First World War commemorations

Over the next three weekends Barrow Hill Roundhouse will be hosting First World War Commemoration events for all the family.

Saturday 20th and Sunday 21st October – 10am-4pm

Sunday 28th October – 10am-4pm

Saturday 3rd and Sunday 4th November, 10am-4pm

The end of the First World War will be commemorated with the special pop-up exhibition ‘Derbyshire Lives Through the First World War’.  The exhibition charts the impact the war had on the lives of people living in the county.

The record office have been asked to go along and I’ll be there on the first and final weekends with a stall displaying original documents from our collection, including letters home from soldiers serving in the trenches and copies of the trench magazine The Wipers Times.  Come along and say hello.

Wipers times crop.jpg

The Wipers Times – document ref: D1712/4

Adults – £3, children (under 16) – £2, families (2 adults and 3 children) – £8.

Barrow Hill Roundhouse, Campbell Drive, Barrow Hill, Chesterfield, S43 2PR

Tel: 01246 475554


Discovering Franklin

We have an exciting new project beginning on Monday 1 October.  Funded by Archives Revealed, our Discovering Franklin project will create a detailed catalogue of the papers of Sir John Franklin (1786-1847); his first wife, Eleanor Porden (1795-1825) and her father William Porden (1750-1822); his second wife, Jane Griffin (1791-1875) – more usually known as Lady Jane Franklin; and his daughter Eleanor (1824-1860).

Barry Lewis looking at Franklin material

Leader of Derbyshire County Council, Councillor Barry Lewis, and some of the Franklin papers

If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you will probably have heard these names before: we’ve blogged about them quite a few times!

If you’re not familiar with Sir John Franklin’s story, in 1845 he led two ships, HMS Erebus and HMS Terror, up to the Canadian Arctic to discover the Northwest Passage.  The quest to find the Northwest Passage was the Victorian equivalent of the race to put a man on the moon.  Enormous efforts were made to be sure that the British would be the first to find the Northwest Passage and control a potential new trade route to the Americas.

Franklin docs - daguerrotypes

Photographs taken of the officers, just before the expedition set off in May 1845

The crew wrote home for the last time when they stopped off in Greenland… after which they disappeared.  It wasn’t until the late 1850s that the fate of the 129 crewmen was known – they had all perished, although the exact cause of their deaths remains a mystery.  There were, however, tales of starvation and cannibalism which horrified people back home – and were speedily quashed.  The ships themselves remained lost until very recently, when they were discovered by Canadian archaeologists in 2014 and 2016.  Excavations continue each summer to discover their secrets.

Franklin docs - last letter 3

One of Sir John Franklin’s last letters, written June 1845 from Whale Fish Islands, Greenland

The Franklin papers we have at Derbyshire Record Office have never been properly catalogued but are full of fascinating documents that deserve to be much more accessible to the many people who are interested in Franklin, polar exploration and much more.

Here’s just one example: a little book of hymns that Eleanor sent to her father with Sir James Ross, who led the first expedition to find Franklin in 1848.  By then her father was already dead, although of course no one knew this.  Ross’s expedition was blocked by ice at Somerset Island and so he had to return the book to Eleanor without bringing her the good news she must have been hoping for.  This little package, lovingly prepared by Eleanor and kept safe by Sir James Ross, has been all the way to the Arctic Circle and back.

Package sent to Franklin from Eleanor

Book of hymns sent by Eleanor to her father Sir John Franklin with Sir James Ross’s expedition

There are many more poignant stories captured in these papers.  We will be detailing our discoveries in this blog, of course, but if you use Twitter you can follow more immediate updates there at @FranklinArchive.  And if you’d like to find out more about the Franklin expedition, there are lots of books, TV programmes and films about it… why not start by borrowing a book from your local library?



New acquisition: George Beeland, drapers and cloth merchants

While Derbyshire Record Office rarely buys documents, much like No. 33 buses, another find has popped up at auction and we’ve made another exception.

This time for three ledgers detailing the accounts of George Beeland’s wholesale drapers and cloth merchants business, which traded from 23 Iron Gate, Derby throughout the 1850s.

3 Vols

George Beeland originally ran this business in partnership with William Henry Wood. However, when they went their separate ways at the start of 1850, Beeland continued the business as sole owner until 1862.


Stephen Glover, in his History and Directory of the Borough of Derby, notes the partner’s started trading from Iron Gate in 1849. It even appears that George may have come from a family of drapers. Various trade directories record a William Beeland, draper trading from Iron Gate as early as 1843.

Corn Market

When Beeland and Wood established the business in 1849, there was also a George Beeland, draper and a William Beeland junior, woollen draper and tailor, both on Iron Gate. William Beeland senior, a draper, traded from 57 Friar Gate, together with perhaps his wife and daughter (Mrs. & Miss Beeland) who ran a millinery and dress rooms from the same address.

If you’d like to these account books, just come and visit us and ask for D8172.

New acquisition: Winster in 1769

Derbyshire Record Office rarely buys documents but we recently made an exception when an eighteenth century map of Winster came up for auction.  Winster is a beautiful and historic village, but our earliest map was the first edition of the Ordnance Survey, surveyed 1875-1882.  This is well over a hundred years after Winster’s heyday as a centre of the county’s lead mining industry, so we were very excited when we were able to buy this 1769 map with the help of a grant from the Friends of the National Libraries and a private donation.

The Plan of the lead mines and veins of the Partners and Proprietors of Portoway Placket Yate Stoop Limekiln and Drake, Winster is a beautifully drawn map:

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And what’s really exciting is that it shows the village in some detail:

Winster village - 60kbAlthough the village is much bigger nowadays, some of the older buildings are still recognisable on this map.  I’ve marked a few below: the red circle marks the church, the blue circle is Winster Hall and the green one is probably Winster Market House (now owned by the National Trust).   If you know Winster well, you can no doubt recognise more.

Winster 1769 - 62kb

Of course for lead mining historians this map is also a fascinating resource as the mines themselves are marked.  Plus, if you’d like to see what an 18th century lead miner looked like, there are some lovely images of them:

Lead miners on Winster map - 68kb

We want to thank the Friends of the National Libraries for their grant which enabled us to buy this wonderful map, as well as lead mining historian, Steve Thompson, who also generously contributed to its purchase.

If you’d like to look at the map, just come and visit the Record Office and ask for D8163/1.




Kids get creative!

Kids get Creative crop

Looking for ways to keep the children entertained this summer holiday?  Then pop along to our children’s craft day this Thursday 16th August between 12noon and 4pm.  We will have lots for kids to do including our silhouette treasure hunt , creating a family tree or coat of arms and much more, and as children under 8 have to be accompanied by an adult – that means you can have a go too!

It’s a drop in event so no need to book and best of all it’s absolutely free.

Derbyshire Record Office, New St, Matlock, DE4 3FE

Hot and Stormy Weather

The spring and summer of 2018 is promising to become a memorable one. With record-breaking May bank holiday temperatures, the ‘mother of all thunderstorms’, recent heat-stoked wildfires near the Saddleworth Moors, and the current heatwave with a looming hose-pipe ban, the list of extreme weather events is tallying up. These events are seemingly at odds with common notions of wet and moderate British springs and summers. But it is worth remembering that thunder and lightning storms, record-breaking temperatures and heatwaves have always been part of Britain’s weather history.

In recent years, members of the ‘Weather Extremes’ project have undertook extensive archival research to uncover instances of extreme weather events in British history and have compiled over 18,000 records as part of the TEMPEST database. Through their research, they have uncovered a range of extreme weather phenomena, including flooding, severe winters, and, as pertinent to our very recent and current weather conditions, summer lightning storms and heatwaves.

As part of ‘Weather Extremes’ project, members from the University of Liverpool and Aberystwyth University (including myself) will be hosting a free workshop at Derbyshire Record Office on the 23rd July on the timely topic of extreme weather. (For event and booking details, please visit – This workshop will introduce participants to the freely accessible TEMPEST online database. Using extracts from the database – some of which have been catalogued following extensive archival research previously undertaken at Derbyshire Record Office – we will showcase a series of short historical weather stories relating to Derbyshire and other areas of Britain. Through these stories, we will highlight the range of materials researchers can explore for creating their own weather histories. We will also reveal the differing ways in which people have coped and responded to extreme weather events in particular times and places, and how extreme weather events have been woven into the cultural fabric of local communities. There will also be an opportunity to view some of the materials held at the DRO relating to weather and the chance for participants to share their stories and memories of extreme weather in their region.

To provide a taste for the upcoming workshop, and in light of the recent hot and stormy weather events, the remainder of this blog post is made up of some extracts that I have mined from the TEMPEST database that relate to Derbyshire and are held in paper form at the DRO. These fascinating extracts cover drought, death by lightning and the impacts of the famous 1906 heatwave on Morley. They demonstrate just how tumultuous historical springs and summers have been in Derbyshire!

1615 – Dry Summer and Drought

In an entry in the Youlgreave and Winster Parish Register from 1615 (D3644/42/1), we can see that there was an extensive dry spell and severe drought, which disrupted the harvest and would have no doubt placed the local agricultural community under immense strain.

1615 A Dry Summer

There was no Rayne fell upon the Earth from the 25th day of March until the second day of May; and then was there but one shower, after which there fell none tyll the 10th day of June, and then there fell an other; after wch there fell none at all tyll the 4th day of August: after which tyme there was sufficient Rayne upon the Earth: so that the greatest part of this Land especially the South parts were burnt up, both Corne and Hay. (An ordinary Summer load of Hay was at 2lb and little or none to be had for money). This part of the Peake was very seve burnt upp: only Lankashyre and Cheyshyre had Rayne enough all Summer, and both Corne and Hay sufficient:-

There was very little Rayne all the last Winter but snow only.

 1739 & 1743 – Fatal Lightning Storms

In a manuscript book of Derbyshire topography of the sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries (D349/1), we can see instances of both animal and human fatalities from lightning storms within the space of four years.

Derby About 20th May 1739. They had for three or four days very hot weather at Derby, accompanied with much thunder and lightning, and heavy storms of rain which did much mischief in that Neighbourhood; particularly at Langley, four miles from thence two horses belonging to Thomas Grace of that Town were on the 22nd day in the evening struck dead by the dreadful lightning. Also about a mile from the said place a calf was kill’d by lightning at the same time.

 Chesterfield, Derby

In July 1743 was a violent storm of thunder and lightning ta Chesterfield which continued for several hours during which time Mr Larka Waiter at Derby was struck dead by a flash of lightning , coming from Buxton

1906 – Heatwave

Unusually for a heatwave in Britain, the 1906 heatwave was across August and September rather than the more usual June and July. This proved lucky for farmers in Morley who, according to the Morley Parish Authorities (D1797/A/PZ/1), had managed to collect in their harvest early before the terrific heat scorched the earth and emptied the ponds.


A beautiful summer brought grand crops of hay & corn which were gathered without any trouble. The harvest was all over by the beginning of Sept. The first corn was cut the last day in July. After the harvest the country became dreadfully burnt up & at the end of August the heat was terrific. Nearly all the ponds were empty & nearly all the springs dry – the fountain near the Rectory gate supplied the greater part of the drinking water for the whole parish

With more hot weather anticipated this summer, we may well start to see rivers, lakes and ponds start to dry up. Thankfully we will not need to rely on the local fountain for our water supplies.

The Amazing Pop Up Archives Project film and resources – information and inspiration

We are delighted to bring you our project film.  If you didn’t catch us at one of our events you can see what we got up to and hear from the team on their experiences of working on the ‘Pop Up’ project:


Inspired?  Want to do something similar yourself?  Then click on the link below where you will find our case studies and Evaluation Report.  These documents provide information on how we created and delivered the project, the lessons we learnt along the way, the project’s achievements and our hopes for future ‘Pop Ups’:

Pop Up project resources – get inspired to ‘pop up’ in your local community

If you’d like to know more about the Pop Up project then do get in touch at



William Nightingale’s ‘Domesday Book’: guest post by Dr Richard Bates

Did you know that in a couple of years it will be 200 years since Florence Nightingale was born?  Many people aren’t aware that Florence’s family was from Derbyshire, but to link with her anniversary, the University of Nottingham has a major Arts and Humanities Research Council funded project called Florence Nightingale comes home for 2020. 

One of the researchers on this project, Dr Richard Bates, has been here at the Record Office looking through the records of the Nightingale family and was particularly interested by item D4126/1, snappily titled “Schedule of the Title deeds and Particulars of the Estates of Wm Ed Nightingale, Esq, in Lea, Holloway, Wakebridge, Matlock, Wensley &c &c in the County of Derby”

D4126 1 front

Richard writes:

This volume, dated 1825, was produced either by, or for, William Edward Nightingale (born William Shore), Florence’s father. It was most likely drawn up in the early 1820s. In 1815, William had assumed possession of a considerable estate of land, bestowed on him in the will of the eccentric Derbyshire industrialist Peter Nightingale, his uncle, who had died in 1803. However William, who had to change his name to Nightingale as a condition of taking the inheritance, only came to live in Derbyshire in 1821, having spent the initial years of his married life travelling in Europe, especially Italy. His daughters were named Parthenope, the Greek name for Naples, and Florence, after the cities in which they were born.

D4126 1 open

The book, held in the Derbyshire Record Office in Matlock, is a compendium of every parcel of land comprising the estate built by Peter Nightingale in the Lea / Holloway / Cromford / Matlock Bath region of the Derbyshire Dales. The estate included the cotton mill at Lea – still a going concern as John Smedley Ltd – and a lead smelting factory, as well as agricultural lands, rented cottages, and a large swathe of garden and parkland. The size and annual value of every piece of land is enumerated.

D4126 1 page detail

The book is embossed in gold lettering, perhaps reflecting the importance of the contents to William – it was, in effect, the key to his fortune – and the pride he took in the estate and its management.  An accompanying account book, dated 1820, shows that the annual value of the Lea estate was at least £2200 – equivalent to around £125,000 today – from land totalling over 1100 acres. In total the Nightingale inheritance gave William an annual income of around £7,000. In addition, the Nightingale land in Derbyshire turned out to contain coal deposits, which generated further income that William could invest.

The Nightingale inheritance thus allowed William and his family to lead leisured gentry lives, mixing with and entertaining the great and good of 19th century liberal Britain.

Florence’s father turned out to be a good accountant, marshalling the family fortunes sensibly and solidly over five decades. This was crucial to Florence, who never married, and thus always relied on the family income. Florence could never inherit the estate herself, since Peter Nightingale had stipulated it could only be transmitted through the male line. This left her and her family in a precarious position – if her father had died young, her immediate family would have lost control of the money and been forced into reduced circumstances.

Fortunately, however, William lived until 1874. From 1853, when Florence definitively left the family household, William allowed her an allowance of £500 per year, which gave her independence. Later in life, Florence used the money from her Derbyshire-derived income to live in Mayfair, close to the politicians she was lobbying to enact sanitary reforms.