Will’s Work experience review

Having spent two weeks with the Derbyshire Record Office for work experience, I realised that archiving requires a surprisingly large amount of filing work! Watching programmes like “Who Do You Think You Are?” portrays a more simplistic view of local study offices where everything is prepared for the celebrity as soon as they arrive, with very little work clearly visible. So the level of research, attention to detail and thoroughness I met with at Derbyshire Record Office was surprising. I received a lot of valuable information about the correct way to store and protect documents…

(Below: How best to store delicate documents using the 4 flap folder method)


…the importance of digitization to the Record Office and the heritage of both Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire through Picture the Past (http://www.picturethepast.org.uk/)

In particular, I really enjoyed copying out the old recipes of several 19th Century cooks ready for digitization. Although this may not sound incredibly interesting to some, I found the quirky and sometime unintelligible recipes both amusing and a challenge. The recipes of Emily Mary Kilpin, a 15 year old domestic servant for the Thornhill family, were particularly entertaining with their unpredictability, supplying recipes for “egg jelly”, “furniture polish” and a a “cream substitute” in quick succession, and also for the insight into the trends in her cookery with recipes for two different types of lemon curd, a lemon pudding and lemonade all entered on the same page in her book.

(You can find Emily’s recipes in the Derbyshire Record Office online Catalogue by typing in “Mrs M Kilpin” or D307/H/28/5)

On the other hand, the cookery book of her employers, the Thornhills, highlights a stark contrast between social classes in the early 1900’s society. For example, not only is the handwriting and language more advanced, there are far fewer recipes included by the family, possibly because they did less of their own cooking and relied more upon servants like Emily Kilpin herself.

(You can find the Thornhill’s recipe book by typing “D307/H/28/4” into the Record Office online catalogue)

Overall, my work experience was hugely enjoyable, the new building and facilites are great, and the staff were all very friendly and helpful. I’d recommend anyone interested in local history or the humanities to make use of the opportunites that the Derbyshire Record Office provide, either for academic, professional or personal reasons.

By Will, the work experience student

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Ferodo and the Bullet-Proof vest

Bullet proof materials

Now then… Stop me if you have heard this one before (and if you have, it may be because you recall a flurry of press activity in the late 1990s), but did you know that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle submitted a design for a bullet-proof vest to Field Marshal Haig during the First World War? Well, he did. And it was in connection with this that Conan Doyle ordered some bullet-proof materials from Ferodo, the very successful brake-lining manufacturing company based in Chapel-en-le-Frith.


Philip Norman’s article about the sale of Conan Doyle’s personal archive in 2004 expresses the opinion that, if the device had been adopted, it “would doubtless have saved many lives”. (See http://www.sherlock-holmes.co.uk/news/doyle.html – the website is that of the Sherlock Holmes Museum, based at 221b Baker Street.)

This post is topped by a photograph of the entry in question, from the Ferodo company archive, held here (D4562/8/5). The entry is neither very informative nor very beautiful, but it is certainly interesting. And hard to read! If anybody can offer an interpretation of what the record is really telling us, we could improve our catalogue description, which currently calls the volume simply “sample report summaries 1915-1926”.

Many thanks to Will, who is here on work experience, for locating the entry, and spotting the Philip Norman article.

The Friends of the Ecclesbourne Way need YOU!

Wrekin distantly seen from Alport Height (top centre)

Derbyshire Record Office have received the following communication and are pleased, as ever, to pass the word on:

“The Friends of the Ecclesbourne Way need YOU!”

Did you know that:

Duffield was the headquarters of an extensive Royal Forest & that its traces can still be made out as we walk in our local countryside?

From Alport Height you can see the Wrekin (Shropshire) 85km away? (see picture)

That limestone was laid down in huge amounts & in very pure form when the future Wirksworth was still south of the equator & underwater?

Several disparate groups including the RA have come together to promote a waymarked, leafleted walking route.

Almost entirely over existing rights of way it runs for 18km along the beautiful but strangely underappreciated Ecclesbourne Valley.

We aim not only to enhance the pleasure of walking here but to encourage children to enjoy & learn from the countryside.

The highlight of the walk will be a spur climbing incomparable Alport Height with its unrivalled views.

The Friends have been formed to bring this project to fruition & are working closely with the National Trust to improve access there.

Come to our first public meeting, at the Patternmakers Arms Duffield

1915 for 1930 on Thursday 18 July

What’s Eating Your Archives?

Here’s something which might just make your skin crawl…

Part of the work of the Conservation team is to make sure our archive collections are not eaten by pests (like insects and rodents). To prevent incoming collections from bringing unwanted crawling visitors into our stores, all the new accessions taken in by the Record Office are put into quarantine, and inspected carefully before they are given the all clear.

We were rather impressed when we came across this letter the other day, which reminded us why the quarantine process is important. The document had very clearly suffered from insect damage and came complete with the (luckily dead) culprits;

Insect Damage

Insect Damage

The insects were identified as Wood Weevils, wood boring weevils with a distinctive long snout, which usually attack rotten or damp wood. We think these items must have been stored in wooden boxes, and as these insects see tightly packed stacks of paper as the equivalent of a block of wood, they were quite happy to munch their way through a pile of documents.

The extent of the damage is really quite amazing, and, believe it or not, it is possible for the Conservators to actually repair this item, although it will be very painstaking!