Yesterday afternoon I met my friend for lunch. I have known her nearly 60 years and we seem to have, over the years gone through good times, very good times and the not so good – we have dealt with things in our own way but always been there for each other. We may not be in each other’s pockets on a day to day basis but if anyone asks who my best friend is, I do not hesitate and say her name.
Anyway, soppy stuff over.
Before lunch, it was suggested that we pay a visit to the Open Day of the West Yorkshire History Center, which opens on Monday. The purpose built building sits on a plot of land in Kirkgate and it a very modern building, the very opposite of its predecessor on Margaret Street, Wakefield.
The weather outside was cold, wet and windy so it was pleasant to be in the warm new building. The entrance is an open space, which includes a reception desk and a few tables to sit and have a drink from the installed vending
machines. As you walk up the corridor to the research area you are greeted with a few display cases, which at the moment are focusing on WW1 items.
The research area is large, bright and airy with plenty of tables and computer terminals, also having a reception desk area for ordering archive material. This room was quite busy but we were greeted as we entered by a member of staff, who we chatted to and my friend, Judy Gorbutt nee Alexander, explained that she had been brought up within yards of the centre, as her grandfather and father owned Alexander’s, which at one time had been a pet shop and seed merchants then became well known in the area as the place to go for fishing tackle. The member of staff suggested that Judy look in the Register of Deeds to see if she could find any information about the purchase of the Kirkgate shop. Guess what we did next?
The Register of Deeds indices are housed in sliding units, well, we were like kids in a sweet shop. We had only a vague idea of the date of the purchase of the Kirkgate shop, therefore, a process of elimination took place. We did find him owning property on Haddingley Hill, Milnthorpe Lane and a few other places – the Kirkgate shop seemed to be as elusive as the man himself, as he had been hard to find in many records, his life still remains a mystery in many decades.
Armed with this information, Judy and I continued our visit looking at the conservation area -many items looking familiar to those in my art teacher’s room at school.
Extracted from Wakefield.gov -
The archival collections held by are an unparalleled record of the history of the West Riding of Yorkshire and its communities from 1194 to the present day.
The West Yorkshire Archive Service in Wakefield is the third largest local authority archive in Great Britain comprising over 10 million documents. The service exists to make this history accessible to the public and to look after the region’s heritage for future generations.
Many collections have national significance, among them the unique records of the pioneering Stanley Royd Mental Health Hospital, recently awarded international status as part of the UNESCO UK Memory of the World Register.
Other major collections that will be cared for at the centre are the unparalleled West Riding Registry of Deeds made up of 12,763 volumes containing 7 million extracts of property transactions from 1704 to 1970, as well as the massive National Coal Board collection of over 2000 boxes relating to collieries and coal miners in Wakefield and the south Leeds area.
The History Centre cares for the late John Goodchild’s collection which represents an unrivalled and rich source of information for local history research and contains manuscripts, books, maps, illustrations, indexes and research files covering a vast range of subjects and stories associated with local individuals and organisations.
Our visit over it was time to venture out back into a cold, wet and dismal Wakefield to decide where to go for lunch and a chat. But with so many records available to researchers it looks like another visit is on the cards.
The centre is open on the following times:-
From Monday 13th February 2017
Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday
Open 2nd Saturday a month