Below is the script from the film that accompanies this learning resource.The film can be viewed here.
We’ve got lots of sporting items at Heritage Quay. The Rugby League Collection is very special, because Huddersfield is where the sport began over 120 years ago. Today it is played all over the world.
The person who owned this rugby cap played an important part in the founding of Rugby League. His name was Henry Hirst Waller. He played for Brighouse Rangers over 135 years ago. Let’s take a closer look at it.
- When do you think this rugby cap would have been worn? These letters– BRFC -stand for Brighouse Rangers Football Club. It doesn’t offer any protection. It’s made of velvet and the tassel wouldn’t last long in a match. It looks a bit like an old fashioned schoolboy’s cap.
- What do you think its purpose was?
Henry Waller was the chairman of a very important meeting that took place in the George Hotel in Huddersfield in 1895. This became known as the Great Split where the modern game of Rugby League began.
- Can you find out why I used the words football and rugby to describe the sport?
- What can you discover about the reasons behind the Great Split?
These are some of the rugby clubs who attended the Great Split meeting in 1895 at the George Hotel. Rugby developed from a type of football that was very different from today’s game. There were no rules to speak of, no limit on team size, and there wasn’t even a proper pitch. The game was violent, often resulting in injuries and even deaths. It was known as mob football.
Mob football was popular at English public schools, who each made up their own rules. At Rugby School, boys were allowed to run with the ball so their version became known as Rugby Football. After featuring in the book Tom Brown’s Schooldays, it became very popular throughout the country, with lots of towns setting up their own Rugby Football clubs.
Rugby Football was played on Saturday afternoons, a working day and some clubs paid players to make up for lost wages. These were called Broken Time payments. Rugby’s governing body was dominated by southern clubs and many of their players didn’t need to work on a Saturday. They threatened to suspend clubs which paid Broken Time payments. The Northern clubs at the Great Split meeting were in favour of these payments.
After the split, Rugby developed into two different sets of rules, or codes – Rugby League and Rugby Union. Both codes introduced many changes to the way the game was played. Rugby Union remained an amateur sport while Rugby League players became professional.
Rugby Union players remained unpaid until August 1995 - 99 years and 364 days after the Great Split meeting, chaired by Henry Hirst Waller.