The York civic archive is one of several collections of unique archive material held at the City of York Council Libraries and Archives. It is the archive of the secular city administration dating back to 1155, and continues to grow to this day as new records are created by the City of York Council.
From 1476 to the present the civic archive holds an unbroken record of how York’s people have governed their City. A wealth of information – from national taxes to street lighting; from raising a militia to ward off a siege to charity for the homeless; from maintaining bridges to establishing public libraries – is contained in 210 cubic metres of volumes, documents, plans and photographs.
It tells the complex story of a city making its own history and preserves the voices of thousands of citizens.
Whilst some parts of the archive have been catalogued before, large sections of material from the 17th-20th centuries have never been systematically explored, so there are new and exciting discoveries waiting to be found.
The records themselves have had a dramatic journey, and have been stored in a variety of flood-prone locations in York. In October 1892, following a particularly thorough soaking in the Guildhall cellar, the deputy town clerk William Giles took it upon himself to rescue the documents, have them repaired and write the first ever catalogue – a task which he completed in 1909.
His catalogue is still in use today, but only covers a portion of the collection, as do all later lists. The City Making History project aims to supplement traditional finding aids with modern methods in order to understand the collection as a whole and make it more accessible than ever before.