‘Landmark’ West Yorkshire History Centre to open after move

The West Yorkshire History Centre, Kirkgate, Wakefield.
The West Yorkshire History Centre, Kirkgate, Wakefield.

A centre boasting an unparalleled historical record of the West Riding of Yorkshire will open next month with a free community event.

The West Yorkshire History Centre on Kirkgate, Wakefield, will open its doors between 10.30am–4pm on Saturday, February 11.

Ten thousand boxes of archive material were hauled from its old home on Newstead Road.

And the drop-in event will be an opportunity to explore the new centre for the first time, find out what the West Yorkshire Archive Service is and discover how its collections were moved across the city.

Following the community open day the West Yorkshire History Centre will officially open on Monday, February 13.

Coun Peter Box CBE, leader of Wakefield Council, said: “I am delighted that the new West Yorkshire History Centre is now ready to open its doors to the public.

“The landmark building is an important part of the regeneration of this area and Wakefield is very proud to be home to such extensive regional archives, which will preserve and showcase the history of West Yorkshire.”

Throughout Saturday, February 11, there will be free family crafts in the Learning Zone, guided tours of the building and a chance to explore original historic documents in the new exhibition, ‘A Family at War’.

This follows the life story of a fictional family living in Wakefield during the First World War and is based on historical documents looked after by the West Yorkshire Archive Service.

The archival collections held at the Kirkgate site are “an unparalleled record of the history of the West Riding of Yorkshire and its communities from 1194 to the present day,” according to Wakefield Council.

As the third largest local authority archive in Great Britain, the West Yorkshire Archive Service in Wakefield exists to make its history accessible to the public and to look after the region’s heritage for future generations. It comprises more than 10 million documents.

Available at the centre is the collection of the late Wakefield historian John Goodchild, who died this month.

His collection is an unrivalled source of information containing manuscripts, books, maps, illustrations, indexes and research files covering a vast range of subjects and stories associated with local individuals and organisations.

Many collections at the centre have national significance, among them the unique records of the pioneering Stanley Royd Mental Health Hospital, recently awarded international status as part of the UNESCO UK Memory of the World Register.

Other major collections that will be cared for there are the West Riding Registry of Deeds, which is made up of 12,763 volumes containing seven million extracts of property transactions from 1704 to 1970, as well as the massive National Coal Board collection of over 2,000 boxes relating to collieries and coal miners in Wakefield and the south Leeds area.

The centre is located at 127 Kirkgate, Wakefield, WF1 1JG.