Uncovering York’s Sporting Heritage

Meet Francesca, Archives Intern on our current project, Uncovering York’s Sporting Heritage project. Today she talks you through what we have been up to so far, what’s still to come, and how you can get involved…

For many of us, sports provide some of our fondest memories. Playing games with friends and family as a child, training with local teams, or attending a match on the weekend: sports help us keep healthy, make friends and define our communities. Likewise, looking back at York’s sporting history helps us to uncover the story of how ordinary people in the city had fun, bonded and formed communities over the decades and even centuries.

In 2019 Explore York Archives, York City FC Foundation and York City Knights Rugby League Foundation were awarded £57,500 by the National Lottery Heritage Fund to support ‘Uncovering York’s Sporting Heritage’, a project exploring the importance of sport to York’s residents both past and present. Whilst we are currently having a bit of a project hiatus with the lockdown, we thought we should bring you up to speed with where we are so far!

Burton Stone Lane Adult School football team, c.1919

We have uncovered many interesting facts about York’s sporting heritage: for instance, the city was the location of England’s first recorded football riot in 1660, and the sport was banned entirely in York in 1726! The story of sport in York is also the story of the lives of its residents, from the eighteenth-century high society élite who visited York to attend the races at Clifton Ings or the Knavesmire, and the gentlemen who initially established York’s cricket and rugby clubs, to the railwaymen and Terry’s and Rowntree’s factory workers whose facilities, provided by their socially-conscious Quaker employers, were the first public gyms, public parks and swimming pools in the city.

Horse racing in York, c.1900

As part of this project, we hope to tell the story of this sporting heritage by engaging our communities in the work of the archives. As soon as we are able to, we will be running a number of family sessions and Community Engagement Days to give you a glimpse into the city’s rich sporting history uncovered during the project, and to engage children with this heritage through fun activities. We are also currently producing a reminiscence resource centred on sporting memories for use by dementia groups, helping attendees to reminisce about their own memories of sport in York. Once the Community Stadium opens in the city, we will engage fans with a new artwork in the stadium, and launch a digital installation showcasing some of our amazing sporting archives. It’s bought and ready to go!

Sporting Memories reminiscence session at Bootham Crescent

Of course, this heritage continues to grow, and we hope that going forward our archives can reflect York’s current vibrant sporting life as well. Already as part of the project, with several volunteers, we have collected, sorted and catalogued York City FC’s extensive archives (keep an eye on the blog for our future post on that), including many historic match-day programmes, press cuttings and other memorabilia, which will be accessible at York Explore as soon as we can reopen. When the Community Stadium opens, we hope to gather oral histories from match-day visitors to the stadium, to record their valuable memories of York’s sporting heritage for the future. The first phase of our schools programme was successfully completed before lockdown, and we’re busy working on the content for the second and third phases so that we can continue our work as soon as it is safe to do so.

Archives collated by York City Knights Foundation, 2019

One of the big aims of the project is to help local sports teams and interested individuals to take care of their own archives better, and to help us preserve the story of York’s sporting heritage for the future. This is where you come in! If you are involved in a club and would like to donate your archives to us once we reopen (or in the future) then get in touch with us at archives@exploreyork.org.uk and we’ll register your interest ready for when we can restart the project. There is absolutely no obligation to do so, and if you would prefer to get some advice on how to keep your sporting archives better in-house, keep an eye out for our half-day Managing Your Sporting Archives workshops later in the year, or have a look at our general advice and guidance on the Keeping Your Archive pages on our website.

We are really excited by this project, and are really looking forward to being able to deliver the rest of our objectives as soon as we can! In the meantime, why not have a look at some of our sporting photographs available on Explore York Images, our new image portal?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s