Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Revealing the Registers: thoughts of an indexer

Our Marc Fitch Fund Project Archivist, Helen Watt, gives us some thoughts and reflections following the completion of initial work in indexing one of our Archbishops' Registers and attempts to answer and old indexers' question - can you ever really be sure when using a previous index? 

Having worked on the pilot for ‘York's Archbishops’ Registers Revealed’ in 2012, generously funded by the  Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, it is excellent to be able to put the theory devised during that pilot into practice. Thanks to funding from the Marc Fitch Fund, since October 2015, work has been underway on Registers 31 and 32 using the newly-developed indexing tool. This period covers 1576-1650 and includes the tenures of Archbishops Edwin Sandys (1577-1588), John Piers (1589-1594), Matthew Hutton (1595-1606) in Register 31; and the archiepiscopates of Archbishops Samuel Harsnett (1619-1631), Richard Neile (1632-1640) and John Williams (1641-1650) in Register 32. 

Since the examination of Register 31 was completed last month, it is now possible to reflect on the process of indexing a register of the Archbishops of York of this date and, crucially, the kind of material found within it. To put them into some context, none of the registers for this period have been subject to any previous indexing work - unlike their medieval predecessors where various published and indexed versions have been created since the 19th century. 

First of all, the quality of images of the registers produced during the Mellon project is excellent, especially for remote use, The images may also be greatly enlarged, so that even the smallest, faintest penstrokes may be read with ease.

Thanks to the quality of the images, we were able to discern this date as being the 'xvth day of febuarie' (Reg 31 f 76v)
The schema of subject headings compiled during the pilot has been integral to indexing subjects found in register entries, although some amendments have had to be made to cater for the post-reformation matters found in this register, as well as for matters to do with probate and archbishops’ visitations.

When indexing persons, there are two methods of dealing with personal names in the tool, either by inputting details of an individual straight into an entry, or by populating the Persons List with details before indexing. Using the second method, it was possible to draw on the work of several other projects, such as the Clergy of the Church of England Database, Fasti Ecclesiae Anglicanae (via British History Online), the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, particularly for parish and higher clergy, to build up the required information and so streamline input of persons.

Similarly, to speed up the indexing of places, not only could the project draw on lists of places compiled during the Borthwick Institute’s previous work on the Cause Papers, but also automatically harvest place-names from the Digital Exposure of English Place-names (DEEP) and the online Ordnance Survey.

As regards the contents of the register, these have mainly comprised probate of wills and grants of administrations, confirmations of elections of bishops and archbishops’ visitations, and guides to the procedures involved in all of these topics will be made available shortly. Wills copied into the register are mostly those of clergymen and although there is an existing index in the Yorkshire Archaeological Society Record Series vol. 93 (1937), comparison between this index and the original wills has allowed small errors to be corrected, mostly concerning dates of wills and probate - understandable when you consider the quality of the images we are working with now!

Notification of the Vacancy after the death of Abp Sandys, 1588 
Even though these wills are well-known through that index, the new indexing tool has made it possible for them to be searched and explored online, making them so much more widely accessible and available and opening up their contents for research, so that many aspects of clerical life could now be studied. 

For instance, the pious preambles of wills, often not simply formulaic in nature, but long and involved, together with the titles of books left as bequests, may reflect the doctrinal inclinations and learning of these clergymen. We might also see the clergyman as farmer, and father of his family as well as shepherd of his flock. We can sometimes see far-reaching connections with the Universities, with court, members of London Livery Companies, and relationships with gentry and noble patrons. 

Long preamble in the will of  Ralph Kay, vicar of Topcliffe, 1613

With the commencement of work on Register 32, all these topics and more are bound to be further illuminated, so, as they say, watch this space!

Monday, 2 May 2016

Yorkshire Wildlife Trust: 70 years on

Certificate of Incorporation

On 2nd May 1946, Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, then called Yorkshire Naturalists’ Trust, was legally incorporated. Founded in a post-war context, where the Government was keen to provide a ‘vision of a brighter Britain’1, the Trust’s first objective was “to protect places and objects of natural beauty or of ornithological, botanical, geological, zoological or scientific interest from injury, ill-treatment or destruction.”

The Trust was established to receive the gift of two plots of land at Askham Bog, a remnant of ancient Yorkshire fenland to the south of York. The bog was considered of particular interest due to the survival of many original species of flora and fauna. Indeed, it was later described as being "as uniquely interesting to the botanist and entomologist as is any archaeological treasure to the historian or antiquarian."2
The plots had been purchased two years earlier, in 1944,  by keen naturalists and confectioners Sir Francis Terry and Arnold Rowntree. These plots, along with the plot of land entrusted by Mr Lycett Green, made up the Trust's first reserve.3

Vegetation Map of Askham Bog, 1933. BIA/YWT/A182

At its formation the Trust had a Council of eleven members, including President Sir Francis Terry and Vice President A.S. Rowntree, and five aristocratic patrons - the Duke of Devonshire, the Marquess of Zetland, the Earl of Feversham, the Earl of Halifax and Lord Middleton. 

Individuals could become Ordinary members of the Trust upon application and a subsequent annual payment of 10 shillings, or a Life Member for £10.

In 1946, the aims of the Trust were already clear - a letter to the Society for the Promotion of Nature Reserves, written by Sir Francis Terry in that year, stated that 'the acquisition of this Sanctuary is regarded as a first step only, as it is hoped that other suitable areas in Yorkshire will come into the hands of the Trust'.4 In the seventy years since that letter was written, the Trust has certainly fulfilled this early vision and now cares for over 100 reserves across Yorkshire, as well as campaigning for wildlife on a regional and national level. 

The archive itself, even at this early stage of the project, has been fascinating to work through. With documents ranging from minutes of the first meetings to detailed site reports, from correspondence with local members to relationships with national organisations, it presents a unique and vital record of the important work of the Trust both in 1946 and in 2016.

Lydia Dean

Project Archivist

Box count: 32.5 boxes surveyed...

1. Sands, Tim. Wildlife In Trust (2012) p.19
2. Report on Askham Bog (BIA/YWT/A177/5)
3. Correspondence on Askham Bog 1966-1973. (BIA/YWT/A177/5)
4. Letter from Francis Terry, August 1946 (BIA/YWT/A108/2)

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

‘Till death us do part’?: marriage, love and wills in the Archbishops' Registers

When David Cressy examined aspects of marriage in Tudor and Stuart times, he asked whether or not love played a part in courtship and marriage then (1). Unlike other historians, such as Laurence  Stone, he considered that love was fundamental to marriage in that era and in support of his argument cited one Stuart source which stated that ‘to the end that marriages may be perpetual, loving and delightful betwixt the parties, there must and ought to be knitting of hearts before striking of hands’(2).

So is it possible to discover the affection in which an Elizabethan testator held his wife from the wording of his will? Perhaps, judging from wills being examined in the ‘York’s Archbishops’ Registers Revealed’ project. A project generously supported by the Marc Fitch Fund is currently indexing the Archbishops' Registers for the period 1576-1650, and much of the content for this period consists of probate records, largely for beneficed clergy.

Take, for instance, the will of Charles Daintith (1557-1595), vicar of Kirk Ella, 1591-5, made shortly before his death (3). He mentioned his wife Isabel several times in strikingly loving terms, which do not seem to be merely formulaic, as ‘Isabell Jepson my beloved freind and my true and lawfull wief now by the lawes of this Realme established’ and ‘Isabell Jepson my welbeloved wief’.

'my beloved freind'
He left the residue of his estate to his ‘beloved wief’ and made her his executrix on one condition, which was ‘desiring as there was ever true love betwixt her and me ... that she will not forgett at hir ending if she keep hir so long unmaried my brother Gabriell and his children and my sisters children’.

Was this the same experience for all? Perhaps not, and the will of Barnabie Shepherd (d. 1588) may be a case in point (4) This was a nuncupative will, spoken before witnesses who recalled:
‘Memorandum that the Fyftenthe day of Februarie in the yeare of our Lorde God one thowsande, fyve hundrethe eightie seven, accordinge to the course and computacioun of the churche of Englande Barnabie Shepperde, bachelour of devynytye and parson of Bulmer, of the dyoces of Yorke being of perfecte mynde and memorye, and being asked and desyred to knowe to whome he woulde dispose or gyve his goodes, whether to his Wyfe, (meanynge Brygett Shepperde then his Wyfe) or not Annswered and sayd, yea to his wyfe, or the like wordes in effecte, in the presence of Fraunces Layton and Josias Fawether.’
So was he in pain or just bad-tempered or were relations between him and his wife less than loving?

'yea to his wyfe'
We will never know!

Are these just two examples at either end of the spectrum of marital affection or are there many others waiting to be discovered as work progresses? Watch this space!

Helen Watt
Marc Fitch Project Archivist


(1) David Cressy, Birth, Marriage, and Death: Ritual, Religion, and the Life-Cycle in Tudor and Stuart England (Oxford, 1997), pp. 260-3.

(2) Ibid., p. 262, citing from John Dod and Robert Cleaver, A Godly Forme of Houshold Government (1630).

(3) BIA, Register 31, fol. 132 v, entry 2, Will of Charles Daintith, vicar of Kirk Ella, made 24 June 1595, proved 3  October 1595; Alumni Oxonienses; Clergy of the Church of England database (CCEd), available at

(4) BIA, Register 31, fol. 105 v, entry 1, Will of Barnaby Shepherd, Rector of Bulmer, made 15 February 1588, proved 14 March 1588; Alumni Cantabrigienses; CCEd.

Thursday, 7 April 2016

Introducing the Borthwick Catalogue

In April 2015 we launched Project Genesis, an ambitious two year project to create the Institute’s first online catalogue using AtoM, or Access to Memory, a web-based, open-source application for archival description and access.  One year on, we are proud to announce that the Borthwick Catalogue (or Borthcat as we’ve begun to call it!) is now live.

You can find the catalogue here (need some tips on searching? Try our help page or check out our Frequently Asked Questions)

The catalogue will continue to grow over the next year, and in years to come, but already it contains descriptions of 376 of our archival collections, spanning 28 countries and 825 years of world history.  The subject matter is impressively broad; church and parish, family and estate, manorial, health, television and theatrical, business and political records demonstrating changing attitudes to religion, morality, education, industrial welfare, health and human and civil rights from the medieval to the modern age.  

Each archive has a detailed ‘top level’ description in the catalogue, recording its unique reference code, the dates it covers and an overview of its contents, together with key information regarding access and links to related archives at the Borthwick and elsewhere.  Why not browse our archives alphabetically, or try our subject or place lists to find out what’s available.

Information about the creator of each archive is also available in a separate authority record, linked in the archival description.  You can browse these here.

In certain cases, full archival catalogues are included with these top level descriptions.  These include the catalogue for The Retreat psychiatric hospital, the British Music Society of York, and the papers of Sir Charles Wood, Secretary of State for India.  

For others, such as our popular parish record collections, we have made the paper finding aids available on the catalogue as a clickable PDF, enabling online users to browse these lists or search their contents via the catalogue search function for the first time.  Please note that these lists do not include parish register indexes which will continue to be available in our search room and on Findmypast. More complete catalogues will be added as we continue to develop Borthcat, opening up our holdings to international audiences and improving our online accessibility.

As Project Archivist, it has been very exciting to see the catalogue taking shape and there have been more than a few surprises along the way.  Personal highlights have included the log books of a 17th century admiral, Robert Fairfax, the discovery of a female Sexton at Holy Trinity Goodramgate in the 19th century and a school book with a link to Railway Children author Edith Nesbit, not to mention a 1956 letter from Harry Corbett and Sooty!  

Look out for new content over the coming months but in the meantime, we hope you enjoy using the Borthwick Catalogue to explore some of our holdings and if you have any thoughts or feedback, we’d love to hear them.

Happy searching!

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Yorkshire Wildlife Trust Project

A robin, after bathing, at Askham Bog. (BIA/YWT/A177)
The Yorkshire Wildlife Trust (YWT) is one of the largest Wildlife Trusts in Britain and its 97 reserves cover some of the most varied landscapes in the UK. It works to protect and conserve Yorkshire's wild places and wildlife, with reserves including Spurn National Nature Reserve, Flamborough Cliffs, Potteric Carr, and my local reserve of Askham Bog. The Trust was established in 1946 and in the year it celebrates its 70th anniversary, it is very exciting to have launched a 12 month project to catalogue and promote the Trust’s extensive archive.

Working in partnership with YWT and supported by funding from the National Cataloguing Grants Programme for Archives, by 2017 we will have described the archive to file level and to have made this accessible through the Borthwick’s online catalogue. The archive of YWT, like their reserves, is of national and international importance. It documents the establishment of the Trust and its development through to the modern day, as well as the bio-recording of internationally scarce habitats, relationships with landowners and the precedent-making legal cases led by the Trust in the 1970s. The archive highlights the UK’s unique role in the development of nature conservation and is the largest body (both in volume and subject coverage) of such material as yet deposited in any public institution. It includes paper, photographs and digital material and covers 3.5m3.

As well as cataloguing the archive, thereby releasing its research potential to new and existing audiences, the project will also include the running of workshops on archival appraisal and conservation. We'll also be using new and traditional media to continue to promote the archive throughout the year.

The archive as it looks today!

Over the next few weeks, I will be starting some preliminary survey work on the boxes which will help me develop a structure for the catalogue. I’ll also be familiarising myself with Access to Memory (AtoM) the open-source, web-based application we're using to host our online catalogue. Personally and professionally, I am very excited to be working as the archivist on this project. It really will be a fascinating (not to mention busy!) twelve months and I look forward to keeping you all up-to-date as it develops. In the meantime, if there’s anything in particular you’d like to know about the project or how we’re approaching it do feel free to comment below or to get in touch through our Twitter or Facebook.

Lydia Dean
Project Archivist

Box count: 2/200 surveyed...

Friday, 26 February 2016

York County Hospital and World War One

York County Hospital was established in 1740 and until 1977, when the current hospital opened, was the main hospital in York. The hospital was originally run as a charity, supported by wealthy subscribers. It continued to be run in this way right up to the 20th century when the income from subscriptions and investments was supplemented by patient fees and insurance schemes.  It joined the NHS in 1948 and treated its last patients in 1980. The original County Hospital buildings are still standing and can be seen just off Monkgate.

In 1914, when World War One broke out, the hospital allocated 50 beds for military patients. By the end of that year it had treated 102 sick and wounded soldiers. The percentage of military patients treated at the hospital increased throughout the war and, to accommodate them, two additional hutted wards were built at the back of the main hospital building. 

Photograph of sick and wounded soldiers,
Annual Report 1916 (BIA YCH 1/2/9)

Analysis of military cases
Annual Report 1916 (BIA YCH 1/2/9)
The hospital treated both medical and surgical patients. During 1916, amongst other medical cases, staff dealt with 7 cases of gas poisoning and 13 cases of trench fever. This extract of the surgical treatments carried out on military patients includes numerous bayonet, bullet and shrapnel wounds, as well as several shell shock patients.

During the First World War, around 10% of British casualties were classified as suffering from shell-shock. At the start of the conflict, it was believed that shell-shock was caused by physical head injuries resulting from bombardment. In 1915, a paper in the medical journal The Lancet put forward an alternative, psychological, explanation for the disorder noting that many soldiers that were suffering the symptoms of shell-shock had not received a head injury. By 1917, the British military authorities tried to limit the use of the diagnosis and continuing debates over causes and treatments created further controversy. By World War Two, to diagnose shell-shock was forbidden.   

List of gifts donated for wounded soldiers
Annual Report 1916 (BIA YCH 1/2/9)
Photograph of the night staff, 1914 (BIA YCH 1/6)
The coming of war meant that the County Hospital faced huge financial strain. With an existing debt of £3,800 and the price of commodities rising, the hospital’s 1916 annual report noted an increased expenditure of 24%. A special appeal in 1915-16 sought to raise funds and the generosity of hospital supporters is documented in the lists of gifts donated to the military patients. An extract of this list is included above, showing a range of the gifts given: from eggs, tobacco and newspapers to concert tickets, gramophone records and car rides.

By May 1919, the County Hospital had treated over 2000 military patients. As the hospital slowly returned to its peace-time operations, the wards built for the soldiers were converted into new treatment spaces. One space formed an orthopaedic department for discharged servicemen and other patients who required ongoing therapy. The continuing treatment of veterans was something at the forefront of the minds of those running the hospital, succinctly displayed in this quite from their annual report (BIA YCH 1/2/9):

"It is, of course, essential that those who have been disabled or broken in health in the service of the Country should receive the best possible treatment, and it seems obvious that such treatment is not most readily available at the general hospitals...Pending the satisfactory arrangement of conditions, the Committee, with the complete agreement of the Medical Staff have decided that the full resources of the Hospital shall be placed at the disposal of all discharged men who are recommended for treatment."

Lydia Dean
Archives Assistant

This blog is in part based on a forthcoming exhibition at York Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust.



Ben Shephard 'Pitiless psychology’: the role of prevention in British military psychiatry in the Second World War' in History of Psychiatry October 1999 10: 491-524

Edgar Jones, Ph.D., D.Phil. Nicola T. Fear, D.Phil. Simon Wessely, M.D. 'Shell Shock and Mild Traumatic Brain Injury: A Historical Review' in Am J Psychiatry 2007; 164:1641–1645

K.A. Webb From County Hospital to NHS Trust, The History and Archives of NHS hospitals, services and management in York 1740-2000 (Vol 1: History) Borthwick Texts and Calendars 27, UoY 2002

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Holocaust Memorial Day

'We had a boy of 17 with us in the holidays, one of the dearest people I've ever known.  He was asked to write the enclosed for someone in Canada, & did it in the hope that it might help people to understand that the persecution is not made up of isolated pogroms, but of a fear that is continual & unremitting.  I am sending it because perhaps it will give some idea of the background from which Mr Feller will have come.' 
 - Letter to the Dean of the Society of the Sacred Mission from Marjorie Milne, 1939. 
A full transcript of the following account is available below.

The account of Otto T. is included among the papers of the Society of the Sacred Mission, an Anglican religious order whose archive is deposited here at the Borthwick.  In 1938-9 the Society worked with Miss Marjorie Milne of Scarborough, and others, to arrange safe haven to England for the Fellers, a Jewish family from Vienna.



By O.T. a Viennese boy of 17.

I write this because I see how few people can know what happens in
Germany now.  I know very well what the unemployed have to suffer but I was in
Germany and know that it is not to compare with the sufferings of the German
Jews.  What I tell here I have seen with my own eyes.

The German Jew has not the chance to get even a little occasional work,
they have not the possibility to go elsewhere because all money is taken from
them, and they are no minute sure they will not be imprisoned without the least
reason just because they are Jews.  The Jew without friends or relations in
other countries is practically condemned to die.  Have you realised this till
now? Can you as Christ watch this?

I was living for a long time from the Jewish poor kitchen; sometimes the
Nazis enjoyed to ruin all this kitchen; then all many thousand people had
nothing to eat for a few days.  You can say also an unemployed can have nothing
to eat for a few days, but can this happen to him? At 11 o’clock night, 10
S.S. men come into a Jew’s flat, awaken him and force him to come with them.
He is brought to a cellar with other Jews.  Here S.S. men take out their
revolver, the Jews have to face the wall.  After a minute one shoots into the
air, and then the Jews half-dead of his horror can go again.

On the day that Rath was killed 15,000 Jews, only in Vienna, were imprisoned.
Anybody who was seen without a swastika was imprisoned on this day.  After
being beaten awfully they were imprisoned.  First in schools and other official
buildings.  The prisons were all full.  They were so many in one room that they
could not move one step.  (I say not more than absolutely happened).  8 hours
they stood like this, then about the half was sent to a concentration camp, the
other were falling on the floor to sleep on the wood but they could not because


the S.S. came and forced them to pray Jewish prayers,  5 days they get nothing
to eat and slept on the floor.  A few died.  One killed himself springing out
of a window.  The S.S. officer said “If anyone try to escape like this man,
every tenth will be shot.”  On the 7th day came the Gestapo.  In all cross-
questionings the Jew had to face the wall not knowing what happened behind him.
(All this has no sense and happens only to make the Jew nearly mad with nervous-
ness).  The half went also to concentration camps, the other were imprisoned
2-8 weeks.  In concentration camps people are kept 3-18 months.  One third
never come back.  There was no family of my many Jewish friends in which some
person had not been arrested.  Many got a letter “If you want the coffin of your
son, send 700 marks to concentration camp. Dachan [sic].”  The coffin came sealed and
no one could see of what he died.

Imagine a 70 years old man jumping over a chair, 50 times, 100 times so
long as laughing Nazis enjoy it.

Imagine a 70 years old man loading old iron (which Goering collected for guns)
on a car while the jeering Nazis throw it down on the other side.

Imagine the mentality of the human being who can say after 50 strokes with
a riding-whip – “It could have been worse.”

What shall I tell more?  I could tell for hours only what I have seen.
Horror, horror, horror.  I do not want to bring hate between the Germans and
the English, the most Germans have no idea of all this.  The only people who
know it are the Jews and the S.S. men and the others of Hitler’s troops who get
the salary of an officer of the army only for beating Jews.

However large the need for help is here in England, strong and soon the
help is not less necessary there.  The unemployed themselves realise this and
collect money for refugees.  I know people who spent two-thirds of their
possession for refugees.


This boy’s uncle was let out of a concentration camp because someone had
procured him a ticket for Shanghai where he is going with Otto’s parents.  They
have no prospects whatever there; are allowed to take no money, and not even
the knitting-machine with which latterly they had earned a little.  They may
not be allowed to land at Shanghai where there have been boat-loads of them
landed already.  God help them.

Strangely enough Otto has no bitterness about it all, and says Hitler’s
policy is understandable.  He also says of the tormentors – “They are only
boys.  They do not realise how terrible are the things they do.” I wish I
could believe that.   But it can’t be only the young.  We couldn’t find a
guarantor for a man some months ago and he was sent back to a concentration camp
and was at last let out to have his feet cut off as they’d been so mutilated
in the camp.  And there are too many like this for it all to be done by the
hard, unimaginative young.