The English Civil War in Yorkshire

  • by Josh Flint, Local and Family History, Leeds Central Library

Did you know that the some of the defining events of the English Civil War occurred in Yorkshire? The Local and Family History department has researched and created a new information leaflet chronicling the role of Yorkshire during the Civil War.

The leaflet details a selection of unique and valuable material that the Leeds Central Library can offer from its extensive collection. A selection of the Wing Collection of Civil War Tracts has been included within this leaflet. The Civil War Tracts are a collection of primary sources ranging from 1640 to 1700; these document the social, economic, religious, military and political events during the Civil War. These tracts, alongside the excellent secondary sources found within Local and Family History collections, will assist anyone who is interested in researching the role Yorkshire played during this turbulent period of British history. Click the image below to download the guide.

To accompany the leaflet, the Local and Family History team have designed an information folder focusing solely on the role of Leeds during the Civil War. This folder has collated a large number of references to Leeds during the period. These include detailed accounts of the 1643 battles of Leeds, Adwalton Moor and Seacroft Moor, while also including the social implications the Civil War had on the population of Leeds. The folder is of great use to any Leeds local history enthusiast fascinated by the Civil War.

John Ogilby: Road Maps & Measuring Wheels

  • by Karen Downham, Local and Family History, Leeds Central Library

Ogilby 1

Among the many maps in Leeds Libraries’ collection is John Ogilby’s Britannia Depicta, published in 1675, a landmark in the mapping of England and Wales, and the first national road atlas of any country in Western Europe. It was a publication that would bring about a change in the character and use of maps, and bringing to prominence the ‘”road books” intended for use by the traveller. A few had been published previously, but Britannia was the first to give such a degree of detail on the countryside through which the roads passed.

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“Being an actual survey of all the direct and principal cross roads in England and Wales shewing all the cities, towns, villages, churches and Gentleman’s seats, situated on or near any of the roads.”

John Ogilby (November 1600–4 September 1676) was born in Killemeare (Kirriemuir), near Edinburgh, the son of a wealthy Scottish gentleman, and the family moved to London when Ogilby was still a child. However, when his father was imprisoned for debt, Ogilby had to go out selling trinkets to make a living. He invested his savings in a lottery, had the good luck to win a minor prize, and paid off his father’s debts. He spent some time as a dancing master and theatre owner before becoming a bookseller and printer. He was also a successful translator, noted for publishing his work in handsome illustrated editions.

By 1674 Ogilby was appointed “His Majesty’s Cosmographer and Geographic Printer”, and was one of four men appointed to prepare a detailed plan of the area destroyed by the Great Fire of London, published in 1677, a year after Ogilby’s death.

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Ogilby had the idea to create a road book in pictorial form, with measurements of all distances, notes of branch roads and junctions, together with features of interest along the road. His scheme was approved by Charles II, and in preparation for the publication, seventy-three roads were surveyed and accurately measured. All the measurements were carried out with a road wheel, (also sometimes called a way-wiser, or ‘Wheel Dimensurator’), a device resembling the front wheel of a bicycle in its’ forks, with the wheel geared to a comptometer – a type of mechanical calculator – so as the surveyor pushed the wheel in front of him, the distances were displayed on a dial. The illustration below is an example of type of instrument Ogilby’s surveyors would have used, and modern versions are still used today. The symbol of the measuring wheel features throughout the maps, and several of the illustrations on the titles depict surveyors at work with the measuring wheel:

Example of Old Road Wheel

    Example of Old Road Wheel

Ogilby used the Statute Mile (5280ft/ 1760 yards), introduced by Act of Parliament in 1593, but not generally used until much later, with the old English Customary Mile still being used on milestones. Another innovation was Ogilby’s scale of one inch to the mile (1/63360). These are marked and numbered on each map, the miles further being divided into furlongs. The information was set out in strip maps and engraved on 100 folio plates, accompanied by a double-sided page of text giving additional advice for the map’s use.

Title from Sheet 100 of Britannia Depicta

     Title from Sheet 100 of Britannia Depicta

Each Sheet covered about seventy miles, and has a title, as shown above, also giving distances between the important towns. The plates were divided into vertical strips, to look like a continuous spiral flattened out. At major changes of direction, there is a compass dial drawn, showing the changing orientation of the map, so North would not necessarily be at the top, as is the custom with most of today’s maps.

Additionally, the compass bearing of major local landmarks such as windmills church towers and large houses was noted, so an out-rider could ride to the landmark and take a triangulation bearing. This is also shown on the title piece above.

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One of Wainwright’s maps.

The strip map is occasionally used today, a notable example being the hand drawn maps of Alfred Wainwright, in his Pictorial Guides to the Lakeland Fells.

Ogilby’s plates show towns and villages, bridges, distances, destination of side roads, and some of the larger natural features are named. The surveyors noted if the roads were enclosed by walls of hedges, or open, local landmarks were also noted, along with inns, bridges(even noting the material of construction), fords, and sometimes the cultivation of the fields on either side of the road. Hills were drawn on the maps to show the direction in which they were inclined, and their relative steepness. The extracts below note “a Rill” (a small stream or shallow drainage channel), “a Warren” (network of rabbit borrows), arable fields, and “Moorish ground on both sides”.

The details on the plates were so clear and precise that an engraver could draft any of them onto an existing map.

Ogilby died some time after the map’s publication, in 1676, and was buried at St. Brides, one of Sir Christopher Wren’s new London churches.

Ogilby’s Britannia Depicta  provides an interesting record of the countryside of England at the time, and stands apart from other maps of the time. The maps were printed in relatively large numbers for the time, and prints are still available, with originals held in libraries for consultation.

Editions of Britannia Depicta from 1720, 1753 and 1764 are held by the Information & Research Library, and Local & Family History hold prints of individual sheets covering roads in Yorkshire.

Ogilby 8 Ogilby 7

Meeting the Ghosts of the Brontë Family

by Antony Ramm, Local and Family History, Central Library

Display of relevant materials in our Local and Family History department

Display of relevant materials in our Local and Family History department

In his book Contested Will: Who Wrote Shakespeare? (2010), James Shapiro makes the point that “every literature professor is in the business of speaking to the dead” and that, by extension, “communicating with the dead is what we all do…[e]very time we pick up a volume of Milton or Virgil or Dickens – all of whom achieve a kind of immortality by speaking to us from beyond the grave.”

I think that is true – though I’d go further and argue that the act of “speaking to the dead” is even more prevalent in those historical memories reclaimed through the making of local and family history(ies) than in the kind of literary readings highlighted by Shapiro.

One place these two slightly different approaches to the past intersect is in the surprising place of the Haworth Parsonage long associated with the Brontë family – fittingly so, at the start of the five-year celebration of their literary achievements. More specifically, it’s in the pages of an odd little book we hold in the Local and Family History department of our Central Library.

That book – News From the Next World by Charles L. Tweedale – was the 1940 sequel to Tweedale’s prior work, Man’s Survival After Death. In that earlier book, Tweedale “answered in the affirmative the age-long question, ‘If a man die shall he live again?'”; in the sequel he hoped to “answer the further question “How does he live and where?'”.

That search appears to have taken, at least in part, the form of written communication with the dead via the hand of his wife, Mrs M.E. Tweedale. Such was the case on Monday the 24th of August, 1931 when, on a journey to Haworth, Mrs Tweedale was physically alerted by forms unknown in the Parsonage. That incident then led to a successful attempt at contacting, first Emily, then Patrick Brontë – both of whom were apparently keen to communicate details of their present existence and, it seems, their signatures – which matched those seen in previously unpublished papers. What to make of this curious episode lay, of course, entirely in the eye of the beholder.

So, to read the entirety of the Tweedale’s eerie encounter with the Brontë – and to see a display of Brontë-related information – please visit our Local and Family History library. You can also browse a guide to our other Brontë holdings by clicking here.

Plate XXXIV of Tweedales book: "Brontë Spirit Signatures"

Plate XXXIV of Tweedales book: “Brontë Spirit Signatures”

Brrr! Warm Up with our Arctic Archives

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

This is an entry in our Read More series. These are ‘long-form’ articles, where staff offer a curated and detailed look at areas of our book collections, usually based around a specific theme or subject. These posts aim to guide the interested reader through to those books that offer a more in-depth look at a topic, or which are classics in their field.

Next Monday and Friday, as part of the 29th International Leeds Film Festival, some of our rarest stock items will be making their way out of our stacks on a perilous expedition to the Clothworkers Centenary Concert Hall at the University of Leeds. There, this curated browsing collection, will form the backdrop to an interdisciplinary series of films, exhibitions and talks exploring ‘Arctic Encounters‘, a suitably fitting theme for this time of year. This is a fantastic opportunity to see some of our lesser-spotted books in the wild! Today’s blog aims to give you a taster of the books we are exhibiting there and some ideas for further reading.

Voyage Toward the North Pole (1773) / Constantine John Phipps

The earliest book in our collection (1773), this is an account of an expedition toward the North Pole under the command of Constantine John Phipps. As well as maps tracing the route taken by the two ships in the squadron – Racehorse and Carcass -, the book also includes eyewitness drawings of the landscape on particular dates and an appendix containing astronomical and zoological observations by Israel Lyons and Dr Irving respectively. Interestingly, a young Horatio Nelson was a midshipman on the Carcass and reputedly had a close encounter with a polar bear while the vessel was stuck in ice. Phipps described the bear in his log book on the 12th of May, 1773 – the first European to do so.

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First-hand illustration of the Racehorse and Carcass, 1773

Arctic Zoology (1785-1787) / Thomas Pennant

Originally intended as a survey of North American zoology, Pennant altered the focus and title of this book in mortification after the loss of the thirteen colonies during the American War of Independence. There are two volumes: the first covers quadrupeds; the second, birds. Both feature extensive descriptions and illustrations by Peter Brown. Published between 1785 and 1787, the set is perhaps most notable now for the fact that Pennant did not himself journey from his home in Wales, instead relying on the work of others, such as the voyage of Sir Joseph Banks to Newfoundland in 1786. Nevertheless, the volumes were well-received –leading to Pennant’s election as a member of the American Philosophical Society.


William Scoresby Jr.

Scoresby was one of the most prominent Arctic explorers and scientists of the early 19th-century. Born near Whitby, he initially joined his father on whaling voyages in the remote North before turning his attentions to the meteorology and natural history of the polar region. His 1813 voyage saw him establish for the first time the fact that polar ocean has a warmer temperature at depth than on the surface.

The library holds several fascinating texts relating to Scoresby and his Arctic encounters, including a facsimile of the log book he kept during his 1806 voyage with his father, Captain William Scoresby. Other volumes include his first-hand Account of the Arctic Regions: With a History and Description of the Northern Whale Fishery (1820) and two scientific papers contained in The Polar Ice and North Pole (published between 1815 and 1825).

Illustration showing the

Illustration showing the “ship Esk of Whitby damaged and full of water”

The First Crossing of Greenland (1890) / Fridtjof Nansen

One of the most extraordinary individuals of modern times – scientist, diplomat, humanitarian, recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, champion skier and ice skater – Fridtjof Nansen also led the team that made the first crossing of the Greenland interior in 1888. This book, published in 1890, is Nansen’s account of that astonishing expedition and contains a narrative description – including an encampment with an Eskimo community at Cape Bille – and contemporary illustrations of the landscapes, wildlife and people encountered during the crew’s journey.

Nansen later won international fame for reaching a record northern latitude of 86◦14’ during his North Pole expedition of 1893-1896. His account of that later exploration can be read in his Farthest North – a copy of which is also available to view in the Central Library.

An example of the ethnographic detail found in Nansen's account

An example of the ethnographic detail found in Nansen’s account


This is just a short sample of the many books we hold on the Arctic and accounts of its history, ethnography, zoology and geography. The majority of our collections, however, are eyewitness reports of expeditions and journeys across the “Great Ice”. Click here to see a comprehensive guide to those other books. Please note that the guide is not a complete record of our holdings; anyone interested in this topic is advised to browse our catalogue for further resources.

Celebrating the Yorkshire Festival

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As part of the 2014 Yorkshire Festival we wanted to show you some of the Heritage Yorkshire stock we have here at Leeds Central Library.
‘Yorkshire Painted & Described’ by Gordon Home was acquired by the Leeds Public Libraries Reference Library on the 9th June 1956 with 71 illustrations accompanying Home’s description of his tour across the Yorkshire region. Written in 1908 oversees agents may have seen volumes reach as far as America, Canada, India and Australia.
It’s not just the illustrations that add visual impact to the volume but the cover itself. Bound in a faded sage canvas the title, author and publisher details are embossed in gold with an inlay showing the white rose of Yorkshire and its green foliage.

To the right is Radstock’s ‘Views in Yorkshire’ open to an illustration of Central Market Leeds, drawn by N. Whittock and originally engraved in steel by J. Shury. The image was published in London by J. T. Hinton No4. Warwick Square, December 15th 1828 and the whole book comprises various drawn images capturing scenes and places from Yorkshire.

Open to an image of Haworth Church is ‘The Spell of Yorkshire´ by J. Cumming Walters, illustrated from original drawings by Frank Greenwood. The green cloth bound book was published by Methuen & Co. Ltd. 36 Essex Street W.C. London and an inside page carries the hand written inscription “with love from Mary Morgan Xmas 1931”. The volume was presented to the City of Leeds public Libraries by Sir Alvary Gascoigne in memory of his father, Col. F.R.T. Gascoigne and is part of the Gascoigne Collection housed at Leeds Central Library.

Beneath this volume can be seen the intricate gold embossing of leaves on a red cloth background of “A Book About Yorkshire” by J. S. Fletcher. Also a member of the Gascoigne collection Fletcher’s book carries on the title page the quote “THE BEST SHIRE OF ENGLAND – Fuller”. With 16 colour illustrations by Wal Paget and Frank Southgate, R.B.A. and 16 other illustrations, the item was published in 1908 and donated to the library in 1970.

For those of you with a love of both Charles Dickens and Yorkshire we can recommend the small red cloth bound ‘With Dickens in Yorkshire’ by T. P. Cooper, a second edition – revised, 1924. The 145 pages explores the Yorkshire locations featured throughout Dickens works and includes an introduction by B. W. Matz, ‘Editor of “The Dickensian,” Author of “ The Inns and Taverns of Pickwick,” “Dickensian Inns and Taverns,” &c.’ This volume was published by Ben Johnson & Co., Ltd, Micklegate, York.

The final book of the row, bound in a dark green is “Highways & Byways in Yorkshire” by Arthur H. Norway with illustrations by Joseph Pennell and Hugh Thomson. The 1899 volume displays multiple illustrations and plates including one of a highwayman holding another rider at gun point on The Great North Road.

The above books are all part of the Information & Research Library on the second floor of Leeds Central Library. The Local & Family History Library on the second floor has a large selection of Yorkshire reference books.