Books – from Breweries to Mountain Biking

Currently on display in our Local Studies library is a varied selection of newly acquired books, ranging from Heritage Walks, to an amazing story about a ‘ghost runner’ to a history of Burton breweries! A full list and details are below:

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  1. Edwin Smith: A Life in Derbyshire Cricket by Steve Dolman Edwin Smith played for Derbyshire in three different decades between 1951 and 1971.  Among his other many achievements, he also represented the county in 497 first-class matches, claiming 1209 wickets at an average of 25.79.
  2. Inglorious: Conflict in the Uplands by Mark Avery With an introduction by Chris Packham this book outlines the case against grouse shooting, and its effect on nature and the environment.
  3. White Peak Mountain Biking: The Pure Trails by Jon Barton Researched and ridden by a local rider, this book features 24 routes from 10.5 to 45 kilometres in length, suitable for riders of all abilities. The routes are varied and involve limestone descents, twisty woodland singletracks and cruising along easy cyclepaths through green fields and pretty villages in Derbyshire.
  4. Heritage Walks in the Heart of the National Forest Now that spring is on its way, some lovely walks await in this booklet, created by the Overseal Footpaths Volunteer Group in the picturesque (and very underrated!) National Forest area.
  5. Peak District Walks with History  by Dennis Kelsall The ten walks in this attractive pocket guide have been chosen to provide fascinating locations from different period of our history including Bronze Age, Iron Age, Norman, Medieval, 16th and 17th centuries, Industrial Revolution and Victorian. Another great excuse to go walking in the Peak District
  6. The Ghost Runner: The Tragedy of the Man they Couldn’t Stop by Bill Jones This book outlines the story of John Tarrant, who started life as a teenage boxer, but was subsequently banned from running.  He ran anyway, taking part in races even though he was not allowed to compete. All the reviews point to an extremely fascinating and readable story which is difficult to put down.
  7. Ind Coope & Samuel Alsop Breweries: A History of the Hand by Ian Webster This book charts the fortunes of two Burton upon Trent brewing giants: Samuel Allsopp,  and Ind Coope.  Researched from the extensive company archives and other literature, this book not only deals in historical fact but brings the story to life, with anecdotes about brewery life that are often humorous and candid, taken from numerous interviews with ex-employees ranging from directors and managers through to operators on the brewery floor. It should be worth a read for anyone who remembers Double Diamond, Long Life and Skol !

David Hey (1938-2016)

Derbyshire Record Office is saddened to hear of the death of David Hey, a historian of great significance for our county and much further afield.  David was known for his methodical approach to research and for producing truly readable scholarly writing, and he provided encouragement and guidance for those taking their first steps in local history.  He was also, we are pleased to say, a regular user of our services.

There are over 60 copies of his landmark text, Derbyshire: A History (2008) noted in the Derbyshire Libraries catalogue.  Users of the e-books service will be pleased to learn that his 2014 work “A History of the Peak District Moors” is available to borrow, as is the Oxford Companion to Family and Local History (2010) of which David was the editor.

David Hey’s obituary in the Guardian is well worth reading.

February is LGBT History Month!

LGBT History Magazine 2016It has Valentine’s Day, Chinese New Year & Shrove Tuesday, to name a few events, but February is also LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) History Month. It aims to promote equality and diversity by making LGBT stories more visible to the public, and campaigning for greater awareness through education. It is always a challenge to find positive accounts about the LGBT experience in history, as so many historical experiences have involved persecution e.g. of homosexuals by the Nazis during World War 2.

However, with the release of popular films such as Pride, about a London based gay and lesbian activist group joining forces with a mining village in Wales against the policies of the Thatcher Government in the 1980s, there has been more mainstream coverage of the LGBT experience and its role in the history of protest and contribution to positive change. The LGBT History Month website has lots of great examples (as well as reminders that there is still plenty of work to do to where discrimination is concerned). It also has a link to an online LGBT Archive (the ‘Random page’ option is a marvellous lucky dip for fact lovers!)  LGBT Archive image

So what LGBT history and references do we hold at the Record Office?

There are limited references to anything obviously LGBT related in the catalogue, but I eventually turned up a few finds. Firstly, an absolute gem of an article, courtesy of the Derbyshire Family History Society periodical (from December 2014). It’s a family history research article with a twist, which also demonstrates the importance of talking to family members and uncovering those hidden ‘secrets’ when researching relatives.

Farewell to Frocks

Its title is ‘Farewell to Frocks’ and is about the difficulties of tracking down the history of a relative who changed their gender identity (in this case the Uncle had started life as a girl).  Incredibly, this all happened in the early 1920s.  What is even more remarkable is that the researcher discovered that there was even a news story published in the News of the World about it. It’s a fascinating and informative read.

 I also came across a selection of novels by Narvel Annable who is a local author and LGBT activist.  His books, which describe in detail life in 1960s Derbyshire, have been called ‘gay thrillers.’  They are often ‘whodunnits,’ written in a colourful style, with plenty of dialogue, that follow a coming of age theme and deal with the issues of homophobia, identity and local language and dialect.  Well worth a read! Narvel’s novels can be found in our ‘Local Authors’ section of the Local Studies library.

Last, but by no means least, another book in our Local Authors collection stood out – ‘Born this Way: the life of Joshua’ by Brett Bradley-Howarth.  It’s a coming of age story about Joshua, growing up as a young man and coming to terms with being gay.

Online information about the author is limited, but judging by some online reviews the book has been well received and really enjoyed by those who have read it.  If anyone has any information about Brett, can recommend some further local LGBT reading, or have a review or an opinion about any of the books or articles we have mentioned, please get in touch!Born this Way

Some Derbyshire Gamblers

I have lately been enjoying a Radio 4 series called The Gambler, featuring my old friend Tim FitzHigham. Tim is, or was, a Wirksworth man, and has a penchant for risking life and limb in the pursuit of absurd undertakings, of the will-he-won’t-he variety.

His world record for the longest journey in a paper boat merits a mention in David Fearnehough’s “Derbyshire Extremes”, listed under “Boat” (immediately before “Boat Lift”, describing the achievement of the Butterley Company in creating the world’s first rotating boat lift). There are several copies of this book noted on the Derbyshire Libraries catalogue, including a reference copy held right here, so if you care to read it, you may.

Tim styles himself a Gambling Archaeologist, and likes to re-create wagers made by the denizens of 18th-century Gentlemen’s Clubs and so on and so forth. I wonder how much of This Kind Of Thing we might hold. A brief search turned up the following:

  • D5459/2/34/11: A cartoon drawn by George Woodward, entitled The Female Gambler’s Prayer, dating from 1801. Here it is, with the text on the back as well:

Female gamberGambler text

Plus these other gems:

  • Q/SB/2/1354: The record of an accusation made in about 1650 by Richard Binge against a Richard Cowlishaw of Belper, alleging that he is a gambler and swearer who “doth… walke in the night”. I would have thought, nominative determinism being what it is, that Mr Binge ought to have been the gambler rather than the confidential informant.
  • D3287/MIL/1/13: A letter of 1875 from Viscount Milner, statesman and colonial administrator (1854-1925) to Philip Lyttelton Gell of Hopton Hall (1852-1926), admonishing him “for not paying a debt after loss of a wager on the number of seconds to be gained by Balliol in Classical Modules”
  • D2375/M/41/29/31: Anonymous letter dating from 1840, addressed to Sir George Crewe, relating to gambling and the licensing of publicans. It is signed only “A Friend of Morality”.
  • D504/43/14/5: A £50 bond of indemnity between George Wood and Job Roe, relating to a wager made over a football match between George Wood and James Hinckley, dated 18 Dec 1756.
  • D258/30/36: A c1630 legal paper from the case of John Gell v Thomas Berket, charging Berket with “ruining his son William by gambling”
  • D3155/C/6267: A note recording a wager between Robert Wilmot Horton of Catton Hall (1784-1841) and his friend Edward Boscawen, the 1st Earl of Falmouth (1787–1841). It looks like this:

D3155 C 6267 Wilmot Horton bet

March 16th, 1825.  Mr Wilmot Horton bets Lord Falmouth  three hundred to one hundred sov[ereig]ns that a Catholic Peer votes in the House of Lords within five years from the present date.

Wilmot-Horton was a member of parliament, a great proponent of Catholic emancipation, and evidently a fellow who would put his money where his mouth was. But how did this bet work out? According to the History of Parliament website, the first Catholic peer was Bernard Edward Howard (1791-1856), the 12th Duke of Norfolk. He took his seat in 1829, and voted against Lord Blandford’s parliamentary reform motion on 18 Feb 1830, meaning that Wilmot Horton won his bet, by less than one calendar month! I wonder if Sir Robert claimed his prize?

Some tips on use of the record office catalogue, which this example can illustrate.

  • CALM – the database that runs the catalogue – does not interpret your search instructions, it just carries them out. So if you search for “bets” only, it won’t find “bet” (singular), much less “gamble”, “wager” etc. However, you can search for terms by clicking “refine search criteria” and putting “bet” and “bets” into the box marked “with at least one of the words”.
  • You can also use asterisks as wild-cards – so a search for “gambl*” will find “gamble”, “gambles”, “gambler”, “gambling” and so on.
  • Searches are not case-sensitive, which I am afraid means we can’t filter out Gamble and Wager as surnames. I can’t think of any cleverer option that wading through them.
  • There will be many, many other references to gambling which won’t be mentioned in the catalogue. You may remember reading a post about our acquisition of the diary of Isabella Thornhill, 1863 to 1875? The catalogue says this records “activities including social events, family life, anecdotes, social encounters with notable figures, and trips to London, Stanton, Chatsworth and other places”. I don’t remember whether any of those social encounters was at the race track, or whether there was an anecdote about a family friend who staked his entire fortune on the toss of a coin… Probably not – but as we haven’t the ability to transcribe every page of every document, the only way to be sure is to order a document in our search room and, shall we say, take a punt?

To keep or not to keep – that is the question

One of the key professional responsibilities of the archivist is to decide which records to select for permanent preservation and which to dispose of. In fact, you could argue that the role of the archivist is not one of preservation but of “destruction” (though I’m not sure we would quite argue that).

Here at Derbyshire Record Office we typically receive several enquiries and deposits/donations a week. Each time the archivist will judge (often in discussion with colleagues) whether the item/s have sufficient historical and research value to justify permanent preservation. We must ask questions such as:

  • Is it archival? i.e. is it a record generated by the everyday activities of a corporate body (or family, or individual), no longer in current use and providing evidence of the past
  • What is the research value of the material? This requires the archivist to think about the actual content of the item/s, what else could be inferred from it about society, individual or place, what kind of historical research could the material support and whether it could be useful for more than one type of historical research (e.g. useful for family historians and social historians)
  • Does the material provide only information that is already available elsewhere?
  • Is the material legible and in suitable condition for preservation?

We also need to be sure it is of Derby or Derbyshire content or origin. It would be outside the collecting remit of Derbyshire Record Office to collect material that didn’t have some connection to the city and county, and their peoples.

Case Study: Moody and Woolley Solicitors of Derby
A couple of weeks ago, Mark and I with the support of Lien, DRO’s Senior Conservator, surveyed and appraised the records in “the dungeon” of former Derby legal firm Moody and Woolley. After nearly 170 years in business, the firm ceased trading in April 2015, and having returned records to clients where possible, offered the remaining records to us and to Derby Local Studies and Family History Library.

“The Dungeon” when we first visited

What we found were primarily of bundles of title deeds and related papers for properties and businesses across the city and county, executorship papers for deceased clients, probate copies of wills and a small number of business records for the firm from the 1990s to early 2000s. There were also a small number of boxes containing family artefacts and photo albums, mostly from the Victorian and Edwardian periods. Undoubtedly these items would have held some intrinsic value for descendants of their original owners, however the firm had been unable to identify who the items belonged to and so could not return them to living relatives. For the same reason, we also had to make the decision not to add such items to the collection as they were not identifiable and therefore had only very limited (if any) historical research value.

After four hours, much sifting, many puzzled looks, head scratches and a fair bit of dust and grime, we had selected a van load of material to be transported back to Matlock.

Other material “left behind” included the probate copies of post-1858 wills and the majority of executorship papers and ledgers. In the case of probate wills, although we do hold some examples of such wills already amongst family and estate collections, these particular wills are only the probate copy, i.e. not the original signed by the individual. The information available from the probate copy is the same as the copy that can be obtained from the Probate Registry – for which handy online indexes already exist on Ancestry and (the latter also includes a search and ordering facility). Therefore the use of such records at DRO would be extremely limited, if indeed they were used at all.

In a world of unlimited space and budgets we may have taken much more than we did. However, such limitations are not necessarily a bad thing. The sifting and selection undertaken by the archivists has the added benefit of saving customers and researchers some time in sifting through material. Another example in this case were the executorship papers: the probate copy of a will identifies the executors and the beneficiaries, the papers of the executors merely record the process of following through the wishes of the deceased. Where there are disputes it can be useful to retain such records; however, in most cases there is little added information and the frequency of use would be extremely low. There is no defined threshold for how often a record should be used to justify its preservation in the archives, but this is certainly one factor that is considered when appraisal and selection decisions are made.

The decisions and judgments we made have ensured that the enduring archive collection for the firm reflects the nature of the business undertaken (as far as was possible with the records presented to us). The final collection includes:

  • sampled business papers of the firm (e.g. a sample correspondence file relating to notarial transactions),
  • 18th-20th century title deeds and abstracts of title for property across Derby and Derbyshire including the Railway Tavern at Belper, mills and other businesses in Ripley, Shirland Park and Lodge, and
  • the personal papers of John Moody, the firm’s founding partner.

All the material is now in our quarantine room waiting to be assessed by our Conservation team and any necessary remedial action taken (including the removal of mould). It will be some time before a full catalogue is available for the collection, but in the meantime, you can access basic summary information through our online catalogue for the collection, reference D7935.

Ultimately, as archivists we must always make judgments about what to preserve and what to destroy with the knowledge that histories can only be written in the future using the evidence we have preserved. The material that isn’t preserved cannot act as evidence, therefore the first question we must always consider is how will this affect histories yet to be written. That is not to say the first responsibility of future history relies with the archivist, this first responsibility inevitably always lies with the creator of the records who may indeed destroy them before an archivist even knows they exist. Nevertheless, archivists do have a very important role to play and it is one that we take very great care over.

Postscript: The judgments we are required to make are likely to become even more important and difficult with digital records – but more on that another time.

9 of diamonds discovered in court book

Improvised bookmarks – we all do it, don’t we?  I have several dozen nice, presentable bookmarks knocking around the house, yet somehow end up with a well-worn train ticket stuck between the pages of whatever novel I have stashed in my work bag.  In this case, we have a 9 of diamonds – a 17th-century 9 of diamonds, at that – found seven minutes ago in between the pages of the court book for the manors of Alstonefield, Warslow and Longnor, Swarkestone, Breadsall, Repton and Hemington and for the hundred of Repton.

D2375 M 57 2 playing card

The volume dates from 1674 to 1677, which is why I say the card is a seventeenth-century one.  If there is an expert in this field who cares to contradict or confirm this, please do so using the comments box below!

New exhibition: 50 Treasures, part 3

A new exhibition has been installed in the vitrine wall in our reception area – if you are in the area or planning a visit, why not stop by and have a look? The items being displayed are all from our 50 Treasures series.  (There’s still time to nominate your favourite document from our archives or local studies collection – you could mention it in the comments box below if you like.)

The exhibition includes a number of Treasures which have already been featured in our blog:

You can also expect to see:

  •  Some of Frank H Brindley’s wonderful peak district photographs from the 1930s to the 1950s
  • A book called “Annals of Crime in the Midland Circuit”, describing hideous crimes and hideous punishments
  • The wartime diaries of Maria Gyte, 1911-1921
  • Autobiography and poems by Leonard Wheatcroft of Ashover (1627-1707)
  • A selection of records from the National Union of Mineworkers, Derbyshire Area, 1880s-2015
  • The Edmund Potter “shirt” and fabric pattern books mentioned in posts by Elissa and Clare in 2015

Each of these will be the subject of a future post – but if you would like to see the originals on display, you have until the end of April.

Travelling Scots in Chesterfield

This is the second article I have re-blogged today! But why not? I’m sure I won’t be the only one to be fascinated by Celia’s piece about Scottish traders


Back in 2011 and 2012, I posted three articles about ‘Scotch Chapmen’ who settled in the 17th century lace centre of Newport Pagnell, Bucks. Despite knowing that these merchants and dealers travelled throughout England, it came as a surprise to find in an 1872 Trade Directory for my adopted town of Chesterfield this list of Travelling Drapers (grouped separately from Drapers who were clearly non-travelling):

BELL James, 30 Spencer Street
BROWN David, Lordsmill Street
FINDLEY David, 23 & 25 St Mary’s Gate
McKAY Benjamin, 13 Holywell Street
McLACHLAN Hugh, 19 Knifesmithgate
McNAE William, 77 Saltergate
MILLIGAN George, 11 Eyre Street
MULLARKY James, 66 Soresby Street

My immediate thought: those are all Scottish names! Yesterday, I looked for them in the Chesterfield 1871 and 1881 census and found vindication – every one in the list except James MULLARKY was born in Scotland (and he was born in Ireland). I even…

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A Sense of Place in Young People’s Poetry

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As I was re-shelving some books in Local Studies, a front cover caught my eye, due to its colourful artwork and images.  Well, I couldn’t help myself, and once I had opened the first few pages, I couldn’t stop reading (even though it was well past closing time!) The images belong to a book titled ‘Common Ground.’ It is a collection of poetry and artwork written by students from Shirebrook Academy and Clowne Heritage High School, as part of a Junction Arts project.

It’s a great example of young people coming together from different schools and celebrating (and also not being so celebratory of!) the areas they have grown up and lived in. Each page of poems is accompanied by eye-catching and colourful artwork, based on the natural environment.

The poems themselves are powerful, emotional and written with amazing creativity. I must admit to raising an eyebrow, when I saw that they were written by Year 8 students, such is the maturity in them. I would recommend the book to anyone working with young people, who has a passion for poetry, is working in a school, running creative projects or simply interested in the perspective of young people living in and around Shirebrook and Clowne.

The book is available to look at in the Local Studies part of the Record Office from our ‘Local Authors’ section, reference 828.9208, title ‘Common Ground’.

New look Nottingham Archives

For your interest… Here’s a review, largely positive, of the newly-revamped Nottinghamshire Archives.


Last week I made my first visit to the revamped Nottinghamshire Archives.  Finished last spring with new storage added they took the opportunity to refurbish the public areas.

As you can see they are now bright and airy and everything has been moved around.  The reception desk is still the first thing you see when you walk in, the lockers (although now disguised as a wall with images on each locker), loos and break area are still in the same place but the Library area now contains the card indexes, microfilms and paper catalogues in its own discrete area.

The Library area

This is a good idea but I do have a few moans about it.  I really liked the old card indexes in their wooden drawers which could be removed so that you could sit down at a table and not have to write and stand at a weird…

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