50 Treasures exhibition – round 5

The new year brings the latest round of our ’50 Treasures’ exhibition series.  This time the wall is filled with, amongst others things, examples of Swedish folk art, 1950s newspapers cartoons, architectural plans, a photo of ‘lost’ arctic graves and the diaries of a Derbyshire gent – all items nominated by staff, volunteers and users of the record office.

The exhibition is free to view at the record office during normal opening hours and runs until 1st May 2020.

A Beginner’s Guide to Copyright

We’ll be running our Beginner’s Guide to Copyright session at Derbyshire Record Office at 10.00 am on Tuesday 28th January.

Copyright

The session will help community groups and individuals understand the basic principles of Copyright law and look at how we can use works which are currently protected by copyright.

What can you do? What can’t you do? What is right and what is copyright?

Tickets are £3.72. To book a place, please use our Eventbrite Page.

Leonard Cheshire Photographic Exhibition

This is not a directly Derbyshire post, but our followers may be interested in an exhibition in Burton-on-Trent curated by the Leonard Cheshire Archive (based in South Derbyshire).

Royalty Carers and Residents, Leonard Cheshire life through the eyes of a Fleet Street photographer features the work of Norman Potter (a Fleet Street photographer who worked for the Daily Express and others from the 1960s to the 1980s) and provides a snapshot of life as a disabled person around the world, showing some of the work of the disability charity Leonard Cheshire.

The free exhibition runs until 29 February 2020.  Archive volunteer Susan Nield will be giving a free talk on the life of Norman Potter on 31 January at 10am.

The exhibition and talk can be found at: The Brewhouse Arts Centre,  Union Street, Burton on Trent, DE14 1AA

A Fraudulent Governess

I recently happened upon some material which piqued my interest: it was a small envelope of correspondence 1896-1900 relating to a former governess to Sir Vauncey Harpur Crewe’s daughters at Calke Abbey, named Miss Adams, who was involved in a court case.  If you’ve read my blog posts about Elizabeth Appleton, you’ll know that governesses have a particular fascination for me, so I felt compelled to find out more about Miss Adams.

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Reference number D2375/F/L/1/1/7

There was a suggestion that Lady Crewe might have to testify at the court case and letters from his daughter to the governess might be produced as evidence.  Sir Vauncey Harpur Crewe was clearly trying to prevent this happening and distance his family from any scandal.  With a bit of judicious searching on Ancestry, Findmypast, and the British Newspaper Archive (all free to use at the Record Office and your local Derbyshire library)  I found a wealth of information about Miss Adams, also known as Sarah A’Court among other names, which paints an interesting picture of her.

Within the envelope were three notes from the governess herself to Sir Vauncey in 1896, just before she left his employ.  Sir Vauncey had obviously dismissed her, as her notes show she is unhappy to be leaving.  Her writing is difficult to read, but one letter reads ‘Believe me when I tell you I am so bitterly miserable’:

D2375-F-L-1-1-7-3-snip

As Sir Vauncey was a notoriously difficult man, the fact that he decided she had to go wouldn’t necessarily count against her.  As it transpires, however, Sir Vauncey may have had good reason to dismiss her .

Sarah Elizabeth Hamp Adams was born in 1868, the daughter of a solicitor, Francis Hamp Adams, in Upton Bishop near Ross-on-Wye, Herefordshire.  She claimed to have married on 19 December 1892, which is how her name changed to Sarah A’Court, but had separated from her husband.  The marriage apparently didn’t take place in England and she would give no further details about this mysterious husband; it’s unlikely he ever existed.

In 1900, under the name Sarah A’Court, she took a Mr and Mrs Denny to court for false dismissal and slander.  They had employed her as a governess the year before, but had dismissed her on the grounds that she had been previously employed as a parlour maid by a friend under a different name, Susan Adams.  They therefore didn’t believe any of her references that stated she had worked as a ‘high class governess’ to families like the Harpur Crewes, although as we know, at least some of those references were actually true.  She lost her case, however, when the supposed real ‘Susan Adams’ refused to testify in court.

The case caused something of a sensation in the press, as did its sequel when the governess was tried for perjury at the Old Bailey.  Newspapers reported that Sarah A’Court had tried to pay a young woman to say that she was Susan Adams.  In fact, Sarah had taken the job as a parlour maid under the name Susan Adams and had written her own reference as ‘Countess A’Court’.  She was convicted and sentenced to eighteen months’ hard labour.

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Suffolk and Essex Free Press 30 May 1900

You would think a perjury conviction might be the end of Sarah A’Court’s desire to take people to court but not so!  With the help of the British Newspaper Archive it’s possible to trace at least some of her further career through her legal actions:

In August 1907 she sued the Great Western Railway Company for damaging some furniture and in December of the same year she was herself successfully sued by two former staff of her dressmaking business, ‘Madame Elizabeth’, for wrongful dismissal.  In 1908 she also sued Messrs Debenham & Co for damages to her business from their delivery of goods – a case which the judge clearly found frivolous.  In June 1911 she sued a former employer for the balance of her salary as governess in Scotland and in December 1915 she sued Lady Elsie Arrol for running her over in her car.  By this time she had a business in Great Portland Street, London as a dressmaker, masseuse, and teacher of Swedish Drill.

She finally appears in court in March 1928 when she is a boarding house keeper in Golders Green and has been accused of falsifying a cheque from one of her tenants.  She is described as hitherto of good character but somewhat eccentric.  She died in 1939.

We often have a mental picture of a governess as a worthy but down-trodden woman.  Not so Miss Hamp Adams alias Mrs Sarah A’Court alias Susan Adams alias Miss Marcia alias Countess A’Court!

Pit Ponies at Ireland Colliery

Pit ponies were a vital part of the coal mining way of life. They worked just as hard as the men by pulling tubs both above and below the surface, delivering coal and many other heavy jobs that their human counterparts couldn’t. This large variety of jobs required for the horses meant that they came in varying sizes. Smaller ones worked directly at the coal face, while bigger ones worked in underground spaces with larger roofs or on the surface. In the majority of mines there would have been ponies somewhere, especially as each seam had stabling for around 15 horses.

If you ask anyone who heard tales of the pit ponies, of which I have heard many myself from relatives, they would often tell you that they were often a miner’s pride and joy. Many of them were perhaps better treated than those who always lived above ground. They would be well fed and cleaned after their shift. Most importantly, their wellbeing was a priority to the regular horse inspectors who would come and check on them, ensuring they had a week off above ground if necessary. A pony driver could also be fined or sacked if he was found to be negligent towards his pony. These were often checks that weren’t carried out on horses working in other industries. Just like the men they worked alongside, any injuries or accidents were recorded in their own accident books.

Most pit ponies would have been allowed up on the surface for either holidays or weekends, as well as if they were deemed unwell by the inspectors. The majority of these were ones deemed special enough to be paraded in shows or competitions. However, during strikes, ponies would be brought to the surface for the entire strike action. After all, why not? They were hard workers too!

Ireland Colliery Pit Ponies

National Coal Board East Midland Division No. 1 Area, List of Ponies at Ireland Colliery, Nov 1960. N42/1/26/7

Whilst researching into the everyday life of pit ponies, Ireland Colliery on the outskirts of Staveley near Chesterfield brought up some interesting documents. First of all was a list from 1960 giving the names and defining features of some of the colliery ponies. If you notice their short names, this was because if there was an emergency, it was quicker and easier to say a pony’s short name. Each pony would have had this name placed above their stable. I find this piece of information, no matter how small, wonderful as it gives them all an identity and personality that shines out of the past.

Whilst on the topic of personalities of ponies, I found an amusing letter written to a Mr Bishop, probably from one of the pony keepers, about a certain pony named Sam. From the letter we can guess he was a new pony arrived at the pit. Unfortunately not much detail is given as to Sam’s short time working there other than the last line indicates “he would be no good for pit work”. I would have loved to have known more about what exactly this meant, but perhaps it just meant he was too naughty. Whatever the circumstances, you can easily imagine the pony’s temperament from this statement.

Letter of bad Sam

Letter to Mr Bishop detailing the removal of Sam the pony from Ireland Colliery, 24 Nov 1947, N42/1/26/7

Generally ponies were no longer needed by the 1960s due to the increased mechanisation of the coal mining process, but some did last longer than that, particularly in Wales. What didn’t change is how much miners were attached to their ponies. Many would bring treats, knowing that the job was just as dangerous for the ponies as it was for them. It’s estimated that up to a horse a fortnight was killed, often by being crushed by the tubs. When accidents like this occurred, men often risked their lives to try and save ponies, in return for the many times ponies refused to move when they sensed danger, often saving many men by doing so. It is with these small memories that pit ponies are remembered, especially during times of trouble.

Bibliography:

Kirkup, M., Pit Ponies (Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, Summerhill Books, 2008)

Slaney, L., ‘Pit Ponies’, Reflections, Feb 1999, pp. 9-11.

Winter, J, 4 Oral Histories: Cyril ‘Sonny White’ (c. 1996)

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Did You Know?

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                 Literary,                                     Dramatic and                         Musical Works

remain in copyright for:

                    70 years after death; or 70 years after creation, or of being made available to the public; if this is within the 70 years of the death of the author.

However, if any of these works are unpublished it may remain under copyright protection until at least 31 December 2039.

Even a published work can remain in copyright until this date, if the author of died before 1969.

The Copyright, Designs and Patents Act defines Published as the issue of copies to the public, by transfer of ownership (for example, by sale).

This definition also covers electronic copies.