A rare access all areas open day at Leeds Archives last Friday saw unprecedented numbers of people arrive to discover more about their own family histories as well as the history of their district.

Hundreds of people were treated to behind the scenes tours of the newly re-located Leeds Archives, which moved from Sheepscar to Morley  in November, when staff invited the people of Leeds and beyond to come and explore their history by an access all areas tour of the purpose built archive storage facilities. 

The archives are open to the public and are free for anyone to visit during normal opening hours (Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays).  What made this Open Day special was that the secure strongroom areas, housing over 25,000 boxes of archival material, and hundreds of thousands of unique documents, were opened up for the public for the first time to see how archives are stored securely, feel the cool storage temperatures, and witness the cataloguing work. 

On display were treasures from the archives including the Service’s oldest document, a grant of land in Ripley from the 12th century, plus plans of both Leeds and Morley Town Halls, cloth samples from the world-famous Leeds Hainsworth textile manufacturers, and late 19th century school punishment books for Morley Peel Street Junior School.

Special guest, Ed Balls MP made a personal visit and commented on the ‘fabulous old plans of Morley town hall’. 

The Leeds office is one part of West Yorkshire Archive Service (WYAS).  Staff are very keen to increase public access to the wealth of material that is available for anyone to use, free of charge.

Graham Hebblethwaite,  Chief Officer of West Yorkshire Joint Services, which oversees the work of the Archive Service, said “We were very pleased to offer something a little bit different for the public by taking them on tours of the archive storage areas, and highlight the behind the scenes work that goes on, often unnoticed, in order to ensure the permanent preservation and access of the local archives.” 

“We all play a part in creating archives.  Whether it is a baptism in a parish register, an adoption record, the history of a house, there is something for everyone, whatever your interest. WYAS preserves the historic archives for West Yorkshire from the 12th century right up to digital archives being created today and they are freely available for all to access.”

Morley & Outwood MP, Ed Balls, said “The West Yorkshire Archives now has its home right here in Morley. As well as historical records going back hundreds of years, it was great to see some of the first drawings of Morley Town Hall, complete with the plans for the beautiful clock tower. 

“Things have moved on a long way from the days of dusty books on library shelves. Our new archive is very high tech and pristine. The new shelving that has been installed is extremely impressive and will protect our local history and heritage for generations to come. It’s well worth a visit.”

You will find the archives located at  West Yorkshire Archive Service: Leeds, Nepshaw Lane South , Morley, Leeds, LS27 7JQ.

0113 393 9788

Opening hours Monday, Tuesday Thursday 9.30am – 5.00pm. Booking an appointment is advisable.