Posted on 14 May 2020
A particular highlight of the past few weeks has been watching our York COVID-19 archive project begin to take shape. When we put out a call for records that would help tell the story of life in York during this pandemic we were unsure of how much interest there would be and what kind of records we would receive. We needn’t have worried. From poetry, short stories, film and photographs of an empty York to the lockdown activities of local clubs and the invaluable work of those producing personal protective equipment for local health workers, residents of York have generously shared their experiences, good, bad and not infrequently funny, with us.
One particular piece that stood out to all of us was the short memoir of a York resident with terminal cancer. This very moving and beautifully written piece was a reminder that not everyone is able to look forward to ‘when this is over’ and our normal lives can resume. We are extremely grateful for all of the donations we have received and continue to receive. Together they will form a crucial part of York’s collective memory of this period.
Alongside our project work we have continued to expand and improve our online catalogue. Two weeks ago we added the complete Records of the Drax Charity Trust and School, dating from the 17th century. We have now expanded the catalogue still further with biographical details for some of the pupils and staff of the school. These include details drawn from individual apprenticeship indentures, 1734-1885, apprentices’ baptismal certificates, 1821-1824, and correspondence and papers concerning apprentices and their masters, 1822-1889, as well as correspondence from men applying for the post of schoolmaster in 1864 which supplies their previous place of employment. At a time when there is no onsite access to our archives, we are all the more pleased to be able to offer such additional detail, allowing our users to delve a little further into our records and the lives of the individuals contained within them.
Finally we have also added the full catalogue of the Unitarian Chapel of St Saviourgate in York. York has a proud history of religious dissent and the St Saviourgate Chapel is the oldest surviving place of nonconformist worship in the city. It was founded in 1693, just four years after the Act of Toleration was passed by William III and Mary II following the Glorious Revolution of 1688. It was known originally as Lady Hewley’s Chapel, after one of its principal benefactors, and Lady Hewley’s name features in the archive, alongside other prominent York figures such as Thomas Colton, Newcome Cappe and his wife Catherine Cappe, and antiquary and social reformer Charles Wellbeloved. Wellbeloved leaves not just evidence of his activities as Minister but also a small number of family records, including the journal kept by his son, John Wellbeloved, during his Grand Tour of Europe in 1819. The St Saviourgate Chapel remains in active use to this day and is well worth a visit.