Repairing the Past event

Our very first Repairing the Past event took place last week and looking at all the wonderful comments we received, we can safely say that it was a big success: 

“Very clear, informative and interesting”

“Very informative and professionally delivered, excellent session”

“Good stuff!”

Participants were shown a presentation explaining how we look after and repair our documents, with advice on how to translate that into looking after precious mementos at home.  We then walked to the other side of the building and climbed two flights of stairs to visit the Conservation Studio, where Assistant Conservator Clare demonstrated a dry paper repair technique.   There was also a display of damaged and repaired documents, conservation and packaging materials and specialist suppliers catalogues to look at.

Visiting the Conservation Studio

Visiting the Conservation Studio


Clare's demonstration

Clare’s demonstration


Tools of our trade

Tools of our trade

Once all the enthusiastic questions had been answered we went back to the meeting room, where Clare and I looked at documents, photographs and books people had brought with them and gave advice on storing them safely.

We will be repeating this event on Thursday 18 September – book early to avoid disappointment!

When: Thursday 18 September, 2.00pm to 3.30pm                                                           Where: Derbyshire Record Office, New Street, Matlock, DE4 3FE                                          To book: call 01629 538347 or email


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FindersKeepers instructions

Now that our catalogue has been upgraded, we are able to change the way FindersKeepers works.  FindersKeepers is our project for improving the range of the catalogue by drawing on the skills of home-based volunteers.  If you would like to consider joining the project, we would be very glad to have you – to help you decide, here are the full instructions issued to volunteers.  You can also view the FindersKeepers instructions as a pdf.

Continue reading

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Even more lists now on the catalogue browser

In recent posts, I have been boasting that more lists than ever before are available on the catalogue. Now that we have the Calmview browser, this includes ones that haven’t been imported into the database by FindersKeepers just yet, but are available as Word documents. And, as of today, where neither database nor wordprocessed versions are available (only 160 or so cases, but they all count), you should find a pdf version. In response to a request from one of our regular researchers, we have made the pdf pages text-searchable as well.

That means the only species of catalogue list that cannot be viewed via the browser is our old friend/foe the “interim list”*. We would be pleased to hear people’s opinions on this, but here’s mine: on the face of it, we might be best advised not to put them online. For the uninitiated, an interim list is one that has not been verified, that relates to material that has never been satisfactorily listed. Some of them derive from surveys conducted before the material was deposited with us, and contain references to documents which we simply don’t have; some are summaries produced by record office staff long ago (or indeed by depositors) and give vague or inaccurate descriptions of the documents; and most fail to provide information that corresponds with the records that tell us which document is on which shelf. If we put them online, my worry is that we might raise expectations we cannot satisfy – whereas a researcher who picks up an interim list in the search room can at least be warned in person that there might be problems with producing the documents mentioned therein.

So, my preference is to go through the interim lists in the next week or two and put a note on the catalogue entry for each collection indicating that an interim list exists, and inviting people either to view it in the search room or get in touch with us by email if that’s not possible.

If you have a different perspective, please click “Leave a Reply” and let us know.

*Other record offices may call them something else – but we’ve all got them!

PS – None of the above does anything to address our backlog of unlisted collections. Unlisted material is noted on the catalogue by the appearance of /UL as a part of the reference.

PPS – You might also have noticed that we have started using /NC in cases where there is no such collection. Usually this is because things have been re-catalogued.

Posted in FindersKeepers, News | 1 Comment

Registering a Complaint

As someone who spends a fair amount of my time searching through parish registers, I have been known to silently (or not so silently) curse the handwriting of a long-dead vicar or parish clerk.  They should have foreseen that a few centuries later I would need to decipher their scrawl to find Great-Great-Great-etc-Grandfather Fred!  So I was rather amused to find this note in one of the Castleton registers:

(unless the Parish will provide better Parchment, it is impossible to write on it legibly   

Castleton parish register

Perhaps I shall be a tad more charitable in future, though it’s a poor workman who blames his tools…

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Repairing The Past

Have you ever wondered whether storing those precious old family photographs in a shoe box under the bed is really the right thing to do? How do archives store their old documents, photographs and books? And what can be done when they’ve been damaged? Come to Derbyshire Record Office on Wednesday 26 March to find out as the Conservation Team presents ‘Repairing the Past’. Senior Conservator Lien Gyles will explain all about the way the team protects Derbyshire’s written history from pests, mould and other dangers; then join us behind the scenes in the Conservation Studio to see how paper can be repaired. You can even bring along your own family documents for individual advice on safe-guarding them for future generations.

Location: Derbyshire Record Office, New Street, Matlock, DE4  3FE                               Time: Wednesday 26 March, 2.00pm – 3.30pm                                                                   Cost: £3.00 (concessions £2.00)                                                                                             Places are limited – to book call Derbyshire Record Office on 01629 538347 or email

Be aware: the Conservation Studio is only accessible via two flights of stairs. However, the talk itself will take place in an easily accessible room, which is also where we will give advice about any documents you might like to bring.

Repairing the Past

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Philip’s week at the Record Office

This week Philip from Derby undertook a work placement at the Record Office and has written this post to share his experience

“While on Work Experience at the Derbyshire Record Office I have worked in a large variety of areas. These varied from the Conservation of Documents to helping to create the Offices new digital catalogue through the FindersKeepers project. I was astonished at the breath of what is done there and was surprised when I was even able to further improve my IT skills by helping them advance their wikipedia page and got to be involved in the digitisation of photographs through Picture the Past. The Office and Local Studies Library contains a vast number of treasures of which I had the opportunity to explore just a handful. One of these that I found every interesting where the letters and leaflets written by David Pole who was a Labour MP for South Derbyshire from 1929 to 1931. His political career had started in 1918 and he had written over many issues that are now some of the most studied events in history such as the Treaty of Versailles and the Rise of Hitler and Fascism.  Another archive document I found especially intriguing as we approach the centenary of the First World War was an enlistment paper from  1914 which was using the example of the German invasion of Belgium to persuade British men to sign up for the war effort.  It also had a punch cartoon depicting the German Kaiser and Belgium. Another opportunity I had while doing a Work Experiance at the Record Office was to be able to research my family tree and trace back seven generations on one side. However I am not completely convinced that I found the right line of ancestors, though either way the skills I learnt through the process have helped develop my ability to research. On top of all this I got the chance to meet and explore the roles of over two dozen people who work there. Through my time there I got to catch a small glimpse into what they do, and be welcomed into their family. As I finish my time in the Record Office I will leave with a greater understanding of history, politics (through the archives I read), and an amazing acknowledgement of the work that goes on behing there doors to keep our joint history preserved and studied for many future generations. There are a vast array of skills that can be taken from doing a work experience at the Record Office and Local Studies Libary and I recommend it to any one who has a passion for history or wants to develop there research skills”

We would like to thank Philip for the great work he has done whilst at the Record Office this week, it has been a pleasure having him here and we hope to see him again soon.

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Calmview is online

In my last post about catalogues, I suggested we might be looking at mid-February for the completion of an upgrade on our catalogue browser. And, OK, it’s the last day of February, but we are there.

One of the benefits of the new browser (Calmview) is that it allows us to upload images and attach them to catalogue entries. At the time of posting, we have only 5, but there will be more. Our trial of this function begins with images relating to World War I. That hyperlink will take you to an up-to-date overview of catalogue entries that have associated images, so if you click the same thing in a few days’ time, you should see more there. To view an image, just click on the particular entry.

I hope the idea of using hyperlinks is one we can work with more. For instance, in response to a specific request I can add a link here to the Froggatt of Froggatt collection, D3331.

Another useful thing is that we can add documents, which means we can post wordprocessed versions of lists that we haven’t added to the catalogue yet. A random example is D5262, a collection of Monyash title deeds.

Further posts on this kind of caper will follow. Thanks.

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Lost and found

One of the most satisfying things about being an archivist is the opportunity it gives you to bring to light new documents which people will have the opportunity to look at in the future. It is doubly satisfying, therefore, to find documents which were once thought to be lost and can now be seen again.

Just recently, I received a specific request to locate a particular series of late 17th century documents for Elvaston manor on behalf of a researcher, Mr Jean-Baptiste Piggin, who had tried unsuccessfully in the past to locate them. He had found the reference to the documents in “Three Centuries of Derbyshire Annals”, Volume 2 (published 1890) by Reverend J.C.Cox. Cox states (page 275) that they were stored in the “record room” maintained by the Clerk of the Peace in St Mary’s Gate, Derby. This meant that they were held along with the records of the Derbyshire County Quarter Sessions, which were later moved to the County Offices in Matlock in the late 1950 and then eventually transferred to the Derbyshire Record Office in Matlock in the late 1980s.

It was assumed that the Elvaston manor items had been lost. There was no indication in the assorted lists and finding aids drawn up over the years for the Quarter Sessions that they still existed, and there is, indeed, no reason for them to have necessarily been retained, as they had absolutely no connection with Quarter Sessions. There are, however, quite a number of boxes of Quarter Sessions still unlisted, so I decided it would be worth checking in each one. And so it proved, even though, as is the way of these things, they were in the last box I looked at! The documents (numbering 60 items) have now been removed from the Quarter Session records and allocated a new collection reference number, D7687.

Mr Piggin has produced an excellent blog on this episode, which can be seen at

The equally excellent page on his website about Elvaston court leet can also be seen at He has transcribed everything that Cox published on the subject on pages 275-280.

One of the most intriguing aspects of the documents themselves is the way it shows the Elvaston jurors being able to fine the lord of the manor, John Stanhope, and members of his family for their minor misdemeanours. Lords were not above the law, so to speak, even in their own manors and had to abide by the “custom” or the by-laws of the manor the same as everyone else .

D7687 1_0004The top presentment by the jury members serving for Ambaston on 13 April 1692 fines Mr. John Stanhope 10 shillings for not scouring his watercourse. Notice that his fine is much higher than those for the other listed people for the same sort of offence. You can’t help feeling it’s pay-back time for the lord and master!

The manor court jury was expected to investigate incidents of potential misdemeanours and then present their findings to the court. These investigations would have taken place before the court actually sat, making the manor jury a very different beast from any present-day jury. There was also an implicit assumption of guilt for those named by the jury in their presentments: the matter had already been investigated, and if the person hadn’t committed an offence, he wouldn’t have been presented! You do find cases where people have appealed, in effect, against the “false words” of the jury, but these are very much the exception.

Posted in Manorial Documents Register | 1 Comment

That hiking picture…

Regarding my last post – well, it seems Fridays bring questions and Mondays bring answers. Lisa has pointed out to me that you can see details of the images on Peakland Heritage by hovering the mouse over the little preview. D’oh! Still, that gives us an opportunity to give credit where it is due – specifically, it is due to James Walker Tucker (1898–1972). The original hangs at the Laing Art Gallery in Tyne and Wear. Full details can be seen on the BBC Your Paintings website.

It’s a very handy website for this kind of caper. You can search by gallery as well as by artist. I have checked the Derbyshire Record Office entry, and find that we have one solitary image to our credit: . It would be more if George Woodward’s cartoons and John R. Biggs‘ woodcuts counted as paintings, perhaps? Of course, within Derbyshire County Council, works of art are properly the bailiwick of Buxton Museum and Art Gallery, who are credited with stacks of them:

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A call for help; a polite request


Hullo. This post concerns 2 quite unrelated things – poor netiquette, but I understand these things are tolerated on Fridays.

Thing 1: Does anyone know the source of this image on the Peakland Heritage website? We have a researcher who is very eager to have a high-resolution copy, but to oblige we would need to know where we found it in the first place, a decade or so ago. Any ideas gratefully received.

Thing 2: I have nearly finished putting together our annual return of archive accessions, to send to the National Register of Archives ( We took 207 accessions last year, in 278 working days (counting Saturdays as half-days and not making allowance for the fact that we were closed to the public until mid-February 2013). That means that, on any given day, we have a 75% chance of taking in a new accession. If you are among those kind and heroic souls who help to preserve the county’s heritage for future generations by letting us have your old documents, please know this: you can make our service run far, far more efficiently by giving us a bit of warning. Booking an appointment to donate things a day or two in advance is usually fine. If we can advise you about times you might want to avoid because we know we will be busy and therefore keep you waiting, this will be better for you. If we can prevent the arrival of new records clashing with, say, the visit of a school group, staff absences, an outreach event, or our favourite removal firm arriving with lorry loads of material coming back from outstores (just to take examples from the past month), life will be a lot easier for us. Plus, if you make arrangements in advance, we can put your details in our depositor database beforehand, which will mean modestly less time spent on paperwork when you get here. I thank you.

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