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West Yorkshire Archive Service
West Yorkshire Archive Service

Prestigious UNESCO Award for West Yorkshire Archive Service

The records of the West Riding Pauper Asylum, Stanley Royd 1814-1991, held by West Yorkshire Archive Service (WYAS), Wakefield, have received a prestigious award from UNESCO, being accepted for Inscription on the UK National Register of Documentary Heritage by the UNESCO Memory of the World Programme.

This collection has been recognised as being of unique significance, being an irreplaceable source for the medical and social heritage of the United Kingdom. The records are a complete source for the study of all aspects of a renowned hospital which was at the forefront of medical and scientific progress in the treatment of the mentally ill in the United Kingdom, and in the way patients were viewed generally by society. Pioneering treatments were tested and implemented and a new informed way of understanding mental illness was developed.

At the heart of the collection, however, are the patients’ records themselves recording, in intimate and extensive detail, the admission, family and social background, illnesses, treatment, and ultimate fate of the thousands of men, women and children who passed through the doors of Stanley Royd over the course of 173 years. The collection includes over 5000 photographs of patients from the late 1860s onwards, literally putting a human face on a patient number. Each case file, whether for an adult or a child, shows the range of ailments and problems for which people were admitted.

Mary Manning, a Bradford domestic servant, was admitted in 1880. She claimed to be the “Queen of heaven, possessed of great wealth and had been crowned”. Others were suffering from general health problems such as symptoms which would be recognised today as post-natal depression. Sarah Drabble of Wortley was admitted in 1832, aged 37 after having 18 children. She was not surprisingly “feeling in a low desponding state ever since her confinement”. Other women were suffering from social problems. Mary Ellen Yates, a Leeds housewife, was admitted in 1887 due to insufficient food and mistreatment by her husband.

Children were admitted into the hospital from as early as 1820 and until the opening of the separate Stanley Hall facility in 1901, their cases are among the adult case books and files, many with photographs of the children. Examples from the Stanley Hall era are in separate volumes and include Alfred Todd of Wakefield with a diagnosis of “imbecility with epilepsy”. The remarks made on his treatment include - in answer to questions put as to name and age “he replies broken window” and on asking him names of surrounding objects replies “Alfey”. Another mother of an 11 year old Leeds boy says in 1911 “I cannot manage him. He is destructive, breaks and tears everything he can get to lay his hands on. I am obliged to keep knives out of his way and all windows closed…..Children in the neighbourhood are afraid of him”.

The UNESCO UK Memory of the World Register is an online catalogue created to help promote the UK’s documentary heritage across the UK and the world. The award for ‘Best of UK Heritage’ recognises the outstanding but lesser-known heritage of the UK. Only nine UK collections have been successful this year.

This is the 2nd collection held by WYAS to receive a UNESCO award, the diaries of Anne Lister 1806-1840, held at WYAS, Calderdale being successful in 2011.

The UK Register is available at

Tattoos, pigeon theft and fraud!

Did your ancestor dabble on the wrong side of the law? Thousands of new Yorkshire criminal record entries now online.

Thousands of our 19th century criminal records have been published online for the first time – shedding light on the criminal habits of Victorian Yorkshire.

Digitised in partnership with, the collection details the crimes of thousands of criminals, from hardened lags at HMP Wakefield to juvenile offenders at Calder Farm Reformatory, East Moor Community Home School and The Shadwell Children’s Center.

Crimes range from gambling and petty criminality through to forgery, burglary and violent assault. Some examples of child convicts include:

Herbert Wells – Along with his friend William Jamieson, 12-year-old Herbert committed forgery and larceny after stealing an old chequebook from a local vet, faking his signature and drawing out significant funds

Henry Sutton – Noted as having a ‘very violent temper’ 13-year-old Henry was admitted for ‘unlawful assault’. Despite his age, his records reveal that he already had ‘five indistinct tattoo marks on his left forearm’

Richard Cardwall – Listed as ‘uncontrollable’ 12-year-old Richard was sent to East Moor Community Home School for four years after stealing a pigeon

In addition to child criminals, the details of nearly 400,000 adult offenders are also included in records for HMP Wakefield (the former West Riding House of Correction). Each record contains the prisoner’s name, age, occupation, nature of the offence, sentence, and dates of admission and discharge. Selected records also give background information and physical descriptions. Example convicts include:

Peter O Hara – Sentenced to two calendar months inside jail after assaulting a police officer, Peter’s record reveals that his hands were tattooed with the rather incongruous inking ‘my father’s love’

Richard Henry Belch – 28-year-old Belch was found guilty of common assault after ‘maliciously wounding Henry Sutton on the 25th May 1902’. His court records reveal he had five previous convictions for assault, gaming and general drunken and disorderly behaviour

The Backhouse Brothers – Charles Benjamin Backhouse and Frederick Lawder Backhouse were charged with the willful murder of policeman John Kew. Though Frederick received a reprieve and had his sentence changed to life imprisonment, Charles was hanged in the first double execution of the 20th century

The collection also includes Calendars of Prisoners for most of Yorkshire – including the local Assize courts - a vital resource in tracking down and discovering more about your criminal ancestors.

Launched in conjunction with this are 32,000 historic Police personnel records and nearly 3,000 registers pertaining to 18th century local Militia. The Police personnel records include the West Riding Constabulary, Leeds City Police, Bradford City Police, Wakefield City Police, Halifax Borough Police and Huddersfield Borough Police.

The digitised collection can access via, which is available online or free of charge at all our sites. Alternatively, the original records can be accessed at our Wakefield office

What was your house worth? Over ½ million new records launched on in partnership with West Yorkshire Archive Service has published 600,000 new records online from the 1910 Finance Valuation Act records held at our Wakefield office.

Available online for the very first time, the collection gives information about the names and addresses of West Yorkshire residents in 1910. The collection is unique in that it also gives a wealth of information about local sporting teams and industries. For instance:

Elland Road football ground, the home of Leeds United, is listed as being worth just £6,000 (only £600,000 today).

Valley Parade in Bradford is another famous football ground included in the collection. The records reveal that in 1910 the owners of Bradford City A.F.C were paying £338 per year to rent the ground (the equivalent of £33,715 today).

Headingley Stadium, home to Yorkshire County Cricket Club, is also listed in the collection at a value of £21,628 (£2,157,393 today). This entry for this property states that the overall value includes the adjacent ‘bowling club, lodge, stables and land’.

The collection is also searchable by name for the very first time, with access to the collection free of charge at all of our offices. This launch is in addition to the 22.5 million Electoral Register records launched in December 2013, and the 9 million parish register entries launched in July 2011.

For more information about the collection, click here

Plans to for proposed Wakefield Archives to go on display

Plans for the redevelopment of the Kirkgate area of Wakefield are to go on display to give people the opportunity to share their views and comments.

The plans will be on show to the public at two special events being held on 31 January and 1 February. Both events run from 10am - 4pm, at 102/104 Kirkgate, Wakefield, WF1 1TB. This is on the corner of George Street, opposite the Harewood Arms.

Cllr Denise Jeffery, Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Economic Growth, said: “Redevelopment of the Kirkgate area of Wakefield is needed to revitalise the general area, improve transport links and encourage further investment. I hope people will take this opportunity to visit the exhibition and have their say in these important regeneration plans.”

The exhibition will provide details of outline plans and progress made so far for the Kirkgate area.

Groundwork Wakefield and West Yorkshire Archives will also be present at the exhibition to provide an update on the redevelopment and restoration of Kirkgate Station and the relocation of the West Yorkshire Archives building to the Kirkgate area.

The master plan will help guide the redevelopment of the Kirkgate area, in the next stage in the regeneration of Wakefield. As a gateway to the city centre, it will help to transform the area and create good links to the heart of the retail area and recently regenerated Waterfront area.

For those unable to attend the event dates, details of the exhibition will be available from Friday January 31st at

Scheduled Collections work closure, 10th-14th March 2014

All five offices of the West Yorkshire Archive Service will be closed for collections work during the following week:

Monday 10th March to Friday 14th March

During this time archive staff will be working on improving access to the local authority collections in our care

Staff will continue to respond to urgent written and telephone messages during this period

22.5 Million West Yorkshire Electoral Registers online in partnership with West Yorkshire Archive Service has published over 22.5 million electoral records relating to residents of Surrey and West Yorkshire.

The registers are searchable by name, residence, constituency and year, and are a vital resource for those researching their West Yorkshire heritage. Unlike census records, published once every ten years, electoral records are updated yearly meaning you can track your ancestors’ movements on a year-by-year basis.

Added to this, you can now search all the way up to 1962 – an extra 50 years since the last available census in 1911.

Among the 22.5 million records, there are a number of famous names contained within the collection. These include:

Titus Salt

The Bradford industrialist and founder of Saltaire can be found at Crow Nest, Hipperholme. Local legend has it that Salt kept a flock of Alpacas in the grounds at Crow Nest!

Wilfred Rhodes

Yorkshire and England cricketer Rhodes can be found at his family’s farm at Bog Hall, Kirkheaton. Rhodes holds the world records both for the most appearances made in first-class cricket (1,100) and for the most wickets ever taken (4,204).

John Braine

Bradford novelist Braine can be found at 13 Priesthorpe Road, Bingley in 1960. Braine had by this point written Room at the Top, with the film version starring Laurence Harvey released the year before.

Thomas Bryan VC

Bryan was born in Worcestershire, but grew up in Castleford. Following in the footsteps of his mining father, Bryan worked underground as well as playing Rugby League for Castleford in 1906/7. As a result of his bravery in attacking a machine gun emplacement in 1917, Bryan was awarded the Victoria Cross.

The West Yorkshire electoral registers form a major addition to a collection of over 9.5 million West Yorkshire parish and nonconformist records from West Yorkshire Archive Service, published on in 2011

For more information about the collection, click here

Collections Week, November 2013 – the results!

Once again all our offices were very busy during our Collections Week, this time held 4th-8th November. Here’s what we achieved!

Bradford: Initial listing of a large amount of material from Keighley Town Hall basement was completed. One day was also spent returning Bradford documents to Bradford ready for the re-opening in December.

Calderdale: The barcoding project was completed. A further 10150 containers were done in the week. We now have a full survey of the containers in our Calderdale stores.

Kirklees: Two bays of various collections, leaflets and lever arch files were worked on. 63 individual collections were noted, mainly relating to local authority and family collections. One collection related to Harold Blackburn, a leading Huddersfield artist, included original pen and ink sketches and watercolour drawings of various buildings and scenes in the Huddersfield area drawn 1944-1960s.

Leeds: Work continued on Leeds Council Health Department records. Work was also done on Local Authority Minutes and Reports covering Leeds, Rothwell, Morley and the West Riding. Plans relating to Leeds Council Architects Department, Engineering Department and Morley Libraries, were moved from an inaccessible mezzanine at our outstore to a more accessible location. LCC Compulsory Purchase Orders were accessioned, listed, re-boxed and entered onto our online catalogue.

Wakefield: During the course of the week 5784 barcodes were added to our collections. The police records for Dewsbury, Halifax, Huddersfield, Wakefield and the training centre at Bishopgarth have all been worked on, with collections being restructured and renumbered to make finding them easier. This equates to 687 new records on our online catalogue and will make using the police collections at Wakefield much easier. Work on retro-converting the West Riding Constabulary collection is also ongoing with over 2214 new catalogue entries.

Explore Your Archive!

The Archives and Records Association (UK and Ireland) and The National Archives have come together to create a new campaign to raise awareness of archives, their value to society and the impact they have, every day, on individual lives.

We are running a series of events to celebrate the heritage we care for, our amazing stories and to show how you how much fun you can have can exploring your local archive.

You can find out more about the campaign at

Book Promo

Enjoy a fantastic book promotion throughout November when you visit our offices in person – buy one get one free! A great stocking filler for Christmas. We will be giving away a copy of the ‘Guide for Family Historians’ which is a list of Parish, Nonconformist and other related records held by West Yorkshire Archive Service.

Christmas Ask the Experts Gift Voucher - limited time and availability!

Stuck for an unusual Christmas present for a special someone?

How about a voucher for our ‘Ask the Expert’ research service?

From 18th November for a month, we have a limited number of vouchers available at a reduced price of £20 for an hour of research undertaken by our expert archives staff (usually £25). Watch this space for more details! Once they’re gone – they’re gone!

Death, Disaster and Dubious Dumplings: Life and Death in Victorian Yorkshire

There are many hidden gems in the collections held by the West Yorkshire Archive Service. Amongst these are a series of handwritten notebooks complied by Thomas Taylor, County Coroner from 1852 – 1900.

From mining disasters to natural causes, these notebooks record details of the inquests into sudden deaths, accidental demises and mysterious ends. Eye witness accounts and details of people’s lives are recorded, providing a fascinating insight into life and death in 19th century Yorkshire.

In 1868 wealthy Eliza Coulson died from eating bad beef and dubious dumplings. Sarah Hughes died in 1870 from natural causes "accelerated by fright occasioned by riotous proceedings of a mob".

Not all the deaths recorded in the notebooks were natural or accidental. Sarah Ann Koyton died suddenly in 1889 from "excitement and passion" after a row with a neighbour over a washing line. In 1864 the verdict at the inquest on 19 year old Keziah Booth suggested foul play. Keziah’s deathbed statement, written up in the notebook, accused her lover, William Dawson of poisoning her as she was "in the family way".

Personal details about other family members can also be found in these notebooks, revealing unique insights into the lives and deaths of our ancestors.

If you’d like to know more and you aren’t able to visit one of our offices, West Yorkshire Archive Service’s new ‘Ask the Experts’ service can search these amazing records for you, with prices starting as low as just £12.

To order research visit our Eshop or download an "Ask the Experts" application form at

From Bread and Butter to Prison and Porridge

Skeletons in cupboards are part and parcel of doing a family history. Dark criminal secrets, missing ancestors and tales of past misdeeds litter the trail of most budding family historians. Often, these tales seem impossible to verify as the details are lost in the murky midsts of time.

But now, WYAS’s research service might just be able to help.

West Yorkshire Archive Service holds a wide range of records that can reveal a dark dimension to your family history. From the unusual - such as the 1812 conviction of James Brown Whitkirk for grave robbing - to minor offences such as drunkenness and ‘using profane language’, the archives may hold unique stories about your ancestor that can’t be found anywhere else in the world.

The case studies below give a fascinating insight into the stories we can uncover – can we help you find your black sheep of the family?

The WYAS Research service is happy to help. For the incredible rate of just £24 per hour, our archive experts will delve into our records to see if we can find your mystery ancestor!

For enquires email or telephone 01924 305980. To order research visit the eshop at or download a Research Service application form at

Case Notes of Hannah Hemingway, Wakefield by wyorksarchives

Case Notes of William Weddill of Sheffield by wyorksarchives


Heritage Lottery Fund Success

West Yorkshire Archive Service is pleased to announce that we have received initial support for a £3.6million bid from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) to create a new permanent home for Wakefield's archives.

Our aim is to provide a brand new, secure and stable environment for the collections of the former West Riding, as well as for those relating to Wakefield district. It will also improve access to our records, allowing them to be explored in a much more welcoming environment than we can currently offer.

Our Stage 1 bid included an application for over £200,000 of development funding . This has been awarded and will help us develop our plans further to apply for a full grant at a later date

The Archive Service’s Wakefield collections are currently held in the former Registry of Deeds on Newstead Road, which is no longer fit for purpose.

Wakefield Council has allocated a site for a replacement building, where the Service will have the space to reconnect communities with their archives, including our large collections of mining records relating to former coalfield communities which are currently held at our Leeds office.

We will also have facilities to offer better training and guidance for those wishing to explore archives relating to family and local history, and to offer a wider range of volunteering opportunities, especially in our highly regarded conservation unit.

A first-round pass means our project meets HLF criteria for funding and HLF believes the project has potential to deliver high-quality benefits and value for Lottery money. Our application was in competition with other supportable projects, so a first-round pass is an endorsement of our outline proposals. Having been awarded a first-round pass, we now have up to two years to submit fully developed proposals to compete for a firm award.

Unlocking the archives

We’re giving researchers an extra 10 ½ hours a week to consult the millions of documents in our care!

Our Wakefield office is opening on Fridays for the first time in 10 years and is also now able to provide a full service over lunchtime.

Whilst everyone is welcome to visit the office on Fridays, it is hoped that the new Friday sessions will especially attract researchers new to the world of Archives, with friendly staff and plenty of advice on offer.

Everyone is a celebrity at the Archives

Let us give you the Star treatment!

Even the stars can be surprised by what is found in the archives.

We have recently worked closely with the BBC One family history programme "Who Do You Think You Are?" and viewers saw them unearth some fascinating information about the family of Mirfield-born star of stage and screen Sir Patrick Stewart in the 29th August episode

Every family tree is interesting and family historians now have access to a wealth of online resources. Working in partnership with we have already made a large number of parish and non-conformist registers available online.

You may think that you have found everything that can be found - but we could have some surprises for you! For a limited period our Research Service is offering you the chance to have your own "Who Do You Think Are?" expert examine your existing family tree. They can offer you professional advice on how to continue with your own research and ways to potentially fill in the gaps in your family tree.

For more information on our research service click here, email or call us on 01924 305980.

You can order research through our Eshop or you can pick up a Research Service application form from any of our offices.

It could the start of a new chapter in your family history.

Searching for names? We have got over 20 million of them!

Your ancestors may be found in The West Riding Registry of Deeds - a nationally unique resource for family historians.

Our experienced staff can help you to:

  • Discover if your ancestors owned land in the West Riding of Yorkshire between 1704 and 1970.
  • Find personal names, houses, businesses and more
  • Decipher difficult old handwriting

Our Deeds cover West Yorkshire and beyond ? from Halifax to Harrogate; and from Settle to Sheffield, there might just be one of your ancestors in the Registry of Deeds!

For enquires email or telephone 01924 305 980

To order research visit the Eshop or download an application form

Luddite Bicentenary


2012 was the bicentenary year of the Luddites in West Yorkshire. In 1812 certain areas of the West Riding of Yorkshire saw major outbreaks of violence by people who have come to be known as 'Luddites'. The Luddites were mainly croppers, a small and highly skilled group of cloth finishers, who, at a time of the worst trade depression since the 1760s, facing deepening poverty, rising wheat prices and food scarcity, turned their anger on the new cropping machine, which they feared would put them out of work


A commemorative booklet has been produced to celebrate the Luddite Bicentenary. The 25 page booklet aims to give an insight into life in 1812, the major events of riots and murder as well as the individual stories of some of the Luddites and the personal suffering undergone by their widows and children, who were visited by the Quaker, Thomas Shillitoe.


You can buy a copy either online via our E-Shop or in person at any of our offices


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Treasures of the West Yorkshire Archive Service

The top five treasures from our district collections have now been chosen by you! The winners are;


  • Bradford – Alhambra
  • Calderdale – Crossleys Carpets
  • Kirklees – Fisher Family Letters
  • Leeds – Tetleys
  • Wakefield – Nostell Priory Winn Family records

  • A display showcasing the winner of each district is available to view in our offices for the Month of March. If you would like to view original records from any of the winners, please contact the relevant office to make an appointment


    For full details on all the winners West Yorkshire Archives Treasures


    Parish Registers on Ancestry

    500 years of baptisms, marriages and burials are now available on The parish registers from hundreds of Church of England parishes across West Yorkshire are now available to search online. These records are often the only way to track an ancestor prior to civil registration and also contain a wealth of information about the people of West Yorkshire from artists to engineers, authors to brewers, soldiers to politicians and the wars, unrest, disease and disaster that affected their lives. Free access is available from all our offices and many local libraries or follow the link above to log on from home! Any questions please contact us

    Accreditation Scheme for Community Groups

    We have recently launched our Accreditation Scheme for Community Heritage Groups. It is hoped that this will provide a framework within which the groups can achieve excellence, raising standards in all core activities of such groups whilst actively promoting sustainability of both practice and collections.

    See the Accreditation Scheme page for more details!


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