An update on Elizabeth Appleton for Women’s History Month

March is Women’s History Month, and a few weeks ago I planned to write about mon my research about Elizabeth Appleton, a highly independent young woman of the Regency era, who I’ve previously blogged about.  Of course a lot has happened since the beginning of March, as the world has responded to the coronavirus pandemic.  Record Office staff are all now working from home and we’ve had a lot to do to make sure our staff remain safe whilst also trying to get on with some useful work .  It’s now the end of March and we’ve largely organised ourselves, so there’s just time to slip in a post before Women’s History Month comes to an end.

I first came across Elizabeth Appleton when she was mentioned in architect William Porden‘s diary of a journey he and his daughter Eleanor took to France in 1816.  Elizabeth Appleton was extremely seasick on the crossing and she drew my attention because she was a young woman in her mid-twenties going to France as a tourist all on her own.  In an age where we imagine well brought up women being hidebound by chaperones and restricted in what they can do, this seemed highly unusual.

She’s got no connections with Derbyshire (I don’t have any reason to think she ever stepped foot in the county) but my fascination with her continued long after reading about her travels with the Pordens in 1816. With the wonders of the internet and a bit of archival research, I now know so much more about her.

A search on The National Archives’ Discovery catalogue uncovered a small cache of letters by Elizabeth Appleton at Lancashire Archives, written when she was a governess at Castlemere, Rochdale, to the Baylis family in London: her uncle, a printer, aunt and cousin.  Lancashire Archives kindly scanned the letters for me – they cover the period 1814 to 1820 and mention the Pordens, the publication of her books (she was an author of several educational works) and her plans to escape the life of a governess. She clearly wanted to leave the provincial backwater of Rochdale and wrote of her longing to move to London and set up a school.

I already knew from an 1822 newspaper advertisement that she did establish a school in Upper Portland Place, London:


A visit to Westminster Archives enabled me to pin down the number of the house from the rate books, and a helpful map showed the house numbering when they were first built. The numbers have since changed, but that original map led me to the house, which I was excited to see was still there, very near to Regent’s Park:

It’s a substantial house in a select neighbourhood and her neighbours included a duchess and a General – very much as she would have wished!  She ran her school here for ten years before financial problems required her to leave.

Elizabeth’s books, published under her maiden name and her married name, Elizabeth Lachlan, are of the ‘Governess Literature’ type – educational and moral works for children from an era when imaginative children’s literature didn’t really exist outside fairy tales.  They can be found on Google Books but don’t make for exciting reading!

She maintained her friendship with the Pordens long after she met them on the way to France; after William Porden’s death in 1822, Eleanor Porden stayed with Elizabeth at Portland Place for a few months before she married the polar explorer John Franklin.  Eleanor died a couple of years later at the age of only 29 whilst her husband was away on an expedition, but her friend Elizabeth was a witness to her will and so, we know, was close to her at the end.

Elizabeth’s letters at Lancashire Archives show what a determined woman she was.  The options for a genteel young woman to earn her own money at that time were extremely limited, but she combined being a governess with writing books in order to save enough money to establish a successful school which gave her the lifestyle she yearned for.  Even whilst she worked as a governess she managed to take time away from her busy teaching and writing to travel on the continent and pursue an active social life with friends and family in London.

Through her letters, and the glimpses we get of her in William Porden’s diaries, we gain a picture of a woman of high intelligence with a sense of humour and a streak of snobbery, who is occasionally a bit difficult and sometimes prone to depression.  Her anxieties about how to support herself and her wish to obtain financial security in a world which severely limited her options would have been common concerns for many women at the time.

In the 1830s Elizabeth became an ardent Evangelical Christian and her religious views, which were considered subversive at the time, contributed to the demise of her reputation and her school.  It’s been suggested that some women may have joined the Evangelical movement because it gave them an opportunity for self expression which they couldn’t find elsewhere, and I can believe that of Elizabeth.

She is one of countless women who struggled to achieve financial security, public recognition and self expression during their lives.  Like many, she has since been forgotten but Women’s History Month gives us a chance to remember them all.

Survival Of Archives; Archives Of Survival

In a previous job, I glimpsed the Laycock military papers, among them documents created by Capt. Evelyn Waugh somewhere in the Mediterranean during the Second World War. There was no time to pore over them, as I was just processing a copy order – but it struck me that their survival (complete with scorch marks and water damage) was miraculous, and that so was their creation. In the melee of conflict, there was Waugh armed with a typewriter, setting down the information that others would need.

Whether it’s a literal battle or the current battle against coronavirus, there’s nothing like crisis for putting pressure on those charged with setting down information.  A crisis also reveals starkly how important a resource information is, and how much we rely on its being accurate and available.

One criterion that defines an archive is authenticity. A document in an archive collection was created for reasons that had everything to do with the situation at the time and nothing much to do with us. We are not the intended audience. The primary reader is the writer’s contemporary – a busy person who needs evidence of what has been done and what remains to be done; what has been agreed and what is still up in the air. Succeeding generations may be able to peer over the shoulder of their ancestors, like a rail passenger reading their neighbour’s paper, but this is a happy accident.

It’s an accident so happy, in fact, that we need to make it happen. At Derbyshire Record Office, we try to make it happen by committing ourselves to a management policy which says: “We will respond positively to opportunities for expanding the scope of our collections, to make them more representative of the diverse range of human activity in our county’s history”. There’s quite a range of human activity just now, even in the midst of forced inactivity.

An acquisition strategy is not a new idea. Just look at this 1918 advertisement printed on a ration book in the Ogden Family papers.

D331 1 49_0003

Please note: it’s 1918 and this is on a ration book – the appeal to preserve evidence of the Great War had started, even as war still raged.

Information grows in importance during a crisis, and so does community – even a socially distanced one. Again, this is nothing new. Another episode in Archives I Have Glimpsed While Doing Copying Orders: papers reflecting the efforts of Women’s Institutes to find billets for evacuees during Operation Pied Piper, because there was no government presence large enough or connected enough to do it.

Novels will be written by people quarantined by this outbreak, some of them good.  There will be poems and sculptures and great works of art. Whether good, bad or indifferent, these will be part of an archive of human survival, and we will have to find ways to preserve it. Will there be an archive of the spontaneously-generated COVID-19 community support groups, whose members bring essential supplies to people with a duty to self-isolate? How will we preserve the activities of a neighbourhood interacting over social media? Two key words for a future post: Digital Preservation.

The evidence we leave behind will be the product of people acting under pressure in a rush, like Waugh at his typewriter. But it won’t be structured in the same way as a military archive, or a company archive, or a local authority archive. And we can’t save it all. Some history, perhaps the overwhelming majority of it, will slip through our fingers.

This will be ameliorated by forward-thinking people setting out to document today for the readers of tomorrow – not a happy accident of authenticity, but an act of conscious creation, authentic in its own way. Two examples:

Earlier this month our Local Studies Librarian, Lisa, gave a talk delving into Derbyshire’s past by peering over the shoulder of long-departed residents and visitors, and into their personal diaries. Last week we were contacted by a member of the audience who has been inspired by diaries kept during the war to record her own experience of the current coronavirus situation. Mass Observation, as it is known, was first developed in 1937 and ran until the 1950s and it was restarted in 1981 – the Archive is held at The Keep at the University of Sussex. If you would like to take part in Mass Observation and contribute to the archive, whether in relation to coronavirus or in the future, find out how to Become a Mass Observer online.

An idea that began in Arizona but is going global – a web resource called Journal Of A Plague Year: An Archive of COVID-19. The title, as you spotted, is a nod to Daniel Defoe. Here we find stories, photographs, video files, sound files and, yes, Facebook and Snapchat memes, all selected to help preserve a collective memory. Take, just as a for instance, the snapshot of a New Orleans pizzeria which has hurriedly altered its business model so that boxed food may be passed through an improvised service hatch.  At the time of writing, there are 323 items in the archive, which can be browsed, searched, or picked from a map.  And the map tells me there are no UK contributions yet. How long until that changes, I wonder? Yes, you may take that as a challenge.

Wishing you all good health.

Owd Sammy Twitcher

Before the record office closed due to the Covid-19 virus, Melanie, one of our Archives Assistants, discovered the tale of an interesting Derbyshire character….

With delight, I came across an account of Owd Sammy Twitcher’s visit to Matlock – or visit ‘tu’t Watter Cure Establishment at Matlock-Bonk’, held at the Derbyshire Record Office in Matlock.

For those of you new to this beloved character, Owd Sammy is fictional character featured in a series of booklets written by Joseph Barlow Robinson in the late 1800s.

At the time, there was rise in popularity of affordable weekly almanacs and books for adults and children alike in Derby and across the county; many – such as this – were published by Bemrose, a respected and prolific publisher in Derby.

Owd Sammy is highly entertaining and comical; uniquely his various escapades in and across Derby.  Accurate details are provided about Derby and the county at that time.

As with all Owd Sammy accounts, the book is ‘roat, kompoazed, an hillustarted by a Darbysher Mon’ – written, composed and illustrated by a Derbyshire man, and written entirely in Derbyshire dialect! This wonderful book was published in 1871 and contains cartoon illustrations and descriptions of the multiple water treatments available in Matlock at the time. There is also an account of a fight with the bath man!

To help the reader understand the dialect, there is even a glossary, and when read out loud, the reader will sound and speak with a true fluent Derbyshire tongue!

So, as a non-Derbyshire person, ah’l teych mysen, cos weel, ahm sure, ah canna spok Darbysher varry weel!

The second part of the book does describe Matlock at the time, with detail about the establishments and treatments that were available, as well as activities and entertainment available for tourists. Mr Smedley’s, Rock House, Matlock House, Jackson House, Tor House, Prospect to name a few. Another delightful snapshot of the period, is detailed in the advertisements at the back of the book. Other than for Mr Smedley’s Hydro and Matlock-Bank, these are mainly for businesses based in Derby itself, where the publisher Bemrose was based. The last advertisement includes a few lines penned by a patient.

Owd Sammy Twitcher 2

Melanie, Archives Assistant

An Archivist without Archives

As you know Derbyshire Record Office is now closed to the public until further notice due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.  At the beginning of this week we had hoped that record office staff would still be able to go to work and be able to spend lots of time working on collections to improve access to them once we re-opened as normal.  Unfortunately, this has not proved to be possible and all staff are now working from home with no access to the collections.  Several staff have joined a rota so that someone is still regularly accessing the building to undertake essential maintenance tasks such as monitoring environmental conditions in the strong rooms to make sure we can keep the collections safe even though the building is empty for most of the time.

So, the question becomes if we don’t have access to the archives and local studies collections, how can we all still continue to work?  It is far from ideal, but there is actually a lot more we can do at home than you might imagine, and we will be keeping you updated about what we’re working via the blog.

I’m now on my third day working from home, and although I can’t give you a long list of things I have achieved, I’m going to take the risk of suggesting a long list of things I would like to achieve, and rely on our followers to keep me on track by seeing how I am getting on.

The first thing that will be a priority for us is answering email enquiries.  As we can’t access the collections, the hard copy indexes and some other systems that require you to be on site, we can’t answer all enquiries as fully as we would normally be able to.  However, we can still access a lot of information via the online catalogue and a couple of other backup systems.

That brings me on to the second thing, which is working through the collections information that is currently not available to the public via the online catalogue to make sure that it is – this includes a lot of work that several volunteers have been working on and can now be edited for publication. There is a lot of work to do on this front, and it is something all the staff are working on during the closure period.  For the time being, we can do the preparatory work but only publish the information online was we are back in the office because of the way the system works.

In terms of improving the catalogues, for a while we have discussing how we can make the collections more searchable and accessible through the use of indexing.  You may have noticed that the Local Studies items in the catalogue are indexed by name and place, and can link through to other items with that index term.  This is not currently the case for the archive items.  In particular, I hope we will be able to create detailed index files for all Derbyshire parishes so that where an item is indexed you can see full information about that place (e.g. which poor law union it was in, which local authority was responsible before 1974, etc.).  Actually indexing the catalogue entries is not something we can currently do at home, but the prep work will make it more useful when we do.

Similarly, we (though not me) will be looking to create similar index files for individuals, families and companies.  Such a task is a bit like painting the Forth Road Bridge as it will never end, but it would be great to start having some collections indexed by name.

Depending on how long we are working from home and the extent to which we can access the systems, I would really like to make lots of improvements to the catalogues that are published so it is clearer how much material is in a collection, what the covering dates are, whether there are any access restrictions to the material, identifying who the creator of the archive was (or is).

Having said we don’t have access to the collections, as we have taken in various digital records recently, I am able to access at least some of these without being at the record office, so I am hoping to spend some time developing our digital archive procedures further, to make the material more accessible and streamline our processes of taking receipt of the records.

Finally, I shall be spending some time developing our offer to schools and making more content available to them for when they need it.  Of course, there are still plenty of children and teachers at school as well as lots of parents home schooling, so I will be looking at what resources we can share with them sooner rather than later to support them in exploring new ways of learning.

What have I missed?  Lots, perhaps that’s enough to be getting on with for now, especially as we don’t know yet how long we will be closed for.  Of course, a lot of this would be easier with access to the collections, but we certainly have enough work to keep us busy and we hope you will see some positive changes to come out of this awful situation.

We all be sharing our experiences on the blog so at least you should have some relief from any boredom of being stuck at home.

Take care and stay safe everyone

Accessing our resources from home

As we cannot provide access on site at the moment due to the coronavirus, here are some links and tips for research you can do from your computer at home.

Do your family history

  • Baptism, marriage and burial registers for Church of England parishes, some as early as 1538, are on Ancestry (charge applies).  See the guide below for advice on the best way to search and browse these records
  • Baptism, marriage and burial registers for some non-conformist churches in Derbyshire have also been made available by The National Archives on The Genealogist website (charge applies).
  • Over 550 Derbyshire school admission registers and log books (i.e. head teacher’s diaries) up to 1914 are available to search and browse on Findmypast (charge applies), plus thousands more from across England and Wales.
  • Find My Past also includes Derbyshire wills before 1858 and marriage licences held by Staffordshire Record Office and selected Derbyshire electoral registers up to 1932
  • Information about Derbyshire wills between 1858 and 1928 can be searched via our catalogue using the person’s name and reference D96/*, but we are unable to provide copies at this time.  Wills after 1928 can usually be ordered online from the Probate Service
  • Any skeletons in your family closet?  Search our database of prisoner records from 1729-1913

Discover local history

  • Family History websites like Ancestry and Findmypast can also be useful for local history. Take a look at sources like the census and trade directories on these websites.
  • Browse and search nearly 60,000 historic photographs of Derby and Derbyshire on Picture the Past
  • View old maps and explore how the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site has changed over the last 200 years on the Derbyshire Heritage Mapping Portal.
  • Many historic Ordnance Survey maps for Derbyshire are also available from the National Library of Scotland
  • Several Derbyshire newspapers are searchable on the British Newspaper Archive (charge applies)

Learn something new

Don’t forget you can still search our catalogue online to discover what is held in the archives and local studies collections and start planning a future visit?

During the closure, staff will be working on several projects to make more information about our collections available online.   We will be sharing our progress here on the blog and via Twitter and hope we can provide some relief from the stresses and boredom of being inside.

If you are doing any research, why not let us know below, we are sure our other followers will be interested or even have some tips for you.

From all the staff at the record office, stay safe and well, take care.

Temporary Closure at Derbyshire Record Office

From 5pm today, the Record Office will be closed until further notice to protect staff and customers from contracting the coronavirus and help to prevent its spread. All events have been cancelled.  Although people won’t be able to visit us, we will be monitoring written enquiries and continuing our research and copying service.

Whilst we’re closed, we will still be busy working behind the scenes – we have lots of useful jobs we can be doing that will make things easier for our customers to access our collections when we reopen, particularly getting some of our unlisted collections onto our online catalogue.

These are bound to generate some interesting blog posts as we make new discoveries – I’ve already started taking a look at the uncatalogued archive of the Miller Mundy family of Shipley Hall near Heanor, for example, which unexpectedly contains three ships logs from the 1820s.  Who would have thought you would find ships logs in land-locked Derbyshire?

HMS Leander log

Ships Log of the HMS Leander, 1821 (D517/Box/B)

We also know that many people will be bored at home as everything shuts down, so we’re considering how we could involve remote volunteers in helping us to list or transcribe documents from home.  If you’d be interested in getting involved, or have any ideas about collections you would like us to work on, let us know in the comments below.

In the meantime, we hope our customers and blog readers stay well.  You can keep in touch with what’s going on at the Record Office through the blog and our Record Office Twitter.

Shamans of the Arctic

Buxton Museum’s latest blog is about some lovely Inuit objects which are currently on display in their ‘Between two Worlds’ exhibition. They give a little peek into the beliefs of the indigenous people who live in the Arctic – which of course links nicely with our archives relating to Sir John Franklin and his crew, who perished in the Arctic nearly 175 years ago.

Buxton Museum and Art Gallery

I have been very fortunate to work on the exhibition, Between Two Worlds, at Buxton Museum and Art Gallery. This is a unique collection of work from artists affected by war and intolerance in the 20th century, much of it never seen by the public before. On the surface, much of the artwork on display is vibrant and colourful but beneath are stories of artists who were persecuted, interned and displaced. Even within the permissive art world, these individuals faced discrimination and prejudice for not conforming to society’s expectations either through religious beliefs, race or sexuality. The exhibition is also about a time when colonial governments sought to impose Western society and religion, depriving indigenous communities of their cultural identity.

The exhibition draws on artworks from Derbyshire County Council’s own collection, the bequest of Arto Funduklian, the son of Armenian emigres, as well as from the Derbyshire School Library Service…

View original post 633 more words

Sharing stories for World Book Day

Wednesday 5th March is World Book Day, a national celebration of reading. This year the theme is ‘share a story’ with the aim being to share a million stories across the UK.
With that in mind let me share a story from the local studies collection held here at the Record Office.

‘Blue John’ written by award winning local author Berlie Doherty, and beautifully illustrated by Tim Clarey, tells the story of the Queen of Darkness, who gives life to a child from the purple-blue heart of the glacier and the gold of the sun.  In the caverns deep beneath the mountain she keeps him safe, until Blue John hears children’s laughter from above ground, and longs to join them outside.Cover

This is a truly magical children’s book, inspired by the Blue John stone, unique to Derbyshire, and found in the caverns of Castleton.

Inside top

You can find this book and others by Berlie Doherty in Derbyshire Libraries, so why not choose something you can share for World Book Day?

If you enjoy reading our blogs, did you know we’re also now on Twitter? Follow us on @FranklinArchive

Brickfall at Bondland shafts, Heage

Whilst going through some correspondence files for the Butterley Company, I came across reports for an accident. What was unusual about this accident was the amount of detail mentioned in the company’s correspondence. It gave detail from the time of the incident and included the consequences for those involved and their rescuers. The following is paraphrased from those documents found in N5/99/7.

William Ratcliffe was a brick contractor brought in to help with this work. He was first mentioned in a letter addressed to Mr Mitton, a manager at the Butterley Company’s Colliery Department, on the 20th of February, stating he was willing to continue his work helping to sink the three shafts. Within 4 days, he would unfortunately be caught up in a fatal accident.

On the 24th of February 1926, William Ratcliffe and Fred Warren were tasked with helping to brick the bottom of the Bond Land shaft. Both these men were day contractors and were not regular employees of the mine. However, they still suffered as a result of a brick fall. This shows that just how dangerous working in a mine was, regardless of who was working there.

At around 12:30 pm a loud crash of bricks, louder than the usual unloading from the hoppit (a tub lowered for bricks and debris). A man above shouted to ask if everything was alright and a response came to send someone down. Something was clearly wrong. Bernard Hurley and Benjamin Walters immediately volunteered for this. Once underground they saw the scaffold the men had been working from was tilted and a pile of bricks lay on one side. Warren was injured but standing and it soon became obvious that Ratcliffe was more seriously injured as he was crouching in pain. He had to be helped into the hoppit so that all 4 men could return to the surface. Hurley and Walters were slightly injured themselves by further bricks falling on their ascent to the surface. The brick fall continued until about 3:30pm and it was estimated that between 4,000 and 5,000 bricks had fallen during that time.

Hurley and Walters were praised by the Inspector of Mines on their “prompt and plucky” rescue, which stopped a more serious situation from happening. Sadly, this was not enough to save William Ratcliffe from his injuries and he died in hospital 2 days later. He died from fractured ribs and other possible internal injuries. Fred Warren was lucky as he had head wounds but these were not of a serious nature and he survived.

Hurley and Walters were commended for their bravery that day. They went to a place of unknown danger in order to rescue their colleagues, even if they may not have known them well as they were day contractors. The Butterley Company were keen to recognise this from the start. How to do this was of some discussion. Did they deserve money or a clock or something similar for their efforts? It was certainly decided that a medal from the Mines Department would not be suitable as “many others would do exactly as “Hurley and Walters did”. The two men were eventually given a gold watch each for their efforts.

Bravery for Accident

Letter detailing the presentation ceremony for Bernard Hurley and Benjamin Walters, 8th Apr 1926, N5/99/7

The accident increased discussion about safety in the mine, especially when it came to securing the hoppit. The idea of using a double rather than single chain for this mechanism was discussed in a letter dated the 26th of March. This was done in hopes that it would help prevent further deaths like that of William Ratcliffe.

However, that was not the end of the story, certainly not for the families of those involved. An entry for a compensation arbitration court shows that William Ratcliffe’s daughter, Winifred, disapproved of the £65 she was offered for her father’s death. As he was an outside contractor, he was not entitled to as much as an ordinary worker. Still, £65, or around £1800 in today’s money, was not much for the loss of a life.

William Ratcliffe

Workmen’s compensation acts Record of agreements, arbitration cases and liability memoranda, 1899-1944, N5

Winifred, as seen in the arbitration description above was instead hoping to get £150 pounds in compensation, not the £65 that her brother’s were willing to accept. Unfortunately, she didn’t win the case and the £65 still stood. The saddest part is that by 1928, the shafts to this exploratory mine at Heage were deemed unworkable and they were filled in, making it feel that William Ratcliffe’s death was for an unworthy cause.

Mining the Seams is a Wellcome Trust funded project aiming to catalogue coal mining documents, originally held by the National Coal Board, so they can eventually be viewed by the public. Alongside the Warwickshire County Record Office, the project aims to focus on the welfare and health services provided to miners. 


Did You Know?

Under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, Broadcast Films can have multiple Authors:

Movie, Clapperboard, Hands, Clapper

The Principal Director

The Screenplay writer.png

The Screenplay Writer

Dialogue writer.png

The Dialogue Writer



The Composer

Copyright protection expires 70 years after the death of the longest lived.