Gall stones, hair clippings and so many Rowlands! The Nostell Priory Cataloguing Project

Coat of Arms of Rowland Winn, 1st Baron St Oswald 1885

Coat of Arms of Rowland Winn, 1st Baron St Oswald 1885

WYAS is delighted to announce that this National Cataloguing Grant Funded Project has been successfully completed! A catalogue of over 1000 pages is now available to guide researchers in their use of the records of the Winn family, Barons St Oswald of Nostell Priory, with its magnificent plasterwork interiors by Robert Adam and James Paine, and an outstanding collection of Chippendale furniture. This prestigious and treasured collection is the premier family and estate collection for Wakefield district held by the Service. A grant of £37,000 was awarded to WYAS in 2012 and the project has run from Apr 2013-July 2014.

Coldstream Guards. 1880-1884. Rowland Winn (1857-1974) 2nd Baron St Oswald was a Captain in the Coldstream Guards.

Coldstream Guards. 1880-1884. Rowland Winn (1857-1919) 2nd Baron St Oswald was a Captain in the Coldstream Guards.


From the 1215 Charter of King John onwards, the collection covers personal papers of the Winn family 16th century-1999, manorial records 1605-1745, estate management records 1215-1987, and professional and official records c1555-1977. Over the course of the project over 3000 new entries were added as items were listed for the first time. Some of these finds include new references to Thomas Chippendale amongst the personal correspondence of Rowland Winn, 5th Baronet; recipes, cures and remedies; a huge range of Royal Seals; beautifully hand decorated personal letters to Sabine Winn; Polish newspapers reporting on Lady Wanda Winn and Rowland, the 4th Baron, including articles written by Lord St Oswald; a vast range of personal correspondence of the Winn family including references to military service in the First World War and photographs of the 4th Baron’s time serving in Albania during World War II.

In addition valuable additional information has been added for some 6000 entries including Civil War tracts from the 17th century and eye-witness accounts and letters relating to the doomed invasion of Bonnie Prince Charlie in 1745. As for the cow’s gall bladder from 1888 and childhood hair clippings of Rowland, 6th Baronet, they certainly do make the collection unique!

The whole collection has also been re-numbered and re-packaged, a major task in its own right! Throughout the Project, WYAS has also promoted the collection, working in partnership with the Nostell Priory outreach team. We will continue this promotional work in the months and years to come.

Whether you are looking for your ancestors who worked there, researching the influential Winn family, the estate, the Priory, coalmining or any aspect of local history, there is something for you in this wonderful collection!

Cook at Nostell

Cook at Nostell

The collection will be available on line (over 9000 entries) from 11 August http://catalogue.wyjs.org.uk/Record.aspx?id=LC03029

Prestigious award for West Yorkshire Archive Service!

The records of the West Riding Pauper Asylum, Stanley Royd 1814-1991, held by WYAS, Wakefield, have been nationally recognised by inscription on the UK National Register of Documentary Heritage, part of the UNESCO Memory of the World Programme. The awards were given out at The Mound, Edinburgh, headquarters of the LLoyds Banking Group at a ceremony on Thursday 19th June.

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.

Ann Humphreys of Dewsbury, admitted after trying to drown herself in 1871

Ann Humphreys of Dewsbury, admitted after trying to drown herself in 1871

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 and this is the 2nd WYAS collection to be honoured, the first being the diaries of Anne Lister in 2011.

To find out more about the Stanley Royd records and other collections, visit http://www.archives.wyjs.org.uk

Working with the West Yorkshire Historic Environment Record

West Yorkshire Archive Service (WYAS) have been working with our colleagues in the West Yorkshire Historic Environment Record [WYHER] to host a large proportion of their catalogues on our online catalogue so that researchers can find out even more information about local places and buildings of historical interest.

Post-Medieval Bell Pits, Bentley Grange PRN58
Post-Medieval Bell Pitts at Bentley Grange [WYHER/58]

Staff at WYAS have added over 9000 entries onto their online catalogue describing records held by the WYHER. There is also an online display to highlight some of the many amazing historic sites they have surveyed over the years.

Shibden Hall PRN 2680
Shibden Hall [WYHER/2680]

The West Yorkshire Archaeology Advisory Service holds and curates the West Yorkshire Historic Environment Record (HER), which is a publicly accessible record for West Yorkshire’s archaeology and built heritage. They are based at the Registry of Deeds in Wakefield, and hold records on a range of archaeological sites, historic buildings, artefacts, and historic landscapes ranging from the Prehistoric period right through to the 20th century.

Stuart Wrathmell, Heritage Manager at West Yorkshire Joint Services says of the joint project:

“We’re always looking at ways of improving our services to people who wish to explore West Yorkshire’s heritage, and Jenny and Pat from Archives, together with Ros and Jason from Archaeology, have done a fantastic job in adding over 9,000 entries from the Historic Environment Record – the record of West Yorkshire’s archaeological sites and landscapes, and its historic buildings – to the online Archives catalogue. Now, for the first time, people can go to one website to find all the different kinds of records we hold on thousands of places and buildings in the county.”

To find out more about any of the sites shown on this website, or to do any further research into the archaeology of the area, please contact West Yorkshire HER via 01924 306797 or wyher@wyjs.org.uk. Alternatively, you can also search their records online via Heritage Gateway (www.heritagegateway.org.uk/gateway), or follow them on Facebook (www.facebook.com/WestYorkshireHER).

“Here’s another one for you!” PC John William Kew: Killed in the line of duty.

There are lots of great stories amongst our criminal records (recently launched on Ancestry.co.uk) that tell the story of law and order in the former West Riding of Yorkshire.

Few, however, are quite as tragic as the case of PC John William Kew, once of the few police officers to be killed in the line of duty. Thanks to our Police and Prison records, we can piece together more of his background and the circumstances of how he came to be killed.

John Kew joined the West Riding Constabulary only a month before his 24th birthday on the 5th February, 1895. He was 5 feet 9 ½ inches tall, with a ‘fresh’ complexion and dark brown hair and eyes. He was born in Langton, near Horncastle in Lincolnshire and had been working as a farm labourer before joining the Constabulary. He was married and had no children. He was living in Long Sutton (again, in Lincolnshire). A life of policing was obviously attractive to him as he had already completed 2 ½ years of service with the Lincolnshire Constabulary.

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Appointed as PC 680, ten days later he was posted to the Upper Osgoldcross division (which covered places such as Wragby, Featherstone and Owston). Just over a year later, he was transferred again, this time to the Rotherham Division. It was to be his last posting.

The Backhouse Brothers – Charles Benjamin and Frederick – lived on Kew’s patch in Swinton, Rotherham. On the 10th July, 1910 reports say the brothers were using a revolver to threaten people in Rotherham.

PC Kew came to the Backhouse residence at 11:30pmand stated he was entitled to search them. At this point Charles Backhouse pulled out a revolver and shot PC Kew. Reports state that, though wounded, Kew attempted to wrestle the revolver from Charles Backhouse. At this point his brother took the revolver and – apparently uttering “Here’s another one for you!” – shot PC Kew again. PC Kew died at home the next day from his injuries, the inquest stating that the shot fired by Charles was the fatal blow.

PC Kew’s personnel notes state that he ‘Died at 2:10pm on the 11th July 1900 the effects of being shot by a revolver at Swinton at 11:30pm on the 10th by two men named Charles Benjamin Backhouse and Frederick Backhouse’. He was 30 years old. His wife – now a widow – was to receive his pension.

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The Backhouses were tried swiftly at the West Riding Summer Assizes at Leeds, held just a few weeks later on the 27th July. They were found guilty, and sentenced to be hanged, with Charles found guilty of murder and Frederick found guilty of aiding and abetting.

Their last record comes in the Prison register for Wakefield. These shows that Charles was only aged 19, his brother just 23. Both – rarely, in the prison registers – had no previous convictions. Both could read and write, and both were just over 5 feet tall, much smaller, and younger, than the man they had killed.

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Frederick’s sentence was later commuted to life imprisonment, just two days before the date of his execution. Charles was hanged at HMP Leeds in a double execution with a Thomas Mellor on the 16th August 1900.

We are grateful to http://www.murderuk.com/one_off_Charles_Backhouse.html for the extra information in this blog.

Eurovision: 12 points from the 1880s

Well, another Eurovision Song Contest has been and gone, with poor old Molly finishing in 17th place.

We’re as disappointed as you are by this, so we thought we’d have a rummage and see if any of our holdings might have the answer to our musical woes for next year.

As luck would have it, we struck potential Eurovision gold pretty quickly with this hand written ditty from one of our collections at our Wakefield office.

The item is an exercise book from c. 1889 (C1126/2); and it’s filled with charming songs of the day, from ‘Take you home again’, to ‘Tom Bowling’, ‘I saved it for the lodger’ and of course, the ever popular ‘Off to Philadelphia’.

That's English!

That’s English! And that’s 12 points all round! C1126/2, WYAS Wakefield

However, it was the song below that really got our attention, as it seems to feature the Eurovision standards of pride in your nation and – with a cheeky verse about how nice Ireland is – a guaranteed 12 points from another of the voting nations.

All it needs is a verse about Scotland and Wales, but we’re sure there’s a musical boffin out there who can add that in. The original spellings and some of the content will need a bit of a modification for the sensibilities of a modern audience, but we feel pretty sure we’ve got next year’s contest in Austria sewn-up already.

That’s English! (1889)

In feasting and jollity some men delight
That’s English you know, quiet English you know
While some prefer dancing, a race or a fight
That’s English you know, quiet English you know
To romp with the lasses in meadows of hay
At billiards or cricket or football to play
To follow the hounds tally ho, hark away
That’s English, quite English you know

The things that we see and the things that we hold dear
That’s English you know, quiet English you know
Roast beef and plum pudding, a glass of good beer
That’s English you know, quiet English you know

The are good hearted boys in the little green Isle
That’s Irish you know, quiet Irish you know
They’ve always a welcome a joke or a smile
That’s Irish, quiet Irish you know
With the fairest of daughters, Ireland is blest
And brave are the sons of this nation distressed
That’s Irish, quiet Irish you know

So, what do you think? Have we got Eurovision 2015 in the bag? Or is it another ‘nul points’ all round?

WYAS Criminal records on Ancestry! Stephen Ratcliffe: one lie too far..

So, who was the face of our Criminal Records post from earlier this week? The story below relates to a young man in our Reformatory school collection – and you can find out more about him by viewing our criminal records collection Ancestry.co.uk!

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Stephen Ratcliffe

Well, it was the face of a young man called Stephen Ratcliffe. Not only was he caught breaking the law, he was also later caught bending the truth…

Stephen was born in (Great) Yarmouth on the 8th October, 1892. He attended the Market School, but at some time in his early youth had to bear the tragedy of the death of both his mother and father. It appears that he had already spent time in an Industrial School in Yarmouth as a voluntary case, presumably as a way of putting him on the straight and narrow.

By 1908, he had moved to Leeds and was living with his sister, Alice Birkett, at 33 South Mount Street, Beeston Hill, Leeds. He was employed at Fowler’s works, and had been in some trouble already after it was alleged he had been stealing from them – even though he was considered later to have a ‘respectable’ character!

However, he was convicted in April 1908 of stealing a horse rug. Aged 15 and only 5 foot 3 inches tall, he was sent to East Moor Community Home School, Leeds, for the term of three years.

Like many of his friends, on his discharge in 1910 he enlisted in the Army – a life of discipline and adventure obviously appealing to him. Serving in the King’s Royal Rifles, regular updates suggest he was living a fine, upstanding life.

In early December 1914, he returned to the school. His discharge notes say that he gave ‘a very vivid description of his sufferings and three wounds during the retreat from Mons’. Moved, the Masters noted that ‘much sympathy [was] lavished on him’.

But there was one problem. It seems that Stephen was being liberal with the truth again, as his notes go on to state that ‘two days later we were informed that just returned from India and had not been to France’.

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Excerpt from Stephen’s discharge notes, 1910

In 1915, Stephen was (genuinely) laid up in a military hospital suffering from frostbite. In his bed, he received a letter from one of his old teachers at Eastmoor, SL Whitman.

‘Dear Ratcliffe

I am sorry to hear that you are in hospital again.

After those three terrible wounds you received at Mons (wasn’t it?) you must feel keenly the indignity of being laid up with such a humdrum complaint as frostbite.’

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The letter sent from his teacher gently reminding him of his tall tales..

Stephen no doubt reflected that you can run from some things – but you can’t run from the truth or, indeed, the withering eye of a teacher scorned.

All of these records are available in their original format at our Leeds office, though some restrictions may apply. Ancestry.co.uk is also available free of charge at all our sites.

In a jam with your genealogy? Why not ask us to help!

Our team of experts are on hand to help you solve your family history mysteries through the fantastic collections we have on offer at West Yorkshire Archive Service.

From birth records to coroner’s inquests, if it happened in West Yorkshire, our super sleuths will do their best to get to the bottom of it!

Prices start as low as £12 for 30 minutes of expert research, and our new Express Service can guarantee results delivered to you within five working days.

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Are the answers to your history mysteries in here?

The Ask the Experts service has an amazing success rate, with satisfied customers including the BBC’s Who Do You Think You Are? – Jennie, our Research Consultant, even appearing on screen during an episode devoted to actor Sir Patrick Stewart.

Amongst many other cases, Ask the Experts has helped with:

  • A business who had found that their access route had been blocked. Using the records of the West Riding Registry of Deeds we were able to prove their right of access to their property.
  • An enquirer who needed to prove their right of title to a Manorial Lordship. Using our Express Service, we were able to supply evidence which may go towards proving their title in less than five days.
  • An enquirer who contacted us hoping to find out more about their recent family. Using a combination of online records and archives held across all of our sites we were able to find their real grandparent  -something they had searched for in vain for many years.

Applying for Ask the Experts couldn’t be easier – simply pick up an application form at any of our offices, or buy your research online via https://eshop.wyjs.org.uk.

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Our Experts at work!

Once your research has been completed, you’ll be sent a typed report from our team outlining what they have found and any other ideas for further avenues to explore. If possible, you will also received up to three free copies of material found.

If you’d like to give a loved one a present of the past, we also sell Ask the Experts gift vouchers. You’ll be able to give them a voucher and welcome pack with details of our service, and one year in which to redeem the voucher and get expert help with their research.

So, why not order your expert help today? You never know what we might find….