West Yorkshire: Archives' home in sorry state

Thousands of centuries-old documents could be lost to West Yorkshire as their tumbledown home reaches crisis point.

Council watchdogs in Wakefield will this week consider what, if anything, can be done to save the ramshackle Registry of Deeds building on Margaret Street, which houses historic deeds, records and church archives from across the county.

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As reported in the YEP, the building needs a massive 3m of work to bring it up to standard, with the roof repair bill alone coming in at half a million pounds.

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Now a new report, which will go before Wakefield Council's Corporate Performance Overview and Scrutiny Committee tomorrow, has revealed that collections are already being diverted away from Wakefield because of the building's shocking state.

A report to the committee says: "If significant progress towards finding alternative accommodation is not made, the Registry risks losing its status as a place of deposit and the collection could be moved not only out of Wakefield, but also out of West Yorkshire.

"The Morley store does not have the capacity to take more than a third of what is stored at Wakefield and already collections that would normally come to Wakefield are being directed elsewhere due to the poor condition of the building."

The Registry is home to 60 per cent of the county's archives and houses thousands of deeds for properties in the West Riding between 1704 and 1970.

It also holds local authority records, records for public bodies and documents for the diocese of Wakefield, as well as the Methodist, Baptist and United Reform churches.

Previous inspections have revealed peeling paintwork and dilapidated window frames, while the leaky roof has led to plastic sheeting being placed over shelving to protect documents.

The National Archives Council (NAC) has the power to rescind the council's authority to allow access to the archives.

And the report reveals the NAC have told the council: "It is clear that

the service at Wakefield has reached a critical point. We believe that new premises represent the only long term and most cost effective solution to overcoming the problems and we would encourage you to

investigate partnerships or co-location with other services."

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