Travels with William Porden: London to Guildford, 1793

As his diary records (archive ref. D3311/4/4), on 25 May 1793, architect William Porden set off in the stagecoach to Guildford in order to visit Hampton Lodge in Farnham, Surrey.  He doesn’t mention why he was going, but possibly the owner of Hampton Lodge was a client.

This is a journey that nowadays takes just over an hour (according to Google Maps – I feel sceptical you can actually get out of London by car that fast!), but in 1793 took three to four days.  Mr Porden rarely mentions the scenery on his travels; on such long journeys it was your travelling companions that made the journey more or less enjoyable. There only seem to have been two other passengers on this journey:

At 8 in the morning left London in the Guildford – Passengers W Gill a Gentleman of some fortune in the Neighbourhood of Guildford, and the Rev W Chandler … a neighbour and acquaintance of Mr Gill. He was a Gentleman Parson and more interested in the affairs of this world than the next. I had no reason to think his natural abilities or his arguments extraordinary. His remarks were common place and related more to fashionable amusements than general life and literature.

Mr Gill appeared to be a man of sense, and well acquainted with men and books. I did not think him polite with regard to me, but perhaps I ought to have blamed myself, for having rose early after a night of little sleep I was not much disposed to attentions – however it seemed as if he was willing to keep state with Passengers in a Stage Coach.

The Rev W Chandler seems to have been doing most of the talking on this journey, and the topics of conversation certainly didn’t verge into the religious.  They discussed Ranelagh, the fashionable public pleasure gardens in Chelsea:

A View of Ranelagh Gardens, 1754, copyright of Victoria and Albert Museum

A View of Ranelagh Gardens, 1754, copyright of Victoria and Albert Museum

Mr Chandler said that about 30 years back the Company used to assemble at Ranelagh from 6 to 8 o’clock and retire about 11 or 12. It was no uncommon thing for a Gentleman to drive himself in a Phaeton, full dressed, bag [wig] and sword to drink tea there and return by eleven or earlier – At this day few persons of fashion think of going till eleven or twelve.

Mr Chandler also had something to say about horses:

When Horses are landed from a vessel they always fall down the moment their feet touch the Ground. Those who are acquainted with the circumstance take care to have them landed on straw to prevent them from breaking their knees.  Mr Chandler was once obliged to swim a favourite Horse to a packet that lay off Brighton at above a mile distance.  The Horse was slung and hoisted out of the water when the tackle broke and plunged him again into the sea – by good fortune he turned towards shore and swum out amidst the hollowing [hallooing] of the spectators which with the peculiarity of his situation hade him tremble with terror.  He was afterwards swum back to the vessel and safely embarked.

Poor horse!

Fothers, Franklin and Folksongs

Around this time yesterday, I was at an interdisciplinary seminar at Brunel University, showing an assortment of lead-mining documents to an assortment of academics.  All those assembled had an interest in metals and mining during medieval and early modern times, whether from the perspective of a historian, geographer, palaeoecologist, sociologist or, in my case, archivist.  Here are three examples of the Derbyshire Record Office documents that I had digitised to take with me:


This is a lease by the Abbot and Convent of the Dale (i.e. Dale Abbey) to Richard Blackwell of “Worseworth” (Wirksworth), of their lot and tithe ore at “the Gryffe” (Griffe). It dates from 1489.  The tithe was ten percent of whatever lead ore was extracted at Griffe during that period, whereas lot was a customary payment of every thirteenth dish of lead ore. For the six years covered by this lease, those payments would go straight to Blackwell – by the time the lease expired, he would know whether the bargain had been worth making.

The all-important measuring of lead ore would have gone on in a building like the one depicted in this map of Wensley of 1688, reference D239/M/E/5525:


See the circular yellow-green blob just to the right of the centre? Inside is a drawing of something marked “reckoning coe”, where the ore would be measured.  You can also see the “smithy coe” in the bottom-right corner.  (A coe is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as “a little hut built over a mine-shaft, as a protection to the shaft, or as a repository for ore, tools, etc” – although on the map it is spelled “cow”.)

Finally, there’s this petition, D258/10/9/35:


It is addressed to the King from Wirksworth’s miners and argues that the town ought to have its own representatives in parliament, because as things stood the miners “have noe voyces” in choosing MPs.  To back up their argument, they point to the importance of the town’s barmote court in regulation of the lead industry, the employment of “many thousand people” in the mines, the profitable incomes from the customary dues of lot and cope, and the benefits of having so much lead “for the use of the kingdome in generall, and in transporting the rest to forraigne nations, whereby your Majestie hath greate customes, both for the leade exported, and for the other merchandize imported in exchange thereof”.  I am afraid we do not know exactly when this petition was drawn up, but it was not a success – Wirksworth never had its own parliamentary constituency.

After the seminar, heading home from Derby railway station, I chanced to hear a song by Jim Moray which has been nominated for this year’s BBC Folk Awards.  The reason I mention it is that it was clearly inspired by the life of Sir John Franklin, polar explorer (1786-1847).  You might want to have a look at some of this blog’s previous posts about Franklin, or listen to the the very final tune of Simon Mayo’s programme on the iPlayer.


Introducing William Porden…


Portrait of William Porden (D3311/5/1)

Just before Christmas I flicked through a couple of diaries written in the period 1793-1820. I love reading diaries and letters. Through them, I feel like I know the people who wrote them; they become familiar friends and their world, even if 200 years old, seems as real as our own.

I thought I would share some of the diary entries in this blog, partly just because I like them (a good enough reason in itself – that’s partly what this blog is for), but also because their author, William Porden, is a Hull man and so we can do our bit to celebrate Hull’s status as City of Culture 2017.

So firstly, a quick explanation about the man himself.  In his first diary and commonplace book, he notes family events, but interestingly, it looks as if he didn’t know the date of his own birth.  He records himself thus:

W Porden son of Thomas & Hannah Porden of Kingston upon Hull was Baptised January the 29th 1755 as St Mary’s Church and it is supposed his Birth was sometime in December preceding.

An eminent architect of his day, he lived in London and his most famous surviving building is the riding school and stables at the Brighton Pavilion, built 1803-1808, which is now the Brighton Dome Concert Hall.

Brighton Pavilion Stables

Brighton Pavilion Stables

If you’re wondering why on earth his papers are held at Derbyshire Record Office, it’s because William Porden’s daughter, Eleanor Anne Porden (1795-1825), was the first wife of Sir John Franklin (1786-1847), who famously led a disastrous voyage of Arctic exploration along the Northwest Passage in 1845 (you’ll find more blog posts about this here).  Their daughter, Eleanor Isabella Franklin, married into the Gell family of Hopton Hall, Derbyshire, and so her mother’s and maternal grandfather’s papers came with her into the family and now form part of our Gell collection D3311 – it all makes sense in a way!

William Porden didn’t use his diaries to record his everyday life, but begins his diary in May 1793:

If every man would treasure the Observation, which he makes in his Journey through life and Register the remarks of others he would soon collect an abundance of knowledge and preserve the means of amusing many a future hour. I have often made this remark and I have often resolved to put the matter in execution nay I have frequently begun to do so; but idleness and want of perseverance has rendered it of little effect.  I again resolve to do so and I now again begin to register what has occurred during a Journey of three or four days.  I dare not flatter myself that I shall be more steady than I have been – but I will try – Whatever may be the end I shall consider all that is got as gain.

I confess to also being guilty of occasional idleness and want of perseverance in my blog posts, and may also not be more steady than I have been – but I, too, will try.  In the next post, we journey with Mr Porden on the London to Guildford stage…

Treasure 47: Plan of proposed railway to Mapperley Colliery

This treasure (Q/RP/2/207) is a plan of a proposed railway to Mapperley Colliery, submitted to the Quarter Sessions Court in 1889 by the Great Northern Railway. It shows the line between the Heanor branch and the Midland Railway branch to Mapperley Colliery.


This is one of over three hundred railway plans and books of reference in the Quarter Sessions collection – the reason we have them is that from 1792 onwards, anyone who planned to build a canal, turnpike road or railway had to deposit plans with the Clerk of the Peace for any affected county.


If you would like to support our work by adopting this document, for yourself or as a gift, have a look at the Adopt A Piece Of History page

Treasure 46: Register of child factory workers

This treasure comes from the Belper-based cotton spinning company W G and J Strutt Ltd and is a register of children dating from May 1853 to April 1860 (D6948/14/5).  Education was not made compulsory until 1880, so the use of children’s labour in the Strutt mills in Belper was very normal.

The register records the reference number of each child’s certificate of employment, the first day of employment or re-employment and when they worked in the morning or afternoon. A column notes when they change their group or leave – or come to the end of their thirteenth year and become classified as “young persons”.

Arbella’s jewels… what’s listed in the inventory?


A lady holding a sable with jewelled head and claws (a zibellino) in her right hand, just like Arbella’s, c.1595

If you’ve been struggling with the handwriting in our 45th treasure, the list of Arbella Stuart’s jewels, here’s a transcription.  I whiled away a train journey by having a go at this. It’s by no means perfect, so If you have any alternative suggestions for some of the words, do please leave a comment below.

These Jewels Chaines Pearle rings and other things
here underwritten recewed by the lady Arbella Steward
of the lord Cavendishe this xxiij daye of february in
the fift[h] yeare of the raigne of our Soveraigne Lord King
James 1607
A riche Sable the head and Clawes of goldsmith worke
enamelled and sett wth diamonds and rubies
Two borders of goldsmithes worke on[e] peece of one of them sett
wth one peece set wth Two[?] p[ear]le a rubie another peece set with a diamond
another peece set with a rubie and soe throughout the other of the
borders sette with one peece set wth foure round p[ear]le another pee[ce]
sett wth a diamond and soe throughout
A Chaine of blood stone and goldsmyth worke
Fowre score and eight buttons enameled wth blacke and three
white snailes a peece
Thirteene wyre work buttons Two more
A Cloke[?] sett wth diamonds and rubies
A globe set wth diamond and rubies wth a p[ear]le pendant
A seale lyke a pillar sett wth rubie diamond and emerald
Another border of goldsmyth worke one peece set wth a diamond
another peece set wth five p[ear]le and soe throughout this of
seaventeene peces
Two rope of p[ear]le contayninge syxe score and five greater p[ear]le
Another border of gold smyth worke of nintene peecs one peece
set with foure p[ear]les and another peece set wth an emerald and soe
One crose set wth diamonds with a p[ear]le pendant
Another greater crosse set wth diamond rubies and fyve round p[ear]le
A Broorse set with rock rubie and an emerald & a diamond
An ewre [ewer] of christall trimmed with gould and set wth rubies and tur…es [turquoise?]
A salte [salt-cellar] of Agget [agate] trymmed wth gould and set wth emerald
Three gold rings upon a pap[?]
A greate table diamond in one ring a pointed diamond in another and a rock rubie
in another
Thirtie eight p[ear]le of black and white agget enameled […]
Three score eightene […] enameled

Treasure 45: Arbella Stuart’s inventory of jewels, 1607

This extraordinary document (D1897/1) is an inventory of her jewellery, which itemises the pieces given to her by ‘the Lord Cavendish’ (William Cavendish, 1st Earl of Devonshire). It dates from 1607 and is signed by Arbella herself.


Arbella Stuart (1575-1615) was the grandaughter of Elizabeth, Countess of Shrewsbury (d 1608), also known as ‘Bess of Hardwick’. At the end of the 16th century, Arbella was next in line to the English throne after King James VI of Scotland. Her father, the Earl of Lennox, was the younger brother of James’s father and a grandson of Margaret Tudor. Arbella spent much of her early life with her grandmother and this document appears to record the return to her of her jewels from her uncle, William Cavendish, 1st Earl of Devonshire, Bess of Hardwick’s second and favoured son. Arbella was regarded as a traitor by King James, (by then also James I of England), after her unauthorised marriage in 1610 to William Seymour, grandson of Lady Catherine Grey, heiress to the English throne under Henry VIII’s will. Imprisoned in the Tower of London, Arbella died there in 1615.

Learning lessons from the past

This Friday, 27th January, marks Holocaust Memorial Day.  The Holocaust Memorial Day Trust (HMDT) is the charity, established by the Government, which promotes and supports HMD in the UK.  HMDT encourages and inspires individuals and organisations across the UK to play their part in learning lessons from the past and creating a safer, better future.

Many of our Derbyshire libraries will have displays of books, posters and material from their collections relating to the holocaust, Jewish history and culture.

Here at the record office we have a small display of material from our local studies collection which include guides to Jewish genealogy and tracing Jewish ancestors, articles relating to Jewish history and information on the Holocaust and other subsequent genocides.  There is a free HMD booklet to take away.

So if you are visiting us, do take a look.


We’re featured!

Have you seen us in the latest issue of Who do you think you are? magazine? There’s a whole Derbyshire feature with a special focus on the family history resources available at the Record Office, plus a directory of other local services and online resources for Derbyshire family history

If you have a Derby or Derbyshire library card, you can read the full feature via the libraries e-magazine service – find out more and how to access the magazine by clicking here