Inspired by Archives

The HLF project team have been busy planning the opening World War One themed exhibition for the new West Yorkshire History Centre, due to open in late 2016. As part of this exhibition local textiles and fashion students have been designing and making garments inspired by our WW1 collections. 32 students from Wakefield College and Barnsley College have been to visit the archives in Wakefield and Leeds to develop ideas from the fascinating and poignant WW1 collections that we care for.

The students, many of whom had only limited knowledge about the war, spent time looking at, reading and handling original documents at the archive service to help them guide their design work, with many taking inspiration from war diaries, love letters and gifts such as embroidered hankies sent from the front line, trench maps and photos of women working on the land, in munitions factories, as members of the Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps and as nurses in local hospitals.  Students also looked at the Hainsworth collection (WYL2325 & WYL2139), which contains fantastic swatches of fabric used for military uniforms and the Schofields of Leeds collection (WYL1262/39) to gain an insight into fashion during the war period.   Following their visit to the archive service, the groups went to Hainworths mill in Pudsey who have a long history of creating cloth for the military and were the inventors and sole producers of genuine khaki serge.  Here they witnessed fabric manufacturing at a working mill before going on to explore the rich archive at Sunny Bank Mills in Farsley who also supplied Khaki fabric for military uniforms during the war.  This research work has fed into creative sketchbooks, mood-boards and samples and has culminated in the students printing fabric and designing garments based on what they have seen.  These will form an exciting part of the opening exhibition and will help us to interpret and explore archive collections in new ways for our audiences. Wakefield museum will be supporting the exhibition by curating some of the garments in their exhibition spaces in Wakefield One.


The Big Draw

This year we took part in the Campaign for Drawing’s ‘Big Draw’, an annual event in October to promote visual literacy and to demonstrate the social, economic and health benefits that the universal language of drawing can bring.  We invited members of the Wakefield Art Club to have a relaxing morning of art in the archives by helping us document the Registry of Deeds through pencil sketches and photography before we say farewell to the building.

Members of the art club came equipped with pencils, sketchpads, erasers and cameras and set about capturing the details of the building through an artist’s eye.  The group also enjoyed looking at some of our Deeds volumes and finding out a little more about the work that the archive service does.  We hope to be able to offer regular opportunities to get involved in creative activities inspired by our collections once we are in the new building and we will be hosting a number of residencies for creative practitioners over the next 3 years.

An Archives Christmas number one?

Greg Sykes, Project Manager for Bardsleys construction who are building the West Yorkshire History Centre in Wakefield, opened the gates of the project and welcomed local singer songwriter Teri-Ann Prendergast together with drama students from Wakefield College and gave them access to film the video for a song ‘Building Your Future’.

It all started when Mark Scott, Director at Futureworks (Yorkshire) met with the young, up and coming singer Terri-Ann Prendergast at the Prince’s Trust Awards in 2014.

Mark and Terri-Ann got talking about work and aspirations, which led to discussions about using music to promote careers in construction to young people…. the idea was born and Bardsleys were keen to show the construction industry’s support for apprenticeships.

Terri-Ann began putting lyrics and ideas together and the initial idea is now a reality as ‘Building Your Future’ was released 1st December 2015. A video for the single was shot at the West Yorkshire History Centre building site with drama students from Wakefield College working with Bradford based company GVisions. Watch the video for Building Your Future. The song is also available to purchase on itunes!

We wonder if it’s the first time an archive building has been used to film a music video?

Beckett Street Cemetery Records Online!

We’re very pleased to announce that the Leeds Beckett Street Cemetery burial registers 1845-1987 and inscription grave registers 1907-1938 are now available to view on the Ancestry website.  These records are an excellent source of information for family historians and if you have ancestors from the Leeds area they’re well worth a look!

Also known as Burmantofts Cemetery, or Leeds Burial Ground, the Beckett Street Cemetery was founded in 1842 and opened in 1845.  One of the oldest, if not the oldest, municipal cemeteries in England, it sits on 16 acres, and the remains of an estimated 180,000 people are buried within it.

An example of one side of an Inscription or Guinea Grave in the Unconsecrated section of Beckett Street Cemetery from 1889
An example of one side of an Inscription or Guinea Grave in the
Unconsecrated section of Beckett Street Cemetery from 1889
The entry for the grave as it appears in the Grave Register (Ref: LC/CEM(B)1/17).

The entry for the grave as it appears in the Grave Register (Ref: LC/CEM(B)1/17).

The burial registers and grave registers contain information including name, age at death and grave number but, depending on the register, may also contain other information including address of the deceased, description of the deceased (i.e. wife, son, etc.), death date or burial date.

To view the records online please visit the Ancestry website at  Don’t forget you can get free access to the site in any of our five search rooms across the West Yorkshire Archive Service.

A handy guide on how to use the records in the Beckett Street Cemetery collection and the full catalogue of the collection is available on request from staff at the West Yorkshire Archive Service Leeds office.

If you’re interested in finding out more about the cemetery itself the Friends of Beckett Street Cemetery host regular walks around the cemetery and host a fantastic website at

If you’ve any queries about the Beckett Street Cemetery archive collection please do contact us on 0113 393 9788 or at