The Leeds General Cemetery burial records: a wealth of knowledge

As the summer draws to a close and September rolls in, our interns, Imogen and Kelsie, reflect on the findings of their project researching the Leeds General Cemetery burial registers.

Throughout July and August Kelsie and I have completed two student internships, which were a partnership between the School of History and Special Collections. The internships were funded as a result of Dr Laura King’s AHRC Leadership Fellowship, Living with Dying: Everyday Cultures of Dying within Family Life in Britain, c.1900s-1950s.

With this project we have returned to the Leeds General Cemetery Burial Registers Index, launched in November to great acclaim. Kelsie and I have produced a number of resources to help researchers use this collection. We have also investigated the research potential of the Index and asked, what can we learn from these burial registers?

In short, the answer is… a significant amount! The Index truly is a fantastic resource for genealogists, the study of medical history, death studies and other branches of social history.

Leeds General Cemetery Interns, Kelsie and Imogen
Project Interns, Kelsie and Imogen

Our internships kicked off with a week-long boot camp that trained us in statistics and the use of the software RStudio to analyse quantitative data. Kelsie and I are both Arts and Humanities students so we found this week challenging but ultimately really useful. We then applied our new techniques to the 97,121 entries in the Leeds General Cemetery (LGC) Burial Registers Index. Our report on the statistical analysis will be available shortly on the Living with Dying project blog.

Next we created a glossary of medical terms used within the burial registers. Many of the causes of death recorded in the registers have archaic terminology. For example, ‘consumption’ is the most common cause of death in adults in the LGC. Our glossary explains unfamiliar terms and gives the historical context of the registers’ main causes of death. It will be made available as website text to supplement the Index in future.

Finally, using census, birth, marriage and death records we have researched the history of ordinary families buried in the LGC. Special Collections already has some information about notable burials. We wanted to discover more about the cemetery’s role in the everyday lives of people in Leeds.

One family who used the cemetery extensively was the Frankland family. At least 25 people in the family were buried there between 1846 and 1963 in 6 different plots. To see biographical information about the Franklands and how they are all related, we’ve created a family tree.

Illustration of a Family Tree, by Imogen
Illustration of a Family Tree, by Imogen

Additionally, this timeline displays the chronological order in which these people entered the cemetery, and the different plots in which they were buried.

We have been writing up our research findings in a series of blog posts scheduled to be released in intervals in the forthcoming weeks. Do check these out to learn more about our research. We discuss the top ten causes of death in the registers, religion and class in the cemetery and the stories of families who used the cemetery. We also provide resources to assist with further research of the cemetery including our reports and Kelsie’s undergraduate dissertation on the LGC.

Do explore the rest of the Living with Dying project website. The Fellowship includes collaborations with a group of family historians, an artist and Leeds City Council in exploring experiences of dying and remembering the dead.

Kelsie and I would like to thank our project leaders Laura, Louise and Tim for all their guidance, help and support with this varied project. We would also like to give a shout out to the School of History, all the staff in Special Collections, our Systems Officer, Jonathan, the Library data repository team and all those involved with the Q Step Programme.


Teeming with stories, treasures and research opportunities

Our intern, Imogen, talks about her experience of working at Special Collections so far.

I have been working at Special Collections for two months now. My internship has been allocated a very specific amount of time, 420 hours, which already seem to be flying by.

So far I have been delighted with my experience at Special Collections. It is indisputably the best job I’ve had. All the staff I have met are friendly and supportive. The project I am working on is varied and interesting. And of course, Special Collections itself is a truly exciting place, teeming with stories, treasures and research opportunities.

My role is ‘Collection Enhancement Assistant’ and the project I am working on is called ‘Wikipedian in Residence’. One aspect of this internship involves me improving Special Collections’ representation on Wikipedia.  This is something I have begun to get to grips with. I will blog again in a few months to explain in more detail the work I am doing with Wikipedia and how it is helpful to Special Collections.

My other main responsibility is to research and write biographies about people who have created or feature in Special Collections’ archives. As an English literature student, this task really appeals to my love for stories and character. I am currently working on writing biographies for a group of people involved with the English Stage Company, an organisation based at the Royal Court Theatre. As you might expect, this is a dramatic and colourful bunch, and I have really enjoyed delving into their history. Most notably, the English Stage Company resisted, and helped to end, theatre censorship in the UK in the 1960s.  The playwright, Edward Bond, and director, William Gaskill, were particularly involved.

Louise, an archivist, and Michael, a volunteer, have given me guidance on how to research and find sources for biographies. Typically this includes checking birth, death and marriage records, alumni lists and obituaries, so it constitutes a kind of detective work. I’ve been encouraged to thoroughly evaluate the reliability of my sources. This is very important; I have already come across a surprising number of inaccuracies and inconsistencies in dates in the lives of the people I’m researching.

My favourite part of working in Special Collections is finding out about the technical aspects of Special Collections’ work. Eugenie, a conservation officer, explained to me the importance of using acid free boxes in archiving. This is to combat the naturally occurring acidity of paper and slow down its degradation. Michael is looking at the Incunabula Collection which involves deciphering hand writing more than 500 years old. When a tricky example had him stumped I had a go at interpreting the letters. These are the kind of issues that arise with very old books, which staff and researchers confront and I had never considered before.

Over the next few months I am going to help out during a trial gallery installation, make an activity for a University wide event, and even write my own Wikipedia article. There’s lots to look forward to.

New internship programme in partnership with the School of History

Charlotte Tomlinson our new intern writes about exciting new research activities are on offer through her School of History internship.

Special Collections is collaborating with the School of History on a new internship programme. This is an exciting new project underpinned by the potential for collaboration and innovation.

Charlotte Tomlinson, a postgraduate student in the School, has taken up this position.  She will be working over the next year to enhance links between the School of History and Special Collections with a focus on both undergraduate and postgraduate programmes.

The School of History offers a wide range of opportunities for collaboration.  These include modules ranging from medieval literature to decolonisation in the modern Caribbean, and engagement with primary sources from level one skills modules through to the final year dissertation. Students will benefit from both the knowledge and skills development that arise from working with our resources.  In turn greater engagement will raise the profile of Special Collections in the School of History and beyond.

Charlotte will be a point of contact between Special Collections and staff/students of the School. She will be developing activities including induction workshops and drop-in coaching sessions, mapping resources to reading lists and producing skills training materials.

For more information or to discuss possible activities relating to the internship, please contact

An Intern’s Insight

Third year student Victoria Nickerson has been the Public Art intern from June – October 2016. Tory reflects on her experience in this blog.


I started as Public Art Intern in June and I have been involved in a variety of events this summer taking me from Haworth to Halifax to highlight the Yorkshire Year of the Textile theme. This has been a thoroughly enjoyable experience from start to finish and I’ve met some wonderful artists, poets, choreographers and members of the galleries team along the way.

The commemoration of Mitzi Cunliffe’s Man-Made Fibres kicked off the Yorkshire Year of the Textile (YYOT) with a stunning dance performance by TurveyWorld, an image of this response has now become the icon for culture on campus. Knit/Lit workshops have also been a main part of the YYOT this summer and a great experience to be part of. It was exciting to see how the public engaged with the workshops, their discussion influenced fantastic literary responses, a particularly memorable one being Finger Knitting for Survival on a Desert Island Disc. It was also interesting to see how the workshop could inspire members of the public to use the technique in other ways, for example as a therapeutic activity.

Following the implementation of a new Public Art strategy in 2015 and the launching of the art trail, we’ve aspired to further engage the public with sculpture on campus. Hitting Youtube and the big screen at Laidlaw this summer, and an entertaining project to be involved with, was the Public Art film. This not only showcased the art trail, but demonstrated an innovative way to engage with sculpture such as William Chattaway’s Walking Figure through a beautiful tai chi demonstration. Following this lead the Public Art Officer, Nichola Stephenson, and I have also engaged audiences with sculpture on campus through a range of events such as #YouInTheFrame, art picnics and Public Art power walks, merging with the Go Out Get Active team.

I am delighted to have contributed to Public Art events across summer and I am excited to see how the galleries team continue to encourage exciting interactions with art on campus, in particular with our new sculptures by Barbara Hepworth, and Sue Lawty.



Learning on the job!

Diyi Tan, an MA Art Gallery and Museum Studies student, reflects on her experience of working with the Gallery as part of her course.


Diyi says: “My team and I share wonderful moments of curating our first exhibition, which is currently on display in The Stanley & Audrey Burton Gallery.

It has been five weeks since we were first introduced to the project. Our mission was to create a display in the Education Room in The Stanley & Audrey Burton Gallery. In the beginning, we received a long list of landscape paintings from the Gallery. We did research on the various artists and their artworks based on the long list. However, we found ourselves attracted to the artworks by Marie Hartley. Eventually, we came up with the idea of curating a solo exhibition based on her work.

As some of you may be familiar with the cultures and traditions of Yorkshire, you may be interested in doing further research around this area. Marie Hartley, a Yorkshire-born artist (1905-2006), devoted her life to preserving the culture heritage of Yorkshire. Through her vivid descriptions in her paintings and books, you can feel her passion for and love of the region:

“Of the rural landscape of England the Yorkshire Dales are to many ‘beloved over all’. Where else in England is to be found so large and unspoilt a tract of country with so many high grass-covered hills, so many peopled valleys, so many crystal-clear rivers?…In these thousands of acres scarcely a blemish is visible.” (Marie Hartley, ‘The Yorkshire Dales’, 1956)

Her works are not only seen as records of her personal visits, but also as the reflections of the generation’s memories of Yorkshire from the last century.

If you are as new to Yorkshire as I am, I strongly recommend that you come to our exhibition, where some of Hartley’s books and drawings have been brought together, delivering a taste of how diverse Yorkshire is. Hopefully, you will be inspired by this region and go on to create your own art as Hartley did.

It has been a great experience to be involved in this project. I hope you also find joy wandering around our displays. Our exhibition will be on until 17th December. There will be a public celebration of our exhibition from 5pm to 8 pm on 8th December. Please take a map and postcard with you and feel free to hashtag #mariesyorkshire on social media. We hope you share your experiences of Yorkshire and bring them back to our exhibition.

University of Leeds Degree Shows – ‘Kapow’ & ‘And Again’

Education intern, Dominique Triggs, tells us about her recent visit to the University of Leeds Degree Shows 2016.


I had never previously been to the degree shows before this year at the University of Leeds, but after going to see Kapow and And Again – I wish I had visited them before!

Kapow covers work from the departments: Art and Design, Textile Design, Graphic and Communication Design and Fashion Design, highlighting all the best work from final year students. I enjoyed viewing the work from all departments, however my favourite pieces were from the Art and Design students. One of my particular favourites was Kang Gao’s In a Flash, which featured a large silver box and a smaller silver box, the latter of which you could go inside. Once inside it had mirrors covering all the surfaces and when you made any kind of noise (for example, clapping) the inside of the box would light up. This was incredibly cool, as the lights would flash different colours and for differing periods of time depending on the sounds you made. I really liked how interactive this piece was, and I think Gao definitely succeeded with his aim of “creating my own immersive space that will bring the viewer a quirky experience”. Another piece I liked was Victoria Williams’ oil paintings of Leeds. As I am about to graduate I feel a certain sadness at leaving the city, so seeing Leeds’ skyline in these paintings struck a chord with me. Harriet Lasman’s piece, with numerous small drawings reflecting anxiety disorder, were particularly moving. She used cling film to create differing shapes and then drew these onto pieces of card, which when assembled created an interesting effect. I liked how the artist’s interpretation of their work was next to each piece, as it allowed me to gain a better grasp of the intention of the piece and influence my own interpretation of the work.

I went to view the And Again exhibition, which features the work of Fine Art students, on its opening and there was a great atmosphere. In one room there were videos on loop, one of which featured India Pearce’s work on “multi-channel colour separation”. It is difficult to explain the piece in words, but it was great visually. Another interesting piece was made by Lottie Tulley, whose reasoning behind her piece reflected why I applied to become an Education Intern in the first place and contribute to the Footsteps into Art project. Tulley critiques the education system which she argues does not allow enough space for interactive learning, with the emphasis on “numerical target-based agenda”. Her work reflects the possibilities of more freedom and experimentation in art.

The degree shows highlight the incredible talent of students at the University of Leeds, and I would recommend anyone to go and see it for themselves.

Both degree shows are on until 24th June 2016. Four graduate artists will be selected to exhibit their work in the upcoming FUAM Graduate Prize Show at The Stanley & Audrey Burton Gallery. 

Insight from an Intern

Footsteps into Art Intern Dominique Triggs offers some insight into her experience on the project so far.


Since starting my internship last October I have already learnt so much and gained experience in different areas.
Workshop-wise I have gradually gained more responsibility in the planning, preparation and delivery of workshops. The project started with draw workshops, and my role in these was to assist Claire and Jennyanne, as well as observing and evaluating the sessions.This allowed me to see a workshop in action, and take notes on what i could bring to a workshop later on in the project. The next set of workshops focused on printing (specifically mono-printing and block-printing). Claire planned the block-printing part of the session, but I was to deliver it. This was a great opportunity to use what I had learnt from my observation of the drawing workshops and put it into practice.

Building on from this I was then asked to plan my own sculpture based workshop. Delivering a workshop that I had planned and prepared for was incredibly rewarding, especially when I received positive feedback from the children and their teachers in our post-workshop evaluations. I was quite nervous about the possibility of delivering to start with, but Claire’s system of increasing my responsibility with each set of workshops really worked for me, and meant by the time the sculpture workshop came around I was a lot more confident.
Working in the gallery has also allowed me to further discover what is involved in working in the heritage sector. Seeing what different job roles involved and talking to other members of staff about their work has been really enlightening. Also just being around the gallery so regularly has allowed me to see what is involved in exhibiting temporary exhibitions, and since starting I have seen ‘Maurice de Sausmarez 1915-1969’ and Michael Lyons ‘Freeze Frame’, I have also been lucky enough to see the opening of the new Treasures Gallery whilst working here, and it was great to see all members of staff hard work pay off at the successful exhibition opening.
My internship ends in July, but with plans for in-school workshops and an exhibition of all the children’s work, I know I still have a lot to learn before then!