Comets, plague and fire as seen from Pleasley, 1665

Has 2012 been a Good Year?  There are still 39 days of it left, of course, but whatever happens between now and January, I doubt the news reaching Derbyshire can be quite as depressing as during 1665 and 1666.  I spotted these entries in the general register for Pleasley parish recently:

It’s an entry from early 1665, and it reads like this: “A blazeing starr hath here appeared continueing its flames for abouts eight weekes past eastward inclining to the north; it did rise in the east and sett in the west…”  What I like about this is the little doodle that accompanies the entry.  It looks like an inkblot in the left-hand margin, but it isn’t: it’s the minister’s attempt at an illustration of a comet.

In common with many of his contemporaries, the cleric looks back on the arrival of the comet as a portent, in two subsequent notes.  The first is from late 1665:

“In this yeare after the blazeing starr is the warr at sea with the Hollander and the greate Plague at London and many other places in this nation.  In London in this yeare there dyed of the Plague above ninety thousands”

The second is from September 1666:

“Now is that famouse cyty of London destroyed by the great judgement fire; the warr with the Hollande continueth still”

I say “the cleric”, because the identity of the commentator is unclear – to me, at least.  If you happen to be using the register (still available on microfilm at Local Studies) and spot a name or signature, let us know using the comment box at the bottom of this post.   The Clergy of the Church of England Database ( – ridiculously useful if you need that sort of thing) tells us that a John Legat was rector at Pleasley from 1662 to 1665 and that John Lilliman was appointed rector in 1667.  The handwriting doesn’t change, before or after the 1666 interregnum, so I suppose a curate must have been maintaining the register.

On This Day: ‘Advertisements’

From the Derby Mercury, 20th November 1767:



BELLINGHAM the Elder, is come from Coventry, and proposes residing for some Time at Derby, to attend all proper Subjects that offer for Inoculation of the Small Pox, in the New Method.

He has already given Proofs in this Town, that this once dreadful Disorder may be now got over without the least Confinement, or Shadow of Danger.  

He is at present at the Saracen’s-Head in Derby, and all Letters directed there will be punctually answered.

Mr. and Mrs. DENBY,

Take the Liberty to acquaint the PUBLIC,

THAT as their House in St. MARY-GATE, proves too small for the continuation of their Boarding School for young Ladies, they shall at Christmas next remove to a larger, and more convenient House in All-Saints Church Yard; where, those Ladies committed to their Charge shall, with the utmost Care and Tenderness, be instructed in the following Articles of Learning.

READING, all Sorts of NEEDLE-WORK, and so much of GEOGRAPHY as will illustrate and promote the Reading of History; together with their Board at Sixteen Pounds a Year, and a Guinea Entrance.

MUSIC, DANCING, WRITING, DRAWING, and FRENCH, taught by able Masters.

The County Local Studies Library holds the Derby Mercury – just ring to book a microfilm reader.


It helps when looking for your ancestors’ baptisms, marriages and burials, to know which parish they lived in and which registers to check.  That said, it ought to be easy to find out which parish was where – shouldn’t it?  I thought so until I tried to locate the parish of Osmaston by Derby.

It has that awkward name because there is another Osmaston in Derbyshire which is by (or near) Ashbourne, so that’s the first difficulty to overcome : making sure you’re looking at the right Osmaston.  Geographically, the Osmaston I’m interested in (for research into BARNES and PARKER families) is now a heavily residential suburb of Derby but before the industrial revolution was a quiet rural area with a small village and a big house – Osmaston Hall – first built by the Wilmot family in 1696.

To find its parish, I first checked my trusty booklet, the…

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Happy Birthday to Reg Dean

Derbyshire Record Office would like to wish a belated Happy Birthday to Britain’s oldest man, Wirksworth’s own Reg Dean, who turned 110 on the 4th of November.  Mr Dean very kindly let us have his unpublished memoirs in 2010.  They are available to anyone who would care to book a session in our temporary searchroom (01629 538347 is the number – you will need to book at least a week in advance). 

Reg Dean was born in Tunstall, Staffordshire on 4 November 1902, the son of a master potter.  He joined the Manchester and Liverpool District Bank in Burslem aged 16, after a premature end to his school career.  After studying Greek and Latin, he was admitted to St Augustine’s College, Canterbury in 1923.  Ordained as a deacon in the Church of England in 1927 and a priest two years later, Reg Dean took up positions around the world, including Singapore and India, and was a volunteer army chaplain during World War Two.  He joined the Congregational Church in 1952 and served as minister in the United Reformed Churches of Wirksworth and Matlock until his retirement in 1982.  He was also a teacher at Herbert Strutt School, Belper between 1958 and 1968.  Reg Dean is a founder member and former president of the Dalesmen male voice choir, and has been Britain’s oldest man since June 2010.