My week in the Local and Family History Department

This week we hear from Thomas Wootton, from Leeds Trinity University, who as part of his work experience spent a week in the Local and Family History Department.

As part of my degree in History and Politics from Leeds Trinity University, I was required to undertake a work placement and I decided to undertake part of that placement at the Local and Family History department in Leeds Central Library. For those of you who are reading this and don’t know, the department is located on the second floor of the Library (don’t worry if you don’t like walking up the flights of stairs, I didn’t and took the elevator) and the department as the name suggests holds a large collection of stock all related to specifically Leeds and Yorkshire. I’m talking a large collection of specialist books, photographs on the Leodis website, newspapers on microfilm and even old maps, there’s something for everyone.

The placement was great as it combined not only the work element in shadowing and providing library services, with the warm and welcoming members of staff. I also helped with enquiries regarding birth, death and marriage records as well as looking at maps and the trade directories in locating information about streets and buildings, it may sound boring, but I can assure with the utmost honesty it’s really not! However the service provided doesn’t stop there, part of the services undertaken by the staff regards the researching of the books and documents. These items some of which are rare with limited copies are available for anyone to look at and research, you can even write a blog about your research and perhaps have it published on the Secret Library Heritage Blog.

Now that I’ve briefly introduced myself and why I’m writing this short blog post, I would like to briefly talk about some of the activities that I have taken part in as well as some of my research. The activities I have participated in consists of three things – genealogy of Belgian refugees, assisting on the heritage tour and doing some research. While the number of those who attended the event on the Belgian refugees were small, the event produced some interesting discussions with members of the community interested in the event. The most interesting part for me was the sheer number (250,000) of Belgian refugees who immigrated to England after the German occupation of Belgium in the First World War. Interestingly we had a bit of a local expert who provided some interesting information regarding Belgian refugees into a place called Pocklington (I know what you’re thinking, where’s that? Honestly even I’m not 100% sure).

Belgian Refugees as Market Gardeners at Killingbeck, Leeds Mercury 20 April 1916

The heritage tour is one that I would recommend to all ages and everyone should attend at least once. The tour explores the architecture and history of the Library featuring some interesting symbolism such as famous figures carved in the stone. Some have yet to be identified, but what’s more interesting is the behind the scenes of restricted areas to the public. The tour is also interesting for young children with secret doors and an old Victorian elevator.

The last brief activity was researching the British Civil War in Yorkshire using old Civil War Tracts, the most interesting one regards the Siege of Hull in 1642. The siege was one contested between Charles I’s supporters and Hull’s Parliamentarian inhabitants, interestingly the siege began when Charles and his men demanded admittance into Hull, but was denied by the Governor, Sir John Hotham. Hotham had received intelligence of a great conspiracy on his life by Charles supporters and men, which of course Charles I denied knowledge of and branded Hotham a traitor. I could write a huge blog/article, but the intention of this post was to highlight some of the activities I’ve been involved in and to more importantly encourage others to come and do their own research on what interests them. As I said there’s something for everyone .

Terrible News from Hull, Wing Collection Civil War Tracts T 769
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