From Servants to Staff at Chatsworth

Did you know that there’s an exciting archival research project going on at Chatsworth House?  The archives of the Dukes of Devonshire are still held at Chatsworth, under the care of the Chatsworth Archives team.  The collection is huge and full of so many amazing things that I couldn’t possibly enumerate them here – I recommend that you take a look at the Chatsworth blog to get a glimpse into their collections.

So back to the archival research project… Chatsworth is working in partnership with Sheffield University to look at the lives of servants from the 18th to the 20th century.  Three Sheffield University PhD students are working on Chatsworth’s archives, each student working on a separate century of records.  Together they will be piecing together the social changes that have transformed masters and servants to employers and staff.

Since January, the students  (Hannah, Lauren and Fiona) have been writing a monthly post for the Chatsworth blog about their discoveries.  If you want to get an insight into the lives of the governess, housekeeper and more, take a look at the Servants to Staff posts so far.

Even though Chatsworth holds its own archives, within our own collections we do have a very tiny glimpse into the life of one Chatsworth servant.  We hold three letters written by Elizabeth Winchester to her mother in Bakewell between 1803 and 1806 (reference nos D5430/76/22-24).  Elizabeth seems to have been  lady’s maid to ‘Little G’, Georgiana Howard, the eldest daughter of the famous Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire.

We have no pictures of Elizabeth – as a servant, she was unlikely ever to have her portrait painted – but here’s a famous portrait of the Duchess of Devonshire with Elizabeth’s mistress, Georgiana Howard, as a child:

Elizabeth travelled with ‘her lady’ to Paris in 1803, and writes her first letter from there, about which she says: “I can only wonder how any English person can like France, there seems to be so few comforts here to what there is in England”.  Her mistress clearly attended a lot of evening parties, as Elizabeth complains bitterly that:

…had I my time to spend again I would never undertake such a sort of situation as this I am in and I think I shall very soon look out for something different, as I am to get my own living I may as well do it in a situation that I like better than I do my present one, besides I think I am losing my time by living here for fifteen pounds a year, besides destroying my Health as I never have a good Nights rest, I have not been in Bed since we have been in Paris till, four, five, & six o’clock in the Morning, which is a very uncomfortable thing, and what I am sure no constitution can bear for any length of time I should not care what I did in the Day if I could have rest at Night…

By February 1805, they are back in London, but Elizabeth is still very unhappy with her situation, as Devonshire House is undergoing some renovations so the family is staying in Grillons Hotel, in Albemarle Street.  This very fashionable hotel didn’t please Elizabeth, who says:

…you can have no Idea how very dirty everything is, I do not think I ever was more uncomfortable in my life … to think of her grace putting us in a French Hotel, there are only about four or five English people in the House, and I have to Dine and Drink Tea & Sup with such a dirty set of French people, that can scarce speak five words of English that one can understand but the Duchess likes everything that is French, and must give them every encouragement.

Poor Elizabeth!  She is one servant who definitely did not seem to enjoy the cosmopolitan lifestyle of the ‘great families’.  Hopefully, the Servants to Staff project will reveal more of Elizabeth Winchester’s employment history, and the histories of many others who worked for the family at Chatsworth.

PC & the Pedal Crankers ‘flying the flag for Great British Cycling’

Whilst researching for our forthcoming ‘Have bike, will travel’ exhibition, I came across a reference to an ‘audio disc’ featuring a song by ‘PC & the Pedal Crankers’ which turned out to be a 7inch single featuring the songs ‘Ride Your Bicycle’ and ‘The Bike Ride Song.’

The only information we have is that it was for a Derby Police charity bike ride event in 1987, and that  PC & the Pedal Crankers were Kevin Jackson, Keith Jackson, Carole Jackson and Trevor Coakley.  It was produced by Mick Vaughan and recorded at Network Studios, Nottingham.

It would be fantastic to find out more, and having had a listen, it’s upbeat, catchy and clever enough to be due a re-release – it’s certainly music to put a smile on your face! In the light of the increase in cycling and events like Eroica Britannia, the Aviva Women’s Tour and the Tour of Britain visiting Derbyshire, it’d probably be a very well received ditty…as the tagline on the record says it’s “Flying the Flag for Great British Cycling.”

If anyone knows anything about the single, or the event it was made for, please get in touch!

‘Have bike, will travel’ starts on Thursday 5th May, simply turn up and you can view our cycling related Local Studies and Archive items in our Reception area.

Treasure 32: the wartime diaries of Maria Gyte

This treasure is nominated by two former members of staff, who have prepared the text used in this post.  Firstly, let’s hear from Glynn, officer for the Derbyshire Lives Through the First World War project:

I am nominating these diaries, not just because they have relevance to my role with the First World War, but because it is what archives are all about. They are a reflection of real life that cannot be understood so well through history books written by someone years later.

Maria Gyte was at the centre life in the village of Sheldon through war and peace. She suffered the greatest loss a mother could with the death of her son, Tony, in France. The diary covering 1917 records the way in which she learned the terrible news through a third party and her repeated sadness that Tony ‘now lies in a foreign grave’.

Treasure 32 M Gyte diary.JPG

Despite the obvious grief and some hardship, one of the great things about the diary is the comic contrasts. After recording the dramatic world events, village life intervenes with the news that ‘Ben Naylor killed Ed Brocklhursts pig (18stone 10lbs)’ and a few days later that they had roast pork for dinner.

Phil, formerly our Caretaker, and latterly a volunteer on the Derbyshire Lives Through the First World War project, writes:

Words have always been very special to me- they convey not just facts, and detail but emotion, subtlety. I love to write as much as I love to read; I garner facts and squirrel them away….

In its awfulness, the Great War was unparalleled in the futility, suffering and loss that it generated. Men, through their sense of duty, freely gave themselves for King and country; they accepted all they were asked to do. That duty ended in ‘No man’s land’ for countless thousands- lives, mostly young- cut short by a bullet, shell, gas or shrapnel. Human beings were cruelly used for such little gain.

Lives in the trenches were often brutally short; so many men simply disappeared into the mud and mayhem of the battlefield. Some so badly wounded, even when brought back to the dressing stations for treatment, survived only to die soon afterwards. One such, a young Private; a farmer’s son, honest, quiet, loved! Tony Gyte; died of wounds one grey November morning in 1917. Passchendaele! One of the by-words for muddy, bloody horror.

We know about Tony because of the love, grief and passion of one woman- Maria Gyte, Tony’s mother, who kept a diary of her thoughts, her day to day trials and tribulations; the mundane the highlights of a hard, but eventful life in the tiny Derbyshire village of Sheldon. The published compilation ‘Diaries of Maria Gyte: 1913-1920’ is without doubt my ‘treasure’ to contribute towards the ’50 Treasures’. It is a book with no equal!

Tony’s final resting place is in one of the very many military cemeteries in Flanders- a fact that distressed Maria immensely for the rest of her life. Maria and Anthony, (Tony’s father) ‘rest’ under the trees in the churchyard of St. Michael and All Angels’ Church, Sheldon. Tony’s short life is commemorated on the gravestone, along with those of his parents and one of his four sisters. The inscriptions and carvings on the stone tell their own moving tale. It was worth the 50 mile round trip to see this most moving of tributes, to feel the connection with the Gyte family, and sense their overwhelming loss….

Two short extracts: 

Aug 4th [1914]

Rather gloomy at times. Men working on the hay (Waterlands).  W[ilia]m mowed croft heads.

Nothing can be talked about but the war. This has come so suddenly…….England has fought for peace but it is feared that she will have to fight as Germany is proving very aggressive…..W[illia]m also mowed Little Butts.

England declared war on Germany.

 

Nov 13th [1917]

Fine. The dreadful news came (officially) that our poor Tony had died in the field ambulance on Nov: 2nd. We are all in a sad way. poor lad it is only six months since he went into training and now killed in the beauty of his manhood……..My poor dear Tony, gone for ever and we shall never see his face any more on this earth.  How shall we bear it?

30 Years ago this week in the Derbyshire Times

Here’s a selection of news and events from this week in 1986 as featured in the Derbyshire Times:

It was election time in West Derbyshire and the candidates were:

CandidatesBill Moore- Labour

Patrick McLoughlin – Conservative

Robert Goodall – Independent

Christopher Sidwell – Rainbow Alliance (Loony Crocodile Tears)

Mr Sidwell was from Coventry, but had set up his campaign headquarters at 15 Jackson Road, Matlock. Does anyone remember this party? The main issue overshadowing the election was the bombing of Libya by American planes from British bases.

There was also a visit by Divine at Chesterfield’s Moulin Rouge nightclub, who the interviewing journalist found to be quiet and reserved…Divine, born in the small town of Marilyn in the States also added that “it took a long time before people accepted his outlandish act, especially the conservative British.” Does anyone have any memories of this apparently very popular Chesterfield club in the 80s?

Divine Derbyshire Times May 1986

The Top Ten that week was an interesting mix, with a song you not wish to remember at number 5 in the charts – ‘The Chicken Song’ by Spitting Image…at 4 was Janet Jackson with ‘What have you done for me lately,’ 3 was Madonna with ‘Live to Tell’, at 2 ‘Rock me Amadeus’ by Falco, and George Michael was top of the charts with ‘Different Corner’.

The eagerly awaited film ‘Absolute Beginners’, starring Patsy Kensit and David Bowie was showing at the ABC in Chesterfield and the Ritz in Matlock. And local heavy metal band ‘Coldsteel’ were offering music lessons in return for being their roadie!  I wonder what became of them…

Top Ten

Football wise, Derby appeared to be in the Third division but on the verge of promotion to the Second if they beat Rotherham at the Baseball Ground.  Apparently the support from fans was “remarkable” despite “a series of unconvincing and jittery performances raised serious doubts about promotion.” Sound familiar to anyone..?!

Rams

Our Local Studies library has lots of Derbyshire newspapers available to look at on microfilm if you want to search for a particular article or just feel like a trip down memory lane!

Sir Richard Arkwright on the Move

Collections in the Landscape

Buxton Museum and Art Gallery has loaned its portrait of Sir Richard Arkwright to Cromford Mills Visitor Gateway for five years.

Moving the likeness of the father of the industrial revolution is no minor feat. They don’t make them like they used to; the gilded frame is made from solid wood. A team of six people was needed to shift this 2.4 x 1.5m oil painting (and one to photograph them doing it).

IMG_0024.JPG

Large in both stature and portrayal, Arkwight has returned to Cromford, where he established one of his revolutionary water-powered cotton mills in 1771. Not to be confused with Joseph Wright’s painting, this version is attributed to John Holland in around 1790. Gifted to Buxton Museum in 2010 by English Sewing Thread Ltd. in Belper, Derbyshire, the portrait has been an interesting challenge to store and display.

Freed from the shadows of Buxton Museum’s stores, visitors to Cromford…

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Treasure 31: Annals of Crime in the Midland Circuit

This treasure was nominated by Library Assistant Emma Webster, who writes:

I came across a book when I was looking for information about highwaymen, called ‘Annals of Crime in the Midland Circuit’ or ‘Biographies of Noted Criminals in the Counties of Nottingham, Derby, Leicester and Lincoln’. While the title doesn’t sound that exciting, it is full of accounts of some horrific crimes, pretty much all of which have incurred the death penalty. It says these are reports from ‘authentic records’ although I haven’t been able to find any authors. It goes into great detail about the crimes, and the sorry endings of the criminals – including crowd reaction!  It’s definitely the most gruesome book I have come across in Local Studies…

Treasure 31 Criminals book.JPG

Find 1926 General Strike documents on Warwick University’s map

1926 map

Our colleagues at the University of Warwick’s Modern Records Centre have been busy.  They have completed the digitisation of over 450 documents on the General Strike of May 1926, including TUC reports, bulletins issued by strike committees, and transcripts of BBC radio broadcasts.

A lot of the documents have particular local content, which you can access by finding pins on the interactive map associated with this resource.  I had a play with it just now and managed to find the text of a speech about the coal industry by J F Vardy of Stanton Ironworks, delivered at the Welfare Institute at Pleasley on 25 Jul 1925.

The site also has some additional contextual material including a summary of key events before, during and after the strike.

Treasure 30: The photographs of Frank H Brindley

This treasure was nominated by our erstwhile colleague Mark Higginson, who has recently left Picture the Past to become manager of the museum and visitor centre at Belper North Mill.  We wish him all the best in his new role.  Mark writes:

A recent addition to Picture the Past has been a collection of prints taken by Sheffield-based freelance press photographer Frank H Brindley, who photographed northern parts of the Peak District.

Often Brindley’s pictorial submissions to local newspapers would be accompanied by a caption or even a short typed article.  Some of these have survived and give a unique insight into both the man and life from the 1930s through to the 1950s.

This has been a fascinating collection to work with and demonstrates how preserving this information enables a better understanding of the context in which such pictures came to be taken.  A picture may well be worth a 1,000 words, but a 1,000 words, or even a few dozen, certainly adds something to an image!

To see more of Brindley’s work, go to www.picturethepast.org.uk and click Advanced Search, then choose “Brindley F H” from the “Search by Photographer” menu.

These photographs form part of the 50 Treasures exhibition currently in our vitrine wall.