The Catholic Church across Yorkshire's historic West Riding since 1878

The Catholic Church across Yorkshire's historic West Riding since 1878

Our Collections

The archives of the Diocese of Leeds include some of the most important collections of documents relating to the history of the Catholic Church in the North of England since the late eighteenth century.

These collections comprise:

  • The papers of the Vicars Apostolic of the Northern District (prior to 1840)
  • The papers of the Vicars Apostolic of the Yorkshire District (1840-50)
  • The records of the Diocese of Beverley (1850-78)
  • The records of the Diocese of Leeds (from 1878 to the present day).

Bishops’ Papers

All the following Vicars Apostolic collections have been calendared and indexed:

  • Bishop Matthew Gibson (1780-90)
  • Bishop William Gibson (1780-1821)
  • Bishop Thomas Smith (1808-31)
  • Bishop Thomas Penswick (1824-36)
  • Bishop John Briggs (1805-60)

The papers of the Bishops of Beverley have also been calendared and indexed:

  • Bishop John Briggs (1805-60)
  • Bishop Robert Cornthwaite (1837-90)

There are calendars and indexes to the papers of the first two Bishops of Leeds:

  • Bishop Robert Cornthwaite (1837-90)
  • Bishop William Gordon (1887-1911)
  • The papers of  Bishop Joseph Robert Cowgill, Bishop of Leeds from 1911-36, and those of his successors,  Henry John Poskitt (1936-50) and  John Carmel Heenan (1951-57) have been listed but have yet to be indexed.
  • The papers of Bishop George Patrick Dwyer (1957-65), Bishop William Gordon Wheeler (1966-85) and Bishop David Konstant (1985-2004) await listing at the present time.

Other Significant Holdings

The Acta of the Dioceses of Beverley and Leeds – 1878 to date
The Leeds Diocesan Directory, 1928 to date (annual)
The Leeds Diocesan Catholic Voice, 1980-1994 (monthly)
The Leeds Diocesan Catholic Post, 1994-2013 (monthly)
The Catholic Directory for England and Wales – 1806 to date

Collections of records from:

The Leeds Seminary – 1878-1939
St Bede’s Grammar School, Bradford 1900 onwards
St Michael’s College, Leeds – 1905 to 2008
The Good Shepherd Industrial School at Shibden, near Halifax, 1877-1932

The Diocesan Education Reports, Easter Returns and Parish Register Returns from 1875 onwards provide a rich source of data on the population history of the diocese and individual parishes.

People and Places

Information about the clergy of the Diocese can be extracted from a number of primary and secondary sources available in the archives, which give details of the priests’ education, ordinations and subsequent careers in the diocese.

The Archives also contain documentary and photographic records that provide evidence of the history of the churches in the Diocese. There are a large number of plans and drawings relating to churches, the biggest single collection comprising over 500 items dating from the design and construction of Leeds Cathedral between 1900 and 1904.

A range of sources are available that trace the development of individual parishes in the Diocese. Some of the earliest records are the 19th century Visitation Papers of the Bishops of the Diocese and in many cases these are supplemented by financial and legal records, notice books and printed material such as parish magazines and souvenir brochures.

The records of several diocesan schools have been deposited in recent years. In some cases these are schools that are still in existence but in the main the records were deposited as a result of school reorganisations and closures. Some of these records date back to the middle of the 19th century, and include log-books and admission registers.


A small reference library has been created within the Archives and this contains general works on Catholic history, the history of Yorkshire and published works on aspects of Diocesan history. The library also has collections of the following:

  1. Theses and Dissertations

    A number of theses and dissertations, written in part as the result of research carried out in the Diocesan Archives, have also been deposited over the years. Examples include the following:

    J-D. Laux, Leeds Catholics: A Community at War 1939-45 (MA Leeds 2012)

    D.M. Chappell, Catholic Churches in the Diocese of Leeds 1793-1916 (PhD Sheffield 1972)

    J.F. Supple, Catholicism in Yorkshire 1850-1900 (PhD Leeds 1982)

    P.E. Freeman, Mount St Mary’s – A Parish of Irish Victorians (MA Leeds 1993)

    M.J.A. Wheatley, A Group Apart – A Study of the Irish in Post War Leeds (MA Liverpool 1996)

    J.H.Treble, The Place of the Irish Catholics in the Social Life of the North of England 1829-51 (PhD Leeds 1968)

  2. Leeds Diocesan Archives Publications

    There are also copies of some key publications on diocesan history which are now out of print, notably:

    , edited by Mgr George Bradley (1985)

    , edited by Robert E. Finnigan & George T. Bradley (1994)

     by James Hagerty (1997)

From our Archives and Heritage

Planning the new Cathedral

Planning the new Cathedral

The plan shows the location of the first Cathedral Church of St Anne (built in 1838) which stood at the junction of Cookridge Street and Guildford Street (now The Headrow) and the site of its replacement, outlined in red.

Laying the foundation stone

Laying the foundation stone

The Foundation Stone of the new Cathedral was laid on the Feast of Ss Joachim & Anne, 26 July 1902. It now forms part of the War Memorial Chapel on the north side of the Cathedral.

A new Cathedral completed

A new Cathedral completed

An early postcard view of the new Leeds Cathedral, which was officially opened on 16 June 1904. The Consecration took place on 18 July 1924. The interior of the Cathedral was re-ordered in 1963 (during the Second Vatican Council) and most recently in 2006.