Junction Arts

This looks like a load of boxes in the back of a van, but trust me – it’s much more than that.  This is the archive of Junction Arts, an arts organisation based in Chesterfield, soon to celebrate its fortieth anniversary.  The papers in the boxes represent decades of highly-regarded (and fondly-remembered) work by the charity.

This is not an end but a beginning.  Over the coming months, we plan to support Junction Arts’ HLF-funded project JA40, by giving training to Junction Arts staff and volunteers so that they can set to work on appraising and describing the collection.  By the end of the process, we expect the archive to be smaller, and for information about its contents to be available on our catalogue.  It’s a way of opening up the history of Junction Arts to the world.

Mini Explore: ‘Coal not Dole!’

Coal not dole poster

Until the last decade, coal mining was once one of the biggest industries in the East Midlands, especially in Derbyshire which had many mining communities when the industry was at its height.

Just a few of months ago, the UK’s last deep pit coal mine closed for the last time. Another deep pit mine will close in December (Kellingley, in North Yorkshire) and after this there will be no more deep pit mines in the UK.

This is of particular historical significance because it reflects the changing nature of British industries and economy. There is also an underlying theme about workers rights which originates from the Magna Carta.

Employment rights, equal pay, fair working conditions and the right to protest have featured heavily in the loss of the mining industry. Over the centuries they have developed to become apparent features of human rights, which have evolved from the original Magna Carta clauses. Because of the impact of Magna Carta over the course of history, it remains our democratic right to be able to protest for fair employment rights.

This featured poster with the slogan ‘Coal not Dole!’ (D5756/5-7) was issued by the National Union of Mineworkers during the Miners’ Strike in 1984-85. Although not overly exciting to look at, it deals with the point relating to workers rights and employment. Perhaps it reminds you of this event?

A few months ago a blog was published about the Magna Carta as part of the Mini Explore Your Archive campaign. This year’s main Explore Your Archive week starts this Saturday.

For this year’s event we are welcoming poet and designer Jane Weir to the record office to talk about her work, inspired by archive collections.  To find out more about this free event or to book a place go to the Events page on our blog (just scroll back to the top of this page).

Mining the Archives exhibition

If you’ve been following Clare’s posts about the conservation work she’s been doing on lead mining related documents, you’ll be interested to know that our current exhibition features this project.  You can see how Clare has carried out repairs and we even have some of the pieces of 18th century lead we found tucked away in the pages of the account book on display.  The other half of the exhibition shows how the conservation team looks after our collections, making sure they don’t get eaten by pests, destroyed by mould or damaged in any other way while they’re in our care.

Clare was interviewed about the project and exhibition by Andy Potter from Radio Derby last week.  You can listen to the programme on the BBC website; the interview starts about 1 hour and 43 minutes into the show.

This free exhibition is on in our reception’s Vitrine Wall until Saturday 30 January, during normal opening hours.









A day at the archive issue desk…

Every day the search room staff produce a wide range of documents, differing not only in the information they provide, but also the dates they were created, how and why they were created, how and why they will be used. All documents are collected and returned through the issue desk so we can ensure the best protection and security possible during access. As part of this procedure, all our visitors must order the documents required so that we can retrieve the correct item from the stores, sign to say they have received the document, initial to say they have returned it, and a staff member must sign to say they have returned it to the stores.

The gallery below includes many of the documents that were requested and consulted on one particular day last month (Tuesday 13 October). On that day, we had visits from:

  • a county council colleague working in the legal services department
  • an Australian lady trying to find a photograph (unsuccessfully) and other information (successfully) about a criminal ancestor
  • a medieval historian searching for clues about land ownership in Eggington
  • a budding local historian interested in that peculiarly Derbyshire tradition of well-dressings
  • a second family historian searching for the father’s name of one of her ancestors who was born a bastard in 1818
  • a third family historian endeavouring to discover the exact grave location of an ancestor buried at St Oswald’s church in Ashbourne
  • a National Trust volunteer from Calke Abbey looking for various bits of information relating to the house and the Harpur Crewe family for a new learning resources being developed there.

Not  all our visitors go away satisfied with what they have found out, sometimes because they were expecting to find something else, and sometimes because the records didn’t actually give them an answer at all. However, it is very rare that we have that we have visitors who have not enjoyed the experience of searching through and handling the archives. Often they have to test their skills of reading old handwriting (and the archivist’s skills sometimes too!). Usually they unintentionally discover how different records were created and kept at different times and in different places – for example, it is extremely uncommon to find a record of where in a churchyard a particular grave is located, but there are some churches or vicars that did record this information.

Another day in the life of the issue desk coming next month…

Bills, bills, bills…

Roger is one of a number of cataloguing volunteers who have been putting a great deal of work into collection D769, deriving from the practice of Taylor Simpson & Mosley, Solicitors, of Derby.  The collection includes a large number of maps which have been listed and available for many years, and an ever larger number of boxes which have never seen the light of day, because they have never been listed.  The volunteers have been going through some of these boxes in a bid to change all that.  Roger writes:

Amongst the documents in one box is a remarkable collection of invoices which record the debts owed by one Robert Curzon at the time of his accidental death in 1873. Robert Curzon and his wife Charlotte lived at Alvaston, although Robert Curzon’s duties as a captain in the Sussex Militia required him to spend time at the regimental barracks in Chichester.

Contemporary newspapers record that toward the end of September 1873, Robert and Charlotte Curzon went to a shooting party in Leicestershire. On their return journey the horse pulling their trap grew restive as they passed through the village of Diseworth. The trap overturned. Robert and Charlotte Curzon were thrown out, sustaining head injuries. Charlotte Curzon recovered but Robert Curzon died two days later, aged 32.

Some 250 invoices submitted after his death give a vivid indication of the breadth of Robert Curzon’s expenditure and the extent of credit he enjoyed during the months, and in many cases the years, before his death. Alongside the invoices are documents showing that Robert Curzon’s estate was not sufficient to meet the debts and his brothers took responsibility, in the process taking a bank loan of £3,000.

The retailers and suppliers represented include fishmongers, bakers, grocers, butchers, fruiterers, ale, wine and spirit merchants; florists and nurserymen; surgeons, dentists, chemists and hairdressers; drapers, glass, china and furniture merchants; tailors, dressmakers, hat makers, boot and shoe makers; jewellers, optical suppliers, watch and clockmakers; tobacconists; coach builders, cab hirers and livery stables; veterinary surgeons, blacksmiths, saddlers, harness makers, fishing tackle makers and gun and ammunition merchants; music suppliers, photographers and a portrait painter; taxidermists; hoteliers; newsagents, a theatre ticket agent, a library, booksellers and stationers; umbrella and cane makers; a timber merchant, plumbers, builders and ironmongers. There is even an invoice from Alvaston toll gate listing outstanding turnpike tolls. A handful of items give details of payments to servants and employees.

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Although many suppliers are from Derby there are many from London, and some from Chichester. Further afield are a jeweller and a taxidermist in Inverness; an antique dealer and livery stables in York; wine merchants in Leeds, Cologne and Bordeaux; and a portrait painter from Richmond, Surrey. A few items are in the form of note books, holding a chronological running record of goods supplied. The collection offers a colourful variety of printed billheads with decorative texts and illustrations. A few twenty-first century household names appear amongst the suppliers: W H Smith, newsagents, and Benson & Hedges, tobacconists, are immediately recognisable.

The invoices might provide a number of research opportunities. Many show abundant detail, such that it would be possible to construct a chronology of the daily life and travels of Robert Curzon over a period of at least twelve months. The detail might be of interest to students of domestic economy and those interested in the range amount and cost of foodstuffs available to a specific household in the 1870s. There are detailed invoices from chemists showing the supply of everyday household remedies; from nurserymen with specific information about plants and seeds supplied, and from tailors and dressmakers.

Remembering the Second World War

People are now once again wearing their poppies with pride as we remember those who have lost their lives in conflicts fought around the world.

One of the Local Studies Library’s long standing users, Keith Taylor for over ten years now has dedicated much of his free time to commemorating Derbyshire men who fell during the First and Second World Wars.  He has written a number of books, largely covering the Derbyshire Dales area detailing the lives of those soldiers who sadly didn’t make it back,  showing us just what life was really like for them and their families.  For each book Keith spent months in the Local Studies Library looking at old newspapers and searching through records such as the Soldiers Died databases and the Commonwealth War Graves website.  To illustrate his books he trawled through the library collections of photographs, looked extensively through the picturethepast website and had many images given to him by local people.

Last year Keith decided to tackle the High Peak area and produced what was to be his last book, ‘Buxton, Burbage, Chelmorton, Harpur Hill, Peak Dale, King Sterndale and Wormhill Remembered: the sacrifice made by the families of the High Peak during the Great War 1914-1919’.  But Keith couldn’t leave it there and needed to finish the story, so this year he has worked on the follow up book .

‘Buxton, Burbage, Chelmorton, Earl Sterndale, Fairfield, Harpur Hill, Peak Dale, King CoverSterndale, Taddington and Wormhill Remembered 1920’s-1950’s’ gives us an evocative portrait of life in Buxton and the neighbouring villages in the period 1925 to 1960, giving special mention to local events during the Second World War.  The stories of the lives and deaths of all the servicemen who lost their lives receives pride of place but other aspects covered include the Home Guard, evacuees, black outs, VE and VJ Day celebrations, raising funds for the war effort and festivities in peacetime, especially during the Coronation year of 1953, and is richly illustrated with 780 photographs.

The book will be launched at Buxton Library on Saturday 21st November 10.00am – 4.00pm, when the author will be signing copies.  It will be on sale at the library and after the event also from other local retailers and from us here at the Record Office, price £12.00. If you are interested in seeing any of Keith’s other books copies are available to look at in the Local Studies Library at the Record Office, and available to loan through Derbyshire Libraries.  For photographs of the period don’t forget to look at the picturethepast website http://www.picturethepast.org.uk

Remembering Past Times in Chesterfield

I was delighted when staff at Chesterfield Library invited us to take part in their half-term reminiscence event, promoting the record office and our collections through craft activities with children and young people. So, last Tuesday I loaded up the car with a selection of craft materials, templates of trees, a large bundle of old and “less old” photographs of Chesterfield  (courtesy of Picture the Past), as well as a small assortment of original archives to be displayed in the local studies section at the Library.

As always our intergenerational ‘History of You‘ craft activity engaged children as young as two in the history of their family as they designed and made their own colourful, furry, feathery and leafy trees. Not unsurprisingly the parents and grandparents who came along too enjoyed the activity just as much (and sometimes even more) than their children, and they shared stories about why cousin Laura is called Laura, and how Uncle Mick met Aunt Sally.

In the afternoon we tried something a bit different and, supported by third and fourth generation Cestrefeldians, a small group of 7-16 year olds prepared a display for the library revealing how Chesterfield Market Place has been used and has changed over the last 200 years. Inspired by the photographs from Picture the Past, the group re-created the clock tower of the Market Hall, created paper chains of people shopping and cows being sold, and arranged the old photographs to show a lively market town over the centuries and still going strong today.

You can see the display at Chesterfield Library, or here (below)



The whole day, which also included pumpkin badge making and owl crafting with Straight Curves, artefact handling with Chesterfield Museum and an exhibition on social housing from Homes For Good, was really fantastic and we were so pleased to be a part of it. The organisers have now started to think about the next event – and our table is already booked!