Search is on for Rugby League’s historic lost treasure

Rugby League Cares has launched a search for one of the most historically important documents in British sport, the minute book from the meeting of clubs at the George Hotel in Huddersfield in 1895.

The book, which details the momentous events that led to the breakaway from the RFU by 21 clubs to form the Northern Union, has been missing for over 50 years and Rugby League Cares, the sport’s charity, is anxious to trace it as part of its plans for the new National Rugby League Museum.

The Museum will be housed within Bradford City Hall and is scheduled to open in 2020, 125 years after the famous meeting that changed the face of world rugby and British sport forever.

Professor Tony Collins, a trustee of Rugby League Cares and the foremost authority on the history of rugby, said: “The minute book for the years 1895 to 1899 went missing from the old RFL headquarters on Chapeltown Road, Leeds in the early 1960s and has not been seen since.

“The RFL secretary at the time, Bill Fallowfield, did put out a public appeal for it in 1963 but it wasn’t found. At that time, the history of sport and Rugby League’s heritage didn’t have the importance it has today, and the matter wasn’t pursued.

“It’s a great tragedy, not simply because we don’t have the founding document of the game, but also because it is a key document of British sports history. So if anyone out there knows where it might be, please let us know.”

The announcement last month that the sport is celebrating its history with the opening of a national museum for the first time provides further evidence of Rugby League’s determination to give heritage the place it deserves.

Last year saw the RFL roll out a series of celebrations on the sport’s 120-year anniversary, including a Founders’ Walk led by RFL Chief Executive Nigel Wood to the original locations of the 22 founding clubs, while Rugby League Cares unveiled a bronze statue at Wembley to commemorate the game’s long association with the national stadium.

Rugby League Cares has an eclectic collection of artefacts from the sport’s past and is keen to hear from the private collectors whose passion for history has safeguarded items that might otherwise have been lost forever.

Brigid Power, the Heritage Manager for Rugby League Cares, said: “Our archives feature a rich collection of items and memorabilia from the last 120 years but there is so much more out there that we don’t know about, or have forgotten about, which needs to be seen.

“The National Rugby League Museum will be the perfect place for everyone to share their memories of the sport and celebrate the heroes and moments that mean so much to them.

“Over the years many important items have found their way into private collections because there was simply nowhere else for them to go: the museum will provide a focal point for our history and it would be terrific to know what has survived.”

RL Cares is not just looking for ‘precious’ objects such as trophies and medals; many fans will have their own special souvenirs such as cine movie footage, promotional posters, ticket stubs from pre-War matches, early team-sheets, cigarette cards, community song sheets from major finals and commemorative brochures.

The new National Rugby League Museum will celebrate the sport and its communities through interactive story-telling and engaging displays using state-of-the-art technology and modern methods.

If anyone can shed light on the whereabouts of the 1895 minute book, or is happy to provide details of heritage items they own that can be catalogued to help produce a comprehensive record of surviving artefacts and memorabilia, please contact Brigid Power via email on brigid.power@rlcares.org.uk

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