Archive | History

The Half-Shilling Curate: A Personal Account of War and Faith in 1914-1918




Sarah Reay’s ‘The Half-Shilling Curate’ (as he was affectionately known by his family), tells the personal story of an army chaplain, the Reverend Herbert Butler Cowl, from Christmas Eve 1914 to the end of hostilities in 1919. Based on his letters and writings, it illustrates the value of his faith during the war – the balance between being a chaplain and carrying out his duties as a British Army captain.

At the outbreak of war he volunteered to become a Wesleyan Army Chaplain and started documenting his journey with the Durham Light Infantry, from life in the Army Home Camp in Aldershot, to France and the Western Front near Armentières, where he was severely wounded.

On his journey back to England aboard the hospital ship Anglia, the ship hit a German mine in the Channel. As a result of his actions that day, he became one of the first Wesleyan Army Chaplains to receive the Military Cross for exemplary gallantry.

Although never fit enough to return to overseas duties, he worked as an army chaplain in army garrisons and home camps in England. The book gives an insight into day-to-day life and the strains of service as an army chaplain at Colchester and Portsmouth.

Twenty years later he found himself at the centre of another battle – the Second World War – and he was in London throughout the Blitz.

Herbert’s story concludes with the intimate observations of a spiritual man driven to follow his faith during war.


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Revolutionary Russia revealed in Leeds


A new exhibition at the University of Leeds reveals the dramatic events of the Russian Revolution from a new, British, perspective.

Caught in the Russian Revolution: the British Community in Petrograd, 1917-1918 is the latest exhibition at the Treasures of the Brotherton Gallery, University of Leeds.

The exhibition, opening on 1 March, marks the centenary of the 1917 Russian Revolution, which changed the course of world history.

Offering a unique perspective on this violent episode, the exhibition focuses on the British community in St Petersburg, renamed Petrograd at the start of the First World War.

The community was well established from the 18th century. Several generations of families helped to develop the city’s infrastructure and commerce. The Revolution in February 1917 disrupted all their lives and the Bolshevik seizure of power in October destroyed any hope for their future in Russia.

This exhibition draws on the Leeds Russian Archive, which includes eyewitness accounts in the form of diaries, letters, and photographs to explore a pivotal moment in world history. The exhibition celebrates 35 years of the Leeds Russian Archive at Special Collections in Leeds University Library. The LRA has been designated as nationally and internationally important by Arts Council England.


Stories and objects on display include:

  • Patent of hereditary Russian nobility granted to George Baird by Alexander II, 1872

George Baird belonged to a Scottish civil-engineering and ship-building dynasty. The patent of nobility was granted by Emperor Alexander II in recognition of George, and his family’s, contribution to the development of St Petersburg and Russian shipping from the late 18th century. This unique artefact is an intricate handmade object which comes with the huge seal of Alexander II, and represents the integration of British families, like the Bairds, into Russian life prior to the Revolution.

  • Reverend Lombard’s prison mug, letters and drawings, 1918

Reverend Bousfield Swan Lombard was Chaplain of the British Embassy and English Church in Petrograd from 1908 to 1918, and a central figure in the British community in Russia. During the October Revolution, shortly after drinking tea together in the British Embassy, Reverend Lombard witnessed the murder of his friend Captain Francis Cromie, naval attaché and Royal Navy submarine commander. Reverend Lombard, alongside many of the remaining British community, was subsequently imprisoned. Lombard’s prison mug, letters he received and drawings he made whilst incarcerated, act as vivid reminders of the brutal end to the British Community in Russia.


To accompany ‘Caught in the Revolution’ The Stanley & Audrey Burton Gallery, University of Leeds, will be displaying a selection of objects, textiles and jewellery from the Leeds Russian Archive curated by Richard Davies. On display 11 February – 10 June 2017.


Public events

A varied programme of public events will be held to accompany the exhibition. Highlights include:

  • 1 March, 18:00 – 20:00 Opening Reception – Celebrate the opening of the new exhibition. Free and open to all. If you would like to attend please register here:
  • 23 March, 13:00 – 14:00 Free Lunchtime Talk: Curator and archivist Richard Davies explores the British expatriate experience during the Russian Revolution.
  • 26 April, 13:00 – 14:00 Free Lunchtime Talk: Vera Pavlova, a visiting research fellow at The University of Leeds, examines Russian theatre around the time of the Russian Revolution.
  • 25 May, 17:30 -18:30 Chris Sheppard Lecture: Helen Rappaport, alumna of the University of Leeds, will give a lecture on the subject of her latest book: ‘Caught in the Revolution: Petrograd 1917’.
  • 21 June, 13:00 – 14:00 Free Lunchtime Talk: David Jackson, Professor of Russian & Scandinavian Art Histories at The University of Leeds explores Russian Art during the Russian Revolution.

Full details of the events programme can be found at

Photography by Ken Kajoranta

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Royal Armouries Celebrates Success of Warrior Treasures Exhibition


The Royal Armouries is celebrating the success of an acclaimed special exhibition showcasing around 100 spectacular items from the remarkable Staffordshire Hoard collection which is due to close on 2 October. Since the exhibition opened in early May it has received over 50,000 visitors to view the remarkable items which have been on display for the first time to UK visitors outside the West Midlands, where the hoard was discovered in 2009. The hoard is the largest gold Anglo-Saxon hoard ever found and some of the objects have never been on show before.

The Warrior Treasures exhibition focuses on fittings from weapons which make up the majority of the collection. It tells the story of their discovery, providing a fascinating glimpse into the warrior culture of a period in Anglo-Saxon history. These fittings were stripped from swords and seaxes (single-edged knives), and are thought to represent the equipment of defeated armies from unknown battles during the first half of the seventh century. The fittings are intricately decorated with gold, silver and semiprecious gems, and represent the finest quality Anglo-Saxon craftsmanship.

The Staffordshire Hoard is considered to be one of the most outstanding Anglo-Saxon finds since the excavation of the Sutton Hoo ship-burial in Suffolk in 1939. The hoard was discovered in July 2009 and is made up of around 4,000 fragments weighing over 6 kg. The secrets of the hoard are still being uncovered through painstaking research, but most of the collection consists of fittings from weaponry.

Although fragmented, damaged and distorted, the hoard’s objects represent the possessions of an elite warrior class. Why it was buried, perhaps before c.675 AD is not certain. Significantly it was discovered close to a major routeway (Roman Watling Street), in what was the emerging Kingdom of Mercia. Warfare between England’s many competing regional kingdoms was frequent. The Staffordshire Hoard bears witness to this turbulent time in our history.


Also featured within the exhibition is the Wollaston Warrior group which is in the care of the Royal Armouries museum at Leeds. The items are Anglo-Saxon burial goods from the grave of an elite warrior probably from the late seventh century. The contents of the grave included an exceptionally rare helmet and a sword –denoting the high status of their owner.


The success of the Saxon themed school workshops has meant that the Royal Armouries will continue to offer them as a permanent feature of their education programme.

Entry to the exhibition is FREE and further details of the exhibition and our education programme can be found at the Royal Armouries website at


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Leeds Black History Walk – An Eye Opener to African History


 2016-06-04 12.58.45

Heritage Corner’s Leeds Black History Walk, created by actor/writer Joe Williams, shares the rich narratives of African humanity in local and world history. This fascinating two hour stroll, starting on the Parkinson Steps at Leeds University, introduces you to Nubian pharaohs, queens, kings and a special Ethiopian prince with connections to Queen Victoria. You’ll discover numerous African contributions to Yorkshire and the world and be constantly surprised at how so much of this rich history somehow got lost or ignored. We are familiar with the Egyptian, Greek and Roman civilisation…but what about the extraordinary Nubian civilisation which predates all of them?

Not only did Joe whisk us back thousands of years, he also linked Black History to the present day through taking on the persona of various personalities and linking to many well-known events and people in Leeds – many associated with the university.


The walk was inspired by the dedication of Arthur France MBE (who founded Leeds Carnival), Dr Carl Hylton and Paul Auber to the Leeds Bi-Centenary Transformation Project – to present positive perspectives of African history. As a founding member of the Diasporian Stories Research Group in 1995, Joe soaked up information from fellow founders Audrey Dewjee and Allison Edwards on Africans in Britain, and further research revealed how Roman emperors built temples dedicated to African gods– hence 2,000 year old mummified African priests having been discovered in Yorkshire.


The walk ends with a visit to the grave of Pablo Fanque, celebrated Briton of African origin.  Born William Darby in Norwich, 1810, he was already a famous performer when he formed his own circus in Wakefield in 1841. He performed in Leeds on many occasions. His popular circus toured nationally until his death in 1871. John Lennon drew inspiration from one of Pablo’s posters for the song ‘For the Benefit of Mr. Kite’ on the Beatles’ ‘Sergeant Pepper’ album.


Heritage Corner encourages discourse through creative projects, working with creative practitioners like dancer David Hamilton, visual artist Carol Sorhaindo, poet Khadijah Ibrahiim and actress Leah Francis. The Leeds Black History Walk is at 11am on the first Saturday of each month until 1st October.

Be sure to book your place for the Heritage Open Days walk on Saturday 10 September:     


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Unearthing Leeds’ Urban History

Urban History

A practical introduction to researching urban history will take place at the Leeds Library on Saturday 18 June, led by Leeds Beckett University historian, Dr Shane Ewen.

The event, running from 9.15am to 4pm and starting at the Leeds Library on Commercial Street, is an opportunity for participants to learn some of the main methods and sources available to research their own urban histories. Tickets, which include lunch and refreshments, are £5 and can be booked at

“Urban history is all about researching the history of places in their wider regional, national and even international context”, explained Dr Ewen . “It is interested in the history of towns and cities, as well as the streets, public spaces, districts, neighbourhoods, buildings and the people who live and work there. Urban historians use a range of sources in their research – maps, plans, directories, newspapers, photographs, film, and the buildings and spaces around us in the contemporary city.”

The day will be made up of talks and practical workshops, using the Leeds Collection compiled by the Thoresby Society and held at the Leeds Library. The group will take part in a mapping activity, creating their own trails around the centre of Leeds based around themes such as work/industry, politics, housing and leisure.

In the afternoon, there will be a walking tour of central Leeds, taking in some of the city’s known, and lesser-known, landmarks.

The Researching Urban History day is open to everyone with an interest in doing their own urban histories of Leeds, or other towns and cities, and no prior experience is necessary.

For more information about the day, please contact

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New Book Looks at the Exclusion of British Asians from Football


A new book, ‘British Asians, Exclusion and the Football Industry’, explores the exclusion of British Asians from football and makes recommendations for achieving equality in the industry.

Published by Dr Dan Kilvington, Senior Lecturer in Media and Cultural Studies at Leeds Beckett University, the book presents his extensive research collected through interviews with players, coaches, scouts, managers, fans, and anti-racist organisations and highlights both historical and current reasons for the exclusion of British Asians from football.


“I conducted almost 100 interviews with individuals and groups from all spheres of the game over an eight year period”, said Dr Kilvington. “The book explores overt and covert racism, highlights both male and female experiences and discusses the similarities and differences between Asian heritage communities, such as Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi, from across England. It provides a critical overview of equality and inclusion initiatives and aims to increase the numbers of British Asians in the game, in all areas. I also make recommendations for reform pitched at football’s key stakeholders to help achieve greater equality and inclusion.”

The book draws on case studies, one of which centres around Bradford. “Despite Bradfordian Asians’ passion, enthusiasm and love for football, no one from the South Asian community has managed to maintain a career in the professional game”, said Dr Kilvington. “I carried out in-depth research in Bradford, consulting ex-professionals, former academy players, coaches, scouts, managers and PE teachers.

“I found that there was a lack of grass roots opportunities in areas populated by Asian heritage communities. The local and national scouting networks tend to overlook such communities and environment, for many reasons.

“My research indicates that more clubs are needed and, therefore, more coaches. With a view to changing this, Leeds Beckett University is funding a Coach Education Masterclass event at Bradford City on Wednesday 13th April which aims to create new coaches and develop the skills of existing grassroots and professional personnel, helping to create football opportunities for the next generation.”

For more information about the Masterclass event, please email

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Royal Armouries Easter Tournament

Royal Armouries

This Easter the Royal Armouries’ arena will resound to the clamour and clash of a live-action jousting tournament, as internationally renowned knights battle for the coveted Sword of Honour and the prestigious Queen’s Jubilee Trophy – spectacular entertainment for all the family.

Each day of the tournament weekend will be packed with pomp and pageantry, music and minstrels plus two not-to-be-missed dangerously entertaining tournament shows at 12 noon and 3pm.

Following on from last year’s fantastic competition there will again be a mêlée at 12 noon on Easter Monday, when all the competing knights will clash with clubs in an exciting contest. This is followed at 2.15pm by the magnificent Parade of the Knights and the Grand Final at 3pm.

Easter Bank Holiday Weekend
Friday 25 – Monday 28 March

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New Gallery Shows Off University Treasures

A rich collection of rare manuscripts and books form a special public display of treasures with the opening of a new £1.9m gallery at the University of Leeds .

The Treasures of the Brotherton Gallery, situated beneath the Parkinson tower,  takes visitors on a journey through the University’s Special Collections.


Artefacts include a 4,500-year-old Babylonian clay tablet, William Shakespeare’s 1623 first folio, a draft manuscript in the hand of a 14-year-old Felix Mendelssohn and a map and compass used by Bertie Ratcliffe, the first prisoner to escape back to Britain from Germany during the First World War.


The new gallery is exhibiting dozens of historic items for the public to enjoy and appreciate, having previously been housed deep within the Brotherton Library.

The gallery has been made possible thanks to a £1.4m grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, and a generous donation from the Brotherton-Ratcliffe family.


“If your interests are in travel, our Special Collections have some amazing maps. If cooking is your passion, we have Tudor cookery books, while for book lovers, we have examples of the very first books ever printed in England alongside exquisite contemporary bindings”, said Dr Stella Butler, University Librarian and Keeper of the Brotherton Collection. “There really is something for everyone in this exciting new gallery and we’re very proud to share these treasures with our visitors. We believe that, whatever their background and interests, they will find something to enjoy in this stunning setting.”


The new gallery also includes a temporary exhibition space that will enable the University to uncover the rich stories locked in its collections, bringing to life important anniversaries and events. The first such exhibition will mark the centenary of the introduction of conscription in Britain, exploring what happened when able-bodied men refused to fight for their country.


Leeds University Library is one of the finest in the world and the only one in the UK to have five collections awarded Designated Status – recognised as having outstanding national and international importance – by Arts Council England.

The collections began with Leeds industrialist Lord Brotherton, who funded the building of the Brotherton Library 80 years ago and bequeathed his library of rare books and manuscripts to the University. From this, successive librarians have been able to build a collections of artefacts, manuscripts and rare books of enormous cultural significance over many decades.

Dr Butler added: “We’ve had the difficult pleasure of selecting 100 or so items from more than 200,000 rare books and hundreds of thousands of manuscripts and objects. Our challenge will continue because even the ‘permanent’ display will change regularly, to make sure we conserve these precious objects, giving us the opportunity to show the depth and breadth of the collections.”

• Treasures of the Brotherton Gallery is open 10am-5pm Tuesday-Saturday and 1-5pm on Monday. Admission is free. It is closed on Sundays and University holidays (see for full details). Parkinson Building, Woodhouse Lane, University of Leeds, LS2 9JT. Telephone 0113 343 9803 or email


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Temple Newsam’s Stunning Chinese Drawing Room Re-opens


With its beautiful, hand-painted wallpaper covered with colourful, exotic birds, the Chinese Drawing Room at Temple Newsam must be one of Leeds’s most lavishly decorated rooms. But if it wasn’t for a unique piece of very expensive home improvement by a former resident, Temple Newsam’s fabulous Chinese Drawing Room might have looked very different.

Now, after several weeks of painstaking preservation work the drawing room, along with the rest of the Tudor Jacobean mansion, is ready to open to the public for the Spring and Summer.


Also known as The Blue Drawing Room, the stunning room was almost entirely decorated by Lady Isabella Hertford, who lived at Temple Newsam in the 1820s. The extravagant wallpaper was a gift from the then Prince of Wales, a close friend who had visited Lady Hertford in 1807. Twenty years later, when she came to put it on the walls, Lady Hertford decided it needed to be more lively, and pasted on birds cut out from her copy of John James Audubon’s famous book Birds of America. Today, first edition copies of Birds of America have been known to sell for up to £7.3m.


For Temple Newsam House’s new curator Rachel Conroy, working on the drawing room has proved the perfect introduction to life at the 500 year-old house.
Rachel, who has previously worked at the National Museum of Wales in Cardiff as well as Sheffield Museum, said: “It’s such an extraordinary room and it’s made all the more special because it’s largely been decorated by a former resident of the house and most of the furniture which is still on display was chosen by Lady Hertford herself.
“My previous roles have been in a more of a traditional museum environment, but Temple Newsam House is so different because it’s actually been a home where people have lived alongside their families. That opens up a whole new realm of possibilities for interpreting the house and the collection for visitors through those people and their stories.”


Temple Newsam House will return to regular opening hours (Tues to Sun, 10.30am to 5pm) on 12th February. Tickets for entry to the house are valid all day, with last admission at 4.15pm.
For more information about Temple Newsam, visit:

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New Technology Helps Piece Together Story of York’s Roman ‘Gladiators’

York Glad

Cutting edge genome technology, hailed as being the next step on from DNA analysis, has cast more light on a mystery that has perplexed archaeologists for more than a decade. The origins of a set of Roman-age decapitated bodies, found by York Archaeological Trust (YAT) at Driffield Terrace in the city, have been explored, revealing a Middle Eastern body alongside native Europeans.

Archaeologists have speculated that the skeletons belonged to gladiators, although they could also have been soldiers or criminals!* Several suffered perimortem decapitation and were all of a similar age – under 45 years old. Their skulls were buried with the body, although not positioned consistently – some were on the chest, some within the legs, and others at the feet. Although examining the skeletons revealed much about the life they lived – including childhood deprivation and injuries consistent with battle trauma – it was not until pioneering genomic analysis by a team from Trinity College Dublin, that archaeologists could start to piece together the origins of the men.

Roman Glads

From the skeletons of more than 80 individuals, Dr Gundula Muldner of the University of Reading, Dr Janet Montgomery of the University of Durham and Malin Holst and Anwen Caffel of York Osteoarchaeology selected seven for whole genome analyses. Despite variation in isotope levels which suggested some of the 80 individuals lived their early lives outside Britain, most of those sampled had genomes similar to an earlier Iron Age woman from Melton, East Yorkshire. The poor childhood health of these men suggests that they were locals who endured childhood stress, but their robust skeletons and healed trauma, suggest that they were used to wielding weapons.

The nearest modern descendants of the Roman British men sampled live not in Yorkshire, but in Wales. A man from a Christian Anglo-Saxon cemetery in the village of Norton, Teesside, has genes more closely aligned to modern East Anglia and Dutch individuals and highlights the impact of later migrations upon the genetic makeup of the earlier Roman British inhabitants.

However, one of the decapitated Romans had a very different story, of Middle Eastern origin he grew up in the region of modern day Palestine, Jordan or Syria before migrating to this region and meeting his death in York.

Glad skull

“Archaeology and osteoarchaeology can tell us a certain amount about the skeletons, but this new genomic and isotopic research can not only tell us about the body we see, but about its origins, and that is a huge step forward in understanding populations, migration patterns and how people moved around the ancient world,” says Christine McDonnell, Head of Curatorial and Archive Services for York Archaeological Trust. “This hugely exciting, pioneering work will become the new standard for understanding the origins of skeletons in the future, and as the field grows, and costs of undertaking this kind of investigation fall, we’ll may able to refine our knowledge of exactly where the bodies were born to a much smaller region. That is a remarkable advance.”

As well as YAT, the multi-disciplinary scientific analysis involved scientists from the University of York and Trinity College, Dublin, as well as the universities of Durham, Reading and Sheffield, University College London and the University Medical Centre in Utrecht. The research also included experts from York Osteoarchaeology Ltd, City of York Council and the Natural History Museum.

The Roman skeletons sampled were all male, under 45 years old and most had evidence of decapitation. They were taller than average for Roman Britain and displayed evidence of significant trauma potentially related to interpersonal violence. All but one would have had brown eyes and black or brown hair but one had distinctive blue eyes and blond hair similar to the single Anglo-Saxon individual.

The demographic profile of the York skeletons resembles the population structure in a Roman burial ground believed to be for gladiators at Ephesus. But the evidence could also fit with a military context — the Roman army had a minimum recruitment height and fallen soldiers would match the age profile of the York cemetery.

This first genomic analysis of ancient Britons was performed in Trinity College Dublin. Professor Dan Bradley of the Molecular Population Genetics Laboratory said: “Whichever the identity of the enigmatic headless Romans from York, our sample of the genomes of seven of them, when combined with isotopic evidence, indicate six to be of British origin and one to have origins in the Middle East. It confirms the cosmopolitan character of the Roman Empire even at its most northerly extent.”

Rui Martiniano who undertook the analysis said: “This is the first refined genomic evidence for far-reaching ancient mobility and also the first snapshot of British genomes in the early centuries AD, indicating continuity with an Iron Age sample before the migrations of the Anglo-Saxon period.”

Professor Matthew Collins, of the BioArCh research facility in the Department of Archaeology at York, who co-ordinated the report on the research, adds: “These genomes give the first snapshot of British genomes in the early centuries AD, showing continuity with the earlier Iron Age and evidence of migrations in the Anglo-Saxon period.”

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