Contacting us via email

Unfortunately, the County Council is experiencing problems with our email system, and we are unable to access incoming emails at the present time (although we do have short periods where we are able to read and respond). The problems have been ongoing for a few days now and during this period a significant backlog has built up. We will continue to respond to emails when we are able to gain access, and will endeavour to answer all enquiries as quickly as possible once the system is fully functioning again. We apologise for any inconvenience, please bear with us while our supplier seeks to resolve the issue.

In the meantime, if you would like to book a microfilm reader for family history, please call us on 01629 536579; to book a space in the search room, please call us on 01629 539209; to speak to the Duty Archivist please call 01629 538180.

Thank you for your patience.

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Breaking News! Family histories jumbled in crash

Another of the events we have been running in support of this year’s Summer Reading Challenge asks children to use old photographs, birth and marriage certificates, and other family history clues to help put the families’ stories back together following a small crash in which everything gets jumbled. These are some of the photographs from Long Eaton and Eckington where the children have designed suitcases for the families to showcase the ancestral history.

The session uses reproductions of original documents held at Derbyshire Record Office, and we hope that the families who come along will be going home to make their own family history suitcase. Instructions for making a suitcase can be found at http://www.bbc.co.uk/cbeebies/mister-maker/makes/mister-maker-boxsuitcase/

If you do make your own family history suitcase, please send us pictures to Record.Office@derbyshire.gov.uk

My Melbourne: a century of my village

Last Wednesday I visited Melbourne Library and worked with some very knowledgeable local families to create pop-up theatre’s showing how the village had changed over the last hundred years or so. Here are the wonderful creations

I would especially like to thank Picture the Past who provided the photographs for the children to use during the event. The photographs we used and over 100,000 others for Derby, Derbyshire, Nottingham and Nottinghamshire can be seen on their website at www.picturethepast.org.uk

More photos from this year’s Wingfield Manor Reading Challenge events

Since my last post, I have been to the libraries at Newbold, Creswell, Melbourne, Long Eaton, Dronfield and Eckington, and as at Glossop and New Mills at the beginning of the month, all th children have come up with some fantastic models of Wingfield Manor (some to fit this year’s Creepy House theme). Here are the photos from Newbold, Creswell and Dronfield where we made models of Wingfield Manor. Photos of family history suitcases and Melbourne pop-theatres to follow soon

Still to come this week and next – Chesterfield, Bolsover, Alfreton and Ilkeston. If you would like to come, please contact the relevant library (see http://www.derbyshire.gov.uk/leisure/libraries/find_your_local_library/default.asp)

Not on My Manor!

It is probably not uppermost in the thoughts of East End crime lords (real or fictional) that their use of the word ‘manor’ can evoke a real sense of a part of our history that goes back almost a thousand years. They actually started using the word to ape their adversaries, the police (as opposed to each other), who used it to indicate the areas of territory for local police districts, but claiming territorial rights over their ‘manor’ does echo, in a perverse way, the origins of the historical manor.

The original ‘lords of the manor’ were the followers of William the Conqueror. These were the men who climbed in the boats in 1066, landed on English soil, beat the ‘home’ army at Hastings and established an iron grip on the country in the immediate aftermath.  In other words, these were ruthless, fighting men who exerted their authority by their physical prowess, low cunning, leadership skills and sheer ability to intimidate. These men earned and demanded more than mere respect, and William made sure he saw they got their proper reward. It wasn’t, however, a question of just loot and plunder. He wanted to establish his rule over the country in the long term, and that meant keeping his army on the land, not garrisoned like a Roman legion. What he did was to give his followers  manors, estates from which they could earn revenues and profits and over which they could exercise control of the population as lords. He was, in modern parlance, playing the long game, making the members of his army stakeholders in the new regime.

The newly-fashioned ‘lords of the manor’ owed the ownership of their estates directly to the King, and total loyalty was expected of them. They were automatically required to perform certain services for him, principally to do with providing him with military manpower whenever he needed it. In return, the King left his lords to do whatever they liked in their own domain. They literally owned many of the people in their manors, those who were unfree peasants, also known as villeins or serfs, and their families. They were able to establish their own courts, known as ‘court barons’, exercising strict control in them. They even had jurisdiction to execute, although this was something that the King’s successors eventually brought back under their own control.

Well, that is a somewhat brief and highly generalised version of what the situation was like at the very start with the lords and their manors. I’m hoping to let you know more over the next year or so about what happened later with manors and their records. I have recently been appointed Project Archivist at the Derbyshire Record Office to check, revise, and update information on records of Derbyshire manors for the Manorial Documents Register run by The National Archives, information which will eventually make its way online. Over the next few months I shall be telling you how things are going with the project,  showing you examples of different types of manorial documents and explaining what they are and how useful they can be to family and local historians. Hopefully, I will also be able to show something of the way people actually lived in the past, whether it be ordinary, unusual or downright quirky. And it won’t be all just about lords!

I am hoping to encourage volunteers to take part in the project, giving them the opportunity to research the history of manors themselves and possibly to use original documents, if they feel brave enough! If you would like to take part, or wish to ask questions, please let me know. My email address is Neil.Bettridge@derbyshire.gov.uk.

Neil Bettridge

Creepy House: creative models of Wingfield Manor

This week we have delivered the first of our 13 kids activity sessions as part of this year’s Summer Reading Challenge. In line with this year’s theme, Creepy House, the typically enthusiastic children and just as enthusiastic parents in New Mills and Glossop created some fantastic and eery models of Wingfield Manor.

All sessions are free of charge and the children are encouraged to enter their work into our competition to win a new book. All competition entries will be displayed in the gallery wall at the Record Office in Matlock from 2 September for visitors to vote for the best ones. Still to come…

Derbyshire’s own Creepy House – Wingfield Manor: 15th century mansion, 16th century prison, 17th century fort, 18th century ruin

Discover the secrets of Wingfield Manor ready to build and design your own model of this creepy house

                Newbold Library, Monday 12 August, 10.30am – 11.30am

                Creswell Library, Monday 12 August, 2.30pm-3.30pm

                Dronfield Library, Monday 19 August, 10.30am – 11.30am

                Alfreton Library, Thursday 29 August, 10.30am – 11.30am

Breaking News! Family histories jumbled in crash: Use the clues to put the families stories back together and create a history suitcase for the next generation

Craft session to get children thinking about their ancestry

                Long Eaton Library, Wednesday 14 August, 2.00pm-3.30pm

                Eckington Library, Monday 19 August, 2.00pm-3.30pm

                Chesterfield Library, Friday 23 August, 10.30am – 11.30am

                Ilkeston Library, Thursday 29 August, 2.00pm-3.30pm

A Century of My Village: What was your village like when Queen Victoria was on the throne?

Use old photographs to make your own pop-theatre of the village

                Melbourne Library, Wednesday 14 August, 10.30am – 11.30am

                Bolsover Library, Friday 23 August, 2.00pm-3.00pm

If you would like to book please contact the appropriate library. More information about the Summer Reading Challenge can be found at www.derbyshire.gov.uk/libraries or by contacting your local library.

More from The Friends of the Ecclesbourne Way: Wirksworth meeting

This advertisement comes from a voluntary organisation that is just getting itself established. As ever, we are happy to spread the word…

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Discover this viewpoint from where you can see more than a thousand years of Wirksworth’s History

Several disparate groups including the Ramblers’ Association have come together to promote a waymarked, leafleted walking route. Almost entirely over existing rights of way it runs for 20km from Wirksworth to Duffield along the beautiful but strangely underappreciated Ecclesbourne Valley.

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The highlight of the walk will be a spur climbing incomparable Alport Height with its unrivalled views. Sometimes you can see the Wrekin (Shropshire) 85km distant. The Friends have been formed to bring this project to fruition & are working closely with the National Trust to improve access.

Gratefully rest from your walk and be served in the lodgings of a fairy tale animal alongside an eighteenth century turnpike.

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

Meet us in the original assembly rooms of the handsome coaching inn overlooking Wirksworth’s historic market place, the Red Lion Hotel Wirksworth 1915 for 1930 on Monday 12 August. Or contact John.Morrissey2@BTopenworld.com