Musing on Joseph’s Well

Coming up to completing our second month at Joseph’s Well, and getting used to three rooms rather than 30 or so. (The Claremont tally was never fully clear, but there were a lot of them, and all very cold.)

We’re certainly not cold now. The new offices are warm, light, pleasant and airy. There’s  enough space for a dozen or so people to meet, a private room for treasuring and admin, super fast broadband, kitchen (cost of drinks raised to 50p by presidential edict), a phone that takes messages and emails them to the officers, and all very accessible. The society is now run wholly by volunteers, with an aim of staffing the office on Wednesdays and Fridays, 10 am to 4 pm (please check ahead if you’re planning to call.) We encourage activity outside those times, for project meetings and by volunteers running online sales, publishing and other YAHS work.

There’s a full year left on our short lease, and we have to think hard, very soon, about whether Joseph’s Well is the right location. Office space in central Leeds doesn’t come cheap, but we no longer have the heavy responsibility of maintaining Claremont, with the accompanying liabilities, particularly the worry of large unforeseen bills. Proceeds of the Claremont sale are being invested long-term, to produce an annual income, and our financial management is now excellent. We can feel secure, as we know where we are.

So this is a breathing space, to consider whether these premises and the Woodhouse area are right for us – whether indeed to stay in the middle of Leeds, weighing up public transport access, parking issues, and office costs. To be continued…. affordable/ practical suggestions welcome.

The evolution of dwarf elephants

We’ve been asked to share this information about the George De Boer Biennial Public Lecture at the University of Hull, on 4 May 2017:

Palaeobiologist and mammoth expert Dr Tori Herridge is visiting Hull to share her research on the evolution of dwarf elephants, which once lived on Mediterranean islands but are now extinct. Her title is ‘The What, When and How of Dwarf Elephant Evolution, and Why it Matters’.

A palaeobiologist at the Natural History Museum in London, Dr Herridge specialises in fossil elephants, particularly those species which lived in Europe during the Ice Age. Dr Herridge has been involved in a number of TV projects for Channel 4 including Woolly Mammoth: The Autopsy, Walking Through Time and Britain at Low Tide. She has appeared on Russell Howard’s Good News, BBC Breakfast and CBS This Morning, as well as BBC Radio 4’s Start the Week and Saturday Live.

She is also the co-founder of TrowelBlazers, an organisation dedicated to telling the stories of pioneering women in palaeontology, geology and archaeology, and addressing gender disparity in these fields.

In an article for the Guardian she once wrote “I live, sleep and dream mammoths.”

The George De Boer Biennial Lecture, which is hosted by the University’s School of Environmental Sciences, is open to the public and free to attend. It’s being held on Thursday, 4th May 2017 in the Allam Lecture Theatre, Esk Building. There is a reception from 6pm in the Derwent Café and the lecture starts at 6.30pm and lasts for approximately an hour.

The George de Boer lecture was established in 1984 on the retirement of George de Boer, who worked at the University from 1947 to 1983.

The Pocklington ponies

“The remains of a pair of horses have been found in East Yorkshire, lying on their sides with their skulls facing each other and their front legs apparently intertwined, in a shallow grave in Pocklington. They have not yet been scientifically dated, but they were probably buried between around 400 and 100 BC. Barring a remarkable coincidence, they had been sacrificed to accompany the body of someone who had once driven them in front of a chariot. The remains of both rider and two-wheeled cart, as some archaeologists would prefer to call it, were also found in the grave, which is so shallow it may be that a mound, since gone, was raised over the funerary arrangement placed on the surface of the ground.”
For more of this article, see SALON – Society of Antiquaries of London Online Newsletter.

Recent news stories on Scotch Corner excavations

Lots in the news recently about discoveries during work on the A1 upgrade near Catterick. I’m sticking with the Historic England version – see here – as it’s less given to flights of fancy than some of the media reports. Meanwhile, certain prehistorians grumbling about how Romans enjoy so much attention when the finds include Iron Age round houses, coin moulds, and imported materials….

Here, to wind them up further, is a Roman shoe.

Arras 200 – Celebrating the Iron Age

The Royal Archaeological Institute’s conference in York, 17-19 November,l celebrates the 200th anniversary of the first excavations on the Middle Iron Age cemetery at Arras in East Yorkshire. It coincides with a special exhibition at the Yorkshire Museum displaying artefacts from those excavations.

The conference is organised in association with the Yorkshire Archaeological and Historical Society and the East Riding Archaeological Society. YAHS members qualify for an early bird discount if booking before 31 July. There are also some student bursaries available.

For programme and booking details, see here.

Asa Briggs and Labour History

Here’s a conference, open to all, celebrating the work of a distinguished historian, Asa Briggs, head of Leeds University’s School of History, 1955-61. Free, but pre-booking is recommended:

THE LABOURS OF ASA: The contributions of Asa Briggs to Labour History

Lecture Theatre G.02, Maurice Keyworth Building, Leeds University Business School, Saturday 6 May 2017


9.30 – 10.00              Arrival

10.00                         Greeting by Keith Laybourn and Quentin Outram

10.05                         Malcolm Chase: ‘ Samuel Smiles (and Asa Briggs) and                                    working-class Leeds’

10.50                        John Belchem:  ‘Beyond the Age of Improvement’

11.40                         Joan Allen:  ‘The progressive tradition and print culture at the                                   fin de siècle: The Monthly Chronicle of North Country Lore and Legend 1887-1891’

12.30-1.45                Lunch

1.30                            Poster presentations of five minutes each from PhD students

                                                Ethan Hoskings ‘Partnership, Paternalism and Peace’

                                                Hazel Perry – ‘Trades Councils’

                                                John Kimberley – ‘Industrial Relations in Birmingham in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries’

1.50                            Eileen Yeo:  ‘Rival Town Halls in Glasgow: Revisioning Asa Briggs’  work on ‘the urban public sphere’

2.30                            Peter Ackers and Alistair Reid:  ‘The Pluralist Tradition and civic society’

3.20                            Hugh Gault:  ‘The BBC, Seebohm Rowntree and social reform’

4.00                            Stephen Yeo:  ‘Remembering Asa Briggs’

4.45                            Finish

Confirming the Claremont sale

So Claremont is sold at last – after several false dawns and even a last-minute complication on Friday morning (raised by a third party involved in financing the development, and much to the frustration of everyone else). The sale completed late afternoon on Friday.

Tomorrow, I’m told, builders will be at work. The scheme is for serviced accommodation, a cross between hotel and longer lets. Leeds CC conservation officers are heavily involved, internal walls are to be retained and there’s close attention to protecting historic features, inside and out.

I don’t think there’s a single one among us, those who’ve know the building as society headquarters over all these years, attended meetings there, used the library and archives, who hasn’t been saddened to lose such a wonderful place. Clearing it out and navigating the sale process haven’t been easy either.

It had to be, for there really wasn’t another option. Now it’s happened, it’s a wrench and a relief at the same time. I’m going to share more thoughts about YAHS’s past and future in the coming days. Meanwhile here is a message to society officers, just received from the new owners. I hope it reassures YAHS members, and all who appreciate Claremont, that the building is in considerate hands:

“I would just like to thank you for the time, effort and kindness you showed us over what was at times a stressful sale. We will try very hard to look after Claremont as we understand it’s important to yourselves, the society and indeed Leeds.”

Visit to Ecton copper mine, Derbyshire

The Council for British Archaeology, East Midlands, has arranged a visit on Saturday 3rd June, to Ecton Copper Mine, a site of national importance from the Bronze Age to the 1880s, near Warslow, Derbyshire.
Meet at 10am at the lay-by on the west side of Ecton Hill, approx 2 miles south east of Warslow, just off the B5053 (SK 096582; DE6 2AJ), in the direction of Alstonefield
Walking will mostly be on footpaths, old tracks and grassland, but includes long steep gradients both up and down Ecton Hill (with stops). Stout walking boots are recommended.
There is no charge for the walk, but please let the organisers know in advance if you intend to join the visit, preferably by e-mail to