Category Archives: Leeds collections

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!


Happy Christmas from the West Yorkshire Archive Service!

Well, 2012 is nearly over! As many of you will know, it’s been a really busy year for Leeds Archives with final preparations for the move and then the actual moving of 15,000 boxes in the Autumn to our new home at Gildersome Spur. It’s a year that we will mark down in our history books, so we thought we would take this opportunity to share a few of our treasures relating to anniversaries from 1812 and 1912, before we welcome 2013!

The Bicentenary of the birth of Charles Dickens

Charles Dickens was born on the 7th February, 1812. A prolific writer, introduced to many through his serials published in magazines, he had and continues to have a great impact. Many people will currently be reading A Christmas Carol, which incidentally will be enjoying its’ 170th anniversary next year! Other people, including myself may be watching one of the many cinematic versions, such as The Muppet Christmas Carol, a mere youngster at only 20 years of age this year! 

For this blog, I have concentrated on his connection to Bowes. It was really interesting to find documents relating to a place in North Yorkshire in West Yorkshire. As many researchers will have encountered, historical boundary changes can make things complicated! Dickens stayed in Barnard Castle whilst researching his novel Nicholas Nickleby. As part of his research, he visited Bowes and the Yorkshire Boarding School there, known as William Shaw’s Academy, which became immortalised in the novel as Dotheboys Hall. Opinions differ regarding the fairness of the comparisons, but anyone wanting to know more about the area Dickens visited, will find something of interest in our archives! Highlights include the 1850 will of William Shaw and an advert for the Academy.


Extract from William Shaw’s will, 1850 [Ref: RD/AP1/198/63]

Bowes and Charles Dickens Documents held at the West Yorkshire Archive Service                          

The Centenary of the Antarctic Expedition

Captain Lawrence Edward Grace Oates was part of the Terra Nova expedition team led by Captain Scott. They reached the South Pole in 1911, but terrible conditions led to a tragic return journey. Captain Oates is especially remembered for his heroic act of self-sacrifice. The Oates family had a direct link with West Yorkshire as Lawrence’s grandfather built the house known as Meanwoodside in Leeds, and Lawrence is known to have spent time there as a child.

There is a touching entry in the Beckett Street School Log Book (our ref: LC/ED1/3) which reads “14/02/1913, Spoke to the whole school of the disaster to the Antarctic Polar Expedition by the loss of the leader Captain Scott & his four companions Dr Wilson, Lieut. Bowes, Capt. Oates & Petty Officer Evans, and read to them the account as specially written for children by Arthur Machen.”

Captain Oates Documents held at the West Yorkshire Archive Service

The Centenary of the Sinking of the HMS Titanic

April the 15th, one hundred years ago, the tragedy of the Titanic happened. 1502 lives were lost on the maiden voyage of this Olympic-class ocean liner.  We hold records that show the personal as well as the public reaction to the disaster.

This image is from the personal diary of Sir William Ingilby and simply states ‘Fearful shipwrecking The Titanic some 1200 lost’ [Ref: WYL230/3600]

This image is from the personal diary of Sir William Ingilby and simply states ‘Fearful shipwrecking The Titanic some 1200 lost’ [Ref: WYL230/3600]

Wallace Hartley was a violinist and the bandleader on the Titanic and had Yorkshire links. The “Wallace Hartley” Memorial Fund Committee was set up and gave a cheque for £108, which purchased the painting “Homeward Bound” by F Cayley Robinson for the Leeds Gallery. Details can be found in the Leeds Library Committee minutes, including subsequent loans of the painting.

Titanic Documents held at West Yorkshire Archive Service

We hope you have enjoyed looking back with us! We look forward to welcoming you if you would like to look at any of the items shown or referred to in the blog and attached source lists?! What gems might we have for anniversaries coming up in 2013?! Thinking caps on, I’m sure we will have something!

 It just remains to say, Happy New Year from all of the

West Yorkshire Archive Service!

Diamond Jubilee display sparkles at WYAS

To mark the occasion of the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II, West Yorkshire Archive Service has created a display to celebrate jubilees and royal events in our districts.

Coronation souvenir booklet produced by Shipley UDC [Ref: WYB287/1/17]

Coronation souvenir booklet produced by Shipley UDC [Ref: WYB287/1/17]

 Local schools, societies and clubs organised events in their areas with the help of the local authorities and fund raising became one of the focuses of the Silver Jubilee in 1977.

Certificate of fundraising for the Silver Jubilee from Beckett Park Middle School, Leeds [Ref:LC/ED/165/13]

Souvenirs such as mugs, books and pencils were produced and given to schoolchildren as a keepsake – perhaps you still have yours?

Are you planning on holding your own celebrations to mark the occasion of the Diamond Jubilee? Perhaps you remember attending the celebrations of the previous jubilees or can recall the Coronation Day?

Visit of Princess Elizabeth to County Hall, Wakefield July 1949 [Ref: WRD1/box60]

WYAS display will be shown in each of our district offices for the duration of June.  Why not pop along and take a look? It could bring back some memories!

For further information on this or any other display produced by WYAS, please contact the Collections Team.

Wallace Hartley: One of the musicians who ‘played on’ as the Titanic sank

One hundred years ago families and friends of those who died aboard the Titanic were trying to come to terms with the dreadful loss of life.  Amongst the passengers who perished was Wallace Hartley who, at the time of his death was living in Dewsbury and was a member of the Leeds Professional Musicians.  Wallace was one of the eight band members who famously played their instruments as the ship was sinking to ‘entertain’ the passengers as they attempted to board lifeboats.  Mr Hartley and all of the other seven orchestra members died that day.

A piece of artwork has recently been displayed at Leeds Art Gallery to commemorate the anniversary of the death of Mr Hartley, a piece that was purchased in July 1912 by the Library and Arts Committee with a cheque given to them by the “Wallace Hartley” Memorial Fund Committee.  The donation was to enable the city to purchase a suitable picture for Leeds Art Gallery for their permanent collection.  That suitable picture was by F Cayley Robinson and was entitled “Outward Bound”.

Minute taken from the Leeds City Council Annual Reports of Committees, December 1912 (reference LL8/1/1/35). 

Outward Bound can be seen on the Leeds Art Gallery website 

For more information on those who died in the tragedy, includingWallace Hartley, have a look at the National Archives website where you can access the ship’s passenger lists and many other resources which shed light on that terrible day.