Video: Hidden treasures of the Leeds city archive

When Annie Smith misbehaved at school at the turn of the last century she probably hoped her misdemeanour would be quickly forgotten.

Little could she imagine, however, that it would enter the history books so that her punishment could still be mulled over more than 100 years later.

The schoolgirl’s “insolence” to her cookery teacher in December 1904 earned her two strokes with a cane, according to a punishment book from Morley Peel Street Junior and Infants’ School.

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Spanning 20 years from 1884, the record still exists and its contents will be bared for all to see later this week as part of a rare behind-the-scenes tour at the West Yorkshire Archive Service.

The book is among a raft of documents which will be on display on Friday at the archives’ new home in Morley, Leeds.

To celebrate the opening of the search room and store at the West Yorkshire Joint Services’ building, the West Yorkshire Archive Service is offering a rare chance to delve into Leeds’s past and take a close look at some of its treasures – many of which will be on display for the first time.

“The punishment book is quite interesting,” said Vicky Grindrod, archivist at the Leeds branch of the West Yorkshire Archive Service.

“You get people doing their family history and looking through the book to see if their relatives were naughty.

“It’s a lovely way to find out more about the personalities of people’s ancestors.”

Visitors will be able to peer at 18th century recipes, the very first drawings of Leeds and Morley Town Halls, and photographs showing streets in Leeds before the mass slum clearance of the 1960s.

Among the family and estate records on display will be a notification of a grant of land in Ripley dating back to before 1157 and the Mount Grace Priory Foundation Charter from 1398. The charter sets out how Thomas de Holand wanted a house of monks of the Carthusian Order to pray for the King, himself, his heirs and various others once the priory was founded. Purchased in 1995 with the help of the National Art Collections Fund, the archive is part of the records of the Ingilbys of Ripley Castle in North Yorkshire.

Also on display will be a volume of an aristocrat’s diaries from the 19th century. The recollections of Lady Amabel Yorke, who lived at Fountains Hall on the Studley Royal Estate, near Ripon, stretch to 37 volumes.

The West Yorkshire Archive Service had been housed at the former Sheepscar branch library on Chapeltown Road in Leeds since 1965 but closed its doors earlier this year ahead of the move to the new archive search room and store.

Mrs Grindrod said: “We were outgrowing the old building. It was built in the 1930s, it was past its best and we needed some new storage for documents to make sure they were kept in suitable archive accommodation. We have moved 15,000 boxes of documents. All of those used to be across three rooms in the old store. With mobile racking they will fit into one space with room for expansion. It’s fantastic.

“Two thirds of our holdings are all on site now; just one third was on site before. If anyone wanted to order a document in the search room we had to check which building it was in. If it was not on site they would have to pre-order it and come in a couple of days later. Now there is more chance of documents being accessible immediately.”

The service’s collections hold almost 1,000 years of history and include local authority records, political papers, parish registers and wills, family and estate collections and industrial 

Graham Hebblethwaite, chief officer of West Yorkshire Joint Services, which oversees the work of the Archive Service, said: “We’re delighted to be able to welcome visitors to our brand new public facilities and modern archive store.

“Our new facilities will enable us to provide a much-improved service to users of the Leeds archive collections.”

The open day will be held from 10.30am to 5pm on Friday at the West Yorkshire Joint Services building, Nepshaw Lane South, Morley, Leeds.