Two of Preston’s leading designers have combined to produce a centennial memorial to the Dick, Kerr Ladies football team.
Seb Salisbury, architect at the Frank Whittle Partnership (FWP) and design guru Ben Casey, a nationally renowned creative consultant, designed and installed the memorial at Preston North End’s Deepdale stadium – where the all-female works team played their first game 100 years ago.
The wall mounted memorial is the first of its kind in the world and Salisbury and Casey, who also played a major role in designing and delivering North End’s stadium, collaborated on the artwork and illustration for it.
This has included in depth research into the history of the team and refining the overall design over several months.
The memorial is effectively split into three sections and consists of just over 60 granite panels including a wall plaque measuring an impressive 6m x 4m.
The lower section of the memorial, the plinth, contains a narrative explaining the unique history of the Dick, Kerr Ladies football team.
“This includes images of the old munitions factory, west stand at Deepdale and various silhouettes of players over the years,” Seb says.
It was on Christmas Day 1917 that the Dick, Kerr Ladies took on Arundel Coulthards Foundry in a charity football match to raise funds for injured soldiers who had been fighting on the Western Front and convalescing at the nearby Moor Park Military Hospital. A crowd of 10,000 spectators came to watch the match and £600 was raised for the soldiers. (Almost £50,000 in 2017)
The team went from strength to strength and soon became recognised as the best in the country.
In 1920 they played the first ladies International at Deepdale against a French team from Paris in front of 25,000 spectators, a record crowd for the ground at that time.
Boxing Day 1920 saw them make history playing in front of 53,000 spectators at Goodison Park, Everton and with between 10,000 and 14,000 people unable to get in to the ground, this was a huge landmark for the ladies game.
In spite of an FA ban on women’s football in 1921, the Dick, Kerr Ladies continued to play against all the odds until 1965 and during that time they played 833 games of football, won 759, drew 46 and lost only 28 games. They raised in the region of £180,000 for charity, but today that would be worth in excess of £10 million.
Seb added: “The roll of honour displays the names of the 264 women who played for the team over the years from 1917 to 1965 and the wall plaque displays a modern treatment of a black and white team photograph from 1921.
“We wanted to pick up on the unique way the ladies are stood in the team picture and portray it in such a way that signifies unity, togetherness and strength.
“We introduced an element of colour into the design by using intricate recycled glass inlays to pick up on the colour of the shorts and the distinctive old leather football.”
FWP and Ben Casey have a long and distinguished association with Preston North End having together designed and seen built the new Deepdale stadium and worked on plans for Premier League standard new training facilities.
FWP’s managing partner, David Robinson, is also a main board director of Preston North End.
A dedicated team of volunteers, led by Gail Newsham, Dick, Kerr Ladies historian and author, has worked hard to ensure that it has been an incredible centenary year for the team.
The memorial was co-sponsored by the Football Association, BAE Systems, UCLan, Preston North End, the Frank Whittle Partnership, UEFA and the Professional Footballers Association.
Gail said: “The Dick, Kerr Ladies have waited far too long for their place in the spotlight, but finally they are centre stage and will be remembered forever. I am eternally grateful to everyone who worked so hard to help make a dream become reality.”
A first blue plaque in the world for women’s football is now attached to the factory in Preston where the team was formed and a centenary dinner was held at Preston North End last July.
David Taylor, deputy chairman of Preston North End and the chairman of UCLan said: “Both Preston North End and the university are happy to support the centenary events to celebrate the Dick, Kerr Ladies football team.
“What these women achieved both on the field and off the field in terms of raising money for injured soldiers during the First World War is remarkable by any standards. The City of Preston can be rightly proud of the heritage”.