HUGH Murray was one of those rarest of people, an expert who didn't mind sharing his expertise with anyone who wanted it.

The doyen of York local historians, he had an encyclopaedic knowledge, backed up by a private library of several thousand books and tens of thousands of photographs and negatives.

You could call him at any time, and ask him who was Lord Mayor in 1872, or how many times Queen Victoria visited York and when. He would excuse himself from the phone, and you would hear him in the background getting out his pair of wooden steps to reach down a volume from the top shelf of his library. A couple of minutes later he would be back with the answer you wanted. Often, he would have known it already, but would always consult his library to check just in case. Hugh was like that: he always wanted to get things right. You knew if he told you something, it was true.

His amazing library was assembled over a quarter of a century, after he retired from his job as a senior railway engineer in 1988. It included books, photographs, maps, hand-written lecture notes, material on heraldry, and much, much more.

All this material was organised in Hugh's very own idiosyncratic way. He knew exactly where to put his hand on what he wanted: not many other people would have.

He put his library to very good use: writing something like 20 books over a 25-year span - books which ranged from a history of York's horse-drawn trams to an account of the connection between the civil engineering firm S Pearson and Leeds Metropolitan University.

Hugh's death in 2013 was a huge loss. Fortunately, his wife Jill generously donated much of his library and collection to Explore York Libraries and Archives - 300 archive boxes full of priceless photographs and records, in fact.

Since 2015, archive volunteers have been painstakingly going through the collection, cataloguing what is there.

That work continues: but much of the archive is now catalogued and is available to be viewed by appointment.

Just over a week ago - on Friday June 8, almost exactly five years after Hugh died - the library paid the great York historian the further tribute of renaming its family history room on the first floor the Hugh Murray room, in recognition of his huge contribution to our understanding of York's history.

Ironically, that's not where you go to access his collection. That is so valuable it is kept in the archive's stores. But items from the collection are available on request if you visit the archive Reading Room, also on the first floor at Explore.

Archivists suggest you search the online catalogue first (visit, then type in Hugh Murray and any relevant key words to find what you are interested in) then make an appointment by emailing

The wonder of Hugh's collection is that it is so wide-ranging, says archivist Laura Yeoman. Hugh wasn't a historian who focussed on only one narrow period of York's history. He was interested in it all - and the collection reflects that. "So it doesn't just appeal to one type of person - it has very broad appeal," Laura says.

The photographs themselves are a wonderful record of a vanished York. On a quick visit to the archives, with Laura's help, The Press unearthed just a handful of the thousands of photographs in the collection, to give a snapshot of what is there. With thanks to Hugh, here they are...

1. CS Russell, Lawrence Street, York's 'largest motor cycle dealers', at Easter 1937 with 'one day's output of BSA and Norton motor cycles'

2. Mourners outside York Minster following the death of King George V in January 1936

3. Queen Street in the days of electric trams in York (we know that from the tramlines visible in the middle of the road). Blossom Street is ahead, and Micklegate Bar can be seen towards the left of the photograph

4. The electricity board (NEEB) building at Hungate, with beyond the cooling tower from the old York power station. Date unknown, but clearly taken before the cooling tower was demolished in the late 1970s

5. King's Arms Hotel, Fossgate, date uncertain

6. High Ousegate, 1913

7. William Banks & Co, merchant and provisioner, Clifford Street, c1910-1935