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.


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?