Collections focus: Rugby League

Background to the collections

The collections reflect major social, cultural and political movements of national and international significance, which have a common thread in relating to Huddersfield and the region as a key location for associated activity.

We currently hold 73 individual archival collections and 55 individual Special Collections (of published material).  These collections occupy 194 m3 and contain more than 200,000 individual items. The individual collections vary considerably in their size. The largest are the University’s own internal archives (at least 950 boxes), the Rugby League (Board) Archive (approximately 900 boxes), Hopkinson’s business archive (approximately 421 boxes), the British Music Collection (approximately 365 linear metres) and the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival archive (approximately 171 boxes). Most other archive collections are between 1 box and 72 boxes, and the special collections between 1 and 90 linear metres. The total number of individual items is around 214,349.

 A wide range of formats are covered, including files and individual sheets, textile samples in bound volumes, large formats including maps, plans, drawings, posters, magnetic video and audio cassettes, photographic formats of a wide range of types and dates, many of them plastic based (acetate and nitrate), long playing records and digital material both sound and image.

The vast majority of the collections date from the mid-19th century to the modern day, although there are a few items dating back to the 18th century and one or two items even earlier.  

Rugby League

Huddersfield's "Team of all Talents" 1914
‘Huddersfield’s ”Team of all Talents” won all four cups in the 1914-15 season but the Rugby League formally suspended their competitions for the duration of the war in June 1915. Three members of the 1914 British touring team, including Fred Longstaff pictured, died in the conflict.

The Rugby League Archive is the national archive of this important sporting organisation.  It is ‘an almost complete record of a governing body of sport and a complete administrative history of a major sporting national institution.’  It provides a comprehensive history of this global sport with records from the early days of the Rugby Football League in 1895 (the sport was established on 29th August 1895 in Huddersfield) to its role as an international sport in the modern day. ‘It tells the battle of Rugby League to establish itself as a sport’.  This comprehensive archive contains records of players and clubs in Yorkshire, Lancashire and Cumbria including complete records for all the British professional clubs since 1896.  Rugby League has an amateur side as well as professional and the records chart both. The collection covers the whole range of people who play rugby (e.g. schools, amateurs, women) although the majority of the collection focuses on the professional game. 

The records also chart the development of the game in Wales, Scotland and France, together with extensive records of tours to Australia and New Zealand. There are also memorabilia and information about famous international players such as Jim Sullivan, Alf Ellaby, Idris Towill, Harold Wagstaff and Joe Brittain, alongside the collections of prominent Rugby League officials. The records comprise manuscript minute books and registration records of all players, correspondence and accounts as well as written reminiscences, videos, photographs, books and pamphlets, match-day programmes, tour souvenirs, club histories, player biographies and thousands of pieces of ephemera.

View summary collection description on the Archives Hub for the Rugby League Archive.

The Rugby League (Board) archive is supplemented by several other collections, which provide political and personal perspectives on the sport.  The deposit in the University Archive of the Rugby League Archive prompted the deposit of the archive of Huddersfield Rugby League Club Players’ Association in 2007 and generated more enquiries about deposits.  David Hinchliffe MP chaired the All Party Parliamentary Group on Rugby League in the 1990s and early 2000s and Terry Wynn MEP had the equivalent post in the European Parliament at the same time.  They have both deposited their collections, which cover their political career and thus capture the political support for the Sport.  In addition there are the records of the Up and Under Oral History Project, which records the reminiscences of people involved in the Rugby League community in West Yorkshire, including players, coaches, supporters, referees, and writers.

View summary collection description on the Archives Hub for the Up & Under Project.

View Rugby League feature on the Archives Hub.

To find out more about any of our collections, please contact us.

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