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A Special place for Yorkshire history

 May 23, 2016 | Simon Jenkins


A unique collection of manuscripts, archives and books relating to Yorkshire’s history has a new home at the University of Leeds.

The Yorkshire Archaeological and Historical Society Collection (YAHS), probably the largest single resource for research on Yorkshire’s past outside the British Library, has been entrusted to the University’s Special Collections on long-term loan.

With items dating from the 12th century among its 45,000-plus works, the collection reflects the society’s dedication to the study of Yorkshire’s archaeology, history and society over more than 150 years.

The archive, a catalogue of which is being made available online, fills more than a third of a mile (550m) of University of Leeds library shelves.

Its highlights include the document that signalled the end of the Battle of Waterloo, in the Duke of Leeds Collection, and letters patent of Queen Elizabeth I, adorned with a delicately drawn and brightly coloured portrait of the monarch and with the Queen’s seal still attached by silver cords.

University of Leeds | News > Arts & Culture > Looking forward through Yorkshire’s past with archive’s new home

Other items of international importance include the Wakefield Court Rolls, which were included in the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Memory of the World register in 2011. The 670 rolls provide records of society and industry in the West Riding from 1274 to 1925.

University Librarian Dr Stella Butler said: “This is an important moment for both organisations, representing a strong partnership which will safeguard historical material of international importance.

“It is an impressive collection of manuscript and printed material built up by the Society over more than 150 years and it has a broad appeal to researchers in many areas of history, providing a rich and varied resource for local, family, architectural, economic, social, religious and landscape history.

“We are honoured to be custodians of it on behalf of the Yorkshire Archaeological and Historical Society.”

Dr Gill Cookson is the society’s President, and also an Honorary Research Fellow in the University’s School of History: The partnership with Leeds University Library promises to bring our collections to wider notice around the world,” she said.  “Academic researchers and anyone interested in Yorkshire history will now be able to explore the society’s archive in the University Library Special Collections reading room. The YAHS library will be shelved in a special Yorkshire section at the Brotherton Library.”

YAHS continues to build its collections. A new set of documents bought at auction last February complements one of the jewels of the YAHS archive, the original George Walker images published in 1814 as The Costume of Yorkshire.

Joanne Fitton, Head of the University’s Special Collections, said: “The collections provide a fantastic unique resource that is accessible to students and academics in the University and we welcome the new opportunities this brings for teaching and research.

“The Special Collections reading room is open to all members of the public and the resources of the YAHS will encourage more people to visit our service for the first time.”

A Special place for Yorkshire history