Find out more about Yorkshire’s industrial history

Here are links to libraries, archive services, museums and local societies which offer a wealth of information about our industrial past.

Libraries and archives

The British Library has a comprehensive collection of books and journals dating from the 17th century onwards covering topics including industries of all descriptions building, engineering, mining, textiles. These may be consulted in the Boston Spa Reading Room at the Library's site at Thorp Arch near Wetherby, West Yorkshire. The Reading Room is open Monday - Friday: 09.00 - 16.30; it is closed Saturday and Sunday. The Library’s online catalogue and further information about using the collections may be found here.

Leodis is an online photographic archive containing over 52,000 images of Leeds, old and new, created and maintained by Leeds Library & Information Service. Includes themes researched in greater detail - the Waterfont, Industrial Leeds and the Markets.

South Yorkshire Archaeology Service is the archaeological service for Barnsley, Doncaster, Rotherham and Sheffield. Its role is to help protect and preserve the archaeological heritage and provide advice on the management of archaeological sites to the 4 local authorities. They have created South Yorkshire Historic Environment Characterisation, a new way of using digital maps to record history told by the environment, buildings and industries.

Tees Archaeology is the archaeological service for Hartlepool, Middlesbrough, Redcar & Cleveland and Stockton-on-Tees. Its collections of artefacts and archive covers Roman onwards, medieval farmers and local industries such as alum manufacture. The archives may be consulted at Sir William Gray House in Hartlepool.

Visual archive of Calderdale history gives access to over 23,000 images of historical documents.

West Yorkshire Archive Service collects and looks after the unique documentary heritage of the region and helps members of the public use and enjoy these records. Records date from the twelfth century to the present day.

Local studies libraries

The major local studies libraries in South and West Yorkshire are at:

BradfordHalifaxHuddersfieldLeedsSheffieldWakefield.

Societies

The Association for Industrial Archaeology (AIA) is the national organisation for people who share an interest in Britain's industrial past.

The Newcomen Society is concerned with all branches of engineering: civil, mechanical, electrical, structural, aeronautical, marine, chemical and manufacturing.

Halifax Antiquarian Society researches and records the history of Halifax. It has an extensive library of the main published works as well as pamphlets, almanacs, newspapers, photographs and maps.

Huddersfield Canal Society is devoted to the canal, its history, its restoration and its facilities.

Leeds & Liverpool Canal Society holds lectures and produces leaflets and booklets about the canal's history.

Northern Mill Engine Society works for the preservation of the steam engines from the textile industries of Lancashire and Yorkshire.

Northern Mines Research Society is dedicated to the preservation and recording of mining history.

The Railway & Canal Historical Society is concerned with the history of transport — inland waterways, railways, tramroads, roads, aviation, coastal shipping, ports and pipelines — from the middle ages (or before) to the day before yesterday. It publishes a Bulletin, a Journal and books and cares for collections of historic photographs covering its areas of interest.

South Yorkshire Industrial History Society and South Yorkshire Trades Historical Trust holds lectures and visits and records historic industrial buildings, sites and machinery.

Museums

Industrial museums

Industrial museums have extensive displays illustrating the industrial life of their area. Tools, machinery and materials are complemented by explanations of their use and development. The social background to the industrial changes is also explored. The following are particularly notable:

Leeds
Sheffield

Other museums

The following have displays relating to industrial and social history as part of a larger collection:

Museums concentrating on particular industries

Transport is covered at the following museums and preserved railways:

Other industries are illustrated at the following museums:

  • Colne Valley Museum, Golcar. Traditional handloom weavers' cottages illustrating life in the early 1850s onwards.
  • Elsecar Heritage Centre, Barnsley. Located within the former ironworks and colliery workshops of the Earls Fitzwilliam. Houses a 1795 Newcomen atmospheric engine – the only one in the world in its original engine house.
  • National Coal Mining Museum, Caphouse, Wakefield
  • Wortley Top Forge, Wortley, Barnsley. Unique water-powered heavy forge dating from 1623; at its peak in the 19th century. The site includes tilt hammers, waterwheels, cranes, foundry and blacksmiths’ shops
  • Yorkshire Museum of Farming, Murton Park, York. Houses a regional collection illustrating how agriculture has shaped and influenced both society and the landscape. It includes many thousands of objects, photographs and archival material dedicated to tools and techniques.