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Foundation awarded grant to launch ‘Black, Green and Golden Age’ project

Northampton Saints Foundation are delighted to announce they have been awarded a two-year £65,550 grant, from The National Lottery Heritage Fund, to explore and document Northampton Saints RFC during the 1950s and 1960s era. 

Launching in June 2023, the project – titled the ‘Black, Green and Golden Age of Northampton Saints’ – will give the opportunity to further explore and potentially discover hidden stories from the Club’s history.  

During this period, Saints had over 250 players as well as key committee and staff members, who all played an important part in creating the rich heritage of the Club we know today. It was a period of success and development for the Club, mainly thanks to the efforts of three key members; former fly-half Gordon Sturtridge, former winger Jerry Gordon, and Don White, a flanker whose debut was the first of over 448 matches for Saints to make him the second-highest player appearance maker in the Club’s history. During this time, Saints also developed some of the best players in the country, with many going on to represent their country at international level. 

As a heavily under-researched era, the project aims to engage with a wide range of former players, staff and supporters to build a rich history and capture this bygone time through interviews, recording oral histories and reminiscence sessions.  

Through this project, the Foundation will catalogue and digitise memorabilia that they hold in their archive, and accession additional relevant items, storing them correctly to preserve and protect them for generations to come.  

At the end of the project, the Foundation aims to produce various education outcomes in addition to a video based on their findings, that can be shared and accessed by all via their website. They will work with a local poet to develop a performance commission based on the outcomes of the oral history interviews and group reminiscence sessions, which can be shared and accessed by all.  

Exhibition materials will also be created for Saints supporters in an existing space within the stadium to showcase the work of the project. 

“History is everything when it comes to sports clubs,” said Graham McKechnie, Club Historian at Northampton Saints. “Without it, you’re left with meaningless franchises. 

“We’re incredibly lucky in this country and at Northampton Saints in particular to have such rich sporting heritage. From the humble beginnings of Reverend Wigg’s ‘Boys Improvement Class’, through two World Wars, the dawn of professionalism, a run to European glory and everything in-between, it has to be cherished.  

“We owe it to everyone who ever wore a Saints jersey to make sure they’re not forgotten.” 

Clare Clarke, Heritage and Partnership Lead at the Foundation, added: “We are delighted to be given the opportunity to deliver this project, thankful to all the National Lottery players and excited to work with The National Lottery Heritage Fund team.

“The 1950s and 1960s was such an exciting time for the Club, and through existing and new networks, such as the Hall of Fame and the recently-formed Northampton Saints Benevolent Fund, we feel that this is the right era to focus, capturing as many first-hand stories as possible. 

“Deepening our research and increasing our knowledge allows us to connect better with our heritage, and will create an opportunity to reach out to many of these former players and value their contribution to the Club and sporting history.”

Clare Clarke, Heritage and Partnership Lead at the Foundation

Robyn Llewellyn, Director, England, Midlands & East at The National Lottery Heritage Fund said:

“We are delighted to be supporting Northampton Saints Foundation on this project, ensuring that this chapter of the UK’s sporting heritage is explored, documented, and shared with our local communities.”

As part of the project, the Foundation aims to recruit and train approximately 30 volunteers, who will be able to develop a number of skills including but not limited to digitisation and conservation techniques in heritage, oral history training, research methods and project management. 

Being part of the volunteer team, they will also develop broader transferable skills including communication, confidence, time management, leadership and problem-solving techniques. We will offer volunteer placements to a range of people with differing skill sets, and we will encourage skill sharing amongst volunteers and staff.  

To register your interest in becoming a volunteer, or if you have a story or archive materials to share from the 1950s-1960s, please email [email protected]