1970s: School Collections, Not Necessarily What You Think

This week we are celebrating the records that came to the Leeds Archive in the 1970s. This particular decade saw a seismic change across Yorkshire, a change that is simultaneously the most vital and the most challenging for any historian of God’s Own County.

Prior to 1974 Yorkshire had been split into three Ridings; North, East and West. It was decided during this momentous year however that Yorkshire would be improved by the addition of a fourth member state and we ceased to be Ridings and instead became North, South, East and West Yorkshire. Wiser blogs than this will explain the full implications of this change, not least of which were the multiple boundary changes it enacted. Essentially people in Harrogate (to name but one) went to sleep in the West Riding and awoke in North Yorkshire.

Whilst the Reformed Corporation of Leeds Council had been going since 1835, the 1970s saw the creation of Leeds Metropolitan District Council and, as we are the official repository for that august body we have a huge amount of Council collections. As the boundaries of West Yorkshire were brought into sharper focus, so were the rules for what we hold. I have chosen to focus here on our 250+ school collections because they are a fantastic resource but, as suggested in my title, not necessarily in the way you might think.


Quarry Mount School boys, photograph taken in 1905 and mounted in the log book 1902-1918 (reference LC/ED100/6/2).

So, what do we have?

Log Books:

Almost all the school collections we have contain log books. These were written by the head teachers and kept track of the daily running of the school. They very VERY rarely name children but do give information about specific teachers and their activities. These books have attendance figures, reports from the local authority inspectors and, for those willing to look for it, a fantastic wealth of knowledge about life in Leeds. For example, they often refer to outbreaks of disease, many of which closed down all the schools in Leeds; there is mention of children walking to school with no shoes and of the attendance being directly linked to the harvest seasons.

Admission and Discharge Registers:

These records are the best place for those looking for pupil information. They list the date the child started school, the names and addresses of the parents or guardians, which school they came from and where they went afterwards. While these are often fantastic resources please be warned that a relatively small amount of these registers have come to the archive.


An example of an admission register, this one is from Woodlesford Junior and Infant School, 1880 (reference LC/ED116).

Punishment Books:

These are, quite simply, a record of any corporeal punishment doled out to the pupils. They often give details of what the child had done to incur the wrath of their teacher and what punishment they received. While a bit grim they do provide a surprisingly welcome glimpse into the youthful indiscretions of our ancestors.

We also hold photographs, school magazines and higher-level committee and education authority records.

The school records we hold are increasingly popular but do come with a word or two of warning. There are no laws governing what schools deposit with us so there are, unfortunately, some quite large gaps in our coverage. We do not therefore hold all the records for all the schools in Leeds. Search our online catalogue to see what we have. Some school records are subject to 100 year closure period so please contact us to discuss access.