Treasure 22: Servants’ Wages book, Derby Royal Infirmary

This treasure is chosen by David Jenkins, who used to be one of the archivists, but now works as Derbyshire County Council’s Corporate Records Manager.  He writes:

I have chosen a Servants’ Wages book from the Derby Royal Infirmary which details the wages paid at the Infirmary from 1828 to 1855. The Infirmary was built by voluntary contributions in 1804 with the first patients being admitted in 1810. The ‘servants’ mentioned in the book span a variety of occupations including cooks, kitchen maids, laundry maids, porters, and nurses. The book provides a snapshot of the staff employed at the hospital in that period – this is especially valuable because records of an individual’s employment from the 1800s can be very hard to find.

Treasure 22 Wages book

The wages book was one of the most memorable archival collections I have dealt with because of the unusual addition that came as part of the same auction lot.  We had not paid attention to the last line of the auction house’s description, and were very surprised when we received a package which contained both the wages book and a Victorian death mask! Sadly we know no further information about the mask, who the deceased was or if she even had a connection to the Infirmary.

Treasure 21: Maud Verney’s sketch of Pleasley

This treasure, from collection D6326, is to be found in a sketch book kept by Maud Verney around one hundred years ago.  It was chosen by Becky, one of the archivists.

Treasure 24 Maude Verney (a)

The artist was the wife of Frederick Verney (1846-1913), Member of Parliament for Buckingham.  The Verneys were benefactors of the area, and related to the family of Florence Nightingale. Becky says:

I chose this item because of the different perspective it gives to mining and collieries.  The typical mental image of mining is bleak and grey, but this image, drawn from real life, emphasises that the colliery could be beautiful in its surroundings.

Kids Get Creative at the Record Office

Looking for ways to keep the children entertained this half term?  Then pop along to our children’s craft day on Friday 29th May between 10am and 4pm.  We will have lots for the little ones to do, silhouette treasure hunts, 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.

Art and the Harpur Crewes exhibition

One of the things that have become quite noticeable from cataloguing the Harpur Crewe collection has been the artistic inclinations of quite a few members of the family. It first became apparent in the number of sketchbooks and individual examples of drawing that kept cropping up, so I decided to look into what other arty material was to be found among the records.

Sir George Crewe, the 8th baronet (1795-1844), in particular, revealed himself to be an enthusiastic amateur when it came to sketching. Though a busy and conscientious public administrator, he evidently took the opportunity in his moments of leisure to indulge himself in his drawing or painting of the natural world. The love of this type of activity passed down to his grandchildren, including Richard Fynderne Harpur Crewe (1880-1921) who continued to sketch ships, man and boy, and who also experimented in photographing images of the natural and man-made world, whether it be stupendous mountain scenery or the latest technological breakthroughs (cars, planes, airships).

The family also showed a distinct love of music, with several manuscript copy books of scores of pieces they liked. The most conspicuous example of this love was the commission given by Sir Henry Harpur, the 7th baronet (1763-1819), to Joseph Haydn, the most famous composer of the day, to compose a couple of marches for the Derbyshire Yeomanry in 1794.

To give you a taste of what can be seen, here are some of the images which didn’t make into the exhibition.

Harpur Crewe Exhibition_00016a
Harpur Crewe Exhibition_00011
Harpur Crewe Exhibition_00018a

Quarter Sessions indexes and transcripts now online

Before the formation of Derbyshire County Council in 1889, many of the things that we now regard as local authority functions were the preserve of the County Quarter Sessions. That’s why, from the very moment of its creation, the new authority already had such a wealth of historic quarter sessions records. It also benefited from work that had been kicked off in 1872 by the appointment of a Quarter Sessions Committee charged with “inspecting and arranging the records of the county”. For more about these early efforts to understand and organise Derbyshire’s archives, have a look at “Three Centuries of Derbyshire Annals” by John Charles Cox (1843-1919). There is a copy in our search room.

The Quarter Sessions had a broad and changing range of responsibilities and used a lot of very formal language to record what was going on. The format and language can be a little off-putting for first-time users (or even second- or third-time users, to be frank) and I think that explains why Quarter Sessions records remain relatively under-used.

To help people hack a pathway through the forest of words, names and places, we have transcripts and indexes that you can use. We can’t take any credit for their existence, except in the few instances (such as the amazing Prisoners Database) where they have been produced by our staff. They are the work of people who have devoted their energies and expertise into making the records easier to use.

The point of this blog post is to let you know that we have been adding these indexes and transcripts to our online catalogue. You can follow this link to the indexes/transcripts.

You can use them to find out if someone you are tracking through history was
…employed on a barge in the 1790s (Q/RM/3/1)
…an apprentice in a cotton mill in 1841 (Q/AG)
…enrolled in the Navy or Army in 1795 or 1797 (Q/AN) or an officer in the Derbyshire Rifle Volunteers (Q/AD/31)
…the subject of an inquest after their death (Q/AF/8)
…legally classified as a “lunatic” in the early 19th century (Q/AL/13)
…the proprietor of a business that had its scales tested for accuracy in 1797 (Q/AM/1), or who was convicted of weights and measures offences in 1798 or 1825 (Q/SO)
…considered suitable for jury service in 1775 (Q/RJ)
…apprehended as a “vagrant” or subjected to a settlement examination to work out whether they were legally entitled to remain in a parish they had moved to (Q/RV), or a removal order to send them back again (Q/SB/7)
…a Roman Catholic from 1693-1767 (Q/SB)
…ordered to pay for the upkeep of illegitimate offspring between 1682 and 1800 (Q/SO)
…tried by the Local Magistrates between 1792 and 1830 (A/SO) or the Assizes Court between 1834 and 1853 (Q/SP) – although this index has really been superseded by the Prisoners Database which I mentioned above.

Treasure 20: The Sheffield Clarion Rambers Guides

Here’s another treasure from the Local Studies collection at Derbyshire Record Office: some of the handbooks for walkers published by the Sheffield Clarion Ramblers. The driving force behind the group was George H B Ward (1876-1957), a Labour Party politician and activist. You can read more about him on the Kinder Trespass website.

The books were nominated as one of our 50 Treasures by Sue Peach, Local Studies Librarian, who writes:
I love these guides because of their delightful miniature size, so easy to slip into the rambler’s pocket, and for G H B Ward’s exhortations: “None but sturdy and proven men-ramblers must attempt this walk. Beginners must stay away”.

My Wonderful Life Exhibition

MWL book          Jessie

Using traditional Japanese folding techniques and beautiful textured papers, members of the Winster and Elton Luncheon Club worked on a project with artist Jane Wells of Junction Arts to create their own book.

Decorated with lino print boarders the books are filled with photographs and recollections about key moments and memorable events in each participant’s life.

The completed journals are on display in our reception area alongside an original poster for the Winster Wakes designed by local artist Rose Foster and photographs of Winster and Elton supplied by the Picture the Past project which is based at the record office.

DSCF0539

We are delighted to have these poignant, delicate books on display as part of this year’s Derbyshire Literature Festival and in celebration of Made in Derbyshire 2015.

Do come along and take a look, they will be with us until the end of May.

Derby Local Studies and Family History Library re-opens

Here’s some great news for people who live and work in Derby: Derby Local Studies and Family History Library is being officially opened this Friday, 15 May 2015.

The Local Studies Library will be opened at 10.30am by the Leader of Derby City Council, Cllr Ranjit Banwait, in its new home at Riverside Chambers in Full Street, Derby.  The building was formerly the magistrates court, a listed building which has been beautifully restored to its former glory.  The research area of the library occupies one of the former court rooms, which makes for a unique research experience!  Following the official opening, members of the public will be able to access the library from 11am.  The library opening hours will be:

  • Monday            9.30am – 1.00pm
  • Tuesday            9.30am – 1.00pm
  • Thursday           9.30am – 7.00pm
  • Friday               9.30am – 4.00pm
  • Saturday           10.00am – 1.00pm

Derby Local Studies and Family History library is well worth visiting as it has a huge collection of over 60,000 books, photographs, maps and plans, local newspapers and magazines, as well as many historic documents relating to Derby and its area.  The new building offers much more research space, superfast broadband, customer toilets and there’s also an award-winning café downstairs where you can take a break.

Do go and take a look – I know the team will be delighted to see their old customers again and to welcome some new faces.

Flying high in the sky

Among the many characters who appear in the Harpur Crewe records a personal favourite is emerging in the shape of Richard Fynderne Harpur Crewe (1880-1921). Richard (or Dickie, as he was known to family and friends) was the only son of Sir Vauncey Harpur Crewe, the 10th Baronet (1846-1924). There was certainly a contrast between the two in how they lived their lives. Sir Vauncey was what could reasonably be called “an old stick in the mud”, someone who settled down to a somewhat sedentary existence and resisted all intrusions of modern life into his life. He famously refused to countenance the introduction of such new-fangled inventions as electricity, cars and telephones at Calke Abbey.

No doubt, he would have banned aeroplanes had he had the chance. Dickie, however, embraced the new technologies whole-heartedly, and it was in an aeroplane that he most clearly exhibited his more adventurous inclinations. On 25 February 1912, at about 5.20 in the afternoon, at the Brooklands Aerodrome, Surrey, he climbed into a 2 seated 70 Gnome Bleriot monoplane behind the pilot T.O.M. Sopwith. After a few basic instructions from Sopwith on how to position himself (legs in, with his weight as close to the pilot as possible), the engine was started, and after a short wait to warm it up properly, the signal was given to go, and off they rushed. Dickie did not know quite when they left the ground, but leave the ground they did. The plane was soon “very much up” and proceeded to make several circuits of the Aerodrome, climbing steeply one moment and then dropping suddenly the next, banking and circling, carefully avoiding another machine also out flying, before finally swooping down at speed towards the earth, straightening up and then touching the ground “with a slight bump” several times, and eventually landing “after a series of little jolts.”

Richard Fynderne Harpur Crewe with pilot T.O.M. Sopwith

Richard Fynderne Harpur Crewe with pilot T.O.M. Sopwith

We know all this from a written description made of the flight by Dickie, who wrote down his experiences after the event in his distinctive handwriting on five pages of notepaper, and which he kept in a small envelope which emerged from a box of photographs in the Harpur Crewe collection. Dickie’s response to it all was unequivocally positive, talking of “a magnificent sensation – a glorious feeling”. He summed up what he felt about flying with Sopwith in the sentence “The experience is a joy.”. You might like to read what he says in a full transcript I have made here of the document (reference number D2375/M/177/1).
Notes on Sopwith flight at Brooklands

What is most remarkable about it, to my eyes, is that only half an hour before another aeroplane had crashed, “a fearful wreck indeed”, from underneath which a certain Watkins had been dragged clear, looking pale and in pain, having apparently broken his thigh. I’m not sure I would have been quite so ready to become of one of “those magnificent men in their flying machines”, which, judging by the photograph, seem to have been held together with not much more than string.

For Dickie it was a clearly exhilarating and enjoyable experience in himself, but he also recognised the potential use of aeroplanes in military engagements. He talks about being able to see objects in a wide field of view clearly at a height of 2000 feet and that a trained observer could take in a lot which would be very useful to a military commander. His perceptive comments will go on to be proved correct in two years time on the outbreak of World War

Louis Bleriot had famously been the first to cross the English Channel in a plane in July 1909, less than 3 years before Dickie’s flight. Bleriot was a pioneering experimenter in aviation, designing and developing the first engine-powered monoplane, and formed his own aeroplane-building business. Following his successful Channel flight, he built and developed more flying machines, including the one flown by T.O.M. Sopwith.

Thomas Octave Murdoch Sopwith was a driven young man, excelling initially in motor cycling racing before turning his attention to aeroplanes. In 1910 he won the not inconsiderable sum of £4000 in achieving the longest flying distance from England to the Continent and used the winnings to found the Sopwith Flying School at Brooklands. A few months after his flight with Dickie, he and others followed Bleriot’s example and set up the Sopwith Aviation Company, which went on supply the allied forces in the Great War (later known as the First World War) with thousands of aeroplanes, including the famous Sopwith Camel. After the war ended, his company fell foul of anti-profiteering taxes, but he soon set up, with Henry Hawker, another aeroplane manufacturing company originally called Hawker Aircraft, later known as Hawker Siddeley. Sopwith lived to the grand old age of 100, dying only in 1989, not really that long ago, or so it seems to me!

Neil Bettridge
Harpur Crewe Cataloguing Project Archivist