University treasures to go on display with help of Lottery grant


A treasure trove of rare manuscripts and books held at the University of Leeds can go on show to the public thanks to a round of Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) grants announced today.

The University boasts one of the finest collections of rare books and manuscripts in the world in its Special Collections, housed in the Brotherton Library.

The breadth of the subjects is exceptional, from exquisite photographs of pre-revolutionary Russia to books dating from the beginning of printing, as well as the archives of some of the 20th century’s most influential poets and writers, and much more.

Now a grant of £1,385,800 has provided the final piece of the jigsaw for a £1.9 million project for a gallery where some of them can go on display – Treasures from the Brotherton: Inspiring Audiences and Engaging Communities.

This project will open the collections to audiences in Yorkshire and beyond by creating a gallery where permanent and temporary displays can be supported by a diverse programme of workshops, talks, discussions and activities to bring the archives alive for a variety of audiences.

Vice-Chancellor Sir Alan Langlands said: “We are incredibly proud of our Library with its Special Collections of international importance which have been built up over the past century.

“I am delighted that this grant will allow us to bring these ‘treasures’ to a much wider audience. We look forward to working with our partners in Leeds and in West Yorkshire to ensure that we make the most of this investment which is of real national and international significance. Of course, we greatly appreciate the support of the Heritage Lottery Fund.”

The University also received a generous private donation from the Brotherton-Ratcliffe family towards the project.

Work is expected to start on the new galleries, to be housed in the iconic Parkinson Building in Woodhouse Lane, next spring, with a provisional opening date of February 2016.

Leeds is the only library to have five of its Special Collections awarded Designated Status – recognised as collections of outstanding international importance – by the Arts Council.

Today’s announcement by the Heritage Lottery Fund is part of a £4.4 million series of grants awarded to four Yorkshire institutions.

The other recipients are:  

  • Wakefield Cathedral: Rediscovering our Heritage (£1,882,100)
  • St Marie's Cathedral, Sheffield: Lewis Organ Restoration (£496,200)
  • The Cooper Gallery, Barnsley: Creating Connections (£638,000)

Fiona Spiers, Head of Heritage Lottery Fund Yorkshire and the Humber, said: “The combined effect of these major projects awarded funding today is to provide local people and visitors alike with the chance to view works of fine art, ceramics, rare sculpture and beautifully restored buildings and to learn much more about their significance to the region.”

Further information

For images and interview requests, contact University of Leeds Press Officer Gareth Dant on or call 0113 343 33996 or, at the HLF Press Office, Vicky Wilford on 0207 591 6046 ( or Phil Cooper on 07889 949173.

The Brotherton Library is one of the major academic research libraries of the UK, attracting students and scholars from around the world to its rich and extensive print, online and manuscript collections gathered during its 100-year history.

Its Special Collections have a unique collection of treasures, from ancient clay tablets to the manuscripts of Graham Greene and Oscar Wilde, a First Folio of Shakespeare and the archives of contemporary poets such as Simon Armitage.

Lord Brotherton of Wakefield both funded the building of the Brotherton Library during his lifetime and bequeathed his own magnificent collection of rare books and manuscripts to the University. Further gifts and purchases over many decades have enabled the University to build a priceless collection of artefacts, irreplaceable manuscripts and rare books.

Heritage Lottery Fund

Using money raised through the National Lottery, the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) aims to make a lasting difference for heritage, people and communities across the UK and help build a resilient heritage economy. From museums, parks and historic places to archaeology, natural environment and cultural traditions, it invests in every part of our diverse heritage. Yorkshire and The Humber has received more than £445m, supporting more than 3,100 projects.