Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Leeds, Locomotives and the Swedish Nightingale

The current popularity of all things Scandinavian in our cultural life, from IKEA to ‘Borgen’ and ‘The Bridge’, may seem like a relatively recent trend, but as early as 1848 the people of Leeds were in thrall to one particular Swedish talent. 

A news cutting from the Leeds Times of 9th December from our collections describes scenes of near hysteria surrounding the visit to the city of Swedish soprano Jenny Lind.   In July 1847, she starred in the world première of Verdi’s opera I masnadieri at Her Majesty’s Theatre. Lind, by now dubbed ‘The Swedish Nightingale’, then embarked on a tour of the English provinces, including Leeds. 

Cutting from the Leeds Times, 9th December 1848

The Leeds Times reported that following the concert: ‘So great was the multitude assembled in the street to catch a glimpse of Jenny Lind that a strong body of police was obliged to interfere, and it was some time ‘ere the street could be sufficiently cleared for the carriages to pass.’

But what, if anything, does all this have to do with Leeds industrial history?  

A key exhibit in the recently re-developed orientation space at Leeds Industrial Museum is the very fine model of locomotive number 287 of the ‘Jenny Lind’ class built from 1847 by E. B. Wilson & Company of Leeds for the London, Brighton & South Coast Railway. 

The ‘Jenny Lind’ locomotive model at Leeds Industrial Museum

The model was built by a Mr Thomas Dixon of Bramley and presented to Leeds City Museum by his granddaughter Mrs A. E. Sinclair.  It is thought to have been completed in around 1895.  According to the donor, Mr Dixon had ambitions to work for the railways, which were thwarted by pressure to work for his family’s wheel wrighting business. 

It is believed that Mr Dixon constructed the majority of the model’s components himself, with the exception of the wheels, dome and funnel.  Mr Dixon’s son Harry is recorded as remembering the locomotive running.  As far as can be ascertained, the model was accepted into the museum’s collection without a tender. 

E. B. Wilson & Company of Leeds:
The story of the Leeds company E.B. Wilson is highly significant in the history of early locomotive building.  Extracts from the diaries of Wilson’s Chief Draughtsman David Joy were published by the Railway Magazine in 1908.  These provide a fascinating insight into the development of the ‘Jenny Lind’ class of locomotive and its success with many contemporary railway companies. 

As much as possible, E.B. Wilson sought to standardise production of the ‘Jenny Lind’ class, charging railway companies a premium for alterations to designs.  Over 70 of the class of locomotives were built, with 24 being purchased by the Midland Railway.  There is, however, some debate about whether Joy, James Fenton or even E.B. Wilson were responsible for the design of the ‘Jenny Lind’ locomotive.  

Jenny Lind, soprano

Joy’s diaries were published by the Railway Magazine (1908, volumes 22 & 23).  These contain some fascinating snippets on the development of the Jenny Lind locomotives.  Here are a few extracts:

May 1847
‘First Brighton engine was called "Jenny Lind" after the famous singer, "Jenny Lind," who was making a great excitement in London. I made a very highly finished drawing 1 in. to 1 ft. of her (the engine, not Jenny), which was lithographed, and sent about’

May 1847
‘In these wild days there was one driver especially attached to Railway Foundry, one Jack Hemsworth, also called "Hell fire Dick," but he dare do anything, and was a splendid driver. He was one of the first contract men - in the days when real coke saving was begun. 

At this time the "Jenny" had become a very popular engine, and we were building for very many railways as well as the Brighton, especially for the Midland, and on this line it was decided to have a trial of a 6 ft. "Jenny" against an ordinary Midland engine . . .’

The ‘Jenny Lind’ model locomotive made by Charles Wilson

We have another model of a Jenny Lind class locomotive (see above), built by Mr Charles Wilson, a driver with the Leeds & Thirsk Railway.  This particular model is believed to have featured in the 1851 Great Exhibition at Crystal Palace.  Given the prototype ‘Jenny Lind’ was built in 1847, this is a remarkable near-contemporary model and one object which certainly deserves to emerge from its secret life!   

‘Jenny Lind’ model, National Railway Museum
(Photo: John Clarke)
Other museums where Jenny Linds crop up include the National Railway Museum, Dehli, where a full-sized replica is on display, and the National Railway Museum, York, who have several fine models.

With the ‘Swedish Nightingale’ visiting Leeds in December 1848, at the height of her powers, it would be fascinating to know how far the decision to name the locomotive after her was influenced by her forthcoming visit to Leeds. 

By Curator of Industrial History John McGoldrick

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Sepik Art at Leeds Museums

Last week I was in Paris for the opening of a stunning exhibition on Sepik art at the Musee de Quai Branly, and a two day workshop on The Materiality of Sepik societies in 2015. The exhibition coincides with the 40th anniversary of Papua New Guinea’s independence. 

The Sepik River is an area with a distinctive style of ancestor figure sculpture and portrait heads, some shown in family dwellings, and others in the huge sacred men’s houses or Haus Tambarans. Different musical instruments are linked to men’s initiation into sacred knowledge.

Abelam yam mask photographed by missionaries Barbara
and John Ross in the Wosera area of Papua New Guinea.

Here in Leeds we have a few examples of Sepik art. These include a large chunky figure hook, probably an ancestor figure, which shows the sort of scarification designs that men acquire during initiation, on their shoulders, back, navel and thighs. 

Much better documented is a collection of 50 or so items purchased in 1983 from Barbara and John Ross, who lived for a while amongst the Abelam, in the Wosera area of Papua New Guinea, helping with the educational side of missionary work (Their collection is accessioned as LEEDM.F.1983.200 to 251). Their items include several Abelam yam masks (pictured above), a basketry Iatmul pig mask, and some of the huge colourful net bags with their intricate geometric designs.

Mr and Mrs Ross also let Leeds Museums make prints from a selection of their colour slides, including images of yam masks at a Yam distribution at Malba in 1976 and masked dancers at a funeral dance at Magendo in 1977.

Keram River story board from Papua New Guinea
Other key items in the Ross collection are one of the huge sago pots from the village of Aibom, a large Iatmul mask with feather hair, nassa shell inlays, boar’s tusks, and bird shaped nose extension. The largest piece is a Keram River story board (pictured above).

According to John Ross this intricate carving tells a traditional story about a village sorcerer who can change himself into a crocodile. Two flute players are playing traditional songs, whilst a man with a cockatoo's head represents a cockatoo spirit bird. These storyboards developed after the 1940s, taking inspiration from earlier paintings on sago spathe which hung inside the sacred men’s houses on the underside of the roof.

It was a delight to see so many key pieces of Sepik art at the Paris exhibition and hear talks from a broad range of anthropologists who have made the Sepik their special area of study.

By Antonia Lovelace, World Cultures Curator

Monday, 28 September 2015

The First Leeds Assizes 1864

6th August 1864 was a symbolic day for Leeds and its increasingly confident Corporation. 

Six years after the opening of the new imposing Town Hall with a purpose-built court, the High Sherriff and Under Sherriff (Mr.C. Trench Gascoigne and Mr William Grey) and two assize judges (Sir Colin Blackburn and Sir Henry Singer Keating) were at last coming to town.

Leeds Museums hold two bill posters recording these events.The first (above) is a bill announcing the programme of the Leeds Assizes. A woodcut shows the High Sherriff in his carriage, accompanied by two policemen in top hats. The judges were to arrive at Wellington Station and would stay at the Queen’s Hotel. From there a grand procession was organised to the Town Hall where the High Sherriff and judges would be welcomed by the mayor, Obadiah Nussey.  

The bill optimistically states that “It is confidently expected that the populace will observe their customary decorum and assist the police in preserving order”.  As well as conducting their judicial business, the visitors were to be lavishly entertained with a mayoral dinner and a Soirée Musicale.  

The same welcome was not of course given to the accused whose crimes were to be judged. The main novelty here was that the cases were being judged in Leeds, rather than Leeds felons having to trek 30 miles to York to face trial. However, most of those on the list were still travelling quite a distance for the privilege of being tried, whether from Bradford, Sheffield or Rotherham. 

Out of the 67 cases listed, only six were from the Leeds area. These included:

  • William Newton Ackroyd (forgery)
  • Edward Ackroyd (misdemeanour – 4 cases)
  • William Thompson (burglary), John Lofthouse, Edward Buckley, Samuel Buckley and William Sykes (assault and robbery)
  • Patrick Nalls (assault and robbery) 
  • The sad case of Mary Ann Winterbottom accused of attempting to murder her child.

Aside from the usual cases of murder, assault and robbery, there are a number of crimes which shine a light on Yorkshire society in 1864. There are rural crimes such as arson of a haystack or sheep stealing and industrial crimes including “damaging warps” in Batley (i.e. sabotaging a textile loom) and “stealing German silver and brass casting models” in Sheffield. A number of people are accused of “uttering base coin” which meant knowingly using forged coins. Someone else was accused of “stealing a post letter” and another of “attempting to upset a train at Whixley”.

Trial & Sentence of Death: James Sargisson and Joseph Myers

The two criminals who made the headlines, however, were James Sargisson and Joseph Myers.  So much so that they feature in a second bill in the museum collection, this time headed “Leeds Assizes – Trial & Sentence of Death on James Sargisson for the murder of John Cooper near Rotherham; also on Joseph Myers for the murder of his wife at Sheffield, June 10th 1864”.  

Although both men were sentenced to death for murder, the document clearly shows more sympathy for Joseph Myers.  Sargisson’s crime involved murder as part of a cold-blooded robbery and he had attempted to lay the blame on his accomplice.  

Joseph Myers was a tragic case of domestic violence fuelled by drink.  His wife had just managed to get him released for a previous incidence of assault against her and it was argued that he was a “good-natured fellow when he was sober, but that wasn’t very often”.  He murdered her in a frenzied attack with a pair of broken scissors, and then tried to cut his own throat in remorse (or to cheat the gallows depending on which version you read). 

The bill includes the words to a ballad which has the refrain “Christians all, far and near, For Joseph Myers pray shed a tear” and exhorts readers to “Always live a sober life, and walk in virtues way” to avoid the same fate. The ballad was set to music by folk singer Jon Rennard (died 1971) and a recording can be heard on YouTube.

The other first (and last) for Leeds was the public hanging of Sargisson and Myers outside Armley Gaol on 9th September 1864. The executions did not go as planned with Sargisson taking several minutes to die and Myer’s self-inflicted throat wound re-opening to gory effect.  No further public executions took place in Leeds and the next hanging at Armley Gaol was not until 1875, eleven years later.

The last execution at Armley was in 1961 and the Death Penalty was abolished in the UK in 1965.

Both bill posters will be on display at Abbey House Museum as part of the Crime and Punishment exhibition from January 23rd to the end of December 2016.

By Social History Curator Kitty Ross

Monday, 15 June 2015

The 1941 Leeds City Museum bombing

Bomb damage to Leeds City Museum, 1941
(Courtesy of the Yorkshire Evening News)
15th March 1941 was a dark day for Leeds Museums and the moment everything changed is recorded forever on this weather chart which was recording atmospheric pressure in the meteorological window of the museum. 

 The moment of the blast is indicated by an arrow on the chart, and the dramatic inkblot resulted when the barometer stopped working a week later.

Leeds escaped lightly compared with other industrial cities but did suffer nine air-raids and the worst raid was that of 14th-15th March 1941. At 3 am a bomb crashed through the roof of the bird room in the City Museum (then on Park Row) and the explosion destroyed the roof and floor of the front half of the building. 

 Fortunately no-one was seriously hurt, although both the foreman and a fire-watcher were caught in the blast and suffered minor injuries from the debris. Many exhibits were less fortunate and the main museum building (dating from 1819) had to be demolished. The photograph above, courtesy of the Yorkshire Evening News, shows the scene the morning after.

Leeds Philatelic Society items
It was not only the museum collections that were damaged or destroyed. The Leeds Philatelic Society had lent items for a temporary exhibition at the museum at the time. These bomb-damaged exhibits are currently on display at Abbey House Museum to celebrate the 125th Anniversary of the Society and can be viewed until the end of June 2015.

By Kitty Ross, Curator of Social History

Thursday, 7 May 2015

The Henry Chimney Sweeping Collection: Victorian Employment and Humour

We often associate employment in Victorian Britain with notions of drudgery, hard toil, long hours and factory work but this wasn’t always the case! The content of the Henry Collection allows researchers a detailed insight into the ordinary and often extraordinary working lives of many Victorian ‘Street-Sellers’. 

As a result of Dr Henry’s fascination with Chimney Sweeping, the Ernestine Henry Collection at Leeds Museums and Galleries contains a wealth of original publications, pamphlets and periodicals about everyday life and employment in Victorian London. Some even contain original photographs of Victorian people at work! These include ‘The Crawlers’, ‘Covent Garden Flower Women’ and ‘Public Disinfectors’. Journals such as Old and New London, Street Life in London and a personal favourite of mine, London Labour and London Poor are among many that this collection holds.

Henry Mayhew, author of London Labour and London Poor wrote a twenty-six issue long series of this pamphlet. Each issue gives detailed eyewitness accounts of the occupation and life of street sellers of certain goods and services. Some of these occupations we would recognise today such as ‘The Baked Potato Man’ and ‘The London Coffee Stall’ but others we may not; ‘The Street-Seller of Nut-Meg Graters’, ‘Street-Seller of Grease Removing Composition’ and ‘Doctor Bokanky, The Street Herbalist.’ Mayhew even relays the sounds of the Street-Sellers; ‘Eight a penny, stunning pears!’, ‘Chesnuts all ‘ot, a penny a score’, ‘An ‘aypenny a skin, blacking.’ These incredibly detailed accounts enable researchers to build a vivid image of everyday activities in a Victorian trading street.

Another unique aspect of this collection is the way in which sometimes dreary aspects of Victorian life, such as employment and more specifically the role of the Victorian chimney sweep, were counteracted with humour. The sheer volume of satirical literature apparent in the collection did surprise me. 

Although some authors in Victorian Britain wrote serious accounts of Chimney Sweeps’ experiences, sweeps were often the central punch line of jokes, witty stories and rhymes. The Humourist's Miscellany; containing Original and Select Articles in Poetry on Mirth, Humour, Wit, Gaiety and Entertainment and also Fun for the Million or The Laughing Philosopher, consisting of Several Thousand of the best Jokes, Witticisms, Puns, Epigrams, Humorous Stories, and Witty Compositions in the English Language, intended as Fun for the Million are just two publications which present jokes related to the occupation of Chimney Sweeping. Judging by the amount of humorous literature in this collection alone it is likely that the Victorians certainly knew how to have a laugh!

A final but equally captivating aspect of working with the Henry Collection is the unique ways in which the objects tell the stories of their previous owners. As a social and gender historian I am fascinated by ordinary peoples experiences of the past. I have catalogued a large number of books, scrapbooks and archive documents in this collection which leave clues as to how such objects were exchanged and came to be in peoples’ possession. 

From the unique, personal, handwritten messages often included on the title pages of various works it is likely that at least some of these objects were given as gifts. The Comic Keepsake was offered to Mary Bolton, possibly as a birthday gift in 1835; 'Mary June Bolton, presented to her by her Mamma, Sept 12th 1835' and likewise, from a handwritten annotation written on the inner cover page, we know that The Christmas Annual belonged to Joe Shard in 1903. 

In a period when literature and especially bound printed works were not as easily accessible as the present day, is touching to observe the handwritten messages in the front of books, pamphlets and scrapbooks in the Henry Collection.

By Chloe Simm, Social History Intern

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Exploring the Archaeology Collections

What's in a box? In the vast and varied collections of Leeds Museums and Galleries you could find just about anything.

I am privileged to volunteer with the archaeology collection where I am helping to add object records to the computer database. I’ve catalogued everything from swords and arrowheads to brooches and coins. Currently, I’m looking at finds from a Roman site at Wattle Syke, excavated as part of the A1 Bramham to Wetherby upgrade work.

The site has been researched and published before being deposited at the museum. I’ve been working through the publication, pencilling in the new museum numbers and creating a record for each object on the database. As well as the identification, I’m typing in where on the site each object was found so they can be related back to excavation results. Digital record photos are also added.

This is a fascinating chance to open up the boxes and the bags and look at some really good Roman finds first hand. Reading the finds identifications and specialist reports is a great experience, teaching me what things are and what they can tell us.

The objects are made from a range of materials and cover all aspects of Roman life. Below are some favourites from my current box – the copper alloys.

Photograph of a Roman copper bracelet

The intricately decorated Roman brooch pictured above is in remarkable condition, despite dating from the 4th Century AD. The preservation of metal objects at Wattle Syke was very good, so much so that a lot of the metalwork was thought at first to be modern.  
Roman belt buckle decorated with horses' heads

Some of the objects need to be examined very closely in order to see the details. The picture on the right shows a belt buckle with horses’ heads decorating the frame. These features don’t show up very well on the object itself but were recognised by the researcher and have been highlighted in an illustration, which has been added to the database.

The object below is another good example of why having the specialist reports to hand is so informative. It was thought to be a pair of tweezers at the time of excavation but further investigation led to an expert identifying it as a clasp. An X-Radiograph of the object revealed two rivets between the arms which are not visible to the eye.

Illustration of a Roman copper alloy clasp

Roman copper alloy clasp

Finally this twisted Roman bracelet (below) is really interesting. It is broken, but here that is an advantage as it means we can see how it was made - by twisting two strands of copper alloy wire together.  We can say it was a right-hand twist because of the s shape the twist has formed, whereas a left hand twist would look like a 'z'.

Twisted copper alloy Roman bracelet

Objects from the past can tell us so much about the people who made and used them. I wonder what will be in the next box….

Monday, 13 April 2015

My Quest for Chinese Tigers at Leeds Museums

Objects do not easily give up their secrets, but for every secret they divulge many more are yet to be discovered. 

When I was asked to research an object in the Voices of Asia exhibition at Leeds City Museum, I was keen to find a small and little-known item, something that might have been previously overshadowed. I saw the small Chinese jade bowl and I was intrigued by it from the start.

I started reading up on Chinese jades, both online and in the reference library at Leeds Discovery Centre. I gained interesting insights in to the history of Jade carving in China, which dates back 6000 years, as well as a rough idea of when this particular bowl may have been made (Qing dynasty, somewhere between 1800-1880).

Researching jade carved characters
However, I soon noticed that insights were not answers. Nowhere was this more obvious than in the meaning of the bowl’s band of elusive carved characters. The more I researched the carvings the more ambiguous they seemed. I spent a long time examining the object in its case, and then looking around at other items in our collections or in the various books and online references on Chinese symbolism. This was all informative, but I was still no closer to finding out what those characters actually were.

In the end, I needed a closer look. The curator kindly let me take the bowl from its case. Carefully tilting the bowl this way and that, I saw that the figures seemed more muscular than the sinewy lizard-like forms I had imagined, with strong defined spines and large feet. 

Small carved lines on the base of the limbs and on the back of the head suggested fur, and not scales. There was something distinctly feline about the characters.

I took several pictures for our records, and prepared some hand-drawn sketches of the characters. What surprised me was that this act of sketching, which involved focussing in on certain seemingly insignificant incisions, revealed features that I had previously taken for granted. Two highly defined incisions on the top of each of the heads, and several incisions on the limbs, started to look too deliberate to just be a suggestion of fur. They seemed to be tiger stripes.

After some time, a cup of tea, and a bit more online research, I was finally brave enough to write the words ‘carved tigers’ in the object description. This discovery illuminated the meaning of the carving. 

In China, the tiger is appreciated for its beauty and savage power, and is an appropriate symbol for a military person of high rank. The tiger is king of all the animals and can drive away evil demons.

Despite this small victory, I can’t help but feel that there is more that those characters can tell us. If anyone knows more please do tell!

By Sarah, World Cultures intern

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Leeds Bowling Stories - The Original Oak Bowling Club

The Shire Oak Tree, Headingley Lane
In October 2014, it was my privilege to meet Mr Brian Campleman to hear about his long association with crown green bowling in Leeds. Mr Campleman has had a long and varied career in the game, rising to be President of the Original Oak Bowling Club and then, from 1973 until 2001, General Secretary and Treasurer of the Leeds and District Amateur Crown Green Bowling Association.

He recently donated bowling memorabilia to Leeds Museums and Galleries, including trophies from both the Oak Bowling Club and the Leeds ABA, which we were delighted to receive. They are currently on display at Abbey House Museum on the ground floor.

The Original Oak, Headingley

As well as being keen to hear more about the history of the objects and about the man who donated them, I had some personal interest in hearing Mr Campleman’s recollections. My parents first met in the Original Oak in the late 1970s, and they both clearly remember the bowling green there, of which there is now no trace. I’m sure not every pub-goer realises the long history of the Bowling Club which was once where the Oak beer garden is now, a club which started as long ago as 1868 and only disappeared in the 1990s.

Mr Campleman recalled the irony of being born in Headingley and attending St Michael’s School, which was only a stone’s throw away from the Club he would later join. He vaguely remembers the Shire Oak tree that gave its name to the public house. This tree collapsed in 1941, while Brian was a small boy. He got into bowling by utter chance- another, older member of the Oak Bowling Club put his name forward, while he was serving in the RAF.
The Preston Challenge Shield (1900)

Trophy winners
After telling me about these chance beginnings in the sport, Brian moved on to talking about the trophies he had donated which relate to Leeds and District Amateur Bowling Association. The Leeds ABA was founded in 1897. The premier cup played for was the Preston Challenge Shield (1900), donated by one of the founders of the Association, a Mr. Preston. It was the prize for the 1st division. Coincidentally, the first club to win it was the Oak bowling club, though Mr Campleman pointed out that they had never done so since! 

The Elliott-Forrest Shield, presented by a Mr F. Elliott and Mr E.V. Forrest for annual competition, was the runner up to the Preston Shield. Two further trophies formed the prizes for the second division, the Movley Trophy presented by a Mr Oscar E. Movley in 1906, and the runner-up cup, the ornate Gipton Silver Bowl Trophy, Presented by E.P. Robson Esq. in 1959. In addition to these items, a Centenary Plaque was presented by Tetley’s Brewery to Leeds ABA in 1997 when there was a celebratory bowling match at Bramley Liberal Club.

The bulk of Brian’s recollections relate to the Oak Bowling Club. The top cup played for here was the Plymouth Cup. This was first presented in 1888 by the Armada Tercentenary Commemoration Committee. That year, the Leeds Bowling Club played a match against Torrington Bowling Club of Devon on Plymouth Hoe to commemorate a famous game of July 19th 1588, which had taken place on Plymouth Hoe with the armada in sight! The Don Wise trophy was a runner up trophy to this. 

Two further cups were played for on an annual basis; the Guinness Shield – for the pairs competition - and the Stephenson Cup, presented by the landlord of the Original Oak, Ted Stephenson, some time between 1967 and the late 1980s).Mr Campleman recalled that it was initially played for as a handicap, in one day – but as the older members of the club found they were flagging by 9pm on the Saturday, the final was moved to Sunday and a buffet put on by Ted, who also generally gave cash prizes.

The Oak Bowling Club celebrates its centenary (1968)
Memorable matches
Mr Campleman then recalled two memorable matches. The first was on 1st June 1968 (pictured above) when, on a red hot day, the Oak played against representatives from Tetley’s brewery , dressed as huntsmen in their finery. 

A line was drawn at allowing the accompanying horses on to the green; the head hunstman was permitted to bring his on, so long as it didn’t gallop about! Tetley’s Brewery presented the Club with a hunting horn on a plaque, and a photograph of the occasion shows a Miss Joan Parton of Headingley taking centre stage, in more contemporary garb.

The Armada Plate, presented to the
Oak Bowling Club in 1988
Yet perhaps most memorably was the year 1988, which saw the Oak invited once more to on Plymouth Hoe by Torrington Bowling Club, one hundred years on. The members asked to dress up for the occasion in Elizabethan garb – not something Mr Campleman does usually, he stressed to me, but having seen the photos, they did indeed look splendid as he said. 

After a Tetley’s dray horse and cart had grandly escorted the members as far as the city centre, they changed into normal attire for the journey down to Plymouth, where a hearty meal awaited them on the Saturday night. On Sunday 19th July the match on Plymouth Hoe took place, ‘packed on all four sides’ as Brian recalls. Afterwards, a civic reception and prize giving ceremony took place at the Town Hall.

The club were presented by a commemorative glass vase from Torrington Bowling Club and a commemorative plate from the Civic Trust bearing a picture of the Armada, both of which are now also in our collections. Mr Campleman fondly recalled that the sun shone for the entire duration of their time away – apart from on a visit to Torquay – and after several pleasant days the party got back to the Oak ‘just in time for tea’.

Members of the Oak Bowling Team in 1993

125 years of the Oak Bowling Club

By the early 1990s the membership of the Oak bowling club was sadly in decline however. In 1993, the 125th anniversary of Oak Bowling Club, the Leeds Weekly News were asked to run campaign for new members. It certainly put the Club in the limelight for a while, with a front page piece on the club, but sadly was not sufficient to arrest the waning interest at the time.

I greatly enjoyed my time chatting to Mr Campleman, and it is a real delight that Abbey House Museum have been able to display trophies and memorabilia with such fond personal associations. 

By Patrick Bourne, Assistant Community Curator

Friday, 20 March 2015

Copyright and Charles Ginner’s ‘Orphan Works’

You may be surprised to know that we don’t have the copyright holder’s permission to publish any of the images featured in this blog post. Copyright usually lasts for 70 years after the artist’s death, so these paintings by Isaac Charles Ginner (1878-1952) will remain in copyright until December 2022. 

The reason we’re able to show them now is because they’re all ‘orphan works’, which means that the rights holders are unknown or cannot be traced, and we’ve recently been granted a seven-year licence to use the works by the government’s Intellectual Property Office (IPO).

Copyright law helps artists and their descendants to control how their work is used, and also allows them to make money from it, by licensing it out for public use. Anyone who copies a work of art, or publishes it in print or online, must first seek permission from the copyright holder or they commit an infringement of copyright and risk being sued for damages.

What is an Orphan Work?

In October 2014 the IPO launched a new Orphan Works Licensing Scheme in an attempt to give wider public access to millions of creative works. At the same time this protects any rights holders who might come forward at a later date by promising to compensate them.

Applicants must provide evidence of exercising ‘due diligence’ in trying to trace any rights holders, to assure the IPO that all reasonable efforts have been made prior to them issuing a licence.

Many well-known galleries and institutions have tried, unsuccessfully, to trace the heirs to Ginner’s estate, and we could not shed any new light on the matter. He is a well-known artist represented in numerous large public collections (such as Tate and the National Portrait Gallery) yet nobody has ever come forward making any claims on his estate.

How does the licence work?

Our licence cost 10p per work plus a £34 application fee, and was the first under the new scheme to be granted for works of fine art in the ‘still images’ category (which also includes photographs). It allows Leeds Museums and Galleries to use images of Ginner’s paintings in the UK in the following non-commercial ways:

• In live events or exhibitions, including publishing in free handouts
• In any of our newsletters, bulletins or promotional material, either in print or online (for instance this blog!)
• On our social media platforms
• For educational purposes, including any related learning or training material produced.

Another work by Ginner in our collection wasn’t included in the Orphan Works application because it is already in the public domain: Royal Ordnance Stores (c.1943) was commissioned by the government’s War Artists’ Advisory Committee and subject to Crown Copyright (which lasts for 50 years after creation, and therefore expired in 1993).

‘Royal Ordnance Stores’, oil on canvas, by Isaac Charles Ginner.
Work in the public domain, donated by the War Artists' Advisory
Committee, 1947. Photo © Leeds Museums and Galleries.
When our Collections Online site is launched, all the Ginner paintings will be proudly, and legally, displayed alongside thousands of other objects, artworks and artefacts from the Leeds Museums and Galleries collections.

The Orphan Works Register lists all applications and licences granted. Anyone with information that might help to trace rights holders of Orphan Works is encouraged to contact the IPO.

Images from top: 'Leeds', oil painting, 1914; 'The Circus', oil on canvas, 1913; 'Penally Bridge, Boscastle', oil on canvas, 1915-1947. All works are by Isaac Charles Ginner (1878-1952). Images displayed under IPO Orphan Works licence no. OWLS000005, see: Photos © Leeds Museums and Galleries

 By Alison Glew, Copyright Project Officer 

Monday, 9 March 2015

Playing detective - Researching Victorian crime objects

Police truncheon made by Howell of Leeds
I have been researching objects in the collection relating to Victorian crime and punishment for next year’s exhibition at Abbey House Museum.Some of the objects I researched were equipment used by 19th Century police constables, such as police truncheons, a policeman’s rattle and a warrant card.

I researched the owners, manufacturers and dates of the objects. This led me to social history section at Leeds Central Library, where I researched the identities of the people who owned or made the objects using trade directories and reference books. On websites such as I found birth and death records of the police constables who owned the objects. 

Police rattle made by J Wood, Leeds

Researching past police officers

In order to research the police constables further I went to the West Yorkshire Archives, where I found a detailed account of the careers of the police constables from such sources as a register of police constables from the early 19th to the early 20th century. I also found the identities of the police constables in the police code of conduct book which logged any promotions and any disciplinary actions the police constables faced.

Uncovering court cases

I also researched some of the 19th Century court documents in the collection, such as a document that summoning a woman named Emma Jarrett to court as a witness to testify against a man named Harry Earnshaw. He was later found guilty and was sentenced to six months' imprisonment for stealing two horses in 1880. 

I also found other interesting court cases. There was a jury summons for the Leeds Assizes in May 1926, during which one of the trials involved Louie Calvert, who was one of the last women in Britain to be hanged.

By Bradley Hilton, Level 5 work placement, Leeds Trinity University

Thursday, 5 March 2015

3D Scanning the West Yorkshire Hoard

We love a good challenge here at Leeds Museums and Galleries and currently we’re looking into 3D scanning technology to develop 3D data models of objects in the West Yorkshire Hoard, a small group of Anglo-Saxon gold rings and other items found in the Leeds area. 

One of the objects found from the hoard include this stunning, unusually large 10th Century gold ring with a round decorated bezel (pictured below).

This 10th Century gold ring is part of the
West Yorkshire Hoard 
For conservation reasons, the items from the West Yorkshire Hoard cannot be scanned the same way as other objects; usually a fine powder is applied to gold to stop the light reflecting during scanning. Because the objects are so precious, putting any sort of coating on the items risks leaving a residue, particularly on the objects that are very highly decorated.

So how do we digitally preserve these objects without damaging them?

Last week, Curator Kat Baxter and Digital Media Assistant Liz Chadwick went to Crewe for the day to check out the latest in small scanning technology.

Three different types of scanning technologies were identified, including this infra-red laser that scans at 458000 points per second at a resolution of 5 microns (One micron is 1/1000 mm (1/25,000 of an inch).

In order to achieve the perfect scan, the object needs to be able to rotate 360 degrees so the laser can pick up all the information.

These items are over a thousand years old; the arms usually used to do this could potentially harm the surface of the objects, so Europac are developing a special arm for Leeds Museums and Galleries to use which will be both stable enough to rotate the objects securely but padded so as not to damage their delicate surface.

The next stage is to come back to Europac once the arm has been developed and to scan all the objects properly. We will keep you updated on the progress!

By Elizabeth Chadwick, Digital Media Assistant

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Creating a Community Wall Hanging at Temple Newsam House

The City of Leeds YMCA Sewing group, pictured with Councillor Lucinda Yeadon

The inspiration to create a new wall hanging for Temple Newsam House came out of a community engagement session about textiles through history.

The City of Leeds YMCA Sewing group, based at Osmondthorpe, visited Temple Newsam on two occasions in 2013 to learn about Leeds Museums and Galleries’ Textile Collection. During one of their visits they viewed fabrics in the Textile Discovery Room, chose fabrics that were of a particular interest to them and gave reasons behind their choices.

We discussed how to make the Textile Discovery Room look more interesting and colourful. The idea of creating a community wall hanging was born. Members of the group decided to design images on 30cm squares of material with themes based around Temple Newsam House.

The museum and the community collaborating

As momentum for the project developed, staff, volunteers and members of other learning groups became interested and expressed a desire to contribute. Eventually the created squares reflected other interests and cultures beyond Temple Newsam House.

A member of the Family Learning group from Osmondthorpe offered to sew all the squares together to produce the finished piece that now adorns the Textile Discovery Room.

By Helen Pratt, Assistant Community Curator, Temple Newsam House

Friday, 27 February 2015

A bird in the hand... - Photographing the Leeds Bird Skins Collection

Pink Cockatoo ​skin, photographed by Sara Porter

Our bird skin collection has all been fully rehomed and documented. Now that the Skin Deep project has finished, the bird skins are all arranged in drawers, so are much more accessible to view and handle than their previous home in boxes.

Patterns and plumage - photographing the bird skin collection

My work this morning was some of the nicest in a while! My task was to choose around a hundred bird skins to be photographed by Sara Porter for a new display panel in our Leeds Museum Discovery Centre store. I was looking for a range of colours and patterns, so all I had to do was take a peep in each drawer, picking out my favourite in each. I chose birds which covered all the colours of the rainbow, and more besides, as well as some which have amazing patterning on their plumage.

I have seen the majority of our bird skin collection, but I was still taken aback by the beauty of these birds, as well as coming across some amazing specimens I hadn’t seen before. I really am privileged to be able to see the amazing plumage of these species close up. I thought to myself of the phrase ‘A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush’. Obviously this is supposed to be a metaphor, but it got me thinking…

Why do museums preserve specimens?

One of the things that museums can offer visitors, researchers, and indeed staff like me, is the chance to see some of the immense biodiversity we share our planet with, up close. Seeing a specimen in a museum can be very useful to give a sense of size, and enables us to look closely at details we might miss when watching a living specimen in the wild. For instance, some of our butterfly collection have patterns which you would not be able to view closely if you saw a live butterfly flitting through a rainforest.

Speckled Tanager skin, photographed by Sara Porter
Museum collections are a valuable resource for research, scientific and otherwise, and for inspiring visitors. Personally, I find it sad that many animals were killed in the past for museum collections. However, since they were, I am glad that we can use them to benefit surviving biodiversity, and to add value to our lives. And it is vital that we do.

Highlights of the collection

Taking the ‘bird in the hand’ adage literally, I couldn’t disagree with it more. It has been amazing looking closely at the plumage of beautiful (and beautifully named) birds such as Speckled Tanager, Splendid Sunbird and King Paradise Bird. But I would love to see a distant glimpse of any of these birds in their natural habitat. Imagine the sun reflecting off iridescent wings, or the movement of long tail plumes during flight. I can try to imagine, because I have seen these birds’ skins today. And that makes museums brilliant.

Natural history collections offer us the chance to see some of the world’s biodiversity under one roof. But it would be a very sad world if all we could do were to imagine living birds from museum skin collections. Nothing can replace the experience of seeing nature, living, in the wild, complete with smells and sound and feeling.
By Rebecca Machin, Curator of Natural Sciences
Follow Rebecca on Twitter @Curator_Rebecca

Thursday, 19 February 2015

A Tale of 1,001 Fabrics - the Hepworths Collection

Gentlemen of a certain age (OK, then, over 50) are more than likely to have owned a suit which was made in Leeds, once the capital of the British clothing industry. Leeds boasted many clothing manufacturers, large and small, including the likes of Sumrie, Browns, Berwin & Berwin, John Collier, the Fifty Shilling Tailor, Burtons and Hepworths.

Burton’s factory in Harehills was the largest of its kind in the world, boasting the world’s largest sewing room, photographs of which are still awe inspiring. Hepworths, founded in Leeds in 1864 and now transformed into Next plc, was famous for many reasons, including its monstrous HQ building on Claypit Lane and the first association of a famous designer (in this case, Hardy Amies) with a High Street tailor/retailer.  In the battle of one-upmanship, Amies was a trump card.

Inside the Burton's Factory sewing room.

Hepworths is part of Leeds’ heritage and, not unnaturally, Leeds City Museums and the magnificent Discovery Centre have lots of Hepworth-based material. These include the in-house newspaper, the ‘Hepworth Mercury’, which printed news about employees and about the company itself. Did you know that Hepworths provided uniforms for all sorts of groups, including Olympic athletes and Leeds Rugby League football club?

Volunteering with the Textiles collection

Several of my relatives worked in the Leeds clothing industry, so textiles must be in my genes (and jeans).  It seemed natural that my working life should relate to the industry and I ended up as head of the Textile department at Huddersfield University. When I retired, I looked at doing some voluntary work in order to make use of whatever expertise I have. So, I arrived at Leeds Discovery Centre under the tender care of Natalie Raw, Curator of Textiles and Fashion, and have been involved in digitising parts of the clothing collection ever since, from 18th century women’s dresses to 20th century men’s waistcoats.

So when Natalie mentioned that there was a box of Hepworths menswear fabric swatches to look at, dating from the 1960s/70s, I jumped at the chance. These have been sent to Armley Mills Industrial Museum for visitors literally to get a feel for Leeds made fabrics. The rest are in my gentle hands being catalogued.

My textile design students at Huddersfield came up with weird and wonderful colour combinations, but even they would be amazed at what I have come across. There are fabrics the colours of which don’t so much shout at you but yell at the tops of their voices. Some are absolutely hideous (to a 2014 fashionista like me!) but must have had some sort of market then. Some are beautifully subtle (how did they sneak in?).

There are the top of the range fabrics (Golden Heritage, usually pure wool) and the ‘bog standard’ range, often containing polyester.  Some of the fabrics might even be in vogue today (although for men much younger than me): the bright red jacketing and bright yellow trousering would certainly appeal to some.  Overall, it provides a fascinating review of a bygone age and an endless source of inspiration for me.

Discover more about Leeds tailoring

If Leeds tailoring is your thing, do visit the magnificent tailoring gallery at Armley Mills, which is about the history of Leeds tailoring. And if you like delving, exploring and being amazed, join the army of volunteers at the Discovery Centre (Find out how to volunteer for Leeds Museums and Galleries)!

By John Pearson, Dress and Textiles Volunteer

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

The Memoria exhibition at Armley Mills

Jan delves into the history of Armley Mills
I was packing envelopes in the dining area at Armley Mills. The place was empty except for a family sitting 5 tables away, snacking and chatting. “You should tell them.” “Why would anyone be interested? I only lasted half a day. I couldn’t take the noise.” I started eavesdropping…

As a teacher, I’d learned to tune out low level conversation so it was pure chance I picked up on the very person I was looking for - my first success in locating the elusive former employees of Armley Mills. Sandra’s daughter was looking at one of our flyers: “Did you or someone you know work at Armley Mills?” I had to interrupt. “Excuse me, did you just say you worked here at the mills?” Success at last. I had a name and a phone number to pass on.

The Memoria Project
Memoria is an exciting, innovative project combining the arts with local history. We’re a team of 5 volunteers led by Hannah, Assistant Curator, with local artist David Bridges. We have the task of locating as many people as we can who were associated with Armley Mills and uncover their history. Unfortunately, somewhere between the mill's closure in the early Sixties and its acquisition by Leeds City Council a few years later, all employment records vanished. 

So, we have distributed leaflets, put up posters, trawled social media, cold-called local residential homes, tried to reach teachers in local schools, visited local organisations… all in the hope that we can locate more people with a story to tell. Stories David can translate into ethereal porcelain and light, ready for exhibition in September.

Memories of Armley Mills
We have 2 cardboard boxes of surviving documents – a fascinating assortment of photographs, accounts and correspondence covering the first half of the last century. Two of us sifted through with carefully gloved hands, looking at invoices, petty cash expenditure and photographs in the hope of tracking down any useful name. We learned of the flood. We read about spigots and valves and machine maintenance. We speculated about the shareholders and directors and their use of petty cash but we didn’t find any hint of anyone who might still survive to tell their tale, apart from the Tempest family, who David is already working with.

Laura and I sat in the dining area, warming our hands on our coffee mugs, surrounded by the buzz of excited children attending the Victorian School. Another idea! Why not ask the children if they have elderly relatives or neighbours who worked at the mill? I created a leaflet to give to the children from local schools who visit the mill. Several hundred have now been distributed. Surely one child will take it home and ask the right questions of the right people. Surely one great grandparent will come forward.

The search continues!
It’s such a shame people don’t recognise that their everyday lives are an important part of our social and industrial history and deserve to be recorded. 

For more information about the Memoria project, read David Bridges’ blog, or see the Past Exhibitions at Leeds Industrial Museum.

Could you share your memories of Armley Mills or Leeds' Industrial Past? Get in touch with the team at Armley Mills.

By Jan Brown, Volunteer, Leeds Industrial Museum at Armley Mills

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Mirror Image Museum - Creating an exhibition at St James's Hospital

Over the past several months, I have been organising an exhibition for the Bexley Wing of St James’ Hospital, Leeds. Each year an exhibition is organised for the cancer ward at the hospital by a curatorial trainee, with a different theme that is open enough to draw from the entire museum collection. My theme is symmetry and, on 2nd February we installed ‘Mirror Image Museum’ – a collection of symmetrical objects and photographs incorporating natural, social and industrial history.

Step 1: Choosing the objects

Once the theme of symmetry had been chosen, I asked each curator to send me a list of objects that they would like featured in the exhibition. Over 100 objects were suggested, ranging from porcelain dishes to glass cinematic prisms – the natural history objects I chose myself. I selected those I felt best suited the exhibition, either due to aesthetics, interest or practicality. 

Step 2: Condition checking and photography

Each object chosen for the exhibition was forwarded to Emma, our conservator, to be condition checked. After Emma had cleared each object for use (or rejected some due to the bright environment of the hospital being unsuitable – light damages objects over time) I arranged for a professional photographer, Sara Porter, to take photos of the objects that could not be displayed physically. 

Step 3: Writing labels and planning the space

I requested label text from each curator and started writing up the natural history text. As the physical objects were still in quarantine at this point, I used Sketch Up to create a 3D model of the exhibition space (pictured left) – a great help for planning and ensuring things fit where I wanted them before getting my hands on the real things!

After the label text had been sent to graphic designer Steve Mann for production, finally I gave the top surface of the cases a fresh coat of paint and applied the magnetic wrap around covers Ruth, Exhibitions Curator, had ordered to give them a more professional look. 

Step 4: Installing the objects

Fellow trainee Adam gave me a hand setting up a ‘trial run’, laying out all of the objects in the cases to ensure that there were no nasty surprises on the day! Thanks to this the installation went very quickly and smoothly when Ruth and I set the cases up in the Bexley Wing. 

Seeing months of planning come to fruition was greatly satisfying, as was seeing the interest of passing visitors. I hope that ‘Mirror Image Museum’ entertains visitors and staff at the Bexley Wing during the three months of the exhibition.

By Glenn Roadley, Natural Sciences Curatorial Trainee
On Twitter @batdrawer1