Setting the Record Straight: Women in Rugby League

In 2007, Rugby League Cares deposited the Rugby Football League Archive at Heritage Quay (HQ) in Huddersfield, only a few minutes’ walk away from the George Hotel, the birthplace of the sport. This archive contains kit, programmes, recordings of matches, administration records, photographs, posters, memorabilia, player registers and more. There are around 800 boxes of fascinating items – however, there was only one box dedicated to the women’s game!

This is no longer the case.

Two people cataloguing some rugby league kit. A woman wearing purple nitrile gloves and a black top and trousers is holding up a purple drill top while a man sat at a computer records details about it for the catalogue A woman sat at a table in the archive reading room. She has several items wrapped in tissue paper in front of her. She is holding up a wooden plaque and recording details from it.

 

Since February 2022, HQ has worked with Julia Lee and a team of volunteers to collect, catalogue and make accessible archives and collections which document the history of the women’s game. This work was supported by the Women in Rugby League Heritage Lottery funded project Life with the Lionesses. This project has been integral in uncovering the stories of the pioneering players and staff and celebrating their achievements which, until this project, had not been officially recognised.

One past player commented “When I used to talk about my playing career I sometimes felt that if people went online to check these things (as it’s a major thing!) they should expect there to be something in the archives, but there wouldn’t have been so I used to think they may think I’m not telling the truth . . . So I stopped telling people.”

The archives collected at HQ were used in several ways throughout the project such as:

  • to gather statistics for player profiles
  • to compile and enter data on women players on the Rugby League Record Keepers’ database for the first time
  • to provide evidence for the awarding of heritage numbers and caps at the Pride of the Lionesses event and inducting the first women into the Rugby League Hall of Fame
  • for display in the Life with the Lionesses: 25 Years of Women’s International Rugby League touring exhibition and exhibition currently on at Pontefract Museum
  • to increase women’s representation in a male dominated game

Our biggest cataloguing achievements have been to make two major collections accessible for the first time: the Julia Lee and Jackie Sheldon collections. Julia Lee was the first woman to referee men’s professional rugby league. Jackie Sheldon, a former player, was Assistant Coach for the Great Britain squad in 1996 and Head Coach for the Great Britain squad in 1998, 2000, 2002 and 2003.

If you are interested in seeing items from these collections, you can book a free appointment at HQ.

We would like to say a special thank you to Julia Lee and Jackie Sheldon for entrusting us with their collections!

Two people, Julia Lee, Rugby League trail-blazer, and Rebecca Bowd, University Archivist, holding a rugby ball in the archive strong room. They are surrounded by racking full of archive boxes. Both wear facemasks and purple nitrile glovesThere are now 38 boxes of archives about women’s rugby league!

We would also like to say a great big thank you to the volunteers Jane Auty, Dave Backhouse, Ceri Evans and Charlie Spencer who have collectively put in around 700 hours working with the archives at HQ.

You can find out more about our collections on our Discover page or browse our collections on our online catalogue. If you are interested in discussing your collection with Heritage Quay, please email archives@hud.ac.uk.

Fanfare for Brass Bands

Black and white image of six men. Four are seated, wearing military uniforms and holding bass brass instruments. Two are wearing dinner suits and are standing behind the seated men. In the middle is a very large ornate trophy.
Members of St Hilda’s Band in an advert for instrument makers Besson

We are absolutely delighted to now be home to the 80,000+ items in the Brass Band Archive.   The collection includes scores, recordings, photographs, trophies, programmes and more. All this belongs to Brass Bands England, the national body which supports the genre, who have worked closely with specialist staff at the University to prepare the materials for the move to Heritage Quay.

Behind the scenes image of an archive strong room. A woman with long red hair is unwrapping trophies on a table. There are pencils, cotton tape and tags on the table. In the background are boxes on storage racking.
Assistant Archivist Fran Horner unwrapping brass band trophies in the Heritage Quay Strong Room

The collection’s arrival in Huddersfield has been years in the making. The archive was started in a flat in Wigan, by two band players keen to preserve the banding movement’s history. It was acquired by Brass Bands England in 2018 and moved to their store in Barnsley which they decided what to do with it. Luckily for Huddersfield, they thought that Heritage Quay might be interested in taking it in and making it available. BBE recruited staff and volunteers who spent many painstaking hours sorting, listing and re-boxing the materials before they made the short journey to Heritage Quay. As one of banding’s heartlands, it is fitting that the collection is coming to live in Huddersfield as a brilliant new resource for the musical life of the town. The catalogue, which lists all the items in the collection, can be found online here.

Hat from a brass band uniform. The peak is shiny black, the hat band is black with gold trimming, and the rest of the hat is purple. The badge is gold, and has the initials B & R
Brighouse and Rastrick Band Hat

To celebrate the arrival of this extraordinary collection in Huddersfield, a new exhibition ‘Brass Bands: History and Culture’ is on display from 4 March to 22 April 2023. Alongside stories of star conductors and gigantic contests are those of local organisations and self-taught music. The exhibition explores how banding became a hugely popular movement, attracting audiences of tens of thousands. It also looks at distinctive aspects of banding culture, through uniforms, trophies, photographs and letters.

The exhibition is free, and open to the public from Monday to Saturday. There will be lunchtime tours of the exhibition on 15 March and 19 April at 1pm.

Music at Heritage Quay

2023 is Kirklees Year of Music! Across the borough, people will be celebrating the rich culture of music in this area. At Heritage Quay, we’re doing that too. During 2023 we will bring you no fewer than six exhibitions, all focused on different genres of music. The exhibitions will draw on collections we look after, and the work of some of our partners.

Kicking off this exciting year, we have Music at Heritage Quay (open 16 January to 26 February). This exhibition showcases the variety of music collections we have here, with a focus on music-making in Kirklees. Find out about musical education at the University of Huddersfield and its predecessor institutions, explore the history of local performance, and learn about some of the internationally significant archives we care for.

Black and white image of a marching brass band on a street lined with people.

2023 Exhibition Programme: Kirklees Year of Music

16 January – 25 February: Music at Heritage Quay

4 March – 22 April: Brass Bands: History and Culture

29 April – 10 June: The Bhangra Lexicon

19 June – 5 August Hand bells: Wondrous Little Vehicles of Sound                                                                                            

14 August – 14 October Free to Improvise: The Derek Bailey Story                                           

23 October – 21 December The Cutting Edge: New Music in the 20th Century                                                                                        

 

New exhibition! The Story of the Rugby League World Cup

In 1954, the first ever Rugby League World Cup was treated with consternation by most British fans. The GB team wasn’t expected to do well, and people weren’t really sure why it was taking place. Extraordinarily, the team came together, captained in style by Dave Valentine, and won the tournament.

Fast forward to 2022, and the staging of the 2021 Rugby League World Cup: we see something very different. The tournament is big and high-profile. Men’s, Women’s and Wheelchair games will all be broadcast live. All players will receive equal participation fees. The tournament which started with only four nations has expanded to include 20. Heritage Quay’s new exhibition, The Story of the Rugby League World Cup, tells the story of how this happened.

We are extremely proud to look after the national Rugby Football League archive here at Heritage Quay. This autumn’s tournament has allowed us to explore the collection in a new light, focusing the experiences of those playing in, organising and watching Rugby League World Cups. Many items are on display for the first time, and highlight teams and players from the Men’s, Women’s and Wheelchair games. A programme and scarf from Papua New Guinea’s first World Cup appearance in 1987 tells a story both about the rise of Pacific nations in global Rugby League and about the place of League as PNG’s national sport. A runner’s up medal from the 2000 Women’s World Cup is shown alongside a fundraising event ticket. This speaks to the extraordinary dedication, as well as sporting skill, of the Great Britain Women’s team, who had to fund their own participation in international tournaments. A Great Britain Wheelchair Rugby League t-shirt shows how the Wheelchair game has exploded onto the international stage since its development in 2004.

You can learn about some extraordinary people, too: Clive Sullivan, the first Black person to captain any Great Britain sporting team, who led GB to World Cup victory in 1972; Jackie Sheldon, former Head Coach of the GB Women, whose passion and talent has done so much for the Women’s game; Martin Norris, who captained Great Britain’s Wheelchair team in the inaugural Wheelchair World Cup in 2008, and has gone on to be an important advocate for the sport.

Whether you are a die-hard Rugby League fan, or you want to find out more about the tournament, come and visit Heritage Quay for The Story of the Rugby League World Cup.

The exhibition is open 7 days a week until 22 December 2022.

Mark and Ted: Exploring the Mark Hinchliffe Ted Hughes Collection

There is a jaguaStatue of a jaguar on a glass shelf in a display case. The jaguar is roaring at the ground. It is black glazed ceramic, and is reflected in the glass shelf. The lighting casts a shadow on the back of the display case. r prowling in one of the display cases at Heritage Quay. Although only 15cm long, with its taut muscles and mouth open in a roar it demands attention. Made by one-time Poet Laureate Ted Hughes (1930-1998) it is clearly the result of close observation of the natural world, and important as the only known surviving example of sculpture by the poet.

This is only one of many objects now on display as part of Heritage Quay’s latest exhibition,

Overview of a display case. On the top shelf is a small statue of a jaguar and a handwritten letter. On the middle shelf are two books, one closed to show the front cover which is blue, with an inset a circle made out of cork, the other open on foam supports to show printed endpapers which are blue with a repeated white and red swirl pattern. On the bottom shelf is a wooden type tray, a metal tool and some small booklets of paper samples in different colours

‘Mark and Ted: Exploring the Mark Hinchliffe Ted Hughes Collection’.

Bringing together pens and paper samples, books and badger bristles, photographs and feathers, the exhibition celebrates one of Heritage Quay’s most important recent acquisitions. The collection was formed by Mark Hinchliffe, a poet and friend of Ted Hughes.

Overview of a display case, showing a Mont Blanc pen in its case, a manuscript draft of Ted Hughes' Orpheus and Eurydice, and black and white photograph of Ted Hughes speaking at a lectern

The exhibition includes first edition, fine press and limited edition published works, many of which have been signed by Hughes. There are photographs of Hughes and his family, some previously unrecorded, and correspondence between Hughes and Hinchliffe. Not limited to paper objects, there are tools relating to the family-run Morrigu Press, sherry from Hughes’ time as Laureate, and even one of Hughes’ Mont Blanc pens.

As well as offering unique material relating to the life of one of the twentieth century’s major poets, the exhibition also shows us something of how Hinchliffe engaged with Hughes’ work. Through his annotations, or the newspaper clippings, plant and animal matter, postcards, letters and programmes tucked into the books, we see a dedicated reader in action.Overview of a display case, containing letters and printed books. There are three books, displayed open, and two sets of letters. The letters are mostly displayed in their envelopes, with two open to show the contents.

Exhibition open Mon-Fri 8am-8pm; Sat 9am-5pm; Sun 10am-4pm. Exhibition closes October 2022.