The morning after…

We didn’t quite break the internet, but news of YAJ going online caused a storm. In just a day, almost 2,000 people picked up on our Facebook post, 21 shared it with other groups and friends, and we had a lovely message from a medieval artefact researcher whose husband works in conservation:

Thank you very much to everyone involved, for the time taken and generosity to do this… We really appreciate being able to have access to journals like these to help us.

The enthusiasm generated is, I think, good indication that we are on the right track… We are planning more digitisation, and soon.

Meanwhile, another equally exciting announcement is being held back, as I don’t want to steal YAJ’s online thunder. All I can say is, watch this space.

Pre-2011 YAJs now free online

I’m very happy to announce news of one of YAHS’s major projects. Scanning has been completed of all 82 Yorkshire Archaeological Journal volumes published up to 2010. They are now online, searchable, and available free of charge to everyone.

Thanks to the Marc Fitch Fund and to Wade’s Charity for their generous support of this project. We are very grateful to the working group of members who oversaw the process: Brian Barber, Morag Fyfe and Paul White, who investigated the complicated range of possibilities; Paul, for dealing with the painstaking task of checking and preparing the volumes for digitisation; and David Asquith for fundraising and continuing the liaison with Internet Archive. A big thank you to Spencer Carter for entrusting to us a number of early volumes which were not fully present in the society’s own set.

Please share the news, and try out the site. If you encounter any apparent errors please let David Asquith know as soon as possible: David is still carrying out background work with IA to improve searchability. He also advises:

– when looking at the Collections page via the above link use to ‘Sort by Title’ function to see the volumes arranged in numerical order

– to view a foldout it is usually necessary to use the ‘full screen view’ function

Remembering Gordon Forster

A moving, dignified and thoughtful service of thanksgiving, in the beautiful setting of one of Yorkshire’s finest ancient churches, was a most fitting remembrance of Gordon Forster. St John the Baptist, Adel, was packed with family and friends, including members of organisations with which he was closely associated: colleagues from the School of History in Leeds University, representatives of the Thoresby Society, of the Ransome reading group to which Gordon had belonged for 55 years, and of course of YAHS, which he joined in 1951, serving with dedication and distinction in many guises, including a term as president. The order of service was decorated with the white rose of Yorkshire.

The School of History, to which Gordon was recruited in 1955 as lecturer by a new professor, Asa Briggs, plans another tribute. We hope to join this, and are considering further suggestions by YAHS members about an appropriate memorial.



Geograph © Copyright Malcolm Morris

On Radio Leeds…

At very little notice, found myself heading to Pontefract on Wednesday for an interview on Radio Leeds. It was one of the morning show’s regular outside broadcasts, this time from the pleasant village of Carleton, and a chance for some free publicity for YAHS.

Most interesting was the venue – the Rosse Observatory, HQ of West Yorkshire Astronomical Society. They were very friendly, plied me with coffee, and encouraged anyone to come along to their regular stargazing sessions on Tuesday evenings (starting again, I think, in autumn). See their website for more details.


YAHS events in September

YAHS Annual Events Programme, including activities arranged by some of our affiliates, is in preparation. We hope to send it round later in August. Here for now for your diary are the first of the society’s own lectures and events:

11.00 am, Saturday 10 September (FHS) – Simon Bulmer, History of Rothwell (at Swarthmore Education Centre)

12.00 noon, Tuesday 12 September (YAHS) – Jane Ellis, Towton Battlefield Walk (at/around Towton)

2.00 pm, Saturday 16 September (RAS) Dr Simon Greep, Roman bone and ivory with particular reference to Yorkshire (at Swarthmore Education Centre)

2.00 pm, Saturday 30 September (PreRS) David Gibson, The Must Farm pile dwelling – Taste, appearance, lifestyle and communicaton in the late Bronze Age (joint YAHS-PRS and Prehistoric Society lecture at Leeds City Museum

Excursion to Malton 10 August

Jane Ellis has organised a full day in Malton – next week, so please book with Jane asap.

Thursday 10th August 2017: A day taking in the interesting features of this Ryedale market town, with guided walks in the morning and afternoon looking at the town’s notable buildings and its colourful history dating from the time of the Roman fort of Delgovicia.

We begin at 11.00am with tea, coffee and home-made biscuits at the beautiful Old Lodge Hotel of 1602, with a history of this impressive building. £3.35 per person, payable on the day. (Pre-booking required).

We will take a look behind the scenes in the art-deco Palace Theatre & Cinema, and hear about the town’s Charles Dickens connection.

Following lunch in one of the many eating establishments of your choice, we will convene at the recently refurbished museum on Yorkersgate, where a volunteer member of staff will take us on the afternoon tour (suggested donation of £5 for museum funds).

Malton is accessible by bus and train, and has 3 long-stay car parks. Details will be e-mailed to members on request.

Image: Geograph © Copyright Paul Cole

Service of thanksgiving for Gordon Forster

This message from Gordon’s niece:

I wanted to notify you of the arrangements for the service of Thanksgiving for the life of our uncle, Gordon Forster, who, as you know, passed away this weekend peacefully. The service is to take place next Thursday, 3rd August, at 10am at St John’s Church, Church Lane, Adel, Leeds, LS16 8DW. 

After the service, which will take approximately 45 minutes, we would be delighted if you would join us for refreshments at Headingley Golf Club, Back Church Lane, Leeds, LS16 8DW, which is a short 3 minute walk down the path from the church, and accessible without the use of further transport. Headingley Golf Club is also next door to York Gate Garden, which is open that afternoon, and the family invite you to enjoy a stroll in the garden as our guest from 12.30pm.

We understand that some attendees will be travelling a great distance, so it may be worth noting that the WC’s in the Old Stables, which is effectively the church hall behind the church, will be open. Car parking is on Church Lane, and we ask visitors to park perpendicular to the road so that more vehicles can be comfortably accommodated. There is additional parking in the Golf Club too.

The church is wheelchair accessible, and we have arranged for additional ramps to be in place for ease of access. Headingley Golf Club is also wheelchair accessible. York Gate Garden has uneven surfaces which may prove a little more adventuresome.

This information has already been circulated on the YAHS mailing list, but apologies that it’s taken a little longer to share on social media as I was away last week.

Gordon Forster

With enormous sadness we heard last weekend of the death of past president Gordon Forster, at the age of 88. Gordon was the society’s longest standing member, having joined in 1951. What was most exceptional, though, was his commitment to the society and the range of his activity over all those years. At the time of his death, he was a member of Management Board and of the Finance Committee, and chaired the YAHS Record Series publishing section. Rarely did he miss any meeting, and his wit, wisdom and encyclopaedic powers of recollection were hugely appreciated and will be sorely missed. Though never quite embracing e-mailing, Gordon was essentially a moderniser and a pragmatist who saw that the society had to change with the times.

An obituary in the YAJ will follow in due course. There is much to notice outside YAHS: his near 40-year career in the University of Leeds School of History, his presidency of the Thoresby Society, his role in founding and for 50 years editing the journal Northern History, and his pioneering role in promoting local and regional history, particularly of course that of Yorkshire.

It is very difficult to envisage YAHS without Gordon Forster. We are turning our thoughts towards appropriate ways to remember him.

President’s report to AGM

The report sent out by post covered the year ending December 2016, so I gave the AGM a report about what has happened since, and what’s now in progress. (Now that our accounting procedures are very much more efficient, future AGMs should come earlier in the year – and we’ve already pulled it back from autumn to July over the past couple of years.)

So here are my notes from yesterday. This makes for a very long blog!

Today’s comments bringing us up to date following on from the 2016 report (circulated) – which ends in suspense with Claremont sale hanging in the balance. Completed 24 March, and we took over and moved into the new offices shortly before that. Most of the sale proceeds, £700,000 (less some relatively modest fees – lucky as David Lynch agent acted pro bono, and John Kelsall of Walker Morris charged much less than a commercial rate) – proceeds have been invested long-term in the CCLA fund.


With the move out of Claremont, our two remaining employees left YAHS. Judith Rushton had worked for the society in various admin roles since the late 1960s. Dawit Gharib was caretaker for 8 or 9? years. Both Judith and Dawit were helpful, reliable and popular with all, and we miss them. A presentation took place in May at Joseph’s Well.


The interval between exchange of contracts and completion was short, so the range of rented offices available was limited. We took the end of a lease on an office in Joseph’s Well. The office is perhaps larger than ideal, and relatively expensive (though not by central Leeds commercial standards) – we have always seen it as possibly a transitional phase. At the time we moved in, the extra space was useful, to continue sorting items from Claremont (the end of a two- to three-year process of managing the ordered disposal of Claremont contents.) (tending towards frenetic as moving day loomed). The extra space may yet be worthwhile, if we can base projects in the office and cover some costs through external funding. We are now closely monitoring usage of JW office, and coming towards the view that while we need an office, JW may be larger than required, and perhaps we can achieve better value for money elsewhere. So we are now starting a process of investigating what may be available, and at what cost, balancing facilities, accessibility, car parking, public transport links.


We are also considering the rather more limited options for lecture rooms for the sections’ regular programme of talks and other activities. Section activities are proving more popular than ever. Some of the audiences stretch the size of rooms at Swarthmore, and lack of disabled access prevents our use of the larger room upstairs.


There have been several meetings with Section officers, part of a strategy of bringing sections closer together, and to the centre. Some of these consultations have been on specific issues, about financial management, and about the new website. The MB members nominated to represent sections have helped develop two-way communications. (Please note that two sections have not taken up their places.) Partly because of the more active connections between sections, and also with an enlarged MB, we have a conundrum with council. It still meets twice a year, and forms a valuable link with our affiliate societies, but its purpose is not well-defined. It often seems little more than a rerun of MB. Its role needs to be re-examined.


Collections – The conservation bill which was very kindly covered by the Brotherton Library until Claremont’s sale was completed, has now been settled. The volunteer group, run by Dr Belinda Wassell, meets regularly and is working through the pamphlet boxes formerly stored in one of the back rooms of Claremont. Belinda reports steady progress on sorting and listing the box contents, having covered about 40% of the collection, more than 71 boxes. Some of the pamphlets (7%) are of sufficient value to move into the archives. More than half will go into the library, and the remainder will come back to YAHS for scanning (if appropriate).

Our archival collections in SC are proving very popular with readers. Prof. M Chase has taken on a role promoting their use internally within the university.


A number of other significant projects are underway, or being planned (that is, additional to the many initiatives of sections.) The new website is now being populated with content, and we expect it to go live in autumn. Retro-digitisation of YAJ (all the pre-Maney volumes) is happening this month, after diligent preparatory work by members. The volumes should be available online, free of charge, within a short time. Grants from Marc Fitch and Wade’s charity have minimized the cost to the society of the website and of YAJ digitization. The Promotions group has been extremely pro-active in raising the society’s profile, overseeing the website and also in developing a Yorkshire Dales project planned for 2018, to mark the 50th anniversary of Hartley and Ingilby’s best-known book. This will include a new edition of the book itself, now out of print, for a new generation and using some of Marie Hartley’s photos from YAHS archives.


We have embarked on a complete review of YAHS publications – to keep us relevant, and take advantage of new publishing opportunities. We are also in the process of reviewing policies and administrative procedures (some of this in light of the new website, some of it to come into line with a wholly volunteer society.)


Our new treasurer, Frank Jordan, will be making his report. We were delighted when Frank, who has worked for several years alongside Brian Barber, announced that he had decided to retire from paid work and was in a position to take over as YAHS treasurer. He and Brian were a terrific double act, to the extent that they credited each other with the dramatic improvement in financial management. So thank you to Frank for agreeing to take on this responsibility, and for everything he’s achieved in cost-cutting and working out new systems, and is continuing to do towards these ends.


And in particular at this point I would like to pay tribute to Brian. He was the Cassandra who insistently recognised the peril we were in – and who took on this exceptionally difficult task, when he would much rather have been editing WCRs or writing for the YAJ. The society is hugely in debt to Brian.


Finally – there are many other members, active in all kinds of ways, who enable YAHS to achieve as much as it does. But we do need more help, administratively and in various ways, to spread the load. If you have time and energy I would very much like to hear from you. Thank you to all who do so much.