Mining the Archives Project – Conservation Update

I’ve been busy working away on the mining the archives project and thought I would give a quick update on what’s been happening to that volume we found all the lead deposits in…

The 18th Century account book of Robert Thornhill (D307/B/19/1) has now been dismantled and cleaned. The cleaning process was very delicate as the edges of the pages are very fragile. Each page has been lightly surface cleaned using a ‘smoke sponge’ which is designed especially for conservation cleaning, and then brushed gently with a very soft Japanese brush.

The next step in preparing the pages for repairs is to wash them… yes really! It may seem like a strange thing to do, but we actually give each page a bath in a tray of water! This removes damaging dirt and impurities, and also re-invigorates the paper fibres giving it additional strength. The inks are tested for solubility first, as we don’t want to lose any of the information. The pages are given support whilst they are in the water using insect netting, and with a bit of care can be handled easily when wet.

washing 1

Documents in a bath of water

washing 2

Insect netting supports the documents so they can be handled when wet

washing 4

Before and after washing

washing 3

Dirty water remains!

After a good soak, the pages are removed from the bath and are left to air dry individually on pieces of thick blotting paper. Once dry they are ready for repairs to be carried out.

Archives at the Abbey – an update

To help promote our weekend visit to Calke Abbey for Heritage Open Days, Neil Bettridge, project archivist for the Harpur Crewe cataloguing project, and I went on BBC Radio Derby to chat with Andy Potter about the event.

Andy was really taken with the material we had out to show him, which was just a small selection of the records we’ll be taking down to Calke for the weekend of 12th-13th September (see my previous post “Archives at the Abbey” for more information).

The interview was broadcast at 1.20pm on 18 August (about 20 minutes into the show) and it will be available on the BBC iPlayer for 30 days after broadcast.  So why not take a listen, here is the link:

Arbella’s anniversary


The Friends of Manor Lodge and Sheffield Cathedral will be hosting an event to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the death of Lady Arbella Stuart, granddaughter of Bess of Hardwick .

This evening of history, drama and music will be held at Sheffield Cathedral on Friday 25th September at 7.15pm.  Tickets prices, £12/£10 concessions (60+) and are available online from or from the Sheffield Cathedral shop.  For more information call 0114 275 3434.

Did you know?……Derbyshire Record Office holds an inventory of Arbella’s jewels, those given to her by ‘the Lord Cavendish’ (that being William Cavendish, 1st Earl of Devonshire). The inventory, dated 1607, is signed by Arbella herself.

Archives at the Abbey

To celebrate this year’s Heritage Open Day specially selected items from the Harpur-Crewe family archive, held at the record office, will return home to Calke Abbey.

Visitors to the National Trust property can view original records of those who lived and worked at Calke. We are taking a fascinating selection of records with us, including family letters and diaries, photograph albums, tenant’s registers, maps and one of the oldest documents in the collection – a deed dating from the 12th century.

D2375 179 3

Our staff will be based in the Learning Room and will be on hand to talk to visitors about these historic documents and offer advice and information about the work of the record office and the services we offer.

So, if your family has links to Derbyshire come along to Calke and find about the kind of information you can access for free at our office in Matlock.

We’ll be there on Saturday 12 September and Sunday 13 September from 12pm-4pm. Why not make the most of free entry to Calke on the Saturday (normal admission charges apply on Sunday).

The mansion house will also be open to visitors. From 11am – 12.30pm the ground floor will be open for those who want a short visit and get a glimpse of the collections and house. From 12.30pm – 5pm the house will be fully open allowing people to discover this unusual property which has been frozen in time.

For more information visit or telephone Calke Abbey on 01332 863822.


Calke Abbey, Ticknall, Derbyshire, DE73 7LE

Opening Arrangements:

House: 21 February – 1 November House taster tours 7 days a week from 11am- 12.30pm House fully opens at 12.30pm for generals visits Saturday – Wednesday and themed house visits on Thursday and Fridays.

Garden: 7 February – 1 November 2015

Restaurant & Shop:1 January – 31 December 2015 10.00am – 5pm.

Park & National Nature Reserve: Daily 7.30am – 7.30pm, dusk if earlier

Heritage Open Days

Chesterfield & District Family History Fair – we’ll be there!


Chesterfield & District Family History Society are holding a family and local history and craft fair at Outwood Academy in Newbold, Chesterfield, this coming Saturday from 10am-4pm.

Staff from the record office will be there to provide information about our collections and to give advice on tracing your Derbyshire ancestors.

We’ll also be giving a talk about the work of the record office and specifically the resources we have relating to the First World War.

With £1 the princely sum for the whole day, its a bargain day out – we’d love to see you there.

Agricola’s masterpiece at the record office

As a county Derbyshire has a long tradition with the lead mining industry and to celebrate this we have teamed up with The National Coal Mining Museum for England (NCM) to bring the exhibition The Craft of the Miner to the record office.

The exhibition centres on the book De Re Metallica, written by Gregorius Agricola, an eminent German scholar and scientist, in 1556. The volume, one of only a few copies to survive in Britain, is recognised as the most comprehensive work produced on the subject of mining during the 16th century.

De Re Metallica

A selection of items from the NCM’s collection are on display in our vitrine wall and include 17th century German mining manuals, pick heads, safety bellows and frog lamp.

De Re Metallica, made up of 12 books, describes mining methods and processes, including surveying, mine construction, pumping, haulage and ventilation and also includes information on mine workers’ health, mine administration and owners’ duties.

The importance of De Re Metallica and the superiority of German mining techniques at this time were recognised throughout Europe, Queen Elizabeth I herself encouraged German miners to visit England to share their knowledge and expertise.

Given the importance of mining to the county of Derbyshire, we are delighted to have these specially selected items on display in our reception area. The exhibition is on until Saturday 24th October 2015 and is free to view. The complete exhibition then moves on to The North of England Institute of Mining and Mechanical Engineers, Newcastle Upon Tyne, from January 2016, so see it here while you can!

Believe It or Not?

In the summer of 1826 Sir George Crewe, 8th Baronet, and his wife, Lady Jane Crewe, took an extended trip in North Wales. While visiting the town of Conway (or Conwy, to be more accurate linguistically), they took in the parish church there. Although they thought there was little worthy of attention in it, Lady Jane’s journal does record one gravestone that did impress them.

“We were particularly struck with one bearing the following inscription, “Here lyeth the body of Nicholas Hookes of Conway, Gent, who was the 41st child of his Father Wm. Hookes Esqre by Alice his wife, & father of 27 children, who died the 20th day of March 1637.”

It should be noted that Sir George and Lady Jane went on to produce only the paltry 8 children.

Jane Crewe journal extract D2375/M/44/10

Jane Crewe journal extract D2375/M/44/10

Jane Crewe Journal D2375/M/44/10

Jane Crewe Journal D2375/M/44/10