Category Archives: Uncategorized

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.

Luddite Letters

There is a wonderful collection of Luddite letters in the Radcliffe of Rudding Park collection (WYL280) held at our Leeds office.  One of our volunteers, Luke McGurn, describes below a fascinating letter which shows just how much opposition there was to the introduction of machinery at local mills:

‘With respect to this Watch and Ward Act, you are not aware of the additional oppression you are bringing to your tenants and other occupants of land and all for the sake of two individuals in this district, which I am not afraid to subscribe their names, Mr Thomas Atkinson and Mr William Horsfall, who will soon be numbered with the dead’

wyl280_38_pg1wyl280_38_pg2An extract from a letter sent by an anonymous individual, who only signed the letter .A.B, to Huddersfield Magistrate Joseph Radcliffe on the 27th April 1812.The writer clearly has an agenda against Radcliffe’s recent anti-luddite activities and the mill owners Mr Atkinson and Mr Horsfall who had both introduced machines into their factories in previous years. A day after this was sent, on the 28th of April 1812, William Horsfall was assassinated by four Luddites, making it more than likely that this letter was penned by the murderer himself.  The death of William Horsfall is written about in Charlotte Bronte’s Shirley and contemporary newspapers report how George Mellor, Thomas Smith and William Thorpe were executed for his murder on the 8th January 1813.