Preserving Franklin talk

If you’re enjoying our updates and discoveries as part of the Discovering Franklin project, why not join Lien, our Senior Conservator, at the Record Office in Matlock on Thursday 7 March for a talk on the conservation and re-packaging work that’s going on.  The talk is from 10.30 till 12.00 and is free, but places are limited so please do book through our Eventbrite page or by calling us on 01629 538347.

Franklin poster

 

 

Miss Green Stockings

Eleanor Porden’s Valentine poem, which was posted by my colleague Lien earlier today, in which Eleanor imagines herself as a young native American girl, does go somewhat beyond the  usual ‘Roses Are Red, Violets Are Blue’ school of poetry. It suggests a young woman deserted by a faithless lover: though “the Night of the Grave” closes in on her, she still yearns for one who has calmly and cruelly left her; he will most likely fall for one of his own kind, one of “the daughters of Albion”, with their blue eyes and blond hair; the very thought of it causes emotions of vengeance and rage in her, but, no matter, if he returns, all will be well; she will gather together any “dainties” or animals he might want to eat, and the elements will no longer be against him, and even the ice will be swept from his path. All very Romantic with a capital R.

The circumstances surrounding the subject of the poem, however, have a darker side to them in reality. The poem has been called ‘The Miss Green Stockings’ poem, and it was named after a real person. She was known as Green Stockings after the way she dressed, and she was the daughter of an old “Copper Indian” guide, Keskarrah. They were among a party of native people, with whom Franklin and his fellow Arctic land expedition members spent several months during the winter of 1820-1821 at Fort Enterprise. This was an encampment built for Franklin and his party at the junction of Yellow Knife River and Coppermine River in north east Canada to see out the harsh winter conditions.

Keskarrah and Green Stockings, from John Franklin’s “A Journey to the Shores of the Polar Sea”, published 1823

Franklin, in his published account of the expedition “A Journey to the Shores of the Polar Sea”, went so far as to call Green Stockings fascinating, and records that she was considered a great beauty by her tribe. She was described by him as being an “object of contest” between her countrymen, and although she was under the age of sixteen, she had already belonged to two husbands. She was, however, not only an “object of contest” with her own countrymen but also with members of Franklin’s own expedition. Two of his midshipmen, Robert Hood and George Back, fell in love with her, and the competition between them to gain her affections was so intense that they would have fought a duel over her, had not another of the expedition members, John Hebburn, sensibly removed the charges from their guns. When Back volunteered to go on a trip to another fort to gather more supplies, it gave Hood the opportunity to take Green Stockings into his bed, which he duly took. The information on the love rivalry does come not from Franklin himself, unsurprisingly, but from the later reminiscences of Hebburn.

Robert Hood was himself the person responsible for providing the image we have of her. Artistic skills were valued on such voyages of discovery to record the landscapes, fauna, flaura and peoples of the places they went to. Both Back and Hood used much of their time to sketch and draw. Several of both men’s drawings ended up as plates to illustrate Franklin’s “A Journey to the Shores of the Polar Sea” when it was published after his return. A number of the native people encountered on their travels ended up being depicted in it, including Green Stockings, whose portrayal was said by Franklin to be accurate.

When the expedition set off again to carry out its mission of exploration and mapping, it ultimately ended in tragedy, with the loss of 11 lives (out of a total of 20 men). Starvation was the primary cause for most of the deaths. Food was in desperately short supply in the harsh Arctic conditions, and men were forced to resort to the most desperate of measures. Tripe de roche (lichen) was the order of the day, which did provide some nutrition in spite of its being literally difficult to stomach, and people also ate the leather of old moccasins, shoes made from the skins of deer or moose, for the same reason. Franklin himself did, of course, become known as The Man Who Ate His Shoes.

Robert Hood was one of those to die, but his end was actually much more violent one. He was shot in the head on 21 October 1821 by Michel Terohaute, one of the expedition’s French ‘voyageurs’ (boatmen employed to transport goods and people). He was avenged soon enough by the expedition’s surgeon, John Richardson, who took the earliest opportunity available to summarily shoot Terohaute dead. He strongly suspected him of not only having caused Hood’s death but also possibly those of other members of the party who might or might not have been cannibalised. Hood had been in a wretched state of health at the time of his death, so it is likely that he would not have survived for much longer. He died without knowing that Green Stockings had been delivered of a daughter by him.

Silhouette of Robert Hood

As appeared in a later edition of Franklin’s “A Journey to the Shores of the Polar Sea”, edition published 1829

There would be an ironic twist in the tale. George Back would return to the Arctic on several more expeditions. In the spring of 1834 he was in command of another land expedition, which, as it was making its way north, he came across a group of native North Americans. Among them he recognised the familiar figure of Green Stockings. When he called out her name, she laughed back and said she was an old woman (she would still have been in her late twenties and regarded as a great beauty). It now became the turn of Hood’s love-rival to take the opportunity to draw Green Stockings, who was pleased to sit for him.

 

As appeared in a later edition of Franklin’s “A Journey to the Shores of the Polar Sea”, edition published 1829

Happy Valentine’s Day!

A treat from our Franklin collection: the Valentine poem Eleanor Porden wrote in 1823 for her fiancé, John Franklin. We’re very lucky to have two versions – here’s the original draft:

draft frontdraft recto

And here is the letter she sent him on 14 February 1823, with her handwriting ‘disguised’:

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The symbols on the letter (presumably purporting to be Inuit) tie in with the mention of Coppermine River, the river in North Canada John Franklin had traveled down during his Coppermine Expedition of 1819 to 1822.  Eleanor seems to be writing as if she is an Inuit woman – our project archivist has been delving deeper into the background to this poem and will reveal all soon…

 

 

 

Secondary and FE Learning Tours – Derwent Valley Mills

Are you a teacher, teaching assistant or group leader working with KS3, 4 and Post-16 students? Staff from the World Heritage Site invite you to take a learning tour with them on Friday 13th March 2019 – Free of charge, thanks to the Heritage Lottery Fund and Arts Council funded Great Place Scheme.

 

Visits and free entry to the following venues will be included:

  • Cromford Mills, Cromford
  • Birdswood, The Friends of Cromford Canal trip boat
  • Sir Richard Arkwright’s Masson Mills
  • Derbyshire Record Office
  • High Peak Junction Railway Workshops
  • Strutt’s North Mill, Belper

You’ll go away with plenty of ideas and opportunities to build knowledge about this great place into your teaching, learning, enrichment and engagement activities, whatever your focus.  There is a chance to meet other staff providing learning opportunities at sites along the valley to really discover the range on offer.

  • Find out what a World Heritage Site is and why the Derwent Valley Mills was inscribed by UNESCO
  • Discover the wide range of learning opportunities available for Key Stage 3, 4 and Post 16 students along this 15 mile site.
  • Travel by minibus with expert guides visiting a range of museums, sites and venues to explore their learning offer.
  • Discuss and shape what you need for your students – are you looking for work experience?  Specific projects?  Enrichment Days?  STEM subjects?
  • Take away some learning activities and trip opportunities that you can share with your students to bring the story of the Derwent Valley Mills to life.
  • Find out about the world’s first factories, a hot bed of entrepreneurship and enterprise and the rich history and heritage available to provide a wealth of opportunities that you can unlock for your students

How to book:

Places are limited.  To reserve you place email: environmentalstudies@derbyshire.gov.uk  or call Derbyshire Environmental Studies Service on 01629 533439.

Please provide your name, school or organisation, contact email and phone number and any specific needs and mobility issues you have so we can ensure you have a successful and enjoyable day.

For more information see Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site Projects.

 

The future history of the school admission register

SBloomer
I’m recycling this image of Steve Bloomer’s school admission record (blog posts passim.), and throwing in a question: have you used our admission registers on Find My Past in your research? And do you think historians a century from now will have the same level of interest in us? Old-style admission registers like this are very largely out of use in today’s educational system, in which schools use pupil management software to record the same types of data. I wonder what effect this will have on historians whose specialist period is Britain of the late 2010s.

It’s not merely a rhetorical question (but what’s wrong with rhetorical questions?) because I have a genuine need to gauge future demand based on present use. As a records manager I have a role in helping to shape the advice the council gives to schools on retention of records. Our current recommendation is that admission and withdrawal records should be transferred here to the record office – but what should we say to schools that don’t produce actual registers?  Are historians so reliant on these sources that we should ask schools to use their software to create an annual “snapshot” of admissions and withdrawals for posterity? Would anyone ever use it?  It’s very hard to say whether this would be an efficient use of resources, because for all we know historians will have other digitally-preserved resources at their disposal – like the central government’s national pupil database, perhaps… Oh, and bear in mind that the present-day admissions process doesn’t capture interesting titbits such as parental occupation (like Steve Bloomer being the son of a blacksmith).

If you have an interest in this subject, whether frivolous or scholarly, I should like to hear from you.  Please leave a comment below, or write in to records.management@derbyshire.gov.uk.

Kalli’s last letter

Within the Franklin collection is a box of objects: precious mementos Lady Jane Franklin displayed in her house, reminders of the adventurous lives she and her husband, Sir John Franklin, had led.  Included are two letters and small drawings, bundled together in a wrapper which says: Remains of Kalierua.

d3311wrapper-copy

This refers to Erasmus Augustine Kallihirua, also known as Kalli, an Inuit from north-western Greenland who helped in the search for Sir John Franklin. In 1850 he joined the ship of Captain Erasmus Ommanney when it was in Cape York, Greenland, and worked as his guide and translator during his expedition to find Franklin’s ships. Kalli stayed with the ship as it traveled back to England, where he was sent to St Augustine’s College in Canterbury to train as a missionary.  During his time in England Kalli must have met Sir John’s daughter Eleanor, who was by then Mrs Eleanor Gell, as he sent her at least two letters and three small drawings. We don’t know how many other letters Kalli sent to Eleanor, but someone has written on the one dated October 3rd 1855 ‘Kali’s last letter from St John’s Newfoundland’.

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Kalli died on 14 June 1856 in St John’s, Newfoundland, having caught a chill while swimming. He was only twenty-four years old. A more detailed account of Kalli’s life is on the website of the Nunatsiaq News.

The Cabinet of Curiosities

Unsurprisingly, people don’t tend to think of an archive as a place where objects are held, but as many museums hold documents, often archive repositories can hold objects. Admittedly it’s not something which we seek to collect but on occasion objects come to us as part of an archive collection and it can be more sensible to keep them together than to separate them.

For example, back in 2009 the record office purchased at auction a servants’ wages book relating to the Derby General Infirmary. We were interested in the link the wages book had to Derbyshire and its possible use as a source of family history. The small book includes a list of servant staff at the infirmary which includes the job they performed, how much they were paid, and an indication of when the worked at the hospital.

Whilst the book itself is an excellent addition to our collection perhaps the most memorable thing about this acquisition was what arrived with the book. On the morning the document was delivered we were very surprised when, as part of the lot, we found a Victorian death mask.

We don’t really know much about the death mask, sadly it didn’t come with any supporting information, so whoever the cast is of will always remain a mystery.

As this is just one of many unusual and interesting objects held at the record office we decided to hold an exhibition to display a selection.

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Take, for example, a stoolball bat. Ever heard of stoolball? We hadn’t either. It’s an ancient English game, originating in Sussex, which has been played for over 500 years. It is believed to be the origin of cricket. Tradition has it that the game was played by milkmaids who used their milking stools as a wicket and the milk bowl as a bat. A stoolball bat is part of the collection we hold of the Gell family of Hopton Hall.

Alongside our death mask and stoolball bat you will see on display a pair of spurs which saw action in the Napoleonic Wars, a lock of flaming red hair given by the actress Frances Kemble to Robert Arkwright, son of Sir Richard Arkwright, on the eve of their wedding in 1805 and a printed nightshirt with links to Beatrix Potter.

The Cabinet of Curiosities exhibition is on at the record office until 17th May, normal opening hours apply.

Two tales of self-adhesive tape

Next time you meet a paper conservator, just mention the words ‘self-adhesive tape’ and watch their struggle to retain some self-control.  It is the bane of our profession, the tapes used by very well-meaning people, who were trying to look after or even save important, precious documents and ended up destroying them in the process.  Two unrelated items came into the Conservation Studio yesterday, which show different ways in which self-adhesive tape has been used.

The first is a minute ‘book’ from the National Union of Mineworkers, dating from the mid nineteen eighties (D1920/1/1/39):

D1920 1 1 39 whole - Copy

Each page consists of a backing sheet with a typed up page of minutes sellotaped to both sides of it. That’s two hundred backing sheets with four hundred pages of minutes:

D1920 1 1 39 open tape - Copy

In some cases the adhesive is no longer sticking to the backing sheet, leaving the minutes lying loose; in all cases it has migrated into the paper, causing significant discolouration and weakening of the paper. Removing each piece of sellotape will require a combination of heat, a sticky-stuff removing erasure and quite probably solvents, such as acetone and toluene. The problem is, you see, that in most cases the tape doesn’t come off cleanly, but leaves a little bit of sticky residue which also needs to be removed.  So that’s one thousand six hundred pieces of sellotape to remove, at a very optimistic average of five minutes each: eight thousand minutes – or about 134 hours – of work.  Obviously we can’t justify that amount of time spent on an item that can be studied in its current condition, so all we’ll be doing for now is give it some extra packaging so at least there’s no risk of pages tearing, and adding it to a list of jobs to consider in the future.

The second item is a sale catalogue from 1912 (D7108), which is in a far worse condition:D7108 UL before whole - CopyIn this case the kind person trying to mend the pages has used a combination of different self-adhesive tapes, even ordinary white labels:

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Clearly this item isn’t safe to be handled or looked at, so we will be conserving it in 2019 and we’ll let you know how we get on…

 

Early account of Sir John Franklin’s life uncovered

While in the process of cataloguing the Franklin archive, I came across two copies of a little book with the words “Sir John Franklin R.N.” on the front cover. Inside, it is entitled “A Brave Man and His Belongings; Being Some Passages in the Life of Sir John Franklin, F.R.S., K.C.H., &c, &c, First Discoverer of the North-West Passage”. The book was printed in 1874 by Samuel Taylor of Holborn, London. The text runs to 61 pages, with 5 pages of appendices comprising copies of two Valentine poems by his first wife and a brief account of the life and death of his daughter, both called Eleanor. It was compiled for, and dedicated to, Sir John Franklin’s grandchildren and great nephew and nieces. The author is not named.

A Brave Man cover.PNG      A Brave Man title.PNG

There are various copies of this book in circulation and some have been advertised for sale online. Most give the author’s name only as anonymous, but a few institutions have identified the author as a niece of the first Mrs Franklin. This is certainly true, as the author states that her aunt was Sir John’s first wife. She was Eleanor Anne Porden, who was the daughter of architect William Porden and his wife Mary. The Pordens had no less than ten children, but only two of them managed to survive into adulthood. They were Eleanor Anne and her elder sister Sarah Henrietta, who was married in 1805 to Joseph Kay, also an architect and William Porden’s assistant at the time. Joseph and Sarah are said to have had eight children of their own, two sons and six daughters.

In terms of the identity of the niece, she has been named in one source as Mary A. Kay. There certainly was a daughter called Mary Anne, born 9 February 1808, and her name does appear in the book as the recipient for one of the Valentine poems which appears in the appendix, but I think there is a much better candidate for the identity of the author, based on a passage near the end of the story. In the context of the ships H.M.S. Erebus and H.M.S. Terror setting off under Franklin’s command from England on their tragic voyage to the Arctic, the author says how well she remembers the month of May 1845, as it was also the month when she got married. She tells us that her last recollection of Sir John was two days before she got married, at a social gathering organized by Lady Franklin for intimate friends before he set sail. He took her aside and expressed his regret at not being able to attend her wedding (where his daughter, Eleanor, would be a bridesmaid), as his presence would be required on board to attend to important business connected with the ships on the same day.

A Brave Man May 1845 episode.PNG

This makes it extremely unlikely that it was Mary Anne Kay, as she had married Edward Nicholas Kendall, one of Sir John’s former lieutenants, in 1832. He unfortunately died in February 1845, so it is theoretically possible that she did re-marry three months later! We believe, however, that she did not in fact re-marry, as she was, according to the census of 1851, living in Kensington under her married name of Kendall with her two sons and two of her sisters. I was then able to check genealogical records and found a marriage for another of the sisters, Eliza Margaret Kay (1819-1897) who married Edward Basil Jupp at the parish church of St Giles in the Fields, Holborn, on 10 May 1845.

Although nobody could claim the book reveals anything new about Franklin and his career, it is an interesting little reminder of how he was seen by his family and relations. She wrote it for the sake of his grandchildren and his great nephews and nieces, who she says had been taught to revere his name, but that they had very little information on his character and history. She does not actually record much in the way of her own personal recollections, but she does remember when she was a very young girl and he was then married to her aunt, sitting on his knee and playing with the epaulettes on his uniform (she could not remember him ever being in anything other than his uniform). She also remembers that he looked very much like the portrait painted by Thomas Phillips and very much the same when in his 60th year as he had done in 1825-1830.The references to his character and conduct generally confirm the impression of him of a kind, affectionate, dignified and sincerely religious man, which even his critics would generally concede to be the case.

A Brave Man painting reference.PNG

She cites as her sources on the course of his life a “short paper” written by one of Franklin’s nieces, which she claims might have been dictated by his first wife, Eleanor, outlining his career up to 1822, and a brief memoir written by his friend Sir John Richardson in the Encyclopaedia Britannica. She also had access to the papers of the Kay family, and the book is notable for the number of examples of correspondence it contains involving Franklin, his first wife, his daughter and his in-laws, the Kays. It also contains the somewhat spurious document called “the Phrenological Character of Captain Franklin”, mentioned in the extract pictured above, of which I include a copy, as she did, for your amusement.

A Brave Man phrenological charcater.PNG

 

 

White Hall Memories

Christmas is a time for catching up with old friends and reminiscing.  If you ever visited the White Hall Outdoor Education Centre near Buxton, cast your mind back to your experiences there as you put your feet up over the holidays…  If you have a tale to tell, 2019 is the chance for you to share that story with more than just friends and family.

Derbyshire’s White Hall Outdoor Education Centre is remarkable for being the first local authority run outdoor education centre in the country.  It’s still going strong after nearly 70 years and has just been awarded a Heritage Lottery Fund grant to celebrate its history.

D7786 whitehall 000002 small

Image from the White Hall Centre archive at Derbyshire Record Office

The White Hall Outdoor Education Centre – A People’s History project has just launched an appeal for people’s memories of visiting the centre over the last seven decades.  Local students will turn the stories that are collected into a film, which will form part of a display that will tour around the county.

If you have a story to share, you can let the project team know by emailing my.whitehall@derbyshire.gov.uk, and you can find out more about the project on Derbyshire County Council’s website.