Wakefield Olympian Denise Ramsden honoured with blue plaque outside Stanley school

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Wakefield Council and Dream Time Creative’s Forgotten Women of Wakefield have honoured Olympic sprinter Denise Ramsden with a blue plaque at her old Stanley school.

The unveiling of the plue plaque took place on Monday, November 6, at Stanley Library and Community Centre – with 130 people attending to celebrate the life and legacy of the talented Wakefield sprinter.

Denise was a highly awarded Wakefield athlete who was dubbed the protégé of British Olympian, Dorothy Hyman.

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Now she has been commemorated with a shining blue plaque outside her old school, Stanley St Peter’s Primary School.

Stephen Castle, Gemma Castle-Myers, and Melvin Castle at the blue plaque unveiling.Stephen Castle, Gemma Castle-Myers, and Melvin Castle at the blue plaque unveiling.
Stephen Castle, Gemma Castle-Myers, and Melvin Castle at the blue plaque unveiling.

Her talent was spotted early by the Wakefield school, who sent a letter home to her parents asking if they realised how much potential she had.

As a result, Denise started training with Dorothy in 1960 at the age of just nine.

The current head teacher at Stanley St Peter’s, Michelle Wiggins, said: “We are immensely proud of Denise’s contribution to the world of athletics, and having her legacy permanently represented on our school building is a point of great pride for our entire school community.”

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In 1968, Denise won the English Schools Athletic Championships for the 100 yard sprint in a record-breaking 10.7 seconds.

Wakefield Olympic Sprinter, Denise Ramsden, has been commamorated with a blue plaque at her old school.Wakefield Olympic Sprinter, Denise Ramsden, has been commamorated with a blue plaque at her old school.
Wakefield Olympic Sprinter, Denise Ramsden, has been commamorated with a blue plaque at her old school.

Only a year later, she won a bronze medal in the 100 metres relay for the Great Britain and Northern Ireland athletics team in the European Athletics Championships in Greece.

The early 1970s soon saw Denise competing at local, national and international level with her leaving her NHS job in 1976 to dedicate her time to training.

That same year, Denise was representing Great Britain at the Montreal Olympics where she became the UK national record holder for the 100m sprint relay.

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The blue plaque came about after a relative of Denise contacted Coun Lynn Masterman.

Children from Stanley St Peter's Primary School delivered a presentation on Denise and her achievements.Children from Stanley St Peter's Primary School delivered a presentation on Denise and her achievements.
Children from Stanley St Peter's Primary School delivered a presentation on Denise and her achievements.

Coun Masterman then applied for her ward community grants scheme to cover the cost, which is £800, and approached Dream Time Creative to make it happen.

Dream Time Creative is a Wakefield arts company behind the Forgotten Women of Wakefield project, which tackles the inequalities surrounding representation of women’s achievements on blue plaques.

Sarah Cobham, of Dream Time Creative, said: “We are absolutely delighted that this, our 27th blue plaque in the Forgotten Women of Wakefield series, will leave such a strong legacy both within the local community, who turned out in force, and for generations to come.

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"As an Olympian, Denise's story continues to encourage young women to aim high in the field of sport.”

Denise passed away in 2003, but left a legacy which will continue to be celebrated.

As part of the unveiling ceremony, children from Ramsden class at Stanley St Peter's Primary School delivered a presentation on Denise and her achievements.

Numerous special guests attended the unveiling, including her daughter Gemma, who spoke about her mum’s legacy, and her mentor, Dorothy.

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Gemma said: “There are not enough words to describe how proud we are as a family that my mum’s achievements in athletics and her legacy are being honoured with her name on a blue plaque.

"Anyone who knew my mum would know just how dedicated she was to her sport and how truly deserving she is to be honoured and remembered in this way.”