The Society’s Archives

The Society’s Archives

One of the important objectives of the Society from its foundation in 1889 has been to collect and preserve records relating to the history of Leeds and its surrounding areas. Over more than a century, the Society has built up a number of special collections, notably its archive, map and image collections, which have recently been re-catalogued to make them more accessible. These collections are housed in the Society’s library, based at the Leeds Library, 18 Commercial Street, Leeds LS1 6AL. They are listed below, with information on the catalogues now available for consultation and search online.

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Archives (the MSS collection): an extensive and very varied collection of donated/purchased items (medieval onwards) comprising original documents, property deeds, parish records, correspondence, diaries and memoirs, research notes, etc; with a special collection of original records relating to Ralph Thoresby, including letters, personal papers, books and MSS from his library and his annotated copy of the Ducatus Leodiensis.
This large collection has now been fully listed so that it can be searched online for particular names, places and events. Please note that the collection is not ordered by topic or date so the whole catalogue needs to be searched for any specific enquiry. If you wish to explore the catalogue, click here

Maps and Plans:  over 600 maps and plans of Leeds and surroundings, from the 16th century onwards, some photocopies but mainly original sheets, including some unique/rare private estate plans. The catalogue is in date order and contains brief details of the area covered, any personal names, and the name of the surveyor. To explore this catalogue, click here

Sale Particulars: some 300 printed sale particulars, from 1809 onwards, many with location/interior plans and some with photographs; also some catalogues of house contents sales. This catalogue is in date order and lists property details and owners’ names etc. To explore this catalogue click here

Abstracts of Title: c 100 abstracts of title for Leeds properties 1806-1876. These are not listed in date order, but include people’s names and property locations. To explore this catalogue click here

Images: some 4500 images of Leeds and surrounding areas: photographs, prints, engravings, watercolours, sketch-books, postcards, transparencies, and a collection of glass lantern slides and original glass plates (Alf Mattison collection and others). An index to the major part of the image collection has now been prepared and is available online: click here. It should be noted that work is still in progress to complete this index and further queries, eg on the glass plates, should be addressed to the librarian.

Ephemera: some 500 + Leeds-related items, including tickets, invitations, programmes, advertisements, political flyers and posters, voting papers, orders of service, etc. , with additional collections of music and theatre programmes and posters. To explore this catalogue click here

Visits to view any of the contents of the special collections can be arranged through the librarian on: Please give all relevant details and catalogue reference numbers to identify what you want to see, and give as much advance notice as possible, preferably at least a week.