Leeds Rugby Research: Can You Help?

This week on the Secret Library we here from Peter Benson, of the Leeds Rugby Heritage Group, who are making a call for names and information about some early players of the game in Leeds…

A photo which was recently found among a mass of old papers at Headingley. The man holding the ball is EG Load who was the first captain of Leeds in 1890. It is believed that this photo is of the Leeds St Johns team which formed the football section of the Leeds Cricket, Football & Athletic Club.

One of the Leeds Rugby Heritage Group objectives is to identify, record and research every person who has played for Leeds Rugby Club. The club was formed in 1890 as the football section of the Leeds Cricket, Football and Athletic Club. It was originally known as Leeds Football Club and is now Leeds Rhinos. In 1895 the main clubs in these parts broke away from the Rugby Football Union and formed the Northern Rugby Football Union – NU ( later known as the Rugby League). The NU kept records of players from their first match in 1895, meaning we have details of all the players from that date. There is, however, a gap: the first five years, from 1890 to the end of the 1894/5 season.

During these five-years Leeds played 192 matches and, by diligent research in Libraries throughout the north of England, we have found the names of the players for 182 of those games. For the ten remaining games we have also been able to glean names from the five Leeds daily newspapers, available on microfilm at Leeds Central Library. In those early days, the game was played 15 a-side: we have fourteen names for the Leeds team which played against Hunslet on the 8th April, 1893, together with twelve names for the Leeds team that played away at Leicester on the 30th March, 1895; but only six names for the team which played against Otley on the 16th April, 1895.

So, we’re looking to make contact with any local people whose forebears may have played for Leeds at this time, and who may have documents or photos which could help us to fill the gaps in those records.

Peter Benson
Leeds Rugby Foundation Heritage Group

As well as the newspapers mentioned in this article, the Local and Family History department at the Central Library also holds copies of various Annual Reports and Balance Sheets for the Leeds Cricket, Football and Athletic Company, in an incomplete set covering 1890 to 1949. This can be found at shelfmark LQ 796.3 L517 (please ask staff in the department if you are unsure where to look).

Books & other resources relating to the early history of football codes (and other sports) in Leeds can be found in a research guide elsewhere on this site. 

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Michael Holmes says:

    My father passed away recently and left me two Rugby caps that were my great grandfather’s. The first is a St John’s 1889 cap. The second is a cap with the Leeds emblem dated 1891-2. His name was John Holmes that is embroidered inside both. I would be pleased to know more about them and if you have any records. I can send photographs or show them to you if you reply to me. Regards. Mike Holmes

    1. Hi Mike,

      Thank you for your comment on this article. Probably the best thing to do is to contact the Leeds Rugby Heritage Group, who wrote this piece, as they might have access to the relevant records: http://www.leedsrhinosfoundation.org/news/27739.php#.W-xSydTFLct. You can most likely contact them directly via the Leeds Rhinos Foundation: http://www.leedsrhinosfoundation.org/about/contact_us.php.

      The Secret Library
      Leeds Central Library

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