West Yorkshire Archive tops out / by Broadway Malyan

A 'Topping Out' ceremony has taken place to mark the completion of building work on a multi-million pound archive building in Wakefield, which will house historical records of regional, national and international significance.

The £6.4m West Yorkshire History Centre has been built in Kirkgate, and it will store over 10 million records over three floors.

The Broadway Malyan-designed project is jointly funded by the five West Yorkshire Councils, West Yorkshire Joint Services and with a £3.9m grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) to create a new permanent home for the region's archives.

The 'Topping Out 'ceremony saw Cllr Peter Box CBE, Leader of Wakefield Council, laying the last brick, to symbolise the completion of the external construction work. The building will now be fitted out internally and it is due to open in late 2016.

Cllr Peter Box, said: "It's good news that we've reached this milestone for this landmark building."

Cllr Ros Lund, Chair - West Yorkshire Joint Services Committee, said: "The new West Yorkshire History Centre will safeguard millions of records from the past, many of which are of regional, national and international importance."

Fiona Spiers, Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund of Yorkshire and the Humber said: "This is a state-of-the-art 21st century home for West Yorkshire's rich history. It's thanks to National Lottery players that we have been able to support this magnificent project.'

The extensive archive includes the collections of the old West Yorkshire and West Riding Councils, and the current Wakefield district council.

The collections also include all the court proceedings of the former county of the West Riding, which was the third largest and most populous county in England and a large collection of the National Coal Board's mining records.

Former miners are already helping to conserve, catalogue and care for the coal mining archives.

The files of the Stanley Royd Mental Health Hospital, where thousands of local men, women and children received treatment between 1818 and 1991, are also among the records to be stored at the new facility.

This collection has a pivotal role in the nation's history as it documents changes in the treatment of mental illness and its international significance has been recognised by UNESCO.

The new building will house the West Riding Registry of Deeds, one of only four Registries set up England, and the earliest and largest. The records contain 12,763 volumes containing 7 million extracts or memorials of property transactions dating from 1704 to 1970. It will also house records of local authorities, courts, the police and prisons and school records, and the records of local clubs and societies

The iconic building design features a perforated metal mesh wrap, which will be back-lit in the evening to provide a dramatic changing façade. The archive storage areas on the upper floors are carefully controlled using state of the art equipment to ensure all the unique items remain in excellent condition for future generations.

A local history centre is also incorporated into the ground floor, which will offer a diverse programme of events, courses and opportunities for regional, local and family history engagement, and where groups can explore their heritage.

The new building has been constructed by Bardsley Construction Yorkshire and it was designed by architects Broadway Malyan.

Tim Brown, Director of Architecture at Broadway Malyan, said: “This has been an incredibly exciting project for Broadway Malyan and it is fantastic to see such a regionally important building beginning to take shape.

“Wakefield is currently experiencing something of a cultural renaissance and with the support of the local planning authority we have been able to produce a scheme that we believe not only preserves but also celebrates the collective memory of a region.

“This is a building that will open up millions of records to a far wider audience and our focus has been about creating a very public building that promotes the guiding principles of transparency, community and identity while also a delivering a memorable addition to the urban landscape.”