Discovering Franklin: a talk on Wednesday 31 July

Neil Bettridge, Archivist for the Discovering Franklin Project, will be giving a talk on the explorer Sir John Franklin  at the Derbyshire Record Office on Wednesday 31st July at 2.00pm. Franklin’s life was an extraordinary one by any standards, and Neil will be attempting to do justice to it, illustrating it with many visual images of documents from the Gell collection held by Derbyshire Record Office.

discovering franklin

In addition to Franklin himself, there will be more than passing references to the important ladies in his life; his first wife, Eleanor, a gifted poet, who died tragically young , and his second wife, Lady Jane Franklin, a formidably driven woman, who did everything possible to defend her husband’s reputation against all comers.

Eleanor Anne Porden

Eleanor Anne Porden, later to become the first wife of Sir John Franklin

Jane Franklin 1816

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

Although the talk will be free, booking is still essential due to space limitations. You can book at  Eventsbrite booking or telephone us on 01629 538347.

Derbyshire Noir crime fiction festival

Derbyshire Noir

Derbyshire Arts Service and Derbyshire Libraries are holding their first ever Derbyshire Noir Book Festival 2019! A one-day crime festival for readers and writers. The event will be held at Chesterfield Library on Saturday 17th August.

The fantastic line up of authors and speakers include Stephen Booth, Roz Watkins, Sarah Ward, Jo Jakeman, Sophie Draper, Andrew Lowe, Tony R. Cox, Caroline England, Sylvia Marsden, James Ellson, John Martin, Fran Dorricott, forensic scientist and academic Jonathan Wright and the record office of course!

We’ll be there giving a talk on locally produced crime fiction and other genres and displaying original archives of crime and criminals – so lots of opportunities for inspiration.

Throughout the day there will be a choice of two events, a panel discussion in the library theatre or a smaller event in one of the library meeting rooms. Due to seating numbers spaces are available at meeting room events on a first come, first served basis. Each guest will receive the Derbyshire Noir 2019 candidate bag and there will be lots of chances to meet the authors and speakers and get your books signed. Tea, coffee and biscuits provided throughout the day. Please note that this event is suitable for adults.

Click here for the full itinerary and to book a place.

Discovering objects

Our crowdfunding campaign for packaging the objects from our Franklin collection has reached its £1000 target! A huge thank you to everyone who has donated – your support is much appreciated.

The Franklin objects have made us realise that we have other fabulous, exciting – and sometimes downright strange – objects in some of our other collections, which should also be properly packaged in museum quality boxes. So we’ve decided that any extra money we receive through our crowdfunding campaign will be spent on looking after those items.  We’re sure to discover more of them as we start hunting through our collections, but to give you an idea of the kind of objects we have:

An Ashbourne Shrovetide football from the 1930’s:

football

A beautiful piece of embroidery from 1937, showing Bakewell Market Place:

embroidery

And a collection of textile samples, including this elephant pattern:

elephant

If you’d like to help us look after these and other objects (we’ll blog about more of them as we uncover and re-package them), then you have until 3.00 pm on Friday 19 July to donate on our crowdfunding page.

Arctic scraps

In our Franklin collection we’ve come across this scrapbook:

D3311 87 001

It was most likely put together by Lady Jane Franklin herself, although we don’t know whether she gave it the rather fabulous title of ‘Arctic scraps’. It is full of newspaper cuttings, prints, and other material related to the efforts to find the missing expedition.

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It also includes posters offering rewards for helping in the search: Lady Jane herself offered £3000 to whaling ships willing to take part and the UK government even offered £20,000. The National Archives has a handy currency converter, which tells us that this equates to approximately £240,500 and £1,6 million in today’s money!

 

We don’t have a £20,000 reward on offer, but we do have a selection of rewards for you to choose from if you donate to our crowdfunding campaign. And if  you choose the Behind the Scenes Tour, we’ll even add in a cup of tea and some nice biscuits…

The Defalcation of Charles Biggs

If you tune into Andy Twigge’s BBC Radio Derby show at around 2.15pm, you may hear Sarah talking about a tale of embezzlement which involved a journey to Australia.  Here’s how we discovered this story.

In October 2017 Dr Paul Freeman, a regular visitor to the record office, started analysing census records for 1841 to 1911 covering the parish of Brimington. He was particularly interested in finding answers to questions about the male working population: where were they born; what work did they do; did they settle or were they just passing through?

As well as measuring trends and movements over time Paul decided to look in detail at one particular census. He chose 1891 because that was the census year in which the proportion of immigrants amongst the working men in the village reached its peak: in that year 26% of working men were born in the village, 26% were born elsewhere in Derbyshire and 52% were born outside Derbyshire.

He wanted to know how it was that these 78% who were born outside the village knew that if they came they would likely find work and housing. It was clear from the occupations of working men that the great majority would have worked for the neighbouring Staveley Coal and Iron Company. Consequently Paul turned to the Staveley Company’s records held with us at the record office to see if they contained anything of relevance. Thus it was that in February 2018 he chanced upon the intriguing records pertaining to Charles Biggs.

I was so intrigued when Paul told me of the story he was unearthing that I asked him if he might write an article which could be shared on our blog.

In the attached article Dr Freeman tells us the fascinating tale of the Defalcation of Charles Biggs, which shows us that when using archives, you never know what you might uncover…..

The Defalcation of Charles Biggs article

Historical recipes – both good and bad

I was interviewed by Andy Twigge for BBC Radio Derby today and we discussed a few recipes from our many historical recipe books.  I made a couple of things for him to try: one was the gluten-free rice cake which I’ve blogged about before, and the other was Jumbles from Mary Swanwick’s 1740s recipe.

The one I didn’t make, but rather tickled me, was from a seventeenth century book.  It’s from the archive of the Gell family of Hopton Hall and like all such home recipe books, it contains a mix of medicinal and cookery recipes.   I would strongly recommend that you don’t try this one at home.

Recipe for convulsion fits

Reference no: D258/32/15/1

Here’s my transcription with modernised spelling and punctuation:

Mrs Evelyn’s excellent powder for Convulsion Fits

Take a dozen young moles, flay them, draw them and quarter them, lay them abroad in a dish and dry them in an oven until they will powder. Take elecampane root, cleanse, slit and dry them in an oven to powder. Take red peony roots and Jews ears [a kind of mushroom], powdered after the same manner.  Take also a little of the                      of a healthy woman when it is burnt to powder.  Beat them severally and take of each powder a like quantity by weight.  Mix them well together and keep them close tied up for use.

Take of it 3 mornings before and after the full and change, in a spoonful of black cherry water as much as will lie on a shilling, fasting, and drink 2 or 3 spoonful of black cherry water after it.

The black cherry water definitely sounds like the best bit!  I’m not entirely sure about ‘the full and change’ but I think that is referring to the moon, the full moon often being seen as the culprit for fits of insanity.  As for what you should be powdering from a healthy woman, if you have any suggestions, let us know in the comments.

You can hear snippets of my conversation with Andy Twigge by listening to his lunchtime radio programme every day this week at around 2.15pm – or catch up with it on the BBC Radio iPlayer.  I’ll post the Jumbles recipe later this week, for those that would like to give it a try.  I promise that it’s much more palatable than the recipe above!

A Russian chocolate box

As it’s World Chocolate Day today, here is a gorgeous Russian chocolate box, decorated with illustrations of Hans Christian Anderson tales:

chocolate box

chocolate details

There are even still some – sadly empty – wrappers:

chocolate wrappers

The box is from the archive of John R. Biggs (1909-1988), a distinguished wood engraver, typographer and graphic designer from Derby.  Biggs was appointed Head of Graphic Design at Brighton School of Art in 1951, a post he retained until his retirement in 1974. Throughout the nineteen seventies and eighties he traveled extensively in Russia and the Baltic States, exploring Eastern European art and design. We have his entire archive, including his tools and many of his wood blocks; you can find it all in our online catalogue.

We’re still crowdfunding! So go on, have a chocolate (it’s allowed today) and donate on our crowdfunding page. 

 

Three fans

Within the collection of objects that we’ve called ‘Lady Jane’s Museum’ there are three beautiful fans which may have belonged to Lady Jane Franklin or to the Gell family from Hopton Hall. According to an expert at The Fan Museum in Greenwich, the oldest one dates from the seventeenth century:

D3311 OBJ 02 3 unfolded ruler

In the earlier part of the seventeenth century the most commonly used fans were ‘fixed’ and consisted of feathers set into a handle. Later on in the century folded, hand-painted fans, such as the one above, gained in popularity; by the end of the century the folded fans had completely superseded the fixed ones.

Next is an early eighteenth century fan; by this time folding fans were very popular and were being made all over Europe and imported from the Far East:

D3311_OBJ_02_2_unfolded_ruler[1]

The third fan dates from around 1805-1810 and is a brisé ivory fan. This type of fan consists only of decorative sticks, with no pleated fabric attached:

D3311 OBJ 02 1 unfolded ruler

The sticks of brisé fans are usually intricately carved and held together with a ribbon which is either glued to each stick, or – as in this case- threaded through pierced openings. The carvings were meant to give the illusion of filigree or lace.

Our fabulous fans are in great condition considering their age and we’ll heed the Fan Museum’s advice by storing them closed in museum boxes. If you’d like to help us look after them, as well as the other objects in Lady Jane’s Museum, you can donate on our crowdfunding page  or call our reception on 01629 538347.

A week and a half into our crowdfunding campaign we’ve already raised £565! Every little nudge that will get us closer to our £1000 goal is much appreciated.