“Almost like a dream”…

like a dreamThis coming Friday, 1st July sees the 100th anniversary of the start of the Battle of the Somme.  The first day of which is acknowledged as the most devastating day in British army history, with nearly 60,000 British casualties on that day alone.  By the end of the battle, which raged until November 1916,  over 1 million soldiers from both sides of the conflict, had been killed or wounded.

Of course much has been published on this period in history.  A search on the Derbyshire Library catalogue under the simple term of ‘Battle of the Somme’, gives 98 results.  For me, the real impact of the battle comes from reading first hand accounts, and many of these too have been published.  A quick look on the shelves of our Local Studies Collection in the Record Office brought to my attention ‘Almost like a dream’: a parish at war 1914-19, edited by Michael Austin.  From the beginning of the Great War until its end, the vicar of St. Michael’s in Derby, encouraged men from his parish who had joined the services to write to him, to talk about their experiences.  These letters were then published in the parish magazine – a vital way to keep the community close to the men they had waved goodbye to.  The letters, hastily scribbled by working class men, show us the stark reality of life fighting for ‘King and Country’.

Letters detailing events at the Somme are included: Pte. L Hallsworth wrote “I have been through the worst battle that this Battalion has ever been in.  God alone knows how I have escaped death.  The bombardment lasted 5 days and the last two days was terrible, the night before the attack the bombardment grew in intensity until it was impossible for one to speak and we had to yell at the top of our voices to make ourselves heard…Good heavens! I shall never forget it, it simply rained shells and shrapnel and bullets were whistling through the air in hundreds…. Out of my section there are 5 who got back out of 27 and out of the Battalion only 130 men answered the roll call…”

2nd Lieut. Robert Parker wrote “The taking of one trench stands out in my mind more than anything else, and I don’t think I shall ever forget it, perhaps because I saw two of my best friends killed almost side by side.  We failed to take the trench the first time and were in ‘no man’s land’ unable to move either way.  During that time I was buried by a shell and hit by a piece of shrapnel in the finger, it was not much…”  The title of the book comes from the end of this letter – “There is a lot more I could say but I cannot remember everything just now, it still seems almost like a dream.”

Copies of this book are available to borrow through your local Derbyshire Library – a poignant read at any time, but maybe even more so with the forthcoming anniversary in mind.

Calling all shopaholics..


If you visit us at the Record Office you will see that we have a range of products for sale.

As well as offering a variety of local publications, we also have a range of unique Record Office merchandise.  DRO Products

These go from note books and mugs, to tea towels and bags  all with specially chosen images on them taken from items within our collections.

Alongside these is a display of merchandise available from Picture the Past.  You may be aware of the Picture the Past website which gives images from the library and museum collections across Derbyshire, Derby City, Nottinghamshire and Nottingham PtP ProductsCity a worldwide audience.

The website offers a host of products which you can personalise with an image of your choice.  In the Record Office and Chesterfield Library you can buy items such as notebooks, place mats, coasters, key rings and mugs with various images of the Chesterfield area already printed on them.

Picture the Past have just expanded their range and available at the Record Office, you can buy ready framed images of some famous Derbyshire landmarks.  Views of Chatsworth, Haddon Hall and Dovedale are just some of the images available. Picture 1

Along with the other merchandise mentioned these are on display in the Record Office reception area, so why not pop in and have a look.  You may just solve that awkward present problem…

Scaling the Matlock Mountain!


Women's TourIf you happened to be in Matlock this lunchtime, you may have noticed a bit of an event going on! If you weren’t there, and were wondering what all the fuss was about i.e. cyclists, spectators, sirens, police motorbikes and cheering schoolchildren, it was the Women’s Tour – a professional women’s cycling race, which had a whole stage  planned in Derbyshire, going from Ashbourne to Chesterfield via Buxton, Youlgreave, Winster and Matlock.

The riders included Lizzie Armistead, Britain’s cycling world champion and professional teams from all over the world.  Some Derbyshire Record Office staff, along with hundreds of others all along the route, were cheering on the riders on the Queen of the Mountains race up Bank Road in Matlock.


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Of course, this is really also a shameless excuse to promote our current exhibition ‘Have bike, will travel,’ displaying the best of our archive and local studies material.  The exhibition runs until the 30th July.

We now have a family quiz sheet and ‘I love cycling’ badges to give away, with the badges courtesy of the Smarter Travel Team at Derbyshire County Council.


Extreme weather – extremely fascinating!

As the archivist responsible for outreach at the record office I am lucky enough to attend many events – the Weather Stories event which was held at our office in Matlock yesterday was a particularly fascinating one, and one which I, and all who attended, thoroughly enjoyed.

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Weather Stories was an event celebrating the project ‘Weather Extremes’ being run by the University of Nottingham (and other partners including the Universities of Liverpool, Glasgow, and Aberystwyth, Historic England, the Royal Geological Society and the Met Office).  The project uses archival research and oral history interviews in order to develop local and regional climate histories to identify periods of unusual weather and extreme events.

The project team certainly have their work cut out for them during this 3 year project (culminating at the end of this year) as it covers Wales, East Anglia and North West Scotland, South West England and the Central England region – hence their interest in Derbyshire Record Office collections.

Georgina Endfield and Lucy Veale, from the School of Geography at the University of Nottingham, have undertaken a huge amount of research using archive collections, which include diaries, letters, contemporary accounts, newspapers and much more.  They explained how they set about such a huge task, the information they found and what they plan to do with that information – publications, exhibitions, educational resources etc.

Georgina highlighted just some of the fascinating archival evidence which she has uncovered during her research here at the record office, including accounts of the ‘Great Frost’ of 1739/40 which saw the Trent frozen so hard that a wagon and 8 horses and 9 quarters of malt could travel over it (James Harrison’s note book 1734-47 ref: D2912/10).

Also featured was a letter from a Mr Edward Cludde writing to the FitzHerbert family of Tissington Hall in 1816 (ref: D239 M/F 8389) about, amongst other subjects, a particularly bad winter  “Our crops also turn out very unproductive so that at present things wear a very gloomy aspect…”  At first glance this is a fairly innocuous letter, however, when put in a wider context it shows the effects felt by Derbyshire people of a devastating climatic event which happened thousands of miles away.

1816 has become known as ‘The Year without a Summer’.  Severe climate abnormalities caused a dramatic decrease in temperature, resulting in poor harvests and major food shortages across the Northern hemisphere.  The abnormality was the result of a volcanic winter caused by the massive eruption of Mount Tambora in the Dutch East Indies in the year previous.

We followed Georgina’s talk with an enjoyable hour looking though some of the original archive material which has formed part of the team’s research.  Conversations sprung up, not to mention lots of interesting questions and memories of weather events, all which Georgina and Lucy took away to help in their research.

I speak for all those who attended in saying it was a thoroughly enjoyable and absorbing afternoon.  Many thanks to Georgina and Lucy for recognising the wealth of valuable material held in our collections and for making Derbyshire Record Office part of the Weather Extremes project.

If you have memories of interesting weather to share Georgina and the Weather Extremes team would love to hear from you.  You can contact them in the following ways:




Twitter: @Weather_Extreme

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/weatherextremes


Raining cats and dogs and other stories

Weather pic

It is fair to say that the British have a something of an obsession with the weather. Yet the weather has arguably become an even more popular talking point in recent months as storms, gales and widespread flooding have wrought destruction across northern and southwest England, parts of Scotland and Wales, and as the stories of resultant damage, loss and recovery from these events have dominated the UK newspaper headlines.

Current research, which is being led by Georgina Endfield and colleagues at the University of Nottingham is drawing on historical documentary sources to explore the nature and timing of such unusual and extreme weather in the UK over the past 350 years and to investigate the socio-economic, environmental and cultural implications of these events. The team have been conducting investigations in national, regional and local libraries and institutions, and county records offices, consulting unpublished diaries, correspondence, weather records, estate papers, newspaper reports and school log books among other sources, dating back to the seventeenth century and up to the present. The archival material is a mixture of statistics, eye witness and anecdotal information, subjective accounts of unusual weather and systematic weather observations.

In our event ‘Weather Stories’ Georgina will provide a brief introduction to this research and there will be a chance to look at some of the rich documentary materials held in Derbyshire Record Office which are being used for exploring extreme weather histories in the region.

There will also be the opportunity for people to share their memories of unusual and extreme weather events through an oral history workshop.

Georgina Endfield is Professor of Environmental History in the School of Geography, University of Nottingham. Her project is supported by the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

The event is at the Record Office on New Street in Matlock DE4 3FE on Tuesday 14th June 2016 from 1.00pm-3.30pm and is free of charge. For more information or to book a place visit www.recordoffice.wordpress.com/events or call the record office on 01629 538347.

On this day… Belper Union Meeting of Guardians 10th June 1916

A post from Bernadette, currently on a work placement at the Record Office

As part of my work experience at the Record Office, I recently carried out a transcription of a meeting from Minute Book of the Belper Union Meeting of Guardians. Here is a summary of what I discovered as an example of a typical meeting and showing the kind of information you can find in other similar records.

From 1835, Boards of Guardians were elected by parishioners and were responsible for ensuring the poor were housed, fed and given work they were fit enough to undertake, this was instead of giving money to them to look after themselves. As years went by the guardians were given additional duties which were not related to the poor, and the county councils took over the all the jobs when the Boards of Guardians ceased in 1930.

Photograph of Babington Hospital, formerly Belper Workhouse (1999) See more at www.picturethepast.org.uk

Photograph of Babington Hospital, formerly Belper Workhouse (1999) See more at http://www.picturethepast.org.uk

Exactly 100 years ago today on the 10th June 1916 the Belper Union meeting, was chaired by J H Starkey. Twenty four people attended the meeting. The minutes from the previous meeting on the 27th May 1916 were taken and confirmed.

The Clerk examined the Master’s Day Book from the past two weeks and all was correct, he also looked at the other books required to be kept by the master. He reported that he had looked at the Outdoor Relief lists, receipt and expenditure book and Relieving Officers Relief Order books which were in accordance with orders from the guardians and was certified and signed.

The report on state of the workhouse accounts and books relative to the relief of the poor were looked at, directions were given regarding the future management and discipline of the workhouse, and an order of all the invoices totals were posted in the ledger to the credit of invoice accounts.

Invoice for the Midsummer quarter of weeks 9 and 10 for provisions, clothing, furniture, property, necessaries, repairs and drugs looked at in the meeting.

Out relief order for the past two weeks appear on the relieving officers receipts and expenditure books were posted in the Ledger to the credit of relieving officers for Arthur Dicken and Hubert Jauncey for out relief and non-settled poor for weeks 9 and 10.

Several sums on accounts for the guardians appeared to have been paid from the master’s receipts and payment book and these payments were ordered to be posted in the ledger. The payments included salaries for the engineer, clothing from the tailors and firewood for the month of May. It appeared that several sums on account of the guardians had been received.

The total amount was posted for the ledger to the debit of the master and credited as follows for May: firewood sales, pig, Sark Foundry Co and the common fund.

An order was given for cheques to be signed and all amounts to be posted to the ledger for credit of the treasurers and debited for accounts of the relieving officers, A Dicken and H Jauncey. There were also the salaries for the various people working in the workhouse from the probationers to the foster mothers. There were also the collector’s salaries for J G Walters in Alfreton, to the lunatic asylum for the removal of A G Morrell by A Dicken, subscriptions for Idridgehay Nursing Association, establishment for books from Shaw and Sons, maintenance for the Leicester union maintenance of C Spencer, and an invoice payment for F P Westridge for wood.

In the treasurers book it appeared the following sums had been received and the amount was posted to the ledger to the debit of treasurers and credit of the Parochial ledger from May 29 to June 9 for contributions for various areas in and around Derbyshire.

The collectors account includes payments for maintenance, out relief, lunatic asylum and rations.

The clerk had a letter from Mr F W Walters of Pentrich requesting a temporary sum of money due to the absences of the rate collector who had been called up for military service for the Parish of Pentrich. The move was made by Mr Towlson and seconded by Mr Bridges, and it was resolved to let payment to go ahead and charge to the Parish of Pentrich.

A circular letter from the Local Government Board which was dated 26th May, dealing with the Local Government Emergency Provisions Act 1916, was read by the clerk.

There was a leave of absence letter from Dr Clayton for a Dr R G Allen as Medical Officer for the Cottage Homes for leave from the 1st July, he had taken a commission in the R.A.M. Corps [Royal Army Medical Corps], which was granted. They then read out the report of the vaccination officer.

A letter from J Smith the barber thanked the guardians for granting leave, due to illness. He resumed his duties after illness.

Willie Mathers from the Training Ship in Exmouth was given permission to spend his time at the workhouse on his summer holidays.

A Deputation consisting of members and the Clerk, visited the Mickleover Asylum, and their expenses are to be paid.

The Clerk read a letter from the Reliving Officers requesting annual holidays – all were granted their annual holiday, and that the costs for substitutes for each were covered.

That brings an end to my post.

The record office – a Safe Place to be

Safe Places training

The record office recently signed up to become a designated Safe Place within the county.  Not sure what a Safe Place is?  Then I’ll explain…

The Derbyshire Safe Place Scheme is a voluntary scheme for organisations and businesses who wish to join a network of designated safe places throughout the county.  The scheme is run by Derbyshire County Council, Derbyshire Constabulary and MacIntyre, a national charity who provide learning, support and care for children and adults with learning disabilities .  These safe places provide help for people who may feel unwell, confused, threatened or are in trouble whilst out and about in their local community.

As a Safe Place we can offer a safe, friendly and comfortable environment for anyone who may need our help.  Our newly trained staff can offer support and practical help, such as contacting  family members, carers or friends for anyone who needs assistance.

Staff were trained by representatives of MacIntyre, Helen Blanksby, a Keeping Safe Champion (pictured holding the Safe Places logo) and Neil Abdy, Training & Development Officer for the Safe Places scheme.

We are proud to be one of many Safe Places around the county.  To see a list of all the Safe Places in Derbyshire log on to the Safe Places website at http://www.derbyshire.gov.uk/safeplaces.  You will know a Safe Place by the logo which will be on display.


All in a Quilt…..

I have already mentioned medieval Dronfield Hall Barn in a previous post, which opened  in April as a Cultural Centre in the town.  We recently added their publication “A History of Dronfield in a Quilt” to our collection. At the time this project was proposed, April 2014, work began on designing and making a quilt to celebrate its opening. It was decided to base it on the medieval history of the town. As this was intended as a community project, helpers were sort from the district and 30 volunteers came forward.


The group looked into the  Old Dronfield Society archives, and at the Parish Church for ideas . The medieval windows of St Johns Church became the basis of the design. Vibrant primary colours were chosen, fabric bought and Photoshop helped with fitting together the different elements. Finally the finished individual pieces were sewn together and it was entered into the NEC’s Festival of Quilts where it received a commendation.


Dronfield History

In 2015 Dronfield Heritage Trust published 2 of the last books by the late David Hey, who lived in Dronfield Woodhouse from 1974, and was a trustee of Dronfield Hall Barn project. He had been actively involved in the local history of the area for many years. We have recently added them to our collection.

Dronfield book covers

The Houses of the Dronfield Lead Merchants. A surprise to many people, is that the oldest houses in Dronfield were built with profits from the lead trade. The first chapter summarises the lead industry in Derbyshire, and the book goes on to give details of the individual properties. It’s illustrated throughout with maps, and photographs, and there are separate short paragraphs defining terms, such as “Fother – the measure of weight by which 2 boles of lead were sold.” The history of the Rotherham family is also covered, as they were one of the most successful long established families in the Dronfield lead trade. Each chapter has notes and references listed at the end of the book for anyone who wishes to do further research.

Medieval and Tudor Dronfield, begins by looking at the ancient parish of Dronfield. The present landscape in and around Dronfield has retained some of its medieval history. Roads, fields, woods and hamlets are discussed as well as the Parish Church. The parish was influenced by Beauchief Abbey long before it became responsible for it. There is a chapter on Timber framed building, and the final chapter gives details of Dronfield Hall Barn. Again it’s illustrated with drawings, maps and photographs and notes and references for each chapter at the end.

Both books are a fitting addition to the many other items David Hey wrote during his career.