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Research Projects

Women & Property

Women as capital lenders in nineteenth century Yorkshire: Evidence from the Registers of Deeds (2021-2023)

Funded by the British Academy through its Small Research Grant programme, the overall aim of this 30 month research project (June 2021-November 2023) is to investigate the role that women played as capital lenders in the expansion of industrial towns and development of middle-class suburbs in nineteenth-century Yorkshire. Drawing on original documentation from the Registers of Deeds for the County of York, which offer an unique system for tracking property transfers, this project will study a large quantity of previously unresearched mortgage documentation from the late 1880s, focusing in particular on gendered patterns of behaviour and women’s investment strategies in Middlesbrough and Scarborough in the North Riding.

In the second phase of the project, similar data will be collected for Halifax (West Riding) and Hull (East Riding). By undertaking a comparative study across three towns with historically different industrial bases (Middlesbrough, Halifax and Hull), the similarities/ differences in female investment strategies will be investigated. How might such investment by women in the expansion of industrial towns be better understood in the wider social and economic context of urban growth and changing legislation regarding married women’s control over their own wealth, however modest? Were these patterns similar to other towns with a different industrial base? 

Women’s involvement in property (2012-2021)

Understanding women’s relationship to land and property across the North Riding of Yorkshire since the late 18th century is an area of interest that Dr Joan Heggie has been working on for the past decade. In her first project (partly funded by a small grant from the Economic History Society), Joan worked with volunteers, student researchers and a Research Assistant at the North Yorkshire County Record Office in Northallerton to compile a database of each transaction for two pilot periods (1784-1790 and 1885-1889). An extensive gender-based analysis of the database was carried out, which provided information about each woman’s family connections, place of abode and occupation. During the final phase of the project, archival and biographical resources were used to reconstruct selected women’s lives. These combined methods helped to establish how women were involved in property transactions over time and contributes to the wider debates on women as social and economic actors. The results of this study were published in 2019. Thanks to Karen Ellwood for all her hard work in helping to transcribe and check these datasets, as well as her enthusiasm and ongoing support for the projects.