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Bedford Fellowship

Scheme Summary

Leeds Arts & Humanities Research Institute, in collaboration with the University of Leeds Special Collections, is pleased to announce the John Bedford Fellowship for 2024.  

Chippendale Sphinx depicts a winged creature, part human, female, part animal.

The John Bedford Fellowship is designed exclusively for a researcher to make use of the John Evan Bedford Library of Furniture History in Special Collections at the University of Leeds. In addition, material from the complementary Art and Antiques Market Collections may also be consulted to bring new perspectives on the Bedford Library. More information on these collections is available here. 


John Bedford assembled his library over a period of 45 years and gifted it in 2019 to the University of Leeds. In Spring 2020 a team of specialists started cataloguing the collection and they completed this work in Summer 2023. The focus of the library is 17th-20th century furniture history, particularly British, and its intersection with other subjects, for example, garden design and history, topography, metalwork in relation to furnishings, textiles, interior design, the English home, architecture, and the Grand Tour. The library comprises some 5,500 printed items and extensive archival material, including the research notes of the furniture historians Edward T. Joy and Pauline Agius.  


Particular strengths of the library are the rare books of ornament, the furniture and metalwork pattern books and trade catalogues, the Birmingham trade directories (1770-1900) and cabinet-makers' books of prices, complemented by a remarkable trade card collection of more than 500 items dating from c.1680-c.1999, a significant cabinet-makers' archive, and an extensive collection of modern (post 1850) reference works. 

Applicants may find relevant links to the current catalogue here. 

Scholars working in and across any discipline(s) in the Arts and Humanities are eligible to apply. This collection is particularly relevant to those with research interests in Architecture and Architectural History, History of Art and Design, Book History, Business History, Collectors and Collecting, History of Printing, Social and Economic History, History of Science, and Material Culture. Research proposals in the following thematic areas/topics, utilising all aspects of the collection, are particularly welcomed: 

  • British, French, and German furniture designers of 17th-20th centuries 
  • The Birmingham metalware trades and traders 
  • London furniture makers and associated trades and traders 
  • Early (17th-18th century) drawing books and books of ornament, for example, by Rudolph Ackermann, Thomas Chippendale Jnr, François Vivares 
  • Cottage and country house architecture, and landscape gardening, including works by John Soane, William Halfpenny, and William Chambers 
  • Early scientific manuals and handbooks on building, carpentry, and the industrial arts 
  • 19th century Great Exhibitions in Europe 
  • Upholstery, textiles and associated crafts 
  • 17th and 18th -century printers and engravers  

Successful applicants will be supported to spend the equivalent of two months full-time in Leeds to carry out their research activities. The Fellow will be appointed by the end of March 2024. There will be some flexibility in start date, though it is intended that the Fellowship will begin in late Spring 2024. Research must be completed by the end of August 2024. 

On completion of their research, the Fellow is required to produce a scholarly output, such as an academic journal article, focused on material from the Bedford Collection. The Fellow is also required to give a lecture/seminar on the Bedford Collection and their research whilst at Leeds, hosted in Special Collections. The Fellow will also write a blog post to promote the Bedford Collection and their research for use on the Special Collections and LAHRI websites. During 2022 and 2023 our inaugural Bedford Fellow, Dr Hillary Taylor, and subsequent fellow, Dr Hannah Kaspar, wrote several blogs for Special Collections. Other social media activity is encouraged during the Fellowship and the Special Collections team will advise on this. A major exhibition on the Bedford Collection will open in January 2024. 

The Fellow will receive a payment of £6,000 to enable them to spend time in Leeds undertaking the research. 

The Special Collections Research Centre is open to researchers. Details of opening hours and services are on our website. 

The Special Collections team can offer a virtual consultation session to any Bedford Fellowship applicant, to aid the submission of proposals. We expect the Bedford Fellow to spend at least half of their Fellowship in-person at the Library.  


The deadline for applications is 9am on Monday 12th February 2024. The Fellowship start date will be flexible, but all research must be completed by the end of August 2024.


Candidates who have completed their PhD at any university are eligible. The selection of the Fellow will be based on the candidates’ ability to make full use of and promote the Bedford Collection to the wider research community.

 All candidates must have passed their PhD viva by the application deadline. Exceptions to this will be considered where a strong case can be made that the applicant would still be in a position to complete the work on the above timescale.

We are keen to enable flexible working, and Fellowships can also be undertaken on a part-time basis.

Download the application form now


Further information         

For any further information on these fellowships please contact the LAHRI Manager.