Tag Archive | "Treasures of the Brotherton Library"

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: opening-reception-caught-in-the-russian-revolution.eventbrite.co.uk
  • 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 library.leeds.ac.uk/treasures-events.

Photography by Ken Kajoranta


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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 library.leeds.ac.uk/treasures for full details). Parkinson Building, Woodhouse Lane, University of Leeds, LS2 9JT. Telephone 0113 343 9803 or email gallery@leeds.ac.uk.


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