Further information about our archives

The Society’s archives are arranged in three groups - YAS/MS, YAS/MD or YAS/DD followed by unique reference numbers.   In some cases a ‘collection’ may consist of only one item, whilst in others there may be numerous boxes.    A very brief introduction to them is given below: a much more detailed guide can be found here.

The ‘MS’ collections series

This rich series consists mainly of manuscript material such as transcripts and copies of documents, heraldry, pedigrees, photographs and prints.

It also contains papers of antiquarians, archaeologists and local historians. It includes W H St John Hope’s plans of Fountains, Mount Grace and other Yorkshire religious houses (YAS/MS395-399), the notebooks of Ella Armitage, a leading authority on earthworks and castles (YAS/MS521), and notes and photographs collected by Marie Hartley for her works on Yorkshire history and traditions (YAS/MS1803).

The ‘MS’ series grew from a collection put together by past president and founder member of the Society, Sir Thomas Brooke (1830-1908). It was through Brooke that the Society acquired George Walker’s original watercolours showing iconic scenes of Yorkshire life, published as a volume of prints entitled the Costume of Yorkshire in 1814 (YAS/MS1000).

His bequest also includes the Thoresby, Fairfax, Woodhouse, Beckwith, Dade, Radcliffe, and Hunter collections.

The ‘MD’ & ‘DD’ collections series

These contain many major family and estate collections, such as the Anne, Crathorne and Tasburgh families of Burghwallis Hall (YAS/MD218); the papers of the Armitage family of Farnley Hall near Leeds (YAS/MD279); the Ferrand family of St. Ives, Bingley, (YAS/MD 290) and the Middelton family of Stockeld Park near Wetherby and Myddelton Lodge, Ilkley (YAS/MD59). 

Several important deposited family collections include the Duke of Leeds (YAS/DD5), the Skipton Castle estate (YAS/DD121 and YAS/DD214), the Slingsby family of Scriven (YAS/DD56), the Fawkes family of Farnley Hall, near Otley (YAS/DD146 & YAS/DD161) and Thellusson of Brodsworth (DD 132 & DD 168)

An extraordinary group of records assembled by H.L. Bradfer-Lawrence (MD 335) does not represent papers of his own family, but was acquired by him during a lifetime of collecting. The bulk of the collection consists of the estate papers and correspondence of the Lister family, Lords Ribblesdale, of Gisburn Park, but there are also documents relating to other local families from the Settle and Gargrave area.

Compiled with support from the Heritage Lottery Fund, a catalogue of the Bradfer-Lawrence collection is available online - see Quick Links opposite​.   The catalogue includes images and transcripts of important documents, of which the fifteenth-century stock-book of Fountains Abbey is an example. 

Wakefield court rolls

The court rolls (i.e. rolls of parchment) of the manor of Wakefield (MD225) are a significant set of documents which record life in the manor from the middle ages to the early twentieth century. Their national importance has been recognized by their inclusion on the UNESCO UK Memory of the World register.  A description of the Manor and its records can be downloaded here.

The manor was enormous, covering not just the Wakefield area but much of modern day Kirklees and Calderdale, and its records consist primarily of a series of documents recording the business of the manor court (with only a few gaps) from 1274 to 1925. They give insights into the life of the manor and present a unique source for studying the development of communities, families, and local economies in West Yorkshire. 

Many of these records have been transcribed by members of the Society and published either in its Record Series, or as part of a special publishing project dedicated to the rolls.  Most of these are available to view on our pages of the Internet Archive.  Production of new volumes continues, and new subscribers are very welcome.  For details see the Publicatiions page.