The Alan Turner Opera Company’s eye-catching archives

Last month, Derbyshire Record Office was delighted to accept the donation of five rather extraordinary albums of photographs and news-cuttings (D8089) assembled by Alan Turner (1904-1967).  Turner was Managing Director of the Ernest Turner group, which included the Spa Lane Mills in Derby.  However, the principal focus of the collection is not textile production, but theatrical productions.  Alan Turner’s eponymous Opera Society/Company put on numerous performances in London in the 1920s and 1930s, before relocating to Derby in later years.  Here is a sample of some of the fantastic photographs and ephemera in the first volume:

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It wasn’t just opera, though Continue reading

A Question of Seduction

This is not my title, but the title given by Daniel Parker Coke to one of the cases he provided legal advice for over 200 years ago. Of the 40 or so cases he records in this particular notebook (one of five in our collection), there are several being similar to each other (for example, several relating to the settlement of a pauper and the right to an apprentice). There are also several that give us an insight into the position of women and the way they are viewed by the men in and out of their lives. This is one such case in which the former lover (Richard) of a young woman (Hannah) who has apparently had children by at least one other man. The parish and Quarter Sessions feature a number of cases of child maintenance and bastardy, this one however, is from a slightly different angle, with the father of Hannah claiming damages against Richard as his daughter has been unable to fulfill all her servants duties.

Here is the transcript from his notebook, which begins with the letter he received (abbreviations expanded):

Please to answer this Law Question. I was at Lenton wake this week at a friends of mine Mr John Hopkin a reputable farmer. He has a nephew Richard Potter a Farmer that I know & lives at Trowell in the County of Nottingham & he being a young man made love to a young woman of the same village Hannah Hewitt a Farmer’s Daughter & after some time they differed & parted & after she had a child by one Robert Whitehead a blacksmith of the same village of Trowell & since then Richard Potter has had connections with her but he solemnly says not of above a year past & now she brought to bed of another child & her father Hewitt has employed Mr Bolton the Attorney to bring an Action against Richard Potter for Trespass & the loss of his Daughter’s service who acted in the capacity of Servant & has served Potter with a Declaration he has employed Mr Evans and Middlemen & expects a Trial at the next Assize for the County of Nottingham. Now Honoured Sir I should be glad to have your private opinion on the Case. Mr Hopkin is a freeholder of Nottingham & strongly attached to your Interest & Richard Potter & his two Brothers are in the Derby Yeomanry & has been exercising this morning Thursday on Breadsall Moor or Common. Note Richard Potter is married about a Month past. Note Hannah Hewitt has not sworn the Child if she does & swears it to Potter he knows he must maintain the Child though he says it’s none of his. Your most Humble and Obedient Servant, Wright Hawley

Parker Coke’s reply dated the following day reads:

This is an unpleasant business to Mr Potter as he admits he has had a connection with Hannah Hewitt which will undoubtedly be proved by her as she may be a witness in the Action which is brought by her father. The Action is brought for Seduction & if is founded upon the loss of service. And if it should turn out to be a strong Case the Damage may be considerable. At all events the Verdict must necessarily be against Potter with some Damages which will be followed by the Costs of the Cause so that upon the whole the Expence to Mr Potter must be considerable. What I would recommend to him is to compromise the matter by offering a sum of money – if the Cause should come into Court it will probably be referred by the Judge as these Causes are seldom tried I would therefore advise Mr Potter if they cannot agree upon the sum of money to be given to offer to leave it to one two or three friends as Arbitrators & if Hannah Hewitt’s character should be proved to be (as it is here stated) that of a common woman the Damages will probably be small

Too often I think we think of such complicated relationships as being a modern occurrence, but this account shows this is not the case.

D1881/UL – Coke of Brookhill Family Papers

Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu

Last week was a time of goodbyes for us at the Record Office.  You may have seen my previous blog about the retirement of Local Studies Librarian Sue Peach, but we also had to say farewell under much sadder circumstances to another friend and colleague, Sue Hulse.  Sue H

After a brave fight, Sue died on 22nd March at Ashgate Hospice.  Her death was a shock and huge loss to us all and last week colleagues both past and present joined her family to say goodbye at her funeral.

The title of this blog is a mantra for peace spoken during yoga, which Sue was passionate about.  It opened her funeral service and the meaning behind it says a lot about Sue as a person:

“May all beings everywhere be happy and free, and may all thoughts, words and actions of my own life contribute in some way to that happiness and to that freedom for all”.

Sue came to us in Local Studies nearly 20 years ago from Sheffield Libraries. We were so thrilled to have found someone so perfect for the job, with a local studies background and interest in the subject.  She immediately brought us up to date with her computer skills, devising spreadsheets and databases where before there had only been reams of paper.  When we wanted to offer one to one computer sessions to our customers, Sue was an obvious choice.  She drew up comprehensive worksheets and with her knowledge and patience she loved helping people like this.  In those early days of computers if any of us had a problem – a file wouldn’t open, the printer wouldn’t work, we couldn’t figure out how to attach a document to an email – there was always the common cry of “Sue!!!”

Working part time in Local Studies, Sue also worked in the Stock Unit and at Bakewell Library where she was equally valued.

When in 2013 the Local Studies Library amalgamated with the Record Office, Sue found herself also working in the Search Room which meant learning a whole new set of skills. But as ever Sue threw herself wholeheartedly into the challenge and valued the opportunity to further expand her knowledge, and have the chance to work closely with the archive collection.

We will all miss Sue – as a colleague she was precise, dependable,  hard working and knowledgeable.  But more importantly as a friend she was gentle, kind, considerate and caring. It says a lot about Sue that customers have been as equally upset at her passing as have her friends.  Our thoughts go out to her family – to her husband Keith, her son Liam, her mum and her brother.  It was a pleasure to know her.

A fond farewell….

This past week saw us say a fond farewell to Sue Peach, Local Studies Librarian here at the Record Office.  With a career in libraries stretching over 40 years Sue has now said goodbye to spend more time with her family, friends and to enjoy the hobbies she loves – walking and bell ringing to name just two.  Although Sue had insisted she didn’t want a fuss, we couldn’t let her go without a proper goodbye, so friends and colleagues joined together on her last day to see her off in style.  Sue P's retirement (13) (2)

I asked Sue for a few details about her library career and so typical of her, she did the job for me and wrote a complete biography!  So here in her own words is Sue’s life in libraries:

“I started as a trainee with Derby Borough Libraries in the autumn of 1973, but we rapidly became part of Derbyshire County Council in 1974, and I then followed a training programme which brought me to Matlock for the summer.

I did a postgrad Librarianship course at Leeds which ran for the whole of 1975, then was based at Derby Central and Belper libraries. I remember I was considered lucky at library school, as I had a job to go back to.

I left in 1979 to have my son Adam, but was back again in 1983 because they needed librarians in the Reference Library, which was then in the Strand in Derby. This was really interesting detective work, as you could be asked anything, and you had to look everything up; no Internet. We also had Tourist Information for a while.

I had my second son Christopher in 1985, and in 1987 the Reference Library was amalgamated with the main Lending section. The work became even more interesting, as we now needed to know about popular authors and take requests. But this was still only Saturday work, and when in 1994 I saw a job advertised for a librarian at Swadlincote I applied and got the job. The team were great; everyone was so welcoming and friendly. Their theme song was “Simply the Best”, and they were. No fuddle or do was complete without “turns”, songs, sketches and dressing up; part of the Swad tradition.

In 2001 an internal job ad finally ended its journey in my tray (I’d been on holiday).The closing date was the following day, but it was for a Local Studies job, something I’d always been interested in, but the jobs were few and far between. There was a temporary post on offer because of maternity leave so I rang the Local Studies Development Officer Ruth Gordon, who said it wasn’t too late to apply. So began a most happy time, and when Lisa decided to come back on a 3-day basis, I was quite happy to drop a scale, and drop hours, just to be able to work in Local. This was definitely a golden time, working with Ruth, Lisa, Sues B and H, Julie, Norma, Barbara, Paul D and John T. I also got up to speed as a relief cataloguer. In 2006-7 I covered temporarily as Special Services Librarian at Chesterfield. This was useful because in 2007 I obtained hours as a Local Studies librarian there, working alongside Lesley Phillips.

Things were changing rapidly again though; Ruth was retiring and we were to amalgamate with the Record Office, under the new leadership of Sarah Chubb as Record Office and Local Studies Manager. Lisa and I took over most of Ruth’s jobs, including Local Studies book selection, binding and microfilming, all new skills for us. We acquired the Parish Register microfilms, plus Helen and Vicky to help us out, started getting to know our new colleagues in The Creche, and were involved in everything from choosing images for the new décor to visiting other history centres, measuring everything and learning how to pack, carry and unpack enormous crates of books…

My hours were transferred from Chesterfield to the Record Office in 2011, and I have ended my career with four very interesting years there and a lot of lovely new colleagues. You never stop learning: there were CALM and EDRM to get to grips with, not to mention the procedures by which documents are retrieved.

So thank you to everyone I’ve had the pleasure to work with, and for all the help and support which has always been there.  Love, Sue.”

And thank you Sue, we will all miss you and wish you a very happy retirement.

Changes to our opening hours

A few months ago, we carried out a survey about reducing our opening hours.  We asked which day our customers would prefer us to close: Monday, Wednesday or Friday.  The results have now been analysed and Derbyshire County Council’s Cabinet have agreed the changes.  There was a clear preference for Mondays, so we will be closing on a Monday and opening Tuesday to Friday as normal.

We will also be reducing our Saturday openings from every Saturday to one Saturday a month.  Many people who responded to our survey pointed out how important it is to have plenty of time to do their research when they visit us, so we have decided to extend our hours on the Saturdays we are open.

As of 1 June, our new opening hours will be:

Monday: CLOSED
Tuesday to Friday: 9.30am to 5.00pm
Last Saturday of the month: 9.30am to 4.00pm

We unfortunately need to reduce opening hours in order to make budget savings.  Although we will be closed to the public on a Monday, we will, however, be able to do other activities on that day.  We can open up more spaces for volunteering, as we can use our search room for volunteer activities on a Monday.  We will also be able to run events that aren’t possible when we have customers in the building, like larger (and noisier!) classroom visits from schools.

Please rest assured that we are working hard to get more of our material online and to  offer more opportunities for people to enjoy our collections in new ways.  We understand that our Monday closure will be inconvenient for some customers.  We very much  hope, however, that the work we are able to get done behind the scenes whilst we’re closed, to make our collections more accessible, will compensate for the loss of opening hours.

‘By the People, For the People’: the seventieth anniversary of nationalisation

An exhibition marking the seventieth anniversary of the nationalisation of the coal industry opened this month at the National Coal Mining Museum for England. ‘By the People, For the People’, which runs until December 2017, explores the events that led to the creation of the National Coal Board (NCB) and raising of its flag at collieries throughout the UK on 1 January 1947 (known as ‘Vesting Day’).

The exhibition looks at many aspects of the nationalised coal industry and the culture it created not only within the workplace but also in the communities in which miners and their families lived. Sports and pastimes, art and culture, training and recruitment:  these all developed in interesting ways through the state’s investment in coal and welfare between 1947 and the end of nationalisation in 1994.

Derbyshire Miners' Welfare Holiday Centre, Skegness, 1939 (D1920/4/3/2)

Derbyshire Record Office will be at the museum on Wednesday 19 April displaying a selection of items from the archive of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) Derbyshire Area that complement the exhibition’s main themes. We will be showing how miners and their families spent their leisure time at the Derbyshire Miners’ Welfare Holiday Centres in Skegness and North Wales during the 1950s and 1960s, as well as looking at the social and sporting activities organised by the NCB, NUM and the Coal Industry Social Welfare Organisation (CISWO) in the same period.

Please do come and take a look.

Texting U in the 19th century

This is a bit of fun – and a promising start for the new blog from Hampshire Archives and Local Studies

Hampshire Archives and Local Studies

Letter writing is seen as a dying art in the twenty first century as most people now phone, text, tweet, facebook or email. Before all of these inventions, letter writing was the main form of communication, particularly among ladies of the upper classes who were well educated and had plenty of time to write to their often copious relatives and friends. Young ladies in particular often enjoyed combining their drawing skills with that of writing a letter, as can be seen in the example below, which also resulted in an enjoyable puzzle for the recipient to resolve.

DSC_1922

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Mother’s Day Surprise!

Still looking for that perfect gift for Mother’s Day?  How about the parish register that shows the baptism or wedding of her ancestors?  Or a map of the area she grew up in, or the admission register of the school she went to? Perhaps she loves dancing, walking, trains, cooking, gardening, sport or art? Why not have a look at our Adopt A Piece Of History scheme and give her the chance to help protect her own and Derbyshire’s history.

aph-certificate

And because it’s such a special occasion, we’ll waive our usual delivery times – just send through your order for any type of certificate and pay for it by noon on Friday 24th March, and your personalised certificate will be in your inbox by noon on Saturday 25th March.

 

Results of our 2016 Visitor Survey

Back in Autumn 2016, we participated in the national survey of visitors to archives, which is carried out by the Archives and Records Association (ARA).  The national results have just been published – these may be of more interest to archivists than visitors, but if you’d like to see the results for the whole country, you’ll find them on the ARA website under the heading ‘PSQG National Survey of Visitors Reports’.  For Derbyshire, here are a few highlights:

This compares well to the national averages, which were 9.8 for attitude of staff, 9.7 for quality of staff advice, and 9.3 for the service overall.

The gender profile of our visitors has changed markedly since we last did the survey in 2011.  Then, 52% of our visitors were female and 48% were male.  A lot more men seem to be using us now: in 2016, 62% were male and 38% female.

Five years ago, 81% of our visitors were researching family history.  This has nearly halved – in 2016 only 41%  of our visitors say they are researching family history.  Local history is now the most popular topic of research at 43%.   We can’t say with absolute certainty why this shift has happened, but it’s likely to be caused by the rise in websites like Ancestry and Findmypast.  These websites mean that people can do a lot of their family history online, and don’t need to visit record offices so much.

For the first time, the survey asked people to say specifically what they were researching, and there is a fascinating range of subjects given, from the diary of Henry Colvile’s, who fought in late 19th century Uganda, to changes in church windows over the years.  If you’d like to see a bit more detail about what our visitors are researching, what they said about the Record Office, and our responses to their comments, we’ve compiled the key information into a document: 2016 Satisfaction survey – summary of responses.

You might think that this is all very interesting (or not!) but what impact does it have?  Well, knowing why people use us and what kind of subjects they are researching is enormously helpful in deciding what collections we catalogue or digitise, and the future work we do.   And the scores that our customers give for our various facilities and services help us to plan where we will be making changes.

As an example, the survey tells us that 49% of visitors search our online catalogue before their visit.  However, only 48% of them rated the usability of our online catalogue as very good.   We want more people to use the online catalogue, and for them to find what they want more easily so we’re at the very early stages of ambitious plans to overhaul the online catalogue over the next few years.

Thank you to everyone who participated in the survey.  I know it can feel like once you’ve popped your survey in the box, nothing happens, but it takes a few months to process the results for the whole of the UK.  Although it’s slow, it does eventually have an effect, so watch this space…

I love it when a plan comes together…

… with the original survey book alongside which it was created.

Plans and survey books are easily separated.  They are superficially very different: a survey may look like a standard hardback of several pages, and the plan that goes with it may be a single sheet, rolled up or folded.  The difference in size and shape means the pair of items are unlikely to be stored on the same shelf or in the same box.  In fact, each might be so useful on its own that from time to time, their custodians forget that they two items were designed to complement one another.

Here’s how they work together.  See the plot numbered 358 on this poor rate plan of Brimington dating from 1827? I have highlighted it with a black arrow.

D177 A PC 37

If I want to find out more about it, I can look at the survey book, and see that it was a Blacksmith’s shop and hovel, owned and occupied by George Richards, amounting to three perches in area.

D636 A PO 1

When Brimington Parish Council was created, as a consequence of the Local Government Act of 1894, the civil functions of Brimington parish began to be administered under a separate authority for the first time.  The church parish, meanwhile, retained its ecclesiastical duties.  In the division of assets, whether by accident or design, the new parish council got to keep the book, while the church held on to the plan.  Come the 1960s, each of these bodies began to deposit its historic records here, so that the survey and plan ended up in separate collections.

Today I added a cross-reference to the catalogue, and I believe it was the first time that anyone at our end had linked the two things together – although I gather from a researcher who visited today that both documents are mentioned by Philip J Cousins in his “Brimington : the changing face of a Derbyshire village”, published to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the parish council.

If you ever want to visit us to use the documents in our search room, or order a paid search of their contents, here are the all-important reference numbers: the book is D636/A/PO/1, and the plan is D177/A/PC/37.