Season’s greetings

Whether you tend to the jolly festive or bah-humbug end of the spectrum, I wish you a very happy Christmas.

It’s been quite a year for the society, and let’s hope Christmas brings a welcome rest – and a chance to recharge batteries for 2016…


The perfect gift

Why not treat your friends to membership of YAS? For £45/ £23 they will discover a great range of YAS lectures, publications and events. There is the added attraction of access to all holdings (not just our own collections) in Leeds University Library. And you will be supporting Yorkshire’s greatest archaeological and historical society.

See here for details

We’ll be launching a drive to recruit new members in 2016.


Digitisation and its unforeseen consequences

Interesting thoughts here from Richard Hoyle, Director of the Victoria County History and a member of YAS council. Richard has been searching Yorkshire sources this year, and discovering (the good news) just how much from public archival collections is conveniently available online but (the bad news) that this is largely on commercial sites behind a pay wall.


Catching up with YAS sections

YAS section meetings are proving a treat. The plan was to meet members and discover more about the sections’ activities – I’ve also been enormously entertained and learned a lot.

The resurgent Medieval Section on Saturday welcomed Chris Robson, who had travelled across a flooded Cumbria from St Bees, to tell an extraordinary story of how the St Bees man and woman were discovered buried (the man wrapped in lead) in the former priory church in 1981. (See the section blog for more detail – and the talk was filmed, selected highlights doubtless to appear soon on the section website.) For me, the fascination was in how archaeologists and historians combined to identify the people and the circumstances of their burial, from what at the outset appeared thin pickings of evidence. They now have a plausible explanation, but it’s still quite tentative, and further lines of enquiry are emerging. Wonderful, and with the added advantage of mince pies and cakes etc (presumably this doesn’t happen at every meeting).

Family History Section meeting last month, about the family behind the Leeds engineering company of Thomas Green, was exceptionally interesting. Industrial History Section I know better than the rest – their speaker on Saturday, Tim Kirker, updated us on the long and winding road towards re-opening the Calderdale Industrial Museum. I’m planning to catch up with Roman Antiquities in January, and the Prehistorians’ day-long gathering in early March.

All a great pleasure.


Selling our publications

Very soon we’ll have new arrangements in place for sales of YAS publications.

The move from Claremont has made this necessary, but probably only accelerated the process. We would have had to address these issues in the next year or two, because the world of publishing is as much in flux as is the world of county history societies.

So most YAS sales stock is now in process of transfer to D. & M. Heritage Ltd, in Huddersfield (formerly Jeremy Mills Publishing, which remains a trading name of D. & M.). Through D. & M. we expect to achieve a higher profile for our books, and better co-ordinate marketing. It’s also possible that we’ll use their publishing services to a degree, as they specialise in Yorkshire/ northern topics.

Parish Register Section continues to manage its own brisk trade, which is increasingly via downloads and CDs.

Yorkshire Archaeological Journal has been published by Maney Publishing since 2011. We’re now looking at the best way to digitise all pre-Maney volumes, and particularly whether we can offer free access. A meeting at Claremont in January will focus on the possibilities, and make recommendations to Management Board.

So for the time being, sales arrangements for YAS publications are in transition. We are doing our utmost to fulfil orders as speedily as possible, but please note that some delay may be unavoidable during December 2015 and January 2016.


The new world of county societies

Delighted to be asked to speak at the County Societies Symposium at the University of London in September.
The conference is about how heritage-focused societies are to respond in the new world of the 21st-century, and what to make of changes in publishing, social media, etc.
My title is ‘The modern challenges facing county societies’, so I certainly won’t be short of material. On the one hand, we are working in a particularly bruising environment just now; but there again, all kinds of things are possible, and not only those coming out of new technology. We’re seeing a promising resurgence in public and community history, and interest in archaeology and history has never been higher.
The challenges (a term that hardly does justice to events of the last couple of years) facing YAS are also affecting all other county societies to a greater or smaller degree. They also impact on many other voluntary groups working in the heritage sector. So it’s good to know that we can join the debate, see how others have dealt with these problems, and find inspiration by sharing views and ideas.
(PS this blog doesn’t have to be a monologue. Please feel free to chip in.)

More on easyfundraising…

Thanks to the member who suggests that you can set up easyfundraising to appear in your browser so that you don’t have to go to their site first – makes it a lot easier.

This gives me another excuse to remind more members to sign up in support of YAS:

The more the merrier, please tell your friends and family, and here’s a Christmas toast to rampant consumerism…


An evening at Hazlewood Castle


A great evening excursion to Hazlewood Castle, a hidden marvel near Tadcaster, just off the A1 and A64. Mulled wine and mince pies, perfect Advent experience.

Hazlewood was seat of the Vavasours until 1908, and later a Carmelite retreat. It is now a hotel, and open to the public. The main building has been much extended from a 13th-century hall and pele tower, and many of the fine panels, fireplaces and other fixtures were introduced by wealthy private owners in the early-20th century. The jewel is the 13th-c. Catholic chapel. It suffered minor damage at the Reformation, and the interior has been remodelled, but the chapel retains its medieval form and contains striking monuments, medieval to modern, to the recusant Vavasours.