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.
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!
There 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 email@example.com.