Archive and Special Collections
A gateway to our University's past


The Archive and Special Collections of Leeds Beckett University are currently held at the University’s Library, situated on our Headingley Campus. We collect, describe and preserve material for future generations while seeking to promote knowledge of, and access to this rich heritage for educational, professional and research purposes.

What can you find?

In this guide you can:

  • find out about our collections 
  • arrange a visit,
  • access our Online Archive
  • learn about the history of our University 

A Variety of Fancies

A variety of fancies demonstrating bakery skills, from 'The Book of Cakes' published in 1903. This lavish book contains recipes for cakes large and small, gateaux, confectionery, fancies and biscuits. Its tastes are grounded in late Victorian love of ornament and detail and an apparently inexhaustible supply of sugar, a dietician’s nightmare.

The book is part of the developing Yorkshire College of Housecraft Collection. Amongst the Collection is a small selection of recipe books and manuals, once part of the college library. Many knew this college by the affectionate moniker, the ‘Pud School’. By 1970 the college’s formal name had evolved into the Yorkshire College of Education and Home Economics, quite a mouthful. That year the college formed part of the newly created Leeds Polytechnic and became the Department of Education in Home Economics within the Faculty of Education.

History and Heritage

The Archive and Special Collections has helped research the University’s History and Heritage web pages making them a much richer feature. It now includes images from the archive and text written by Keith Rowntree covering 1752 to 1992.

The Riddle of a Sphinx

Kathleen Dickenson astride the Sphinx, 1947

The Sphinx, seen here with student Kathleen Dickenson in 1947, was one of many statues that surrounded The Grange. Most date from the time Kirkstall Grange was the private residence of the Beckett family. 
Photographs of The Grange show the Sphinx in place throughout the 20th century, although around the 1920s it faced the other way. Anecdotal evidence suggests it may have found its way into Landscape Resource Centre, some ornamental urns that once stood near The Grange are to be found there.There is a tantalising glimpse of a sphinx-like statue depicted in an amateur painting of Kirkstall Grange dating from the 1830s.


Did you know...?

Part of Beckett Park shortly after the College was built, c.1912

One of the more persistent stories associated with Headingley Campus relates to the trees on the Acre being arranged to record troop positions at the Battle of Waterloo. Like Chinese whispers, the rumour has been told and retold, sometimes distorted to incorporate the Battle of Trafalgar! The story appears in Joseph Sprittles’ 1961 essay about New Grange published by the Thoresby Society. He speculated that John Marshall who was tenant after the Battle was responsible for instructing that: ‘trees should be planted to represent the position of troops’. Sprittles made no mention where the trees were planted. The assumption has always been that they were on the Acre but Sprittles interpretation left open the possibility that the trees had been arranged over the wider parkland. 
The Wade family who owned the land had not lived in the New Grange mansion since 1798 and showed little interest in its subsequent development. The Wades did have strong Army and Navy connections but on the whole, it seems unlikely that they were predisposed to undertake such a patriotic arboreal project. 
A chance conversation with, local historian and former student of the City of Leeds Training College, David Thornton has offered up an alternative origin to the story. He recounted that during the late 1950s a member of the Beckett family had given a lecture to staff and students. The lecture was about this gentleman's time as a child living at what was then known as Kirkstall Grange. He recounted that there had once been a half-acre flower bed designed to represent the troop arrangement at the Battle of Waterloo.
Before demolition of the gardens and immediate grounds of Kirkstall Grange, to make way for the permanent home of the City of Leeds Training College, there had been an enclosed roughly rectangular garden on the site of the present Acre. Throughout the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, it had been used variously as formal, ornamental and kitchen gardens, at other times containing an orchard and fruit garden. Could this Beckett gentleman's account be the origin of the fabled Waterloo story passed down by staff and students at the College?

Our current exhibition

The WW1 exhibition at the Headingley Campus Library on the first floor

To commemorate 100 years since the Great War the University’s Archive and Special Collections are exhibiting photographs and objects from its collections. The displays are on the ground floor and the exhibition continues on the first floor of the Library at our Headingley Campus.

In 1914 the purpose built college buildings of Leeds Training College were converted into a military hospital, designated the 2nd Northern General Hospital. It was one of many Territorial Force Hospitals spread across the country created in anticipation of the causalities. From its inception until the last wards closed in 1927 there were conservative estimates that Beckett Park Hospital admitted 57,200 cases, performed 11,694 surgical procedures and witnessed 226 men die within its walls. The most visible monuments of that war are the original college buildings, outwardly little changed during the last 100 years, including the James Graham Building which houses the City of Leeds Training College war memorial.

The exhibits are selected to highlight their relationship to this very particular space; a place charged with history from 100 years ago. 


Have you forgotten yet?... Look up, and swear by the green of spring that you’ll never forget.

Aftermath by Siegfried Sassoon, 1919

Many of the photographs in this exhibition form a visual record of just some of the people who worked at or became patients of the 2nd Northern General Hospital from 1916 to 1919, although the hospital itself remained on site in one form or another until 1927.

In 1914 the Leeds Training College at Beckett Park, which had officially opened only a year before, was converted into a military hospital.  The photographs record forgotten faces and even those with names are difficult to trace. Despite this, the photographs stand witness to those people who once walked these very corridors.

Beckett Park was designated the 2nd Northern General Hospital, part of a chain of Territorial and Reserve Forces hospitals spread across the country created in anticipation of the casualties of war. Those casualties came, the first arrived in September 1914. Conservative estimates record that Beckett Park Hospital admitted 57,200 cases, performed 11,694 surgical procedures and witnessed 226 men die, however the numbers may have been considerably higher.

The majority of these photographs are selected from a remarkable survivor of those times in the form of a scrapbook created by Sergeant George Sprittles, a medical orderly based at Beckett Park Hospital. Sprittles was born at Wakefield in 1894, the son of Charles Sprittles, a coach smith and native of Northampton and his wife, Jane North. George’s older brother Joseph would later write a history of New Grange, the original name for the estate that became Beckett Park, published in 1969 by the Thoresby Society. Coincidence and happenstance spun around the Sprittles family and Beckett Park. There exists a remarkable continuity between the Sprittles Scrapbook and this place. Sprittles passed on the book to his niece Joyce Pogson, who was a Lecturer in History at the City of Leeds Training College; on her retirement, she gave it to her colleague Iain Poole and on his retirement, he donated it to the Archive and Special Collections. In this way, the scrapbook has stayed within the ambit of these buildings, enriching our experience of them.

Attitudes shift, emphasis moves, priorities transform, significance and value pull and slacken at the weft and warp of our collective and individual perspectives. How do we remember?

The photographs have been arranged with an emphasis on their authorship by Sprittles and their relationship to this space. The building which today houses the Library, James Graham, was once known as the Education Block; it acted not only as the Administrative Centre for the 2nd Northern General Hospital, but included wards, operating theatres and workshops during the First World War.

In his book Never Such Innocence, Martin Stephen wrote: We see the Great War as we feel a need to see it. Time and distance inevitably change our perception of events. Attitudes shift, emphasis moves, priorities transform, significance and value pull and slacken at the weft and warp of our collective and individual perspectives. How do we remember?  How do we reflect on the convergence of history with our own lives? The buildings we inhabit become comfortable to our own thoughts and experiences. Habitually they become the stage setting to our personal theatre of memories. We, perhaps, no longer look or listen with any empathy at our surroundings. In moments of stillness and focus perhaps we can discern the dramas, the play of other lives that inhabited these same walls; a student, a tutor, a soldier, a patient, a politician, a builder, an architect. Hopefully these images can help us focus on a group of ordinary people caught up in extraordinary times, those who once inhabited this very space we walk in now.

Keith Rowntree

Dawn was theirs, And the sunset, and the colours of the earth.

IV: The Dead by Rupert Brooke, 1914.

Sister Batty

Not a great deal is known for certain about Sister Batty although judging from her uniform she was a qualified Territorial Force Nursing Service Nursing Sister. Research suggests that Batty may be Edith Batty, a Sister in the Territorial Army Nursing Service (the name changed in 1920) who married in Leeds, Walter Challis Bousfield who was originally from Middlesex. She was born 1889 in Leeds, her parents were James Batty, a Fire Insurance Clerk, and his wife Emily. In 1923 Batty’s parents lived at 22 Brudenell Road, Hyde Park, Leeds.

This ward appears to be for soldiers with eye injuries which would have come under the auspices of the Face and Jaw injuries department. Beckett Park Hospital developed into a centre for face and jaw reconstruction or maxillofacial surgery and would have employed ophthalmic surgeons such as Arthur Longley Whitehead. Whitehead was born 1868 in Leeds, his father Alfred was a cloth manufacturer. He was educated at the Leeds Grammar School, at the Yorkshire College, and at the Leeds School of Medicine and acted as House Surgeon to Sir Arthur Mayo Robson at Leeds General Infirmary.  He died in 1930.

Photograph source: George Sprittles Scrapbook, POL/5/1, Archive and Special Collections, Leeds Metropolitan University



This photograph was taken in June 1917, the location is not specified but may be on the main drive from Otley Road up through Beckett Park. At that time the Beckett Park housing estate had not been built.

Motorised ambulances increasingly took over from the horse drawn variety, speed being an obvious advantage. At first cars were donated by the gentry and well off, sometimes sending their chauffeur or driver, these vehicles were fitted ad hoc with ambulance bodies. Later the Red Cross laid down some specifications which resulted in more efficient standards for maintenance and repair. 

The first convoy of wounded, most caught up in the fighting at Mons, arrived at Leeds Midland Station on 17 September 1914. A Civic Welcome was organised by the then Lord Mayor of Leeds, Sir Edward Brotherton. Well wishers lined City Square and the streets of Leeds, throwing tobacco and cigarettes to the wounded men. In time a fleet of 25 ambulances, established by public contributions, were assigned to ferry the wounded to and from Beckett Park and other hospitals in the district.

Photograph source: George Sprittles Scrapbook, POL/5/1, Archive and Special Collections, Leeds Beckett University

Jaw Ward


Captain William Maxwell Munby sits on the left near the central table and Captain Arthur Alan Forty on the right. Both were pioneers in the treatment of facial injuries of which there were many during the First World War. Munby’s speciality was in face reconstruction or maxillofacial surgery, Forty was a dental surgeon. In the background several patients can be seen with bandaged faces. Together with colleague Captain Alan Douglas Edward Shefford, also a dental surgeon, they published an account of their findings and progress in “The British Journal of Surgery”,( v.6, 1918).


On the table in the foreground is a desk calendar from which can be discerned that this photograph was taken on Saturday 24 June 1916, the opening day of the artillery bombardment for the Battle of the Somme.

Photograph source: George Sprittles Scrapbook, POL/5/1, Archive and Special Collections, Leeds Metropolitan University

Convalescent Blues


Soldiers recovering in hospital were required to wear a special uniform. This was a blue flannelette jacket with white lining, open at the neck and with a red tie. The soldier would wear his own service cap with his regimental insignia, as illustrated by four of the soldiers in this photograph. The uniform featured in popular song including the 1915 song “Good-bye-ee” composed by R. P. Weston and Bert Lee; “At the hospital at Kew, The convalescents, dressed in blue...” There are numerous variations to the lines but they show how the uniform was rooted in public consciousness. Various names were attached to the uniform including convalescent blues, hospital blues, hospital suit and invalid uniform, it was used well into the 1960s by military hospitals.

In September 1919 the first issue of “The Blue Band: magazine of the 2nd Northern General Hospital” was published; its name inspired by the ubiquitous blue uniform. The magazine described itself on the front cover as, “ A compendium of wit and wisdom of humour and pathos with some pithy comments on the sayings, doings and beings of today.”

Photograph source: George Sprittles Scrapbook, POL/5/1, Archive and Special Collections, Leeds Metropolitan University

Their ghosts, if tears have ghosts, did fall - that day...

Tears by Edward Thomas, 1915.

On the Roof


One treatment thought to be effective especially for those soldiers with suppurating wounds, such as burns, was fresh air. Fresh air was considered particularly effective at dissipating any lingering general infections. The idea of sunshine being an aid to recovery was also prevalent, although the role of Vitamin D had not been established at that time. This was the same sentiment that made spas popular and for the wealthy convalescing in resorts in Switzerland where the pure air was thought to speed up recovery.


This photograph is one of several cut out of an unidentified magazine and pasted by Sprittles into his scrapbook. It is difficult to pinpoint where exactly this ward was situated but it is evidently on the roof of James Graham and probably shows what is now the southern end of the east corridor on the second floor. During the 1960s extensions were built on the east and west ends of the building.

Photograph source: George Sprittles Scrapbook, POL/5/1, Archive and Special Collections, Leeds Metropolitan University 

The King and Queen visit Beckett Park

Royalty were frequent visitors to the Hospital.  This photograph taken on 31st May 1918 shows the Royal Party on the still recognisable steps leading into James Graham, directly behind them is the ornate front entrance. A pensive looking Queen Mary is surrounded by a sea of military uniforms. The King stands in front of her waiting for the medal ceremony to begin while officers arrange the medals on the Union Flag clad table, medals can just be made out on the table. Between 5000 and 6000 guests thronged the Acre in front of the building, including hundreds of men in hospital blues and nurses in uniform. Among the many awards and medals bestowed were three Victoria Crosses, one to Sergeant Harold Whitfield and two posthumously that were presented to the widows of Lieutenant-Colonel William Herbert Anderson and Private Walter Mills.

The King had made a discreet and low key visit to the Hospital earlier on the 27 September 1915 which was his first official visit to Leeds as monarch. Other royal visitors included The Duke of Connaught, Queen Victoria’s third son who visited twice in May 1917 and June 1918, the former King Manuel of Portugal and the Grand Duchess George of Russia.

Photograph source: George Sprittles Scrapbook, POL/5/1, Archive and Special Collections, Leeds Metropolitan University

Visit of the American Ambassador


Sprittles notes under this photograph “Visit of the American Ambassador (Dr. Page) Oct 1917”. At this time the Battle of Passchendaele was at its most intense, a battle that would come to epitomise the mud and slaughter of the First World War. Dr Page, who is standing in the centre wearing a top hat, was Walter Hines Page, appointed U.S. Ambassador to Great Britain in 1913 by President Woodrow Wilson. Page was an anglophile and his championing of Britain played a crucial role in the United States eventually entering the war. He visited Beckett Park Hospital to open new extensions which included a new operating theatre, wards and workshops which saw a change of emphasis from a general  to an orthopaedic hospital. Its purpose was to repair the injuries of men who might otherwise have been left disabled and crippled for life. Orthopaedic surgery, massage, electrical and mechanical treatments were followed up by so called ‘curative workshops’ where men could learn new skills such as tailoring, carpentry, boot and shoe making.  

The Lord Mayor of Leeds standing next to Page is Edmund George Arnold coming to the end of his Mayoralty. He was later Managing Director of the educational printing and publishing firm E. J. Arnold.

The building in the background is recognisably the front entrance to James Graham, at this time only about five years old, but already the sandstone facing shows signs of the relentless Leeds grime. It is remarkable that a century on the building has changed very little, if at all. 

Photograph source: George Sprittles Scrapbook, POL/5/1, Archive and Special Collections, Leeds Metropolitan University

The Cheero' Boys

Entertainment was an important function and Beckett Park Hospital had a variety of ways in which it entertained those stationed and invalided there, including billiards, cinema and concerts. The hospital had its own concert party, the Cheero’ Boys although on at least one photograph they are called the Cheerio’ Boys. Richard Wilcocks writes that, “A wardrobe of pierrot costumes seems to have been standard issue in hospitals for the wounded, judging from the photographs and references from all over the country”. This photograph was taken when they were disbanded in 1918 when some members were shipped out to the Middle East via a camp at Blackpool. Leeds West M.P Edmund Harvey raised the question as to whether it was desirable for trained specialists such as to be transferred to the Infantry, the War Office maintained that they were making the best use of available man-power to prosecute the War. Other photographs in the scrapbook show George Fryer, H. Brown and A. Rostron, original members of the Cheero’ Boys, in Palestine and Egypt in 1918. 

A Chapel and Recreation Hall were built on the site now occupied by the Design and Technology Block to the west of James Graham. The Grand Duchess George of Russia opened the large YMCA recreation hall, known as the ‘YM’ in 1915, it was equipped with cinema apparatus and many films were shown sometimes even before they were on general release in nearby Leeds. Other recreations included concerts, no doubt featuring the Cheero’ Boys, lectures and billiards. 

Entertaining the men and women of the hospital extended to a magazine called “The Blue Band, Magazine of the 2nd Northern General Hospital”. In September 1919 Captain H.S. Carter in his first editorial commented on the similarity of the hospital to that of a small township and that what was needed was an “organ to chronicle our doings, the humour, pathos  and endless variety that constitute the life of a great hospital.”

Photograph source: George Sprittles Scrapbook, POL/5/1, Archive and Special Collections, Leeds Metropolitan University


The Library at City and Headingley

Headingley Library in 2006

The Great Hall

Leeds Polytechnic Central Library in 1988

Reference Area, 4th Level

Leeds Polytechnic Central Library in 1988

How to find a book.

Beckett Park Library in 1968

The Book Room

Online Archive

The Online Archive is a catalogue of our holdings. We use AtoM (Access to Memory) archival description software to make this catalogue available. This Online Archive is a developing resource and it will take time for all our holdings to be described. To view our progress please check our Online Archive. If you would like further information please view our Archive Gateway web pages or contact 

Architecture Books Relocated

The Archive and Special Collections is settling into its new home at our Headingley Campus.

For 17 years architectural books were stored on the ground floor of Shelia Silver Library, they have now been transported to Headingley. They have been lightly cleaned and are now shelved in their new permanent home in JGG20, the new Archive Room.

Please check back for information on our progress or contact Keith Rowntree or use our Archive email address, Every effort will be made to help with your query.



The Discobolus of Myron was the image chosen to be the logo of Carnegie College of Physical Training in the 1930s. This image is a lapel badge from a Carnegie blazer belonging to Ambrose Congdon a student in 1936/7.

Rare Books

We have a small but significant number of rare books in our collections covering topics such as architecture, art and design, literature and history. Some can trace their history back to the Library of the Leeds Mechanics Institute.