Tales From the Stacks: Solving a Mystery

  • by Antony Ramm, Local and Family History, Leeds Central Library

This blog was supposed to be about something else; instead, it’s about this:










That question was posed back in September (2015!) and elicited a variety of responses: a hand-stamp, a block print, perhaps even something left behind by a starman. It’s taken five months, but we can now reveal the answer to this great mystery; an answer that was found when we were actually on the hunt down for materials relating to the intended subject of this week’s blog: James Yates, one of the early Librarians for this service.

Instead of (or, rather, as well as) finding that Yates’ material, we stumbled across an intriguing envelope entitled “British Association for the Advancement of Science [Leeds] 129th Annual Meeting”. Hmmm, we thought – could that British Association be the same “British Ass. Meeting” on the spine of our singular item? Looking closer at the envelope contents, among a myriad of information about the Association’s 1967 meeting in Leeds, we found something very interesting indeed:










Interesting indeed! That image – the symbol, we could only presume – for the British Association for the Advancement of Science bore a staggering resemblance to our mysterious item. And, while we couldn’t get ours to ‘sit’ in exactly the same formation as the Association’s symbol, we think you’ll agree that a side-by-side comparison reveals the truth – in part – of our strange block:









And, if it is this Association’s symbol, our guess is that the item was in fact a block print, perhaps one given away to attendees of the meeting. So, now we think we know *what* it is – but, we ask, how did it come to be in the library’s holdings? Well, a glance through the programme of events for the 1967 meeting leads to one tantalising clue…

Alongside the main lectures and meetings that the British Association offered during their annual events, the organisation also offered a Young People’s Programme running concurrently with those central activities. A major part of that programme was to be a Science Fair, designed to “provide young people, whose ages range from those at the infant’s school to those in sixth forms, with the opportunity to exhibit work which, in most cases, they themselves have conceived and planned, and to show their skill in demonstrating and explaining their exhibits to visitors”. In fact, the first Science Fair (then operating independently to the annual meeting) was arranged by the West Riding Branch of the Association and held in Leeds during 1961.

For the 1967 Science Fair a series of “Special Exhibitions” were held to showcase a trio of organisations whose work in some way supported or complemented the aims of the Science Fair and the wider goal of educational excellence. And…one of those organisations was the “Leeds School of Librarianship”, based in the Department of Librarianship and Information Sciences of the College of Commerce in Leeds. While that College didn’t seem to have any direct connection to this Library, is it possible that a member of library staff – perhaps a recent graduate from the Department of Librarianship – made the short trip to Cookridge Street, where the Fair was being held, to see old colleagues or tutors? Could they have picked up a block print that was being given away at the Fair by the British Association, brought it back to the Library and, finding it as intriguing as we now do, placed it deep into our stacks for its preservation?

We shall, in all probability, never know the full story. History, as always, retains some mystery for itself.

Read More: Holocaust Memorial Day 2016

Holocaust Memorial Day LCC

  • by Antony Ramm, Local and Family History, Leeds Central Library

Leeds City Council has organised a programme of events over the next week to mark Holocaust Memorial Day. The theme is “Don’t Stand By” and will “commemorate the millions who were murdered in the Holocaust, by Nazi persecution and in subsequent genocides, in order to challenge hatred and persecution in the UK today”. Click here to see the full brochure of events.

Many books have been written on the topic and we hold a number of these in our Information and Research department – particularly works concerning the Jewish Holocaust during World War II.

This is a subject of deep weight and significance; any words written here will seem facile next to the testimony of survivors and historians. For that reason, readers wishing to broaden their knowledge in this area are simply directed to this partial list of our holdings. Please ask in the aforementioned Information and Research library if you wish to borrow any one of these titles. Other volumes – including those related to more recent genocidal tragedies – can be found by searching the full library catalogue.

Secrets of The Palm: An Insight into Early Radio Broadcasting in Leeds

  • This week’s post is by Tony Scaife, a Heritage Volunteer based at the Local and Family History Library. He’s been indexing volumes of The Palm, the magazine of the old Leeds Central High School, which inspired him to delve a little deeper into the city’s early radio days…

In 1901, the groundbreaking Central High School (CHS) of Leeds was being described in a Royal Commission report “as the most interesting [school] in Leeds in many ways” (Jenkins, 1985, p.52). Dr David Forsyth, Head Teacher 1889-1919 and himself a model of the Victorian self-made man, tirelessly pursued the School Boards’s original 1885 vision that: “The future of the school lay in making the great mass of people aware that it offered, at very moderate cost, a higher education which would ‘open the doors of the professions and the Universities to children of the working classes’” (p.55).

Aerial view of the city centre looking north, taken around the late 1950s. The Headrow is seen running from left to right, with Woodhouse Lane leading up from it. A car park can be seen at the top of the picture on the site which is now the Merrion Centre. At top-left are Thoresby High School (girls) and Leeds Central High School (boys) on Great George Street, with a playground in between, which amalgamated in 1972 to become City of Leeds School. (Image from www.leodis.net)

Aerial view of the city centre looking north, taken around the late 1950s. The Headrow is seen running from left to right, with Woodhouse Lane leading up from it. A car park can be seen at the top of the picture on the site which is now the Merrion Centre. At top-left are Thoresby High School (girls) and Leeds Central High School (boys) on Great George Street, with a playground in between, which amalgamated in 1972 to become City of Leeds School. (Image from http://www.leodis.net)

The Palm, the school magazine, first appeared in 1920 and the Leeds Local and Family History Library has a complete set at shelfmark L 373 PAL. In the early editions, a reader can see how the city was recovering slowly from the trauma of World War 1. But we also see how the resilient young pupils were grasping the opportunities of the new age – pupils like Sidney Errington, using his CHS experiences to anticipate the challenges of the coming wireless world.

Born in 1905, Sidney Errington entered CHS in 1916. As a pupil he clearly caught the attention of the staff, since he was made a prefect and played a leading role in the annual school camping and theatre trip to Stratford on Avon in July 1923 (Errington, 1923) – a trip, incidentally, which would fail all modern child protection and health and safety protocols by a very wide margin.

Sidney Errington pictured in The Palm, April 1924 (p.7)

Sidney Errington pictured in The Palm, April 1924 (p.7)

But it is as a keen musician and talented violinist that he appears most frequently in The Palm. By December 1921, he is the secretary of the CHS Music Society and is listed as a violinist in various school music events and charity concerts for the likes of the Leeds Bairn’s Fund and a Red Cross concert for the wounded soldiers still at Beckett’s Park War Hospital. He left school with a Higher School Certificate in July 1924 and became a paid member of the Leeds Symphony Orchestra, whilst pursuing his music studies at the Leeds College of Music (see Discovering Leeds). Errington joined the CHS Old Scholars’ Club, and the next time he appears in The Palm is in December 1925.

Now, to modern ears used to contemporary radio’s “introducing stages”, perhaps, it does not seem  remarkable that Errington writes, “What a privilege to stand before the microphone knowing your efforts will reach the ears of countless thousands” (Errington, 1925, p.25). Undaunted by this thought, he goes on to describe the apparently prosaic experience of a live broadcast for 2LS Leeds. Like all musicians he was concerned about his instrument and its “thin, dead and woolly sound” in this “unfamiliar place”. But the short article is, in essence, an altogether assured account by a twenty-year-old man confident of his place in the modern wireless world.

But stop and think for a moment: at this time, the BBC (the then British Broadcasting Company) itself was only three years old, and its station 2LS Leeds was just celebrating its first birthday when Sidney Errington made his live broadcast. Here was a young Leeds’ citizen embracing the new technology of his day with enviable ‘cool’ – with an aplomb and grasp of the opportunities of a new age that surely vindicated the opening doors vision of the CHS founders.

Elsewhere in the December 1925 issue of The Palm it was noted that Errington’s Ebor Trio was “establishing a name for itself in broadcasting circles” (Brostoff, 1925). Indeed, the Radio Times lists contributions by the Ebor Trio to 2LS Leeds’ broadcasts in July and September 1925, with a venture further afield to play for 6FL Sheffield in October.

The 2LS Leeds programmes started at 19:40 and were presented by Doris Nichols, a member of 2LS staff, and actor Clifford Bean – whose long radio career was just beginning. The usual programme format was for a Sidney Errington violin solo, before the Ebor Trio would play in an hour-long slot. There would be other speech-based elements before the Clifford Essex Band, relayed from the Grand Hotel Scarborough, would take the final segment of the show from 22:15.

We cannot tell from his article which of these 1925 broadcasts Errington is describing but, whenever it was, he deplored having to climb the stairs to what must have been the upper floors of the Cabinet Chambers on Lower Basinghall Street, for that was the home of 2LS Leeds from its inception, with much civic fanfare, in July 1924 (Briggs, 1975, p.171). Cabinet Chambers has long gone but we can see from this later photograph from Leodis how it might have looked in 1925 – though with fewer cars:

Basinghall Street at that time was quite the media hub, with film distributors and the offices of the Daily Mirror based there. The newly-installed 2LS was a relay station designed to cover Leeds and Bradford but reaching to Harrogate and further into the West Riding. It broadcast both London-produced and local programmes to 30,000 licence holders in Leeds alone. Contemporaries describe the atmosphere at 2LS as “remarkably informal” and the local press frequently reported on events at the station: thus, the celebratory first-year party on 8 July 1925 was “hilarious” whilst, it was noted, many local debutante contributors failed to demonstrate Sidney Errington’s sangfroid in front of the microphone (Briggs, 1975, pp. 174-175).

Errington was not entirely seduced by radio fame, however, for the Ebor Trio played in a CHS concert on 19 December 1925 (Brostoff, 1926). Errington continued to follow his musical talent, studying the then ‘coming’ instrument, the viola, under Lionel Tartis. In 1928, he joined the Halle Orchestra, where he had a long career, rising to become lead viola under Sir John Barbirolli. Ill health forced him to retire from the Halle in 1975 and he died in Leeds in 1980. (Discovering Leeds)


  • Briggs, Asa (1975) “Local and Regional in Northern Sound Broadcasting” in Northen History, vol. 10, 1975, pp. 165-187.
  • Brostoff, Harry (1925) “Orchestra Society Notes” in The Palm 6 (3) Dec 1925, p.30. Shelfmark: L 373 PAL.
  • Brostoff, Harry (1926) “Orchestra Society Notes” in The Palm 7 (1) April 1926, p.38. Shelfmark: L 373 PAL
  • Discovering Leeds, Leeds Classical Music (www.leodis.net/discovery – accessed 22 December 2015).
  • Errington, Sidney (1925) “Broadcasting Notes – 1” in The Palm 6 (3) Dec 1925, p.25-27. Shelfmark: L 373 PAL.
  • Errington, Sidney (1923) “Stratford Again” in The Palm 4 (3) July 1923, p.37-39. Shelfmark: L 373 PAL.
  • Jenkins, E.W. (1985) A Magnificent Pile: A Centenary History of the Leeds Central High School. Shelfmark: L 373 JEN.
  • Radio Times (Jul/Sep 1925). Shelfmark: Q Periodical 791.44 RAD.

Also visit the East Leeds Memories blog for a great account of travelling to Central High School on public transport in the 1950s.

New: African-Caribbean Family History Workshop and Guide to Resources

Following the success of a session run during Black History Month last year, the Leeds Library and Information Service is pleased to announce that we will be running a further African-Caribbean Family History workshop at Chapeltown Library on the 14th of January.

CP African-Caribbean Family History Online-page-001

To aid interested researchers we have updated a leaflet covering the best resources for African-Caribbean family history. This leaflet can be viewed by clicking here. Alternatively, a copy can be picked up by visiting the Local and Family History department of our Central Library.

Click here to read a previously published article on the history of African-Caribbean settlement in Leeds.

Christmas and New Year in the Territorial Hospitals, 1917

  • by Ross Horsley, Local and Family History, Leeds Central Library


Within three months of the outbreak of the First World War, Leeds had already seen its first influx of injured soldiers. These made their way to Beckett’s Park to what would become the city’s largest military care centre, the 2nd Northern General Hospital. At its peak, this hospital had 3,200 beds, but was still just one of many institutions across Leeds specialising in the treatment and rehabilitation of returning servicemen. Some of these were temporary hospitals offering convalescent care and healthy food in the pleasant surroundings of stately homes like Temple Newsam House and Gledhow Hall. Others, like Beckett Park itself, boasted some of the country’s top surgeons, carrying out innovative procedures on severely wounded soldiers. One thing they all had in common was the strength of community they fostered within their walls, between patients, nurses and other staff.

The Journal of Leeds Territorial Hospitals suggests this spirit was never in greater abundance than over the festive period. We have three copies of the magazine, all from 1918, in the Local and Family History Library at shelf mark L 940.476 JOU. Inside, articles about life on the wards mix with staff portraits, cartoons, comic pieces and letters – while the Christmas and New Year celebrations of late 1917 are covered in particularly immersive detail, as you’ll find if you read on below. Please do be aware that these extracts contain some dated language we’d no longer find acceptable today, but which we’ve left in as an accurate reflection of a period almost 100 years ago.

At Beckett Park Hospital, a contributor signing himself as ‘J.B.B.’ describes the activities that occupied soldiers throughout December: “For many weeks the wards had been making hundreds of golly-wogs, black cats and hair-tidies, which they sold to visitors and friends. Some wards were fortunate to get large orders for these things from munition workers and business houses. It was quite a common sight to see half-a-dozen men and Nurses sitting round an empty bed making golly-wogs, etc., working quietly and solemnly, thinking most probably of the good things which were to come, and speaking only when it was necessary to ask where the different portions of cat or golly-wog anatomy had been put, and anyone casually walking into a ward would have been quite shocked if they had heard a patient or Nurse asking, “Oh, Sister, where have you put all those arms and legs?” or “Have you put those eyes on yet?” or “Please, Nurse, will you twist that neck round for me?” and “Take that eye out; it does not match,” etc. Then as the days drew on and only a day or two remained until Christmas, the hard-earned money had to be spent. If one was fortunate enough to get into the confidence of a Sister, one was permitted on the condition everything one saw was kept a dead secret, to have a peep at the good things stored in the kitchen cupboards. They were like some smuggler’s cave on a small scale, stored up with all the luxuries which go to make up Christmas festivities. Then pianos arrived in the wards and even a barrel organ, which having annoyed the authorities was put into detention for twenty-four hours and only let out on Christmas Day. Decorations then came, coloured paper, ivy, holly, mistletoe and paper chains.”

Once the big day arrived, patients and staff could expect a packed schedule of festivities and treats, such as this one enjoyed by residents of the Voluntary Aid Detachment (V.A.D.) at Gledhow Hall, a private house offered for use as a hospital by its owner, Lord Airedale:

CHRISTMAS DAY – A box of 100 cigarettes was presented to every patient, and a calendar to every member of Nursing Staff, by Lord Airdale.
12.30. Dinner – Turkey – Plum-pudding.
4.30. “Grand Fish Pond,” containing over 300 presents – for patients, Nursing and Domestic Staffs.
6.00. “Yorkshire” Meat Tea.
7.30. Whist Drive.
BOXING DAY – Whist Drive and Supper in Y.M.C.A., for patients and their friends.
Dec. 27 and 28. – Theatricals by Staff to patients and their friends.
Dec. 29. – Matinee Performance to friends of the Staff, and in the evening, one for the patients from the Roundhay-St. Edmond’s and Chapeltown Auxiliary Military Hospitals.
Dec. 31. – Opening show of the Hospital Cinema, and presentation of Oak Eight-day Clock and Wedgewood Flower Bowl to Commandant by the patients.

In our previous post, The Gledhow Hall Scrapbook, you can read more about life at this particular hospital, see some great photographs, and find out about an amazing surviving artefact from the hall: a large scrapbook compiled by its commandant, Edith Cliff, and now held at the library.

Meanwhile, if you’d like to know more about Christmas Dinner itself, Lance Corporal W.A. Barrett gives a humorous recollection from the East Leeds War Hospital, which was based in the building that today houses Thackray Medical Museum: “Our Captain had, it was generally understood, earned distinction as a “carver” in the surgical world, but on this occasion, with a full-blown turkey on the operating table, he excelled. Right well did he hack his way through to the “inwards,” and as speedily did the “portions” mysteriously vanish. Thanks to the praiseworthy energy of a few local ladies and gentlemen and the delightful agility of our Sisters and Nurses, business was brisk, coffee, cigarettes and dessert succeeding one another in well-regulated order… It was done… So was I… I lay contentedly back, basking in the sunshine of our dear patrons’ smiles. To those who sat at the table, missing limbs and arms in slings proved no handicap.”

Image (6)

Finally, back at Beckett’s Park: “Sunday and New Year’s Eve were quite quiet days, and everyone was glad of a short lull before entering upon the final outburst, which was to say farewell to 1917 – and to welcome 1918. The Band together with St. Chad’s Choir helped at a Service held in the main staircase. By teatime all the wards were again merrymaking. The Officers’ Mess in Caedmon eat their Christmas Dinner, and the R.A.M.C. unit had a very enjoyable whist drive and dance in the Recreation Room, at which the Hospital Band played. Then towards midnight, when the fun was at its height, patients, Sisters, Nurses and Officers all stopped whatever they were engaged in and waited for the critical moment when the clock announced the birth of a New Year. When all had sung the famous “Auld Lang Syne” many times over, the various gatherings broke up amidst greetings of Good Luck for the New Year.”

We echo this sentiment here at the Secret Library and would like to wish all our readers a happy and healthy 2016. If you’d like to hear more about the military hospitals of Leeds, come along to our Healing Homes of World War I event at Armley Library on 18 February, 2.00-4.00 pm. Until then, we’ll carry on digging out more interesting finds from our collections and investigating the lesser-known history of Leeds right here at the Secret Library blog. Happy New Year!