George Hotel: Birthplace of rugby league set to become sport’s national museum

The iconic hotel that was the birthplace for rugby league 125 years ago is set to become the home of the sport’s new national museum.

The George Hotel in Huddersfield was where a meeting took place in August 1895 that led to the creation of rugby league.

Now it has been chosen as the new home for the first permanent exhibition that will celebrate the game’s history.

“This museum will tell the wonderful story of a sport that remains as important to the communities in which it is played as it was in 1895,” said Tim Adams MBE, the chair of RL Cares, rugby league’s official charity, which will be responsible for the new venue.

“I am sure everyone in the sport will welcome this decision.”

A proposal to create a new museum were first unveiled four years ago, with Bradford’s City Hall chosen as the site in a collaboration with the city’s council, but that plan was ditched earlier this year.

It is also believed that other strong contenders for the museum included Wigan, with Wigan Warriors keen to house the museum at their refurbished Robin Park Centre, close to the DW Stadium.

But the recent purchase of the currently mothballed George Hotel by Kirklees Council, seven years after it last closed its doors, and its historical significance to the game, persuaded an independent selection panel to approve it as the site.

The council want to make the museum the focal point of a multi-million pound redevelopment of Huddersfield town centre.

“Since we announced we wanted to bring an historical rugby league museum to the George Hotel, we have received a huge amount of support from across the world,” said Peter McBride, Kirklees Council cabinet member for regeneration.

“It’s the birthplace of the sport and it’s really important we cherish that.”

On 29 August, 1895, 21 clubs met at the George Hotel and agreed a breakaway from the Rugby Football Union to enable working-class players to be compensated for wages lost when playing rugby.

That meeting and breakaway led to what became rugby league.

The hotel was previously a temporarily home to a Rugby League Heritage Centre, with memorabilia, owned by former Great Britain hooker Mike Stephenson, on display in a basement.

When the hotel was closed down in 2013, RL Cares bought that collection and put it in storage.

The new museum will be a much bigger attraction and an integral part of the hotel.

Work to renovate the interior and exterior of the George Hotel is scheduled to begin in the next few weeks, with plans for the galleries, exhibitions and interactive displays that will feature in the museum being drawn up in the coming months.

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