Lost Cause?

st jude

Happy St Simon & Jude’s Day! (28th October). Saint Jude is also known as “Jude the Obscure”, and is known as the patron saint of lost causes, a last resort as it were.

Here at Derbyshire Record Office we can’t absolutely guarantee to find that lost ancestor or the last tantalising piece of a genealogical or historical puzzle. But try our resources: parish registers, electoral rolls, calendars of prisoners, court records, maps, books, original documents, newspapers, magazines, images, and online access to Ancestry and a myriad other resources via our free computers.

And that’s not an exhaustive list; see our website at http://www.derbyshire.gov.uk/leisure/record_office/default.asp

But if you can visit us, or drop us an email to record.office@derbyshire.gov.uk with your question if you can’t, we may just be able to help you with that long-lost cause, or point you in the direction of an answer.

Sue Peach

Local Studies Librarian

A Cautionary Tale


Our microfilm readers are very popular with customers wanting to view parish registers or newspapers on microfilm, and we enjoy welcoming visitors for this and other research. So it was very sad to have to take one out of circulation. The reason? Someone had spilt a drink next to the machine, which had caused electrical burnout. Fortunately there was no fire, but we still ended up with irreparably damaged equipment.

So if we ask you please not to bring food and drink “even if it’s only water” into the Local Studies Library or the Microfilm Room, don’t be offended. There is a very good reason for it. When you need refreshment, please take the opportunity to use our very pleasant break room and enjoy its fabulous views.

Mining the Archives Project – Talk

Mining the Archives Poster

As part of the Mining the Archives Project, I will be giving a talk at Derbyshire Record Office on Friday 30th October 10.30am-12.00noon, all about the conservation work I have done on the project so far.

If you would like to find out more about exactly how I’ve conserved and preserved these fantastic historical documents, and also see them in the flesh, then come along!

Its free, but you will need to book a place via our Eventbrite page by following this link: Eventbrite Mining the Archives Talk

or call the Record Office on 01629 538347

Explore Your Archive: Poet Jane Weir talks design inspiration

Fabric print 1Barron and LarcherFabric print 2Jane Weir book

For this year’s Explore Your Archive week we are delighted to welcome poet and designer Jane Weir to the record office. Jane will be here to talk about working with the archive of the modernist textile designers, handblock printers and dyers, Phyllis Barron and Dorothy Larcher, who were commercially successful during the inter war years.

Phyllis Barron (1890-1964) and Dorothy Larcher (1884-1952) met in the Brook Street Gallery shortly after the First World War and went on to form a lifelong partnership, during which they designed and made a range of handblock printed textiles using predominantly natural dyes.

Their work was exhibited in respected Arts and Crafts galleries such as The Three Shield Gallery in Kensington Church Street, London and The Mayor Gallery and the Red Rose gallery in Manchester.

Jane’s book Walking the Block is a poetic biography of their creative partnership and lives together, accompanied by images of their textiles and related objects.

Jane will be talking to us about Barron and Larcher’s work and also about her own experiences in using an archive to produce her poetry. Jane will be bringing along examples of Barron and Larcher textiles, examples of their printing blocks and also examples of her own textiles, inspired by their work.

Specifically chosen items from the record office’s collections will also be on display and will include archives which can inspire creative writing and design, such as fabric swatch books from Potter and Co dye works and watercolour caricatures from the Woodward collection.

So whether you are interested in poetry, creative writing, design, textiles or just in creativity itself, this promises to be a fascinating and inspirational talk.

19th November, 11.00am-12.30pm, Derbyshire Record Office  https://www.derbyshire.gov.uk/leisure/record_office/visiting_us/default.asp

This event is free but do book a place at: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/explore-your-archive-talk-with-jane-weir-tickets-19062501455

or call us on 01629 538347

For more information on national Explore Your Archive week, visit The National Archives pages: http://exploreyourarchive.org/

Archives rescue team swings into action!

A few weeks ago, the Ripley Heritage Trust alerted us to the possibility that there were historic Butterley Company records at the former company works in Ripley that were in danger of being severely damaged or destroyed.  The works was sold after the Butterley Company closed down in 2009, since when the company that owns it has gone into administration.  The site has been sitting derelict and is shortly to be sold for redevelopment.

After visiting the site in the company of the very knowledgeable members of the Ripley Heritage Trust, the Record Office was able to get approval from the owners of the site to salvage records, so this morning a team of four of us went down there with a van.  If you find the sight of neglected records distressing, look away now:

IMG_8870 IMG_8871 IMG_8868As the pictures show, much was damaged beyond repair, but most of this material looked like purchase orders and timesheets, which aren’t of historical value.  There were however, lots of engineering drawings, mostly dating to between the 1950s and the 1980s.  Although some had been disturbed by vandals, and were ruined, many were still in plan chest drawers and had been well protected from the elements and the pigeons – mostly!


Some chests had drawers that couldn’t be opened: IMG_8859 IMG_8884

But well-equipped in our protective clothing, we were able to salvage a good proportion of the drawings:

IMG_8856The drawings are now heading to our quarantine, and once our conservation team have given them the OK, we hope that the Ripley Heritage Trust will be able to use their expertise to identify the drawings so they will be accessible for research.

If you haven’t heard of the Butterley Company before, if was a company famed for iron founding and engineering.  In its latter years it was responsible for prestigious projects including the roof of St Pancras Station (if you’ve ever been in the station you’ll know how impressive this is – if not, take a look at these images) and the Falkirk Wheel.  Derbyshire Record Office already holds a substantial archive for Butterley (see our online catalogue) and Ripley Heritage Trust have just gained funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund for a project to document the history of the firm (see: https://www.hlf.org.uk/about-us/media-centre/press-releases/ripley-heritage-trust-secures-heritage-lottery-fund-support).

Thanks go to the Ripley Heritage Trust for alerting us to the records, and we are also very grateful to the owners of the site for allowing us to preserve this piece of Butterley history.  It will take some time before the drawings are sorted and listed – if you, or someone you know, has an engineering background and/or used to work for the Butterley Company and would like to help, please leave a comment below and we’ll be in touch!



Jane Eyre and her Derbyshire connections

A quick look on the internet to see what happened on this day in history tells me that Charlotte Bronte’s novel Jane Eyre was first published in London in 1847.  The novel was written after a visit Charlotte made to North Lees Hall in Derbyshire, which then became her inspiration for Thornbridge Hall, home of Mr Rochester.North Lees Hall

Derbyshire’s links to the novel don’t end there.  In 2006 the BBC produced a television adaptation of the book and used many local areas during the filming.  Haddon Hall was used as Thornbridge Hall, and when it is ravaged by fire, so realistic were the special effects that the local fire brigade got numerous calls from worried locals.

The ruined exterior of Wingfield Manor was then used as the devastated Thornbridge.

Ilam Youth Hostel was used as the outside of Lowood Hall, where a young Jane studies, and Hathersage, Stanage and Dovedale were all used during exterior scenes.Stanage Rocks near Hathersage

You can see images from library collections of all of these areas on the website http://www.picturethepast.org.uk and if you want to find out more about these places then visit the Local Studies Library within the Record Office where our extensive catalogue will lead you to many interesting books and articles.

Of course Jane Eyre is not the only novel to be inspired by our beautiful county.  The Local Studies Library has as part of its collection a vast number of novels and short stories which have a local setting.

If you are interested in finding out more there will be a talk – ‘A Sense_of_PlaceSense of Place: Derbyshire in fiction’ at Belper Library on Wednesday 14 October 10:30am.  Tickets cost £3/£2 concessions.  Telephone Belper Library on 01629 533192 to book a place.