Treasure 10: the Gresley dance manuscript

 Treasure 10 Dance manuscript (b)

This small paper and parchment notebook dating from end of the fifteenth century was found amongst the Gresley family papers (D77), and was badly damaged by damp and mould. The item has since undergone conservation work, and has been packaged very carefully to protect it – it even has its own pillow!  It is sometimes known as the John Banys dance notebook, because it contains a list of medieval dances, with choreography and dance melodies.  The same book also contains other material which, unlike the dance sections, is written in Latin: some prayers; a treatise on physiognomy (the assessment of a person’s character from their outer appearance, particularly the face); and an intriguing treatise on chiromancy (palm reading) which includes this drawing of some hands:

Treasure 10 Dance manuscript (a)

If you arrive in the searchroom and ask to see the notebook (D77/4/25/25), we hope you won’t be too disappointed to be offered a look at a high-resolution copy (CD/133) instead – the original only comes out on special occasions!

Becky Sheldon, Archivist, writes:

In my first year or so as an archivist at Derbyshire, I spent a very significant amount of time working on the large Gresley family of Drakelow collection, and my ears prick up each time I hear the name Gresley mentioned… …the quaint looking book is incredibly charming with beautifully written text, intricately drawn hands to accompany the chiromancy, or palmistry, notes and an ironic comfortableness in the familiarity in form of the dance melodies.

The choreography sections of the manuscript continue to inspire modern-day experts in early dance.  Here, by way of example, is a video of the Greensleeves group performing some of the dances.

A thank-you letter from Mr and Mrs Dunn: conservation update

As Mark promised, he asked me to take a look at that lovely letter in the trustees’ minute book from Bethel Methodist Chapel. It has been pasted in on two hinges – very delicately done compared to a lot of other documents we see.

The letter pasted in on two hinges

The letter pasted in on two hinges

Although the hinges and adhesive are definitely not archival, they haven’t caused any damage so far and as it’s the only added document in the volume, its presence isn’t causing any structural problems. We could still take the letter out and either hinge it back in using archival quality materials or store it separately, but at the moment I think the risk of damaging both letter and volume is greater if we remove the letter than if we simply leave it alone. I say ‘at the moment’ because techniques in conservation are constantly developing and there may well come a time when the risk is reversed and we decide to remove those old hinges.

As far as minute books go, we have hundreds, if not thousands with far greater problems than this one. People used to paste, stick or staple many documents, booklets and letters into a volume, causing the binding to collapse completely.

An over-full minute book

An over-full minute book

Multiple pages stapled in

Multiple pages stapled in

Staples rust over time

Staples rust over time

Self-adhesive tape

Self-adhesive tape degrading

Even now we sometimes get quite modern minutes, where the pages have been printed out and then stuck into a book, to make a ‘minute book’. So what should you do if you’re creating minutes for an organisation? You might be tempted to forget about paper altogether and simply keep everything on a hard drive or memory stick to hand over to us in thirty years’ time. But just think, if you’d done that twenty years ago on a floppy disk with the then most up to date word-processing software, we would find it very difficult to access that information now. So, print out a copy on archival quality paper and store it in an archival quality folder keeping it out of light and away from moisture. Your minutes will then still look exactly the same in thirty years when we will gratefully receive them and in 200 years when a researcher’s day will be made because of the wonderful piece of information they’ve just found. Perhaps they’ll even blog about it…

A thank-you letter from Mr and Mrs Dunn

A researcher was in our searchroom recently, working on a book of trustees’ minutes from Bethel Methodist Chapel, Brimington, and came across this letter, pasted into the volume:

Minute book of Bethel Chapel trustees, Brimington

Minute book of Bethel Chapel trustees, Brimington

The full thing reads:


On behalf of Mrs Dunn and myself, I have pleasure in acknowledging the splendid Bible with which you so kindly favoured us upon the occasion of our recent marriage, and we beg to assure you how deeply we appreciate the gift, commemorating as it does, the first marriage solemnized within the walls of the Chapel of which we are both members, and we trust that our lives may be ruled by its message.

Again thanking you gentlemen, I am,

Sincerely yours,

William Dunn

If an excuse is needed for posting this, I’ll say that thank-you letters are always topical in January.  If that sounds a bit thin, let’s just say it was a heart-warming thing to encounter, ergo worth sharing.  And another thing…

  • You can tell this letter was meaningful to the trustees because the clerk pasted it into the volume so that it could be preserved.  However, I will bring this volume to the attention of our conservators; I’m confident they will tell me that the glue holding the letter in place isn’t helping its long-term future, and it will need to come out at some point.  We will then need to put a note on the catalogue saying which pages it was found between, because That Sort of Thing can be important.  For that reason, if you do ever come across an additional leaf in a volume in our archives, whether it is pasted, sellotaped, stapled or just left loose, do let a staff member know – but leave the page where it is until we get a chance to deal with it.
  • The last marriage to be solemnized in the chapel was in 1965, when it closed.  At that point, the church amalgamated with Brimington Trinity Methodist Chapel and moved to a new building on Hall Road.  The building was erected on the site where once had stood the Zion United Methodist Free Church, and the amalgamated body was called simply Brimington Methodist Church.  And it is still going today.
  • If you browse the catalogue for  Bethel Methodist Chapel, Brimington, you may notice that the marriage registers are not actually included.  That’s because they are part of a rather large artificial collection of records from various Methodist churches, D1820.  I would direct you to the catalogue entry for the collection, but the list attached to it is incomplete – that means a little more work for the FindersKeepers project, I fear.

The Local Studies Catalogue at Derbyshire Record Office

card catThe County Local Studies Card Catalogue at Derbyshire Record Office is an amazing resource. It has entries for subjects, places, people and authors for every possible thing you can think of to do with Derbyshire, and it works.
But it has been added to for decades, and requires a certain amount of upkeep, not to mention cards and ink. And it cannot be viewed remotely.
So from January this year all new Local Studies indexing will be on the Record Office catalogue:
We receive several new books a month, plus a constant flow of journal articles, and donated items which we did not have before. All require indexing by librarians to bring out the information riches hidden within.  To see what new arrivals have been indexed so far, try using LS* as the reference when you search the catalogue.
Of course we are not getting rid of the card catalogue, and if you cannot get to us, staff here will be happy to look references up for you.

Sue Peach, Local Studies Librarian

Archives Aloud: Upstairs, Downstairs

Woodward The Glutton image

Come along to Ilkeston Library on Tuesday 17th February and join in at our next Archives Aloud afternoon.  Derbyshire voices of those who worked and lived “above” and “below” stairs will be brought to life – using original archive material.  Choose a letter or diary entry to read aloud or bring your own family papers and share your story.  We will also include some readings from poetry and prose.

Tuesday 17th February


Ilkeston Library

FREE event with refreshments.  To book a place please contact Ilkeston Library on 0115 9301104

See you there!

Treasure 9: The Gregory Mine Reckoning Book

This treasure has been chosen by Matthew Pawelski, who is working towards a PhD on the history of the Derbyshire lead industry, as a part of a collaboration between Lancaster University and Derbyshire Record Office, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

Matthew’s chosen record is a reckoning book from Gregory (or Gregory’s) Mine in Ashover, covering 1782-1803 (D1101/L/4).

Here is a video clip in which he explains what a reckoning book is, and what makes this one so special:

Freedom of the City

Edward Revell's certificate of the Freedom of the City of London

Edward Revell’s certificate of the Freedom of the City of London

We had an enquiry last week from the archives at one of London’s ancient livery companies, the Leathersellers’ Company, asking for further details of an item in our catalogue: Edward Revell’s certificate of the Freedom of the City of London. There are two similar documents in the Leathersellers’ Company archives, dating from 1472 and 1488, which appear to be the oldest surviving certificates of their sort. Edward Revell’s certificate – until something earlier shows itself, at least – may be regarded as the third oldest.

As with other certificates of the Freedom of the City, the document bears the name of a Ward of the City of London: Cripplegate, here spelled “Crepulgate”. However, as the text is in Latin, that’s one of the few bits I can actually read!  The others are the names of Edward Revell, his father Thomas Revell, and the man to whom Edward was apprenticed, William Chambers of the Haberdashers’ Company.  The Revell family seat is also mentioned: Cranethwayte, which was also called Carlingthwaite and later became known as Carnfield – site of Carnfield Hall.  As for the rest, we are assured that it is very formulaic – but the word-count is a bit higher because they had to fit in all the titles of Philip & Mary.  As with the examples held at the Leathersellers’ Company, this certificate has clearly spent a long time folded in four – the Company’s archivist says this suggests “that Freemen would carry their certificates about their person like a passport (perhaps inside a small leather pouch), to produce as proof when claiming Freemen’s privileges, such as exemption from market and bridge tolls, etc”.

Our latest acquisition: Isabella Thornhill’s diary

Here’s a picture of the diary of Isabella Thornhill, nee Gell, which we accessioned yesterday:

Diary of Isabella Thornhill

Diary of Isabella Thornhill

I was going to transcribe an entry dated 21 November 1867, describing a dream in which Queen Victoria escorts Mrs Thornhill to a dinner. The punchline, or at any rate the end of the thing, was that just as the dinner (a dish of mutton) was being served, she was awoken by the arrival of her breakfast tray.  But I mustn’t transcribe it, because the diary is an unpublished literary manuscript, which will remain in copyright until 2039, unless the law changes later this year.

But there’s nothing to stop you reading it!  You can access the diary through our search room right away, using the reference number D258/71/1.  The entries cover 1863 to 1875 in only 43 pages of writing, and the handwriting is reasonable, so the diary provides a painless means of inserting yourself in another time.  It covers social events, personal encounters and anecdotes gathered from acquaintances.

Isabella Thornhill (1800-1878) was born Isabella Gell, daughter of Philip Gell (1775-1842).  She married William Pole Thornhill MP of Stanton Hall (1807-1876) in Wirksworth in 1828.  On Philip Gell’s death, the Gell family’s Hopton Hall estate went to Isabella for her lifetime; she and her husband took the name Gell and lived at Hopton Hall for a short time but eventually renounced the inheritance. She was the last of the Eyre Gell line.  The catalogue entry describing the diary is here.  I added it to the D258 Gell collection, most of which we accepted during the 1960s, and which also includes six volumes of the Lysons’ Magna Britannia, which Isabella Thornhill grangerised.

Forthcoming WEA course in Ashbourne

News reaches us of what sounds like an engaging new course run by the Workers’ Educational Association, called “An appreciation of the Derbyshire Dales and Staffordshire Moorlands”.  This is how it is described in the promotional literature:

The Derbyshire Dales and the Staffordshire Moorlands is an area of great beauty and fascinating variety. This course offers an understanding of the area through its art, architecture, churches, landscape, work and associated stories. Given an 18th and 19th century focus, the legacies of the Romantic Movement and the Gothic Revival will be sought. This forthcoming WEA Course will be tutored by Danny Wells. It runs for five Tuesday mornings (11.00-1.00) from Tuesday 3 March 2015 at All Saints Community Hall (Catholic Church), 23 Belle Vue, Ashbourne DE6 1AT. No previous knowledge is assumed. A fieldtrip to explore the architecture of Leek is intended on Wednesday 25 March 2015. For further details and enrolment please contact WEA, Derby on 01332-291805; e-mail