The Lost Streets project goes live

Funded by a Jane Moody Scholarship, University of York PhD researcher Joanne Harrison has collaborated with Leeds Central Library’s Local and Family History department and Leeds Museums and Galleries to deliver five online workshops, a new website resource (bit.ly/loststreetsleeds) and a display for the Abbey House Museum. She reports here on the activities of the last few months.

You’ll remember the project I wrote about in January – Rediscovering the lost streets of Victorian Burmantofts and Sheepscar, Leeds – and I’m happy to report that the work is now complete.

Let’s begin with a recap of the problem the project aims to solve. Until now, anyone searching for photographs of demolished streets in Burmantofts or Sheepscar has not been able to locate the photographs without having access to historic maps and conducting a search that might have been likened to looking for a needle in a haystack. The project provides both the current and historic map location in a fully searchable website that is co-ordinated with Leodis.

The workshops comprised ‘skill-building’ presentations to introduce participants to the resources required for the project – these covered maps, Leodis, official documents and biographical resources, and how we can use what we have available to interpret the lives of the Victorian and Edwardian residents.

Figure 1 Josh Flint gave a presentation about the development and use of the Leodis archive.

It has been an incredibly busy few months for everyone involved, and that includes the fourteen community researchers who have enthusiastically dedicated their spare time to poring over maps and Leodis records, creating thousands of spreadsheet entries and hundreds of historic maps. They have also used a range of social history documents including census, electoral registers, birth, marriage and death records, street directories, biographies and oral histories to produce thirteen case studies. These give a really fascinating insight into the lives of the Victorian and Edwardian residents.

‘I really enjoyed looking into the lives of the occupants… I was fascinated by some of the ways of life that have now gone… Through the research, I feel this area has really come to life for me – the smells and sounds feel vivid.’ (Lisa Grabowski) 

Figure 2 Workshop participants discussed the importance of social history research.

In total, the project provides a number of resources to assist anyone researching the neighbourhoods, whether as a hobby, or for education or work. These include:

  • Website providing
    • Street index with grid references to be used in conjunction with the project map. Provided as
      • an alphabetical list of all streets
      • an alphabetical list categorised by grid reference
    • Map locations
  • Search by street name, Leodis image name or Leodis image ID to select a record and view the historic and current location maps, plus additional information and Leodis links.
  • Alternatively, browse the entire zoomable current map and select markers to view the corresponding historic map, additional information and Leodis links.
    • Case studies
      • Select a case study from the list or the map to read about the lives of Victorian / Edwardian residents.
  • A temporary display at Abbey House Museum (July 28th – October 22nd) showcasing the social history case studies.
  • Talk for the 1152 Club, available online.
Figure 3 The home page provides instructions on how to use the website and gives access to all the records. (c) Google
Figure 4 The instructions are clearly laid out, along with contact details should you have a contribution to add. (c) Google
Figure 5 Once a photograph is selected, the location is identified on the main map, while the side bar to the left displays the relevant information and historic map. (c) Google
Figure 6 Case studies are detailed in the side bar to the left, providing information about the neighbourhood, living conditions and residents. (c) Google

There is the obvious element of the unknown in research projects, and despite meticulous planning, that was true of this project in terms of its size. Firstly, a search for Burmantofts or Sheepscar on Leodis does not return all photographs for the neighbourhoods. Some streets that were in Burmantofts for example, were categorised as Lincoln Green, the current name for part of that neighbourhood. The cumulative effect of such examples meant that instead of an expected project size of around 800 photographs, there were in fact over 2300! With the funding and time available, it was simply not possible to expand the project to incorporate the total number so we had to prioritize our resources for maximum benefit. We excluded the West Yorkshire Archive Service (WYAS) photographs from the mapping part of the project because WYAS hold maps in their physical archive that indicate the position of each of their photographs, and therefore the information is available somewhere at least. With the Covid-19 lockdown, it was not possible to visit the archive, and it made little sense to spend time mapping what already exists. Should funding become available in future, it will be straightforward to add them to the project website. This adjustment significantly reduced the mapping part of the project, but we then encountered another demand on our time because of the Leodis archive update. As part of the project process, we had recorded the photographs in spreadsheets with their respective web addresses so they could be linked with the new Lost Streets website. Unfortunately, unbeknown to us, the new Leodis website which went live two months into the project, used different addresses for the photographs, so they had to be redone! There were lots of other technical challenges with the project which arose because the research was divided between the workshop participants. It meant there was a certain amount of duplication built into the project that couldn’t be filtered out until the final stages when buildings were marked on historic maps. The process of mapping the locations on the current map was also complex to design, but the use of GIS software enabled co-ordinates to be exported to the Lost Streets website.

So, despite the hard work, we’ve done it, and the benefits have already been felt –

‘A thoroughly enjoyable project. I learnt a lot and it really fed my passion for local history and genealogy. The fact that the work it entailed would help other researchers was an added bonus. I do hope people find it as useful as I have.’ (Lynne Barbour)

‘Since the project I have looked at that area in a completely different light and have really enjoyed walking the streets with the old maps and comparing then to now.’ (Sue Patterson)

The project has provided a much-needed resource for anyone researching the neighbourhoods in future, and I hope you enjoy using the website and visiting the display.  The website also has the potential to carry on growing and developing – if you have your own memories, stories or photographs relating to a specific house or street in Burmantofts or Sheepscar that you would like to submit to the website, do get in touch at loststreetsleeds@gmail.com for further details.  Lastly, I give my sincere thanks to everyone I have worked with on this project, without whom, it could not have been realised –

Lynne Barber, Patrick Bourne, Glenys Day, Robert Dyson, Val Elson, Josh Flint, Lisa Grabowski, Sylvia Haddock, John and Anne Harris, Julie Holmes, Sally Hughes, Sue Patterson, Nicola Pullan, Antony Ramm, Sandra Nistri, Eric and Marie Songhurst, Rachael Unsworth.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. barbaracharlie says:

    Hello,As I live in Tavistock Devon[although born and bread in morley, Nr Leeds.] How do I read the resulte of this facinating reasearch project? I am doing a small research on the “City Streets” of Morley. 1871-1911, cencentrating on family reconstitution, migration and child mortality. Regards. Barbara Fenton.

    1. The project website is here: bit.ly/loststreetsleeds and you can email loststreetsleeds@gmail.com for more information about the project.

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