The records of the York Lambretta Club, the memoirs of a local suffragette - even the journal recording one of the great early discoveries of astronomy: York Archives have the lot. And each month archivists will be revealing more. STEPHEN LEWIS reports.

CITY archivists in York have hatched a cunning plan. Now the new Explore archive on top of the central library is up and running, they want people to come and use it.

In addition to official city records going back centuries – and recording events like the visit of King Henry VIII or the city’s grief at the death of King Richard III – the archive is home to a wealth of donated community collections.

These range from the records of the Boy Scouts Association and the Campaign for Real Ale to collections of donated photographs, the papers of the York Art Society and the York Musical Society and information about a host of well-known people and organisations in the city.

Now, each month, archivists plan to open up a few more of these community collections, so the people of York can come along to see them for themselves.

It was something they just couldn’t do before because there wasn’t the space, says community collections archivist Sarah Tester.

“They’re not new collections – they have been with us for a while,” she says. “But now we’ve started the new service, and we’ve got the new archive catalogue, we’re able to make them available in a way we couldn’t before.”

That means making sure the collections are included on the new digital catalogue, then reboxing or repackaging them so they can be brought out to the archive reading room upon request.

This month, three new community collections have made available. So The Press went along to have a look...


John Goodricke

Goodricke was profoundly deaf, and he died at the tragically young age of 21. But in the course of his short life, the young astronomer – who gazed at the night skies through his telescope from a room in Treasurer’s House – also helped give us an understanding of the sheer, terrifying size of the universe.

He is perhaps best known for his observations of the star Algol - a star known as the winking demon because every three days it would become dim for a few hours.

Extraordinarily, in 1782 – when still a teenager – he came up with a theory to explain this: another planet was orbiting Algol, and every three days was passing between us and the star, blocking some of its light.

York astronomer Martin Lunn has described Goodricke’s revelation as an idea that was 200 years ahead of its time – and so it was.

The young astronomer kept an astronomical journal in which he detailed his observations and ideas in spidery, sloping handwriting.

The York archives have his original journal – and you can ask to see it for yourself.

The cover is battered and worn with time, the paper on which Goodricke wrote wonderfully thick and heavy. Turning the pages you can imagine the young astronomer, perhaps still shivering with cold from his hours spent peering out of his bedroom window, dipping his quill pen into ink to note down what he saw. At times, his sheer youthful exuberance leaps from the pages. At the end of 1782, for example, he rules the year off with a series of great, looping lines, and then writes finis, 1782 on the page.

But in this journal you can follow, as if it was happening right now before your eyes, a great mind working out what the heavens are all about. On November 12 that year he wrote, in that spiky handwriting: “This night I looked at Beta Persei (Algol) and was much amazed to find its brightness altered.” Then, a few weeks later, on December 30, he added: “The singular phenomenon of Algol’s variation... I think, can’t be accounted for in any other manner than that of supposing it to have suffered an eclipse (if I may say so) by the interposition of a Planet revolving around it.”

It is enough to make prickles run down your spine. This was 1782, remember – a time when fashionable fops wore silly long wigs, and the French Revolution hadn’t yet happened. Yet here was a young teenager leaning out of a room at Treasurer’s House to watch the skies and concluding, from what he saw, that there must be another planet circling around a faraway star.

The archive also contains papers sent to the Royal Society in London by both Goodricke and his good friend and fellow York astronomer Edward Pigott. In one of them, Pigott mentions observations recorded by Goodricke, and then can’t help mourning his friend’s untimely death. “This worthy young man exists no more,” he wrote. “He is not only regretted by many friends, but will prove a loss to astronomy.” The grief is still raw today.


Millicent Price (née Browne)

Millicent Price’s grandfather was Henry Wilberforce, a gentleman farmer near York thought to be related to the anti-slavery campaigner William.

Though clearly a very well-educated, middle-class young woman, Millicent seems to have inherited much of her famous relative’s courage and radicalism. In the years before the First World War, she became a suffragette, marching all over the country to campaign for womens’ right to vote.

She related her experiences with some glee in a memoir she wrote years later in 1935 – and the York archives have the original, typewritten manuscript.

Here Millicent is, describing a Suffragette rally in Bristol at which she spoke: “Hundreds of rough youths of Bristol... surged around me. I started to make a speech, but was pelted with potatoes and tomatoes, which I caught when I could and put down the front of my pinafore dress, facetiously thanking them for contributions towards our lunches...”

She was in court in Bow Street, London, for the trial of Emmeline Pankhurst. “When Mrs Pankhurst was called, the squalor of the court served to emphasise the dignity of her manner and the clarity of her defence,” Millicent wrote. “She took occasion to elaborate her demand for justice for women, and her faith in the methods of self-sacrifice in fighting for that justice. She was sentenced to a month’s imprisonment...”

By any standards, Millicent’s was an interesting life. She went to school in Micklegate and then Priory Street Higher Grade School before training to be a teacher. By 1904, she had taken a job at the new Scarcroft School, but was clearly unhappy.

“I still loved the picturesqueness of York, its buildings and history, but I had lost the taste for its flat and often murky atmosphere,” she wrote. She gave up teaching to join the Suffragette movement - then, during the First World War, worked for the Friends’ War Victims Relief Committee, which saw her caring for refugees in Holland. The man who became her husband, Charles Price, was a conscientious objector – who also worked with refugees in Holland.

Millicent writes with great vividness and energy – as you’ll be able to see for yourself if you ask to see her typewritten memoir...


The York & District Lambretta club

There are plenty of lovers of classic Sixties scooters around today – among them members of the York Inset Scooter Club, who are quite happy to be photographed on their two-wheeled machines.

Back in the Sixties, meanwhile, there was the Out Crowd: York’s own gang of Mod rebels, complete with scooters, coats and attitude.

There was another scooter club in the city between 1956 and 1968, however: the York and District Lambretta Club.

Sadly, no-one seems to know much about them.

The club records kept in the city archives consist of little more than financial records and minutes of meetings.

There are no photographs, no personal reminisances – nothing except a Lambretta Club banner to really keep memory of the club alive.

So if you were a club member – and especially if you have some old photographs you’d be willing to share – the archives would love you to get in touch.

“I’m sure there will be people in the city who were involved with the club,” says Sarah. “We’d love to hear from you!”

If you do have memories or old photos of the club, you can email Sarah at