Founded in 2018, the Forgotten Women of Wakefield (FWW) project aims to uncover the stories of the remarkable women who helped shape the history of the city.
One of the group’s most recent discoveries is Lady Catherine Milnes Gaskell, who founded the Yorkshire Division of the St John’s Ambulance Brigade, as part of her efforts to bring health care to Wakefield’s poorest residents.
Earlier this year, FWW founder Sarah Cobham was delighted to hear from an antiques collector who was in possession of a certificate and medal awarded to Lady Catherine in 1911.
But she was less thrilled when the courier chosen to deliver the one-of-a-kind item got in touch to let her know that her parcel had been earmarked for destruction.
Not to be put off, Sarah set out in a journey to recover Lady Catherine’s missing medal, much to the delight of thousands of people following her story through videos shared on Facebook.
She said: “They damaged the parcel and their policy is if it’s damaged it gets destroyed.
“I drove to the depot and they let me in.
"I said: ‘Lady Catherine needs to come home. This is a part of Wakefield’s history.’
" I vlogged the whole thing and thousands of people are following it."
After explaining the significance of the parcel, Sarah was able to convince the courier company that it was worth saving, and a dedicated team began searching parcels marked for destruction.
But when the package was finally found, it was badly damaged.
Though the medal and certificate were undamaged, the external frame which housed the items had been broken.
Sarah said: “In the end they pulled out all the stops. They phoned the next day to say they’d got it, but it was damaged.
"They wanted to get rid of the glass, but I said no, we need to restore it.”
She is now working with a dedicated team from the West Yorkshire Archive Service to restore the broken antique frame, and hopes it will eventually be able to return to a local exhibit.
In the meantime, she will be keeping her followers, many of whom have followed her throughout the journey to rescue the medal, updated through her Facebook page.