Author Archives: archiveassistant

Deadly Diseases

Ok, so it’s a teeny bit morbid, and definitely not the cheeriest project we’ve ever done, but we hope that our newest Google Map is going to be a useful research tool for anyone studying deaths and diseases in Leeds.

Here in the archives at Leeds we hold a series of ‘Notification of Death’ registers, 24 registers to be precise, which cover the period 1867-1941. Deposited as part of the Leeds Council Health Department collection (reference LLD8) they record anonymous data about all of the deaths in Leeds caused by disease and list the person’s address, age, occupation, gender and the date of their death.  The diseases listed include cancer, small pox, measles, and typhus but also include things such as deaths by diarrhoea, premature birth and old age to name but a few.

laryingitis deaths 1896

A sample page showing deaths by laryngitis in 1896 (reference LLD8/1/6/1/15)

We hope that the raw data from the registers can be used to plot the spread of disease throughout Leeds and allow for comparisons to be made between the 19th and the 20th century and would like to develop a tool for researchers to use online.  With the help of Jessica Docherty, a student from the University of Huddersfield, we decided to test using Google Maps to display the data from the registers and we hope to expand the map considerably over the next year. Check out the map here



sample map 2

A preview of the tester map.  Each ‘pin’ represents a death in Leeds and the colours show the different diseases.  Click on each pin to display the person’s details including their address and occupation on the left hand side of the page.

Jessica’s taken a sample of a register from 1896, a year which had seen huge scientific advances, with the discovery of x-rays (at the end of 1895 by Wilhelm Roentgen) and the development of radiation by Henri Becquerel which would go on to revolutionise health care. In Leeds, since the passing of the Public Health Act twenty one years earlier which addressed housing, sewage and drainage, the understanding of and the prevention of disease had come a long way.  However, there was still a lot to do.


This tester map takes three ‘diseases’, measles from which 196 people died in Leeds, enteric fever which killed 76 and laryngitis which killed 19.  If you’d like to find out more about the Notification of Death registers please contact the Leeds office at  And, if you’d like to help us with the Google Map project we’d love to hear from you!


Who was William Houghton?

The Leeds team would like to say a massive thank you to Joshua Parker who has been here on work experience from Leeds City College for the past two weeks. Josh has helped answer some enquiries and assisted with behind the scenes activities as we retrieved documents from our stores.  However, his main task for the placement was to answer the question – who was William Houghton?


A selection of William Houghton’s extensive diaries (reference WYL1267/1/1-64)


Since 1985 we’ve looked after a collection of 64 diaries and several bundles of letters written by William but we didn’t know much about the man himself. The son of Richard Booth Houghton, he was born on the 25th May 1900 and after being educated at Hunslet Carr School and Cockburn High School went on to be employed by Leeds Education Committee until 1918.  After the First World War William went back to the Education Committee before moving on the Health Service at St James’s Hospital until 1960.

We asked Joshua to read through the diaries and letters and get a feel for what William was like. Josh writes “William Houghton’s collection is a wonderful way of seeing the effects of both he First and Second World Wars on a local man.  He remarks that his one regret is that he was too young to reach the front before the 11th November 1918. William enjoyed writing from a young age and kept a diary from 1919 until 1982 when he became too ill to continue.  His diaries follow the same pattern each day, listing the weather first and then his daily activities and they show his reactions to key historical events such as the moon landings (shown in the image below) and the bombing of Nagasaki.”


William’s diary entry from 19th July 1969. “Apollo 11’s lunar module landing on the moon. An amazing and wonderful sight.  Astronaut Armstrong and Aldrin will rest & climb out & walk on the moon about 2am tomorrow!”


If you would like more information on William Houghton’s collection please contact the Leeds team at (collection reference WYL1267).


Want to know what a Leeds Pal was doing 100 years ago today? Take a look at John Yeadon’s Twitter feed @JohnYeadon_WW1 and see what was going on in the Summer of 1917.   John’s three diaries covering 1916-1919 are a fantastic record of his experience of war and although his entries are brief they give an insight into his life over those years.  Laura Green, one of our 2016/17 MA students on the HIST5020M course at Leeds University has created a Twitter account to trace his movements and to promote this wonderful collection.

John Yeadon was born in 1898 in Guiseley and was educated at the Salts School in Shipley from 1902-1908. In 1910-1912 he was at St. John’s College in York and during that time he played cricket for Guiseley Cricket Club. On leaving college he joined the Bowling Old Lane eleven, a club which won the Yorkshire Council Championship in 1913 and 1914.

John Yeadon joined the Leeds Pals in September 1914 and went on foreign service in Egypt and France until March 1919. On return home he joined Guiseley club again where he stayed until he was appointed headmaster of the Horsforth Wood-Side School in 1925. From our research, we know that John Yeadon had many siblings, and it seems that during his time in France, he wrote to them and his father often.

His diaries cover four years of travelling but having being injured fairly early in the war; many of his later entries refer to cricket matches with officers and life behind the lines. From our research, we have found that Yeadon spent the later years of his service in Arques and St. Omer, France where he joined the Royal Medical Army Corps.

To find out more, please get in touch with the Leeds office and ask to see the John Yeadon collection, reference WYL2443.

The Diaries of Lady Amabel Yorke, part 1: Who was Lady Amabel?

Hello! My name is Christiane, and I am student at University of Leeds where I am doing a Masters in War and Strategy. As part of my course I am doing an internship at the Leeds office of West Yorkshire Archive Services. I have been working with the diaries of Lady Amabel Yorke.  The following three posts are a written version of my talk at the International Women’s Day event on 8 March at the History Centre in Wakefield.


Just a few of Amabel’s diaries are shown here, there are 37 in total.

A diary holds the writer’s innermost feelings that can’t be shared with anyone else. A diary can also be a way to remember events, whether big or small. It is a private possession that in most cases the writer did not intend to be read by anyone but him or herself.


This is what makes the diaries of Lady Amabel Yorke so valuable as a historical source. Here we have a woman living in a period when women had limited outlets to express themselves commenting on politics and major events.

Born in 1751 to the second earl of Hardwicke, Philip Yorke and Jemima Yorke, née Campbell, Lady Amabel grew up in a household that was characterised by an intellectual and political atmosphere.[1] This would have a huge influence as she grew up and would shape her interests as an adult.

Lady Amabel was happily married to Lord Polwarth, Alexander Hume-Campbel from 1772 to his untimely death in 1781. Lady Amabel would never marry again nor did she have any children. The rest of her life she would spend in Bedfordshire and London until her death in 1833.

Thanks to her parents, Lady Amabel had a passionate interest in politics throughout her life. She lamented the fact that she as a woman could not enter politics but it did not stop her from taking part in political discussions with her friends and acquaintances. Indeed she would fill her diaries with her comments on political events.

Other women in the same period would also show an interest in politics, the Duchess of Devonshire being the most famous example.[2] Lady Amabel, however, stands out because her diaries have been preserved.

Lady Amabel was a keen diary writer, starting in 1769 and stopping in 1827. Her diaries offer a unique chance to read about a Georgian Lady’s life from the age of 18 till she was 76 years old.

[1] Dorian Gerhold, ‘Campbell, Amabel Hume- , suo jure Countess De Grey (1751–1833)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, ed. by H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison ( Oxford: OUP, 2004) Online ed., edited by David Cannadine, (September 2014)<; (accessed 31 March, 2017)

[2] Linda Colley, ‘Womanpower’, Britons: Forging the Nation 1707-1837 (New Haven; London: Yale University Press, 2009)


Christiane Askirk, University of Leeds, HIST5020M Making History: Archive Collaborations.

Note from WYAS – if you would like to see the diaries of Lady Amabel Yorke they can be found at our Leeds office of the West Yorkshire Archive Service, reference WYL150 as part of the Vyner of Studley Royal collection.  Parts 2 and 3 of Christiane’s blog will be posted on our Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal blog, coming soon!