The University of Huddersfield is working with Rugby League Cares to push for a new museum celebrating the history of rugby league at the sport’s birthplace of the George Hotel in the town.
THE University of Huddersfield is playing a key role in a bid to open a new national museum and visitor experience dedicated to the history of rugby league in the birthplace of the sport.
Rugby league was created in the George Hotel next to Huddersfield station in 1895, when rugby clubs from Yorkshire and Lancashire held a meeting in the hotel and decided to form the Northern Rugby Football League by breaking away from the Rugby Football Union.
Plans are now under way to open the National Rugby League Museum in the George Hotel, which has been unused for a number of years. The University is working alongside the charity Rugby League Cares, the Rugby Football League and Kirklees Council.
Back to its roots
“The George Hotel is the ideal location, emotionally and logically,” says Chris Rostron, Head of Rugby League Cares. “The game started from a meeting there 125 years ago, so it’s a marvellous opportunity for the sport to go back there and develop a museum at that original location.
“We have worked very successfully with the University on the Heritage Quay project, with 90% of the sport’s collections based there. The University is fundamental to realising this vision in the town, alongside the Council and in the sport more broadly.
University Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor Tim Thornton is excited by the prospect of the museum and the University’s involvement, adding, “I’m delighted that the National Museum is coming to Huddersfield, building on a partnership of many years, working through Heritage Quay and the Rugby League’s archive collections.”
“It feels like fate has played a bit of a hand,” adds Chris Rostron. “The George Hotel is available, thanks to the wonderful support of Kirklees Council – now is the time because of their blueprint for the town and district.
“The University was always ready for this and it has been working with us for a number of years quietly supporting this idea in the background. The successful partnership on Heritage Quay underpins that ambition and the timing is as good as it’s ever been because of the opportunity to work alongside the Council as part of their regeneration plans.”
Rugby League – the new code
The creation of rugby league stemmed from a desire by some rugby clubs in the north of England to compensate players for their time away from work and for when injured. The new code, featuring 13 rather than 15 players and a host of different rules, quickly struck a chord with working class communities in England and spread as far away as Australia, New Zealand and island nations in the Pacific Ocean.
The community roots and global popularity of the game still holds true, with 32 countries set to take part when England hosts the Rugby League World Cup in 2021.
“We want the museum to have people at its heart, because that is part of the sport’s values and culture,” adds Rostron. “It’s reflective of the communities that will benefit from this, those working-class communities right across the north of England and the rest of the country and internationally. It is about espousing those great values, and celebrating the great people who make up the game across the world.”