Essential electrical maintenance work, 29 April – 10 May 2019

 

Essential electrical maintenance work will be taking place at the Record Office from 29 April to 10 May 2019.

This may result in some disruption to the retrieval of the historical documents from our stores.

If you’re planning to visit us during these dates, we strongly advise that you contact us in advance of your visit, then we can let you know whether we’ll be able to access the original records you’re wishing to view.

“Why don’t you just digitise it all?”

If we had a £ for every time we have heard this question…

There are many reasons why archive services do not scan all historical documents and make them available electronically – one of the main reasons being the inherent instability of digital files. Most professionals would now dispute that we are really heading for a digital dark age but that doesn’t mean we can be laissez-faire about the preservation of digital content.

As technology changes so rapidly, preservation of digital data actually requires much more active management than most of our paper and parchment collections – the computer I’m typing this on doesn’t even have a CD/DVD drive let alone a floppy disk drive (although fortunately, we do have access to both of this within the office).

There are many examples of lost digital data, the loss of over 50 million songs from MySpace being the most recent – see If it’s online, it’s not permanent. Internet archives can disappear.

Here at Derbyshire Record Office we have been thinking about how we preserve digital content for many years, but this is still something very much in development. However, in the last few weeks we have made good progress and more digital archives are now being received. Watch this space for further developments.

 

An easy historical gluten-free cake recipe

We haven’t blogged about historical food experiments for a good while, but this weekend I was in the mood for baking, so I thought I would try out a recipe that intrigued me in Clara Palmer-Morewood’s recipe book from the 1830s: Rice Cake.

Rice Cake recipe (jpeg)

Rice Cake

Ground Rice half a pound, sugar & butter each one pound. Put them into a pan before the fire, as the butter melts stir them gently together with a wooden spoon, beat nine eggs very well and add them to the other ingredients immediately before putting into the oven, the rind of a Lemon may be added.

I halved the recipe (why waste a whole pound of butter and sugar if it all goes horribly wrong?!) and used the following:

1/4 lb /  110 g of rice flour
1/2 lb / 225g butter
1/2 lb / 225g sugar
4 eggs (our eggs are likely larger than those they had in the 1830s)
grated zest of a lemon

I stirred together the flour, sugar, lemon zest and butter in a pan over a low heat until the butter was melted and the mixture was well blended, then took it off the heat to cool a little.  In a separate bowl I beat the eggs until very light and fluffy, then gently folded them into the rest of the mixture, trying to keep as much of the air as possible in the batter.

The mixture went into a greased and lined loaf tin (I used a 2 pound loaf tin) and then into the oven at 180 degrees centigrade.  After about 25 minutes it had browned nicely but  was still very wobbly in the middle so with a piece of foil on top to prevent burning I gave it another 20 minutes.

The result was subsequently enjoyed with a nice cup of tea.

Cake

It’s not fluffy cake but it is deliciously moist from all that butter and has a lovely lemony flavour.  It’s also extremely easy to make, requiring only minimal baking skills.  And it’s suitable for people on a gluten-free diet too.  I highly recommend it!

Cake close up

Searching for answers – the Derwent Valley Research weekend

Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage site are offering a free event designed to help budding Derwent Valley researchers get started.

  • Got a history question about your family, your house , your community?
  • Discover how and what to research in and around the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site.
  • This event will help you understand what information is out there and how you can access it.
  • Learn what’s available on-line and where to go to see original documents.
  • Hear stories from others on how they got started.
  • Information on how to archive your research so it can help other researchers with similar questions.
  • No charge for participants – a light lunch is included thanks to the Great Place Scheme.
  • Archives along the valley will be open the following day.

To book yourself a place email info@derwentvalleymills.org or telephone 01629 536830.

Friday 5 April, 10am-4pm, at the Gothic Warehouse, opposite Cromford Mills, Cromford, DE4 3RQ.

 

On Saturday 6 April the record office will be open from 10am-1pm as part of this research weekend.  Will be offering behind the scenes tours of the office and drop-in sessions on accessing on-line resources.  There will also be information on the John Smedley Archive and Derbyshire’s Historic Environment Record (HER) Officer will show you how to access the HER database.

Don’t have a Derwent Valley connection?  That’s ok, the record office event is open to all.

Behind the scenes tours run at 10.30am-11.15am and 11.45am-12.30pm.  Tours are free, to book a place just click on the ‘Events’ tab at the top of this page and go to the ‘Eventbrite page’ link.

Sarah Siddons, star of the stage

For this World Theatre Day, two images from our Woodward Collection showing the famous 18th century actress Sarah Siddons at the height of her success.

Here she is in 1782 as Euphrasia from the play The Grecian Daughter, by Arthur Murphy:

Euphrasia small

And here in her most famous role of Lady Macbeth, which she first performed on 2 February 1785. It was with this role that she bade farewell to the stage on 29 June 1812, when the audience refused to allow the play to continue after Lady Macbeth’s final scene, and Sarah Siddons returned to the stage to take her applause and give an emotional farewell speech.

Macbeth small

There are many other Shakespeare drawings in our Woodward collection, and do remember that you’re welcome to adopt any one of them.

Royal Wedding lace

Going through the box of objects in our Franklin Archive, I’ve come across a piece of lace, sewn on to a pink piece of fabric. There is a dried flower sewn on to both as well.

D3311_OBJ_01_unrolled

In very neat writing it claims to be a Piece of hangings of the Princess of Wales boudoir, St George Chapel, March 10 1863.

D3311 OBJ 01 text

The Princess of Wales in question was Alexandra of Denmark, but on that date she’d only just received the title, as this was her wedding day.  On 10 March 1863 Alexandra married the eldest son of Queen Victoria, Albert, the Prince of Wales, who would become King Edward VII in 1901. It was the first royal wedding to take place at St George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle; there have been many more there since, most notably recently the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.

The inscription is similar to those on other objects which belonged to Lady Jane Franklin, so it’s fair to assume this was also part of her private museum. The big question is: did she attend the wedding or was the lace given to her by someone who did? We know she was definitely in England at the time, but haven’t been able to place her at the wedding yet – do let us know if you have a list of royal wedding guests from 1863 lying around…

A poem…

…this time for World Poetry Day (today!)

The Moth

Poor little Moth, how low thou’rt laid !

Would, thou hadst never thoughtless play’d

Round yon seducing light,

And flutter’d in its magic beam

Like one enchanted in a dream

Or vision of the night

D 3311 Attic Chest 1920_0007

 

Chosen from an early 19th C collection of poems, prose and ‘general whimsy’ known as the ‘Attic Chest’, edited by Eleanor Porden. The editor has given a little input to the original version, which was contributed by Eleanor’s friend Mary Ann Flaxman.

Lady Jane Franklin; an International Woman

Jane Franklin 1816

Jane Griffin, later to be Lady Jane Franklin, drawn by Amelie Romilly while on holiday in Geneva in 1816

Lady Jane Franklin has been described as “probably the most travelled woman of her time” by her biographer Alison Alexander. Saying anybody is the “most” anything is fraught with danger, as there is always the possibility that some alternative, better qualified candidate appears. It is wise, therefore, to add the word “probably” to such a statement. In this particular case, however, I do wonder whether such caution may be necessary, as Jane Franklin travelled often and extensively, even well into her seventies, going to every continent except Antarctica.

I think it was a combination of a keen, enquiring mind, a “tom-boy” spirit of independence and the encouragement of the men in her life that helped to contribute to her wanderlust. Her father, John Griffin, who made his fortune in silk weaving, loved to travel, and took the opportunity to go with the family to the European continent for a couple of years, once it became safe to do so following the initial overthrow of Napoleon in 1814. Her uncle John Guillemard also encouraged her to think beyond the limitations imposed on a girl’s education at that time, and she cultivated interest in many subjects, such as science (like Franklin’s first wife, Eleanor, she attended Royal Society lectures) and languages (she learned French, Spanish and German).

It was, however, her marriage in 1828 to the Arctic explorer John Franklin that allowed her to really extend her horizons. Once he was given command of H.M.S. Rainbow, which undertook a tour of duty in the Mediterranean in the early 1830s, Lady Franklin took the opportunity to travel all around it. In one of his letters to his daughter Eleanor, he explains that he had not heard from “Mama” for a couple of months but that he expected she would have arrived in Smyrna or Constantinople (both in present day Turkey). She also travelled to Spain, northern Africa (including Morocco and Egypt), Palestine, Syria and Greece. Franklin never seemed to mind that she was often away when she could have been with him, accepting it as totally natural and indeed rather taking pride in her adventurous spirit.

Excerpt on Lady Jane's travelling from Sir John's letter

Letter from Sir John Franklin to her daughter Eleanor, 1832, on not having heard from Mama for over two months.

The appointment of Franklin as Lieutenant Governor of Van Diemen’s Land, later known as Tasmania, added another dimension to her travels. She accompanied him on his exploratory tours of the island, through often extremely difficult terrain. In some ways she seemed to revel in having to overcome obstacles and problems; the harder the challenge, the more she enjoyed it. Getting lost in the Bush or losing a wheel on a carriage did not faze her a bit. In 1840-1841, she took an extended trip to the southern part of Australia and then over to New Zealand, totally independent of her husband.

After Franklin’s recall to England, he managed to get himself appointed as commander of another Arctic expedition, which set off in 1845. Not long afterwards Jane set off on an expedition of her own, first taking her step-daughter Eleanor to visit France and then on to the West Indies and the United States of America. It might seem odd in light of what happened to Franklin’s expedition that she went on her travels, but there really was no need for her to stay. He and his crews were expected to be away for at least a winter or even two, and there was no expectation that anything untoward would happen to them in the meantime. It was only in 1847 that she and other people started to worry at the lack of news from the Arctic. She began publicly to urge the Admiralty to undertake search expeditions, and over the next few years her profile rose to such a degree that she became one of the most famous women in the 19th century world.

The image of her as a British Penelope waiting patiently for the return of her Odysseus-like husband does her something of a disservice, as she was not in any way patient and did rather more than just weave a tapestry during the day and unpick it all during the night. She campaigned vociferously and successfully for the Admiralty to send out ships to look for Franklin, his crews and their ships, which they did, albeit somewhat begrudgingly at times. She was also prepared to put up money herself to fund expeditions of her own (4 of them between 1850 and 1853) and got a wealthy American, Henry Grinnell, to fund another one as well.

The final confirmation of Franklin’s death (the discovery by Captain McClintock of the Victory Point note in 1859) did mean that Lady Jane stayed at home to grieve. In 1860 she sailed to America to stay with her benefactor, Henry Grinnell, in New York. She moved on to Canada, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, up to California, then over to the Sandwich Islands, now Hawaii, moving from there on to Japan, China and India, before returning home to England after two years away. During these travels she had celebrity status wherever she went, an example of which was that hoteliers would often waive payment for her staying with them.

Letter on Jane Franklin's African trip

Lady Franklin’s letter to her step-daughter, 1831, on her experiences in Tetuan, Morocco

By this time she was now aged 70, but it did not prevent her from travelling again, first to Spain in 1864-1865, and then onto India before returning via the Suez Canal, 3 years before it was officially opened! After being in London for the unveiling of a statue to Sir John, off she went again, first on a rather more prosaic sight-seeing trip to France, Switzerland and Italy, then off more adventurously to India, before travelling on to Spain the Canary Islands and north west Africa, all between 1867 and 1869. The early 1870s saw more journeys to America (including Alaska), Spain, France and Portugal. Once she had reached the grand old age of 80, her globe trotting days came to an end. She died on 18 July 1875, aged 83.

 

For World Book Day…

…a book about Arctic Explorers!  ‘The Icy North’ by Henry Harbour c.1904 contains biographies of Sir John Franklin and Fridtjof Nansen. It was part of a series published by Collins’ Clear Type Press, which included biographies of ‘the Lives of Men and Women who have achieved fame by the services they have rendered to their country or to mankind’ (other titles included ‘Peerless Women’ and ‘Old Sea Dogs’)

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‘Never did arctic explorers leave England fuller of hope, more confident of a speedy return, than Franklin and his companions on that May day in 1845’