Huge collection of rare Leicester Tigers rugby memorabilia is handed over to DMU's archivists

A very special collection relating to the history of Leicester Tigers – one of the world’s biggest and most successful rugby clubs – has been placed in the safe hands of De Montfort University Leicester’s (DMU) archivists.

The Leicester Tigers collection covers the history of the club since it was formed in 1880 and includes a vast collection of match-worn and signed shirts, programmes, club ties, pitch perimeter signs and even a stuffed Springbok head, which was gifted to the club when a South Africa XV visited the Welford Road club in the 1920s.

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Katharine with two of the Tigers shirts in the archives

There are signed rugby balls, the odd football boot, season ticket books for ‘men’, ‘ladies’ and children from the early 1900s, ticket stubs, team photos and reams of paper work covering the club’s finances and AGMs.

There are also items such as shirts and signed memorabilia from club legends including world-record points-scoring full back Dusty Hare, No8 legend and European Cup-winning coach Dean Richards, World Cup-winning England coach and former Tiger Sir Clive Woodward, his captain Martin Johnson and the Underwood brothers, Tony and Rory.

DMU initially took delivery of 70 large boxes from the Tigers' Welford Road ground, plus objects that would not fit inside them, such as trophies, banners and a carved wooden tiger’s head.

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A carved wooden tiger head

Katharine Short, DMU’s Special Collections Manager and archivist, says the assembled treasures will not only be able to inform academics and researchers but members of the public too, who can book times to come in and have a browse of the vast collection.

DMU is already home to other sporting archives covering skiing, boxing, Leicester Riders basketball team, Leicestershire Tennis and Squash Club, The English Chess Federation, the Special Olympics, which were held in Leicester in 1989 and 2009, and a number of grass roots organisations from Leicester and Leicestershire.

Katharine said: “This Tigers collection covers the long and fascinating history of one of the UK’s most prominent rugby clubs and tells a very local Leicester story too.

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A 'ladies' season ticket from the 20s signed by a visiting All Blacks team

“The Tigers join a growing number of sports-related collections we have here at DMU, from skiing and boxing to stadium design and chess, which are open to the public to view. We are passionate about opening up the archives to everybody because they are part of our shared history.

“The Tigers collection is large and the team is working its way through it. Processing and categorizing everything is still on-going , but we are at a point where the archive is accessible and we welcome visitors.”

Martin Polley, Director of the International Centre for Sports History and Culture at DMU, said: “DMU Special Collections has developed an innovative and increasingly significant archive on sports history over the past few years.

“To now have the addition of papers and artefacts from Leicester Tigers rugby club expands the national significance of the collection even further.

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The Tigers team, also known as Leicester Football Club, in 1897

“The importance of the DMU archives was recently demonstrated when the Wellcome Trust awarded £100,000 from their Research Resources Grant Fund to support the sports history collection.

“We are proud of our strong links with the DMU Special Collections team.”

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Katharine with Stade Francais and Australia rugby shirts

Katharine says visitors can view the catalogue of Tigers memorabilia online HERE make a note of the items they would like to see then email with a date for viewing.  A member of the archiving team will then get them ready to look at.

Some of the larger objects from the collection – including the stuffed Springbok head - are currently on display in the DMU Heritage Centre which is celebrating the tenth anniversary of the DMU archive team.

You can find out more about the DMU archives and special collections HERE

Posted on Friday 8 September 2023

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