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Borthwick Newsletter - February 2024

Posted on 31 January 2024

Welcome to the Borthwick's February newsletter.

February in the Archives - delve into our catalogues with this month’s featured description

Testament of John Butterfield: Copy of the testament of John Butterfield, citizen and innholder of York, dated 6 February 1520/1, in which he bequeathed the house in Fossgate 'at the signe of the White Horse' to the master of Trinity Hospital 'yf the bergane be fyrme and faste'.  [Company of Merchant Adventurers of the City of York Archive, CMAY/3/3/6/4/64]

What’s new?

Welcome to the first Borthwick newsletter of 2024!  This is a bit of a bumper edition, covering as it does December and January together (albeit with a festive gap in the middle).  The Christmas break must have proven inspirational to many because we’ve had a very busy start to the new year.  Our searchroom team answered some 350 enquiries in December, but January saw a rise to nearly 600 across the month, received by email, phone, letter and in person.  We’ve also had a whopping 90 onsite visitors since the 1st December, 52 in January alone, so if you’re planning a visit in the near future please do get in touch so we can make sure to reserve you a space in the searchroom.

We’ve begun the new year with a few changes.  Sadly, we’ve had to say goodbye to Lauren Shelton who was part of the small team working to digitise our parish registers for the online genealogy service Ancestry.  Lauren is taking up a new post with the university so we wish her all the best and will miss her contributions to the Wall of Interesting Names that has slowly but surely been compiled over the course of the parish register work.  

Meanwhile, we’ve been doing a bit of rearrangement onsite.  Over the past month the University Art Curator, Helena Cox, has been busy overseeing the creation of the first permanent Art Store here at the Borthwick.  The new store will house works from across the university collection, bringing them together for the first time on specially designed shelving and ensuring they are well looked after, and accessible, long into the future. 

Staff hard at work putting the new Art Store together.

We’ve also got some exciting new display cabinets.  If you’ve visited us recently you might also have noticed them at the bottom of the stairs leading up to Searchroom Reception.  We will be using these to showcase items from across our collections, beginning with our confectionery and probate archives.  If you haven’t visited us before, you can find these displays by turning right upon entering the library and then going through the double doors into the Raymond Burton wing. The display cases are to the right of the stairs.  Keep an eye out for changing content!  

Finally, we’d like to remind everyone that we will be closed to the public between the 5th and 9th February as part of our annual Collections Development Week.  This short closure period is an opportunity for all staff to catch up on important behind the scenes work, such as listing, cataloguing and packaging, so that we can ensure our collections are well looked after and as accessible as possible.  


New Accessions 

We took in 16 new accessions across December and January.   7 of these were additions to the University of York Archive, including records relating to Language and Linguistics, the Department of Computation, and Archaeology.  We also took in meeting minutes and financial papers to add to the Purey Cust Trust Archive, and Parochial Church Council records to add to the parish archive of Huggate; as well as a range of materials on electronic music from 1967 to add to the Richard Orton Archive.  

Our brand new accessions include the archive of the Poppleton Road Allotment Association.  The site was purchased in the early years of the 20th century by Arnold Stephenson Rowntree and is today owned by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation so the new archive has many links to our JRF and Rowntree Family material.  Covering the period 1975-2016, the accession comprises a wide range of papers relating to the administration of the association and the development and use of the allotments and we expect these to be a valuable addition to our horticultural collections.  

Our last new accession is rather an unusual one.  At the Borthwick we aim to make all our archives as accessible as possible but in the case of a Time Capsule that would rather defeat the object!  The capsule is the result of a project at SPARK in York which asked visitors to leave a message or a memento for people living in York in 2050.  The single box of material is now in our strongroom and will remain there, unopened, for another 26 years when future archivists and researchers will get the chance to see how hopes, and reality, measured up.


New Catalogues

Number of archival descriptions on Borthcat on 1st February 2024: 133,071Since the start of December we’ve added more than 80 boxes worth of archives to our online catalogue Borthcat.  Thirty of these make up the archive of Sir Donald Barron, a York businessman with links across our collections.  Born in Scotland, Sir Donald came to York in 1952 to work for the Rowntree confectionery company as an accountant, quickly rising through the ranks to become Chief Accountant just four years later.  He was made Finance Director in 1961 and from 1966 to 1981 he was the company Chairman, overseeing the merger between Rowntree and John Mackintosh & Sons in 1969.  After his retirement he went on to become Chairman of Midlands Bank.  His archive includes many records relating to his time at Rowntrees, as does the Rowntree company archive, but this was far from his only contribution to the history of York.  He served as a trustee and later Chairman of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF), was a member of York Civic Trust and the city’s Company of Merchant Adventurers, and campaigned for a University of York - serving as the university’s first Treasurer and Chair of the University Council.  Additionally, he played a key role in the creation of York’s own Millennium Bridge, which spans the River Ouse near Rowntree Park, as well as the redevelopment of the adjacent Riverside Walks and cycle route.  

Sir Donald Barron, Chairman of Rowntree Mackintosh and of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation

Records relating to all of these activities can be found in the archive, as well as in the archives of the university and the JRF, which we also hold.  As someone with close links to the Rowntree family, it’s interesting to note that Sir Donald’s personal archive also includes a number of significant documents by Seebohm Rowntree and his son Peter Rowntree.  Most noteworthy are a series of wonderfully vivid ‘journal letters’ sent home by Peter in 1925-1926 describing his experiences as a temporary resident of Framingham, Massachusetts, where he’d been sent to work at the Dennison Manufacturing Company.  Peter appears fascinated by American life in the Twenties, comparing it (sometimes favourably and sometimes not) with English life and customs as he encounters American football, dancing, and Halloween for the first time.  We’ve since been in touch with the history museum and archive in Framingham to learn more about the Dennison family and business and Peter’s time there, which we hope to share with you in the future.

In addition to the Barron Archive, we have made significant updates to the existing catalogues of The Retreat hospital, and novelist and playwright David Storey.  In the case of The Retreat the additions are in the form of 207 new architectural plans, recording alterations and additions to buildings between 1896 and the 2000s and covering not just the main hospital buildings but also staff accommodation, sporting facilities, and even a plan of the Turkish baths.  The additions to the David Storey Archive were more varied, with 52 boxes, 5 rolls and one folder of new material added across the catalogue, some dated as recently as 2017.  You can read more about David Storey in our Archive of the Month feature below.


News from Rare Books Collection and York Minster Library

There has been an exciting new acquisition for the Minster.  In December, at Sotheby’s, York Minster successfully bid on an important book for northern religious history, and for the history of the York book trade. It is a pre Reformation service book, printed in 1530, for the Use of the Church of York. Its full bibliographical details are Manuale quoddam secundum usum matris ecclesie Eboracensis. [Rouen]: for John Gachet in York [?N. le Roux, 1530].

The Use of the Church of York was one of the religious rites practised in England before the Reformation. It had variations from the Uses of the Church of Salisbury, the Church of Hereford, and the Church of Bangor. Many of these York variations had their roots in the ways services were held in the Cathedral church of Rouen, where this book was printed. Jean Gachet, a publisher and bookseller in York, commissioned around eight Use of York books to be printed in France of which this is one. The Manuale would have arrived in Yorkshire in 1530 in loose sheets. It was then sent to Thomas Richardson, a stationer who had his shop on Petergate in the shadow of the Minster.  Written on the back flyleaf is "Yf thes ii books be nott for you send them againe unto Thomas Rychardsonn and they shalbe changed & they cost iiiis viiid one processioner and one manuell". 

A Thomas Richardson was recorded as Head of the Bookbinders in York in 1554 and as a stationer in 1566. In this year he fell foul of the authorities being accused of holding banned works by Roman Catholic writers. He was found not guilty of the offence. It is likely that this is the same person as the binder of the 1530 Manuale or, at least, the same family.

The book has been in Yorkshire since it was first imported from France nearly 500 years ago and the Minster is immensely grateful to the Friends of the National Libraries and the V&A Purchase Grant Fund for helping to ensure that it stays in the county. 

It will go on display in the Minster and will be available for study and use in seminars. Please contact for more details. 


Borthwick Out and About

We had a number of events in December and January.  As well as welcoming our volunteers for a special Christmas tea party, in December Collections Information Archivist, Sally-Anne Shearn, and Archivist (Research Services), Lydia Dean ran a very enjoyable workshop for postgraduates from the university’s Women’s Centre.  The workshop, which featured an introductory presentation followed by a document display, highlighted in particular the records we hold for women in our health, business and political archives, many of which are included in our Women’s History Research Guide.  More recently, our Access and Digital Engagement Archivist Laura Yeoman spoke to the Ryedale Family History Group about recent developments at the Borthwick and what we’ve been doing to support family history research - as well as the exciting new projects coming up in the future.

Speaking of which, in the December newsletter we announced the completion of the catalogue for the Company of Merchant Adventurers Archive, the culmination of a four month project by Lydia Dean. This was publicly launched by the Merchant Adventurers later that month and covered in the Yorkshire Post, which highlighted the discovery of a fascinating photograph showing soldiers celebrating Christmas at the company’s medieval hall in 1914.  You can expect to hear more about the archive in 2024, with a York Festival of Ideas event planned for the summer, as well as a one off Saturday course on the archive in May, run by Laura Yeoman, in conjunction with the Centre for Lifelong Learning.  You can read more about the course, or register online, on the Centre’s website.  Laura will also be running a Saturday course in May on interpreting the Borthwick’s maps and plans, a valuable but too often overlooked source for family and local history. You can read more about the course, and register, on the website.  If you can’t wait quite that long for some Borthwick content, The Rowntree Society are hosting a talk by historian Laura Strachan, drawing on records from the company archive here to explore the complex history of the Rowntree Caribbean Plantations.  The event will be held on the 9th February at Clements Hall in York and tickets are free and can be booked via eventbrite.

Away from York, Mary Rehman, a PhD student at the University of Hull, has been comparing modern Covid-19 diaries with the plague diaries of the seventeenth century, including the famous diaries of Samuel Pepys.  Using diaries donated to the Borthwick’s own York Covid-19 Archive and to East Riding Archives, Ms Rehman looks at the common themes in how people, both past and present, navigate their pandemic experiences and the very human desire to seek answers and to find ways to reclaim joy, even in the darkest of times.

Finally, Archive Assistant Neil Adams was mentioned, with thanks, in the 2023 issue of the Journal of Vampire Studies (available on The Internet Archive).  Neil supplied information and images from our collections for an article by Anthony Hogg which sought to narrow down the publication date of The Vampire of Vourla, a recently rediscovered short story published anonymously in an anthology called The Chaplet: An Elegant Literary Miscellany.  The story, which can be read in full on Google Books, is said to be able to claim a ‘major place in the canon of vampire literature, even to rewrite it in a number of ways’, anticipating motifs later used in Bram Stoker’s Dracula.  Although one of the illustrations used in The Chaplet dates to late 1845, the university has a copy of the anthology in our Rare Books collection with a flyleaf addressed to a Miss Derek, tantalisingly dated 1 January 1845.  Which is the correct date? You can read the investigation and conclusion for yourselves!


Archive of the Month: David Storey Archive

What is it? The personal and professional papers of award winning novelist, screenwriter and playwright David Storey.

Where can I find it? The David Storey Archive catalogue is available in full on Borthcat.

Why is it Archive of the Month? Born to a coal mining family in Wakefield, Yorkshire, David Storey studied at the local grammar school and was supposed to go on to study geography at the University of Reading when his life took an unexpected turn, the first of several, as it turned out.  Instead of taking up his place at university, Storey signed a fourteen year contract to play professional rugby for Leeds and then, instead of following a straightforward sporting career, he developed a sideline in art and literature.  In between matches and training he studied at Wakefield Art School and then Slade School of Fine Art in London, designing Christmas cards for the rugby club and writing a series of novels in his spare time. This unusual combination served him well when, in 1960, he published his first novel, This Sporting Life, which told the story of a young coal miner from Wakefield who shows a surprising talent for rugby, but has far less luck in his romantic life.  The book won the Macmillan Fiction Prize and was made into a film, written by Storey and starring Richard Harris.

A corrected page from a screenplay for 'Heathcliff' by David Storey, based on the novel 'Wuthering Heights' by Emily Bronte.

Over the next fifty years Storey would go on to publish novels, plays and poems, as well as writing scripts for big screen productions such as ‘Ned Kelly’ and ‘Wuthering Heights’, and winning a range of awards, including the 1976 Booker Prize.  The resulting archive is a rich snapshot of this long and varied career, beginning in 1950 when Storey was still a pupil at Wakefield Grammar School, and ending with the final works he completed before his death in 2017.  It takes in his schoolwork, artwork, correspondence, photographs, and the drafts - published and unpublished - of an enormous range of his work, with his notes and corrections to show the process from genesis to completion (or occasionally abandonment).  As such, it is a valuable resource for anyone wanting to understand more about Storey, his work, or the art of writing for book, stage and screen.

Well be back in March with more news from the archives!