‘Is there any post?’ -FitzHerbert project catch up

The FitzHerbert project has been quiet for some time so I wanted to write a catch up blog to update you on progress and share with you one of the highlights of the collection.

Firstly, I want to mention the title of the post: this is surely a familiar phrase in every British household. Especially with the increase in email usage there is always a keen sense of anticipation when you are expecting something to arrive in the post, especially a letter. When something arrives unexpectedly it is always exciting (except if it’s from the bank!).

Right now we are approaching a point in the year when the postal system is about to get very busy, Christmas being the obvious example. Immediately before and after Christmas there are parcels and letters to send, followed by even more parcels and thank you letters, not to mention bills to pay!

One can imagine that this was no doubt a familar refrain in the Tissington household. With no means of electronic communication, corresponding by letter with various business partners and associates as well as tenants of the estate, estate staff and of course friends and relatives was the norm.

During the course of cataloguing and rearranging D239 I have been not at all surprised to find that a substantial amount of this material is correspondence. This consists of a mixture of both private and official business correspondence, as well as everything else in between. When I began doing this project last year, my initial research into the collection that has already been catalogued shows that a large proportion of this too, is correspondence. This is a challenge in itself because this form of material can present a few problems when sorting and cataloguing.

Some key questions to ask are: firstly, what is it regarding? As in what is the subject of the letter/s? More often than not when you are trying to establish context this can difficult because you only have one side of the correspondance so it is not always clear what is being discussed. Conversations are difficult to piece together. Secondly, when was it written? Dates are also trickly – letters are usually clearly dated but there are often large gaps in between responses.

Thirdly, how are the letters already arranged? I’ve found that the majority of the letters in the collection are already tied in small bundles. Its really important not to deviate from the original order of records like this but upon closer inspection this can be questioned when letters have been seemingly randomly tied together!

Overall, I’ve enjoyed working on this aspect of the collection. It has helped me to gain an insight into the Tissington estate from lots of different angles, and also give a sense of the FitzHerbert family. There are some particularly fascinating exchanges, one example being between that of FitzHerbert and a client in Jamaica regarding the costs of the land which the family held out there. Also one concerning a minor accident on the estate involving a young boy and a horse. Not forgetting that there are wonderful examples of nineteenth century handwriting, envelopes and stamps. Soon you’ll be able to see them for yourselves.

So in terms of progress: I have produced a full box list, subsequently this has been entered into an Excel spreadsheet with ISAD(G) headings and heavily edited as the contents of this part of the collection have become clearer. Now that this is nearing completion, this is due to be migrated onto the CALM database in the near future.

I’ll post more when this has been completed!

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