Derbyshire Motoring Pioneers added to Oxford Dictionary of National Biography

Here’s a press release from the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.   You can access this invaluable resource for reliable biographical information by visiting http://www.derbyshire.gov.uk/leisure/libraries/online_information/oxford_biographies/default.asp, with your Derbyshire Library card near at hand.

Two Derbyshire pioneers, who helped to shape British motoring in the twentieth century, are included in the latest update to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (www.oxforddnb.com), published on Thursday 30 May.

 Creator of the Ferodo brand of friction products, the inventor Herbert Frood (1864-1931) of Chapel-en-le-Frith, began his experiments to improve braking power in the age of the horse.  He noticed that even quite splendid horse-drawn carriages had shoddy and ineffective brakes.  He discovered that woven cotton blocks made more effective brakes, and initially marketed them to horse omnibus companies.  The emerging motor car industry gave his a new market – and a huge opportunity.  The great turning point – in Frood’s own words – was his application of asbestos, with its resistance to heat and fire, and by 1914 Frood was the leading maker of friction products.  He registered the Ferodo brand in 1920 and opened a purpose-built factory in Chapel-en-le-Frith in 1925.  Author Dr Peter Bartrip of Oxford University, who has researched the Ferodo archive in Derbyshire Record Office, writes that Frood’s ‘great achievement was to create an entirely new industry and turn it into a large and successful multinational business’. 

Dr Bartrip has also researched the life of Derby-born racer Reg Parnell (1911-1964), a driver for the family haulage business even before he was old enough to hold a licence. The opening of the Donington Park circuit in 1931 sparked the young Reg Parnell’s enthusiasm for motor racing.  From 1935 he was a regular on the circuit.  The Second World War interrupted his racing career but in 1946 he returned to motorsport, winning the gold star of the British Racing Drivers’ Club in 1947 and 1948.  This was a lean time for British racing, but Reg kept the flag flying with a third place finish in the inaugural grand prix at Silverstone in 1950.  Major success came when he managed the Aston Martin team from 1957 to 1960.  The team won at Le Mans in 1959.  Dr Bartrip writes that Parnell ‘could prepare a car meticulously and was an astute judge of a driver, identifying the potential of such talented prospects as John Surtees, Chris Amon, and Mike Hailwood’.  Reg bought a pig farm at Findern, Derbyshire and every Christmas gave members of the Aston Martin team cuts of pork from his farm.

Frood and Parnell are among over 60 pioneers of British motoring included in the latest update to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, ranging from the founder of the Aston Martin firm to the racer and team manager Bruce McLaren.

Enlightenment! Derbyshire collections across the pond

Our colleague Anna Rhodes, Assistant Collections Officer at Buxton Museum, is currently undertaking a 4 week research fellowship at the Yale Center for British Art in New Haven, Connecticut.   The fellowship was open to curators working in regional museums in the UK who work with British art collections, and as the successful candidate Anna has been looking at 18th and early 19th century topographical views of  Derbyshire, at amateur sketchbooks and travel journals.   This research will add context to the collections at Buxton Museum and Art Gallery and provide a better insight into artists and tourists that visited the County during the Enlightenment period.

Keep up to date with Anna’s work via the Enlightenment! project blog.

Enlightenment! is part of the Heritage Lottery Fund ‘Collecting Cultures’ initiative, and is a partnership between three museums: Buxton Museum and Art Gallery, Belper North Mill and Derby Museums and Art Gallery.