative / Biographical History

Celia Brackenridge was an international sportswoman, a campaigner for women's causes and an authority on child protection in sport. She carried out pioneering work on the sexual abuse and harassment of young athletes and footballers by their coaches in the 1980s and 1990s. Her research led her further to examine the sexual, physical and emotional abuse of all athletes, her findings being greeted with hostility from the then UK sports governing bodies.

Early life and education
Celia was born on 22 August 1950 in Hitchin, Hertfordshire, the middle child of John Brackenridge, a dentist, and his wife, Joan (née Stroud), who was then a Women's Royal Air Force sergeant and jazz singer.
After moving to Ashford, Middlesex, she won a Middlesex County Scholarship to attend the Lady Eleanor Holles School for Girls in Hampton, south-west London, where she excelled in music and sport, particularly at lacrosse, athletics and swimming. Aged 18 she confounded her headmistress by choosing to study for a Certificate in Education at Bedford College of Physical Education rather than going to university. Upon gaining her certificate, she added an honours year at the University of Cambridge and in 1972 became the UK's first physical education student to achieve a first-class honours degree. While at Cambridge, she won a double-sporting blue, for lacrosse at national level and for women's cricket at county level.

Celia completed an MA in physical education at the University of Leeds, going on to become an assistant PE teacher at Bournemouth School for Girls. After just one year she was headhunted to lecture at the Lady Mabel College of Physical Education, which later became part of Sheffield Hallam University.
In 1994, she moved to Cheltenham and Gloucester College of Higher Education, becoming professor of sport and leisure. She joined Brunel University London in 2005 as Professor and Director for Youth Sport and Athlete Welfare, retiring as professor emerita in 2013.

Celia was a founder and first chair (1984-1988) of the Women's Sports Foundation UK, a lobby group intended to raise public awareness of gender inequality at all levels in sport, including coaching and administration, and influence public policy. WSF changed its name to the Women's Sport and Fitness Foundation in 2007 before becoming Women in Sport in 2014.
She co-founded WomenSport International (WSI) in 1994, a global voice of research-based advocacy and was the convenor of the Sexual Harassment Task Force for WSI (1994-2010).
In 2014, Celia was one of a group of advocates, scientists and policy makers involved in violence prevention in sport that came together to develop a global agency to mandate an end to violence and abuse against athletes and founded the charity Safe Sport International.
In her international advisory roles on child protection in sport, Celia assisted in the development of safeguarding policies for both UNICEF and the International Olympic Committee.

Celia started playing lacrosse at Lady Eleanor Holles School. She went on to represent the Southern Counties and was selected for the England lacrosse squad for the first time in 1969 (whilst a student at Bedford College of Physical Education) and represented England and Great Britain for 13 years until 1982.
She captained the team from 1979 to 1982, winning the Vaux Silver award for leading the team to five victories over Australia in 1979 and led England in the inaugural 1982 World Cup in Nottingham. She entered the Guinness Book of Records in the mid-1980s for the most appearances as a Great Britain lacrosse player. Following her playing career, she became the England coach (1985-1986) for the Lacrosse World Cup in Philadelphia, devising a revolutionary notation system to analyse player performance. She was also a visiting lacrosse coach and researcher at Harvard University in 1983 and 1984. She was elected an Honorary Life Member of the All England Women's Lacrosse Association in 1983.

Awards and Honours
Celia received an OBE in 2012 for services to Equality and Child Protection in Sport and the Sunday Times Sportswoman of the Year Lifetime Achievement Award in December 2016. She held honorary degrees from the University of Chichester and Brunel University London.

Celia died of leukaemia on 23 May 2018.


The collection has been arranged into the following ten series:

  • Scrapbooks
  • Photographs
  • Press Cuttings
  • Publications, Articles and Speeches
  • Notes, Correspondence and Related Papers
  • Women's Lacrosse Match Analysis Research
  • Establishment of Levick Boyd Archive for Women's Lacrosse
  • History and Development of Lacrosse
  • Visual Recordings
  • Memorabilia

Acquisition Information

The majority of the collection was donated by Celia Brackenridge in five separate accessions between 2012 and 2017. The sole exception being the papers for the Women's Lacrosse Match Analysis Research which were gifted to the University of Bedfordshire by Brunel University London in 2018. The Accession Numbers for the deposits are A2012/001, AWL2015/003, AWL2016/004, AWL2017/001, AWL2017/003 and AWL2018/003.

Separated Material

Papers relating to Celia Brackenridge's academic career and research to raise awareness of sexual abuse in sport are held in the Brunel University London Archive:

A collection of her personal papers are held at the University of Chichester:

Conditions Governing Use

Permission to make any published use of any material from the collection must be sought in advance in writing from University of Bedfordshire Special Collections. Identification of copyright holders of unpublished material is often difficult. Special Collections will assist where possible with identifying copyright owners, but responsibility for ensuring copyright clearance rests with the user of the material.