Celebrating England’s World Cup Win: Leeds Style

by Antony Ramm, Local and Family History, Central Library

As almost everyone surely knows by now, fifty years ago this week – on the 30th of July, 1966, to be exact – the England team beat West Germany 4-2 to win the football World Cup for the first time. And, while most are familiar with the famous image of Bobby Moore – the victorious team captain – being held aloft by his team-mates, here at the Secret Library we wondered how the event was marked by the people of Leeds.

To do so, we delved into our extensive newspaper archive and searched the Yorkshire Evening Post (YEP) for the days immediately after Saturday’s victory. This is what we found:

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Interestingly, then, it seems that England’s victorious performance did not make as large an impression – in Leeds, at least – at the time as it seems to do in retrospect. Most Leeds people seem to have spent the weekend of the Final holidaying rather than watching football! Elsewhere in the YEP that day, however, we find an article ‘summing-up’ the tournament from the point-of-view of ordinary people, including some from the wider West Riding area:

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And that was it, for Leeds, for celebrations over the Final weekend. But a search of our photograph archive – www.leodis.net – helped us to find mention of a commemorative event on the 3rd of August for the three England team members – players Jack Charlton and Norman Hunter; and trainer Les Cocker – connected to the city’s own successful football team – Leeds United:

3rd August 1966. Leeds United's participants in England's triumphant World Cup winning squad are welcomed at a reception at the Civic Hall by the Lord Mayor of Leeds, Alderman Joshua S. Walsh. From the left is Norman Hunter, then the Lady Mayoress, Jack Charlton in the centre, the Lord Mayor and finally trainer Les Cocker. See the image on Leodis here

3rd August 1966. Leeds United’s participants in England’s triumphant World Cup winning squad are welcomed at a reception at the Civic Hall by the Lord Mayor of Leeds, Alderman Joshua S. Walsh. From the left is Norman Hunter, then the Lady Mayoress, Jack Charlton in the centre, the Lord Mayor and finally trainer Les Cocker. See, or make a purchase of this image, on Leodis here

An article from the YEP on that same date revealed the surprising truth behind this joyous image: the World Cup Final was the very first football match Lord Mayor Walsh had ever seen!

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In fact, it seems the Lord Mayor was rather busy that day – he also found time to entertain a group of visiting Danish Scouts:

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And then, Lord Mayor Walsh also found time to grant a reception to a visiting group of Dortmund school children; several of whom were delighted to hear that they would be seeing England and Leeds United’s very own Jack Charlton when they visited Elland Road that coming weekend:

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Jack Charlton shared his own memories of the 1966 World Cup in his autobiography, which formed part of a recent set of new Leeds United-related stock arrivals in our Local and Family History library. We shall be displaying a selection from this collection in that department – which includes books, donations, ephemera, autograph books, photographs, fanzines and match programmes – to coincide with the start of the 2016/2017 season. Check this blog in the week commencing August 8th to find out more.

Panic on the Streets of Birmingham: July, 1791

by Antony Ramm, Local and Family History, Central Library

On the 14th of July, 1791, a group of eminent Birmingham men – including philosophers, scientists, and newly-rich industrialists – met for dinner at the Hotel on Temple Row. This in itself would not normally be cause for comment; but what sets this meal aside from similar gatherings of urban elites was that the end of the meeting would be the beginning of three days of violent rioting.

Ticket for the dinner at the Hotel celebrating the second anniversary of the storming of the Bastille on 14 July 1791 that led to the Priestley Riots. From: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Royal_Hotel,_Birmingham (Public Domain)

Ticket for the dinner at the Hotel celebrating the second anniversary of the storming of the Bastille on 14 July 1791. From: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Royal_Hotel,_Birmingham (Public Domain)

The causes of this outbreak were many, but the primary focus for the crowd gathered outside the Hotel that night was the singular fact that the dinner in question was an open celebration of the French Revolution, which had broken out exactly two years previous, by a group of men – many members of the ‘Lunar Society‘ – known for their liberal views on matters political, social, scientific and theological. To compound what could have already been interpreted as an implicit act of treason, was the fact that a handbill had been privately circulating in the city for days prior to the 14th; and that the contents of that bill made clear that the attendees at the Hotel dinner were in the active cause of bringing to an end the “Tyrants” and “legal oppressors” of a “venal” Parliament, Clergy and “reigning Family”.

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It was no matter that the bill’s authors were never traced and that it was almost certainly the act of an agent provocateur; the very fact of its existence served to rally a crowd against those present that night. Around 8pm, the crowd became increasingly restless, unaware the diners had in fact departed two hours earlier. Spurred on by another group of eminent local dignitaries – including a criminal magistrate, two attorneys, a vicar, a manufacturer and two justices – the crowd began to turn their attention to the Meeting Houses of the town’s religious Dissenters, that group of English Christians that had broken away from the Church of England – and who were consequently seen as something of a stalking horse for more insidious forms of revolution.

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Johann Eckstein, Rioters at Birmingham, 14th July 1791

What followed was one of the most shocking episodes in late 18th-century Britain, during which “the rioters attacked or burned four Dissenting chapels, twenty-seven houses, and several businesses” over a period of three nights and four days. It was only the arrival of the military that saw the violence reach its final shattering conclusion; a “sustained assault” by around 30 hard-core rioters on the home of William Withering, a sometime associate of the Lunar Society.

1778 map of Birmingham, showing Temple Row, site of the Royal Hotel (roughly central, just below St. Phillip's Church). This map is copyright-free, but was found on the wonderful Eighteenth-Century Birmingham website: http://mappingbirmingham.blogspot.co.uk/2011/12/leverton-halls.html

1778 map of Birmingham, showing Temple Row, site of the Royal Hotel (roughly central, just below St. Phillip’s Church). This map is copyright-free, but was found on the wonderful Eighteenth-Century Birmingham website:

All of which is to be regretted. But readers of this blog would be forgiven for asking why any of this matters to Leeds. The answer lay in the identity of a figure central to the aforementioned Lunar Society, a man whose house was one of those destroyed in the rioting, and a man who was not-coincidentally Minister at one of those four wrecked Dissenting chapels: Joseph Priestley.

1972. Statue of Joseph Priestley in City Square. Dr Joseph Priestley (1733-1804) was born in Birstall, attended Batley Grammar School and was minister of Mill Hill Chapel from 1763 to 1773. He discovered several gases including oxygen. Statue by Albert Drury. Taken from Leodis, our photographic archive.

1972. Statue of Joseph Priestley in City Square. Dr Joseph Priestley (1733-1804) was born in Birstall, attended Batley Grammar School and was minister of Mill Hill Chapel from 1763 to 1773. He discovered several gases including oxygen. Statue by Albert Drury. Taken from Leodis, our photographic archive.

Priestley – born in Birstall and formerly Minister at Mill Hill Chapel in Leeds – is a difficult figure to sum-up in a few sentences. By turns a theologian, natural philosopher, chemist, educator and theorist of political liberalism, Priestley was very much a man of his late eighteenth-century times; and yet also, in his scientific work – particularly his isolation of oxygen, his development of soda water and his writings on electricity – a man for all time.

It was that mixture of dissenting theology, rational scientific enquiry and liberal politics that made Priestley the focus of the volatile crowd being directed by the reactionary hands of Birmingham elites on the evening of the 14th. No matter that Priestley was not even present at the Hotel dinner: his (in)famous celebration of progressive principles in 1785, just a few years prior to the outbreak of the French Revolution itself, made him the central target of those intent on defending “Church-and-King”:

We are, as it were, laying gunpowder, grain by grain, under the old building of error and superstition, which a single spark may hereafter inflame, so as to produce an instantaneous explosion; in consequence of which that edifice, the erection of which has been the work of ages, may be overturned in a moment, and so effectually as that the same foundation can never be built upon again…” – Joseph Priestley, The Importance and Extent of Free Enquiry (1785)

So it was that his home and his Chapel were both burnt to the ground, the former resulting in the loss of Priestley’s priceless library and scientific manuscripts. You can read how the Leeds press reported these events through these extracts from the Leeds Intelligencer, part of our extensive newspaper archive:

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Note in particular how this Intelligencer editorial turns the blame onto Priestley himself, using his ‘gunpowder’ metaphor from 1785 against him and acquitting the mob of responsibility on the grounds that Priestley has antagonised those who were otherwise “contented and happy”

Priestley was forced into hiding until he could leave Birmingham for Middlesex, but three further years of abuse forced him to move his family to Pennsylvania. He never returned to Britain, this “patron, and saint, and sage,” driven from his homeland “By dark lies maddening the blind multitude/Drove with vain hate” (Samuel Coleridge, “Religious Musings,” 1796. Click here for a full list of our Coleridge holdings).

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It was during his time in Middlesex that Priestley wrote his response to the riots: An Appeal to the Public on the Subject of the Riots in Birmingham (1791). In this work, a first edition of which is held at the Central Library, Priestley asserts that it “not the commemoration of the French Revolution” which caused the “late riots” and that it was, in actual fact, “religious bigotry, and the animosity of the high church party against the Dissenters, and especially against the Presbyterians and Unitarians” which was to blame. The Appeal is also significant for containing a letter Priestley received from his former Mill Hill Chapel congregation, expressing their concern for his well-being and asserting their continued respect for his beliefs:

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Priestley received other letters from others concerned as to his welfare. One such letter was from the New College in Hackney, where Priestley was to later lecture and preach. We are pleased to report that a manuscript copy of this letter, along with Priestley’s reply, can be found in our Collections, pasted into a further volume – also in manuscript form – a Priestley sermon from 1771, entitled “Ye Are The Light of the World“.

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We believe the sermon was written by Priestley himself, though have less certainty with the letters, in that the end of the New College part and the start of Priestley’s reply are written on opposing pages of one single piece of paper, implying that they were written at the same time:

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Similarities in handwriting style across the two letters can also be discerned. It may be that Priestley himself, or some other person unknown, copied our version of the letters from a now-lost original, before inserting them into the sermon manuscript. We would be interested to hear from any Priestley experts who might be able to tell us more about these fascinating materials.

Regardless of those questions, these are valuable primary source documents that bring the observer close to History – and specifically a tumultuous History not entirely dissimilar to our own times. To get that sense of communing with the ghosts of the past, or to see additional materials by or about Joseph Priestley, please visit our Information and Research or Local and Family History departments.

The Chimney Corner: Secret Books From The Secret Library #1

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

In a new series, we’ll be taking an occasional look at individual items from our Collections. The title, if not the exact intention, of this series – The Chimney Cornerhas been taken from a charming volume published by this Library Service in the 1920s and 30s: “a little publication to tell you and your parents and teachers something of the books and activities conducted by the Public Libraries of the City for the benefit of boys and girls.” You can find copies in our Local and Family History department. 

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The Book of Sports for Boys and Girls; Containing Games, Recreations and Amusements, for the Play Room and Play Ground at Home or At School was written by William Martin – author of “Fireside Philosophy” and “The Parlour Book”, among other titles. Our copy was published in 1853 and is presumably a first-edition, as no information about reprints can be found. In fact, little information about the book or the author can be found – all that we have are the book’s contents.

Those contents are by turns charming, amusing and intriguing in equal measure. Split into a variety of sections – including “Games with Marbles”, “Games for Cold Weather”, “Dangerous Games”, “Gymnastics”, “Gardening”, “Carpentering”, “Short Plays, Games and Recreations” – the book is notable for its, on the whole, gendered separation of outdoor “sports” for boys and indoor “amusements” for girls. The book is clearly a product of its times in that sense, feeding into Victorian notions of masculinity and femininity, as well as a Whiggish insistence on the value of “liberty” to British identity:

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Martin is also keen to position his interest in “Curious Tricks” as distinct from “conjuring”; which presumably has connotations incompatible with a Victorian belief in rationality as the grounding for a “healthy” society.

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Bee-keeping, on the other hand, is an activity fit for training young minds:

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It’s hard not to read any of this without concluding that Martin’s insistence on liberty, virile health and rational industry is in some way related to the British imperial project of the 19th-century. That may well be the case, and we may now look at a text like this from a position of implicit superiority. But does any of that get us any closer to successfully answering the 100 Conundrums at the book’s end? I suspect not!

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Why not give them a try for yourself? (sadly the pages containing Conundrums 53 through 81 are now lost). To find the answers…visit our Information and Research department and ask to see William Martin’s Book of Sports for Boys and Girls.

Commemorating World War I: Collections, Events & Exhibitions

by Antony Ramm, Local and Family History, Central Library

We are now roughly mid-way through the centenary of the First World War and the Leeds Library and Information Service continues to mark that anniversary with a series of regular events – including exhibitions, talks and workshops. Our most recent set of such commemorative offerings were timed to coincide with the national remembrance of the Battle of the Somme.

These events have been grouped together into a series entitled “Fragments of War: Leeds 1916”. Although several of these have now passed, some are still available – and you can see the full programme of events by clicking here.

One event that took place last week – and which proved highly successful – was our very first film screening in the library. This was the acclaimed adaptation of Vera Brittain’s Testament of Youth, her autobiographical account describing her work as a Voluntary Aid Detachment nurse – and the shattering emotional consequences of the War on Vera and those close to her. We chose to show this film primarily for its timely subject matter – but also because one scene was filmed here in the Central Library itself.

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Before the screening, viewers were invited to peruse a curated browsing collection, containing items selected from our Collections and which were of relevance to the film and the broader themes of Leeds and WW1. These included such treasures as our 15-volume collection of news-cuttings covering events in the First World War as they affected Leeds; some representative letters from the 10-volumes of correspondence relating to the Leeds Flag Day Committee; R.H. Gummer’s classic account of the Barnbow Munitions Factory; scrapbooks of news-cuttings about the Leeds Pals; a manuscript copy of A.V. Pearson’s Summoned by Duty: Autobiography in Verse, a poetical account of the author’s experience in the 15th Battalion of the West Yorkshire Regiment; and the Leeds volume of the Record of the National Ordnance Factories, which includes photographs of the factories, munitions workers and management. Full details of further locally-relevant First World War material can be found here. Click here to see a full list of books available by and about Vera Brittain.

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Also on display were some posters and playbills from the First World War. The latter – including productions such as The Unmarried Mother – can be seen via the playbills section of our Leodis website, or by visiting the Local and Family History department. Some examples of First World War posters can be currently seen in the atrium of the Central Library, alongside a fascinating exhibition detailing the experiences of Leeds people during the War, including some poignant poetical responses to the conflict.

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Also to be seen in that space are some examples of First World War postcards made by visitors from the Peer Support Cultural Partnership.

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These were created in response to another of the treasures held at the Central Library: Edith Cliff’s Gledhow Hall scrapbook (officially known as The Great European War, Gledhow Hall Hospital). This wonderful collection includes photographs, newspaper cuttings, soldier’s artwork and other ephemera relating to the Voluntary Aid Detachment Hospital at Gledhow Hall. Some images from the scrapbook can be seen below and you can browse more images via our Flickr page. Further information about Gledhow Hall Hospital can be found on this blog here and here.

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The Gledhow scrapbook also made an appearance at a talk by Dr. Jessica Meyer of the University of Leeds. Dr Meyer spoke on Leeds Hospitals during World War I, specifically the different types of care found in each type of hospital, while also examining the long-term impact the war had on hospital provision for the city’s population. This talk was part of our ever-popular Lunchtime Talk series – further entries in that series can be found here. You can read more about Dr. Meyer’s research on her blog.

Visitors to our Information and Research department will find a small exhibition of First World War material from our lending archive. On display are contemporaneous books such as an edited version of Sir Douglas Haig’s Dispatches, featuring specially-prepared maps, sketch plans and portraits; volumes of poetry by John Masefield; and a complete facsimile of The Wipers Times, “the famous World War One trench newspaper”. You can see a fuller list of contemporary responses to the War period by clicking here.

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Finally, further poignant images are also available to view in the Local and Family History Library, where several panels detailing the burial sites of servicemen at Lawnswood Cemetery are currently on display.

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Fragments of War: Quieter Voices

  •  By Stuart Hennigan, Communities Librarian, and Ross Horsley, Local and Family History Library

World War 1 is famous for its poetry. More than that of any other war in history, the poetry of World War 1 has determined our perception of the war itself. Most people have read, or at least heard of, such luminary war poets as Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen but, by concentrating solely on the works deemed to have more ‘literary merit’, we are experiencing only part of the poetic response to the conflict. At our Fragments of War poetry event at Leeds Central Library last Friday, we sought to give voice to some of these lesser-known poets and their perspectives. This week at the Secret Library, we’ll bring together those with a more local connection: a Leeds soldier, a Leeds schoolgirl, and a woman whose gravestone stands in Lawnswood Cemetery in north Leeds.

Norman Woodcock (1897-1987) was 17 when the war broke out. Leaving behind his childhood home in Little Woodhouse, he began five years of gruelling service that took him from the Gallipoli Landings to the final days of the Western Front. Though scarred by the experience, he went on to an extremely successful postwar career in public administration, but it was not until much later that he was able to discuss some of the horrors he had endured. The medium he chose was poetry:

Thoughts on poetry by Norman Woodcock

Thoughts on poetry by Norman Woodcock

Norman’s granddaughter, Susan Burnett, combined his handwritten memoirs with her own historical research to create the book On That Day I Left My Boyhood Behind, which can be borrowed from Leeds Libraries. She also shared with us the following poem from his collection:

The First World War

A long time now since the Great War began
And we started to lose our schoolboy friends
For it was the young ones who rushed to join
It was a case with them of not knowing
They had not heard the machine gun rattle
They had only read of men in battle
And the writers had no experience
Of anything bigger than a skirmish
A generation of men disappeared
Many of them too young to understand
But can any country lose them like this
Without the feeling of a great abyss
But our winning that war was not the end
Our negotiators were a poor blend
So the misery had to start again
And take more of the lives of our young men

You can learn more about Norman Woodcock’s extraordinary life story at Susan’s website.

War is a great engineer of social change and, with so many of the men away fighting, the First World War brought along some seismic changes in terms of women’s rights in Britain. Women were needed to drive trams, perform agricultural labour and work in munitions factories in the absence of their male counterparts. This next poem was uncovered by our Heritage Volunteer, Maureen Jessop, who has been indexing the Local and Family History Library’s holdings of Leeds Girls’ High School Magazine. It was published in spring 1917 but, sadly, we’ve been unable to trace the name of its author.

After Many Days

The War had last for fourteen years,
And women and maids were all in tears.
Not a man was left on British earth
But those who were under ten years from their birth:
This was the fruit of War, you know!

The church, of course, must still be full,
But without a preacher it was so dull!
Till one day, in the parish of Neverstandstill,
A woman’s form did the pulpit fill:
This was the fruit of War, you know!

This example was followed throughout the land;
And women at last got the upper hand.
They governed the country and piled on the tax,
Till at length through the world rang out the word “Pax”:
This was the fruit of War, you know!

The men from far countries came rushing back,
Only to find, – alas! Alack!!
That all was now changed since the time when they left,
For men of their rights had at last been bereft:
This was the fruit of War, you know!

Not a man was left who could raise his hand,
And control any woman upon the land;
For in pulpit and parliament women now stood,
And in pulpit and parliament stand they e’er would:
This was the fruit of War, you know!

Leeds Girls' High School, 1906

Leeds Girls’ High School, 1908. Photo from Leodis

Predating both of these poems was a piece by a Leeds woman that achieved recognition across the western world but is largely forgotten today. Originally published in The Spectator in September 1915, Christ in Flanders went on to become a bestselling pamphlet, which stayed in print throughout the war and was quoted in church sermons across the country by, among others, the Bishop of London. Its theme may be considered sentimental but the comfort it offered a generation of soldiers and their families is undeniable and, for that reason, it remains one of the most emotive poems of its kind.

Christ in Flanders

We had forgotten You, or very nearly —
You did not seem to touch us very nearly —
Of course we thought about You now and then;
Especially in any time of trouble —
We knew that You were good in time of trouble — 
But we are very ordinary men.

And there were always other things to think of —
There’s lots of things a man has got to think of —
His work, his home, his pleasure, and his wife;
And so we only thought of You on Sunday —
Sometimes, perhaps, not even on a Sunday —
Because there’s always lots to fill one’s life.

And, all the while, in street or lane or byway —
In country lane, in city street, or byway —
You walked among us, and we did not see.
Your feet were bleeding as You walked our pavements —
How did we miss Your footprints on our pavements? —
Can there be other folk as blind as we?

Now we remember; over here in Flanders —
(It isn’t strange to think of You in Flanders) —
This hideous warfare seems to make things clear.
We never thought about You much in England —
But now that we are far away from England,
We have no doubts, we know that You are here.

You helped us pass the jest along the trenches —
Where, in cold blood, we waited in the trenches —
You touched its ribaldry and made it fine.
You stood beside us in our pain and weakness —
We’re glad to think You understand our weakness —
Somehow it seems to help us not to whine.

We think about You kneeling in the Garden —
Ah! God! the agony of that dread Garden —
We know You prayed for us upon the cross.
If anything could make us glad to bear it —
’Twould be the knowledge that You willed to bear it —
Pain — death — the uttermost of human loss.

Though we forgot You — You will not forget us —
We feel so sure that You will not forget us —
But stay with us until this dream is past.
And so we ask for courage, strength, and pardon —
Especially, I think, we ask for pardon —
And that You’ll stand beside us to the last.

Sadly, the poem’s author, Lucy Whitmell, a former President of the Leeds Astronomical Society, did not live to see the end of the First World War. She died from a long illness in May of 1917 and was buried at Lawnswood Cemetery, where her gravestone notes: She wrote “Christ in Flanders”.

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The war memorial at Lawnswood Cemetery. Photograph courtesy of Andrea Hetherington

Still to come in our Fragments of War season, commemorating the centenary of the Battle of the Somme, are three more free talks:

  • Leeds Hospitals during World War 1 by Dr Jessica Meyer, 15 July, 1.00pm, Room 700, Leeds Central Library.
  • Home Front Leeds by Lucy Moore, 20 July, 2.00pm, The Compton Centre.
  • Rethinking the Leeds Pals by Tim Lynch, 22 July, 1.00pm, Room 700, Leeds Central Library.

Visit the Leeds Libraries Ticketsource page for more info and to book places. Also check out our previous post A Leeds Schoolgirl Reflects on WW1 to read about another war poem from the pages of Leeds Girls’ High School Magazine.