Mining the Seams Project Update

First of all, I hope you’ve been enjoying the blog posts about some of the interesting things that have been found so far during the project, which seeks to catalogue the archive left to us by the National Coal Board. The project has a particular focus on the medical and compensation aspects, but as it’s such a large collection, there are bits of everything in it. Now that Mining the Seams is roughly half way through, and into another lockdown, we thought it a good time to update on what we’ve done so far.

Working from home has meant reduced time checking and cataloguing documents in person for me. However, that still is going on thankfully and it still means progress on the hundreds of boxes to be checked and drafted for future cataloguing purposes. This particularly means adding more detail to descriptions of documents for the future use of those interested in industrial history. In total we have completed 379 out of 631 boxes, which is around 60%.

The largest collection we are working on is N5. This is a mixture of accident and compensation records, but mainly correspondence on a wide range of topics relating to the coal industry in the early and mid-twentieth century, including medical issues, the planning of Ollerton Colliery and village, and helping the war effort during WW2. Of course this is not an exhaustive list considering how large the collection is, but look out for some future blog posts and tweets on some topics from the N5 collection.

Letter detailing a U.S. Army Depot at Boughton, 23 Aug 1943, N5/182/3

If you’ve been following the progress so far, you’ll remember that during the first lockdown, we were working on transcribing compensation forms for the Butterley Company. Now 40 bundles have been finished, with 25 fully checked over. These are also being used to track miners who had more than one accident they claimed for.

The compensation forms aren’t the only thing we were able to do from home. One of the other main collections being catalogued using our scanning technology are photographs from D4774, making it easy to do during lockdown. The majority of these are of colliery buildings at various collieries. There are some interesting ones, such as the one below showing the Miners Rescue Team at Ormonde Colliery.

Photograph of the Ormonde Colliery Rescue Team, 1950, D4774/13/49/12

If you would like to know more abut the project, please don’t hesitate to visit the project’s information page at Or if you have any queries about the project or related coal mining collections, please email the Derbyshire Record Office at

The Digital Preservation Awards 2020

Last week, the eyes of the world were drawn to a single momentous contest: who would be the winners of this year’s Digital Preservation Awards? Wonder no more: you can find a full list of winners on the Roll Of Honour. You can also click on the embedded clip above to hear about finalists for the award for Safeguarding The Digital Legacy, sponsored by the National Archives. The eventual winner was the UK Web Archive.

Derbyshire Record Office has been preserving paper and parchment records for the full length of our history – but it’s fair to say we are still at the early stages of preserving records digitally. It’s one thing to have a preservation copy of an original (printed reproductions, microfilm copies of parish registers, digital images of archive sources and so on) and quite another to look after a record that has only ever existed in its digital form. The pace of technological change simultaneously solves old problems while creating new ones! That’s why it’s good to know the UK Web Archive is shouldering the preservation burden when it comes to online content.

The archive has been going strong for fifteen years now, aiming to collect as much of the UK web as possible. What you can find on the internet changes rapidly and regularly, and the idea behind the UK Web Archive is that future generations will be able to put themselves in our shoes, and experience an authentic representation of our present-day information environment. There are sixteen sites maintained by Derbyshire County Council which we have specifically asked the web archive to capture. These are:

Arts Derbyshire (for arts events and information)

The Derby and Derbyshire Road Safety Partnership

Derbyshire Economic Partnership (facilitating economic development across the county)

Derbyshire Information, Advice and Support Service (DIASS – supporting young people with special educational needs and disabilities)

Derbyshire Music Education Hub

Derbyshire Partnership Forum (the local strategic partnership aiming to improve the quality of life for the people of Derbyshire)

Derbyshire Pension Fund

Derbyshire Safeguarding Adults Board (information for anyone concerned about adult abuse or neglect)

Derbyshire Spirit (positive examples of people finding a way to thrive despite the pandemic)

Digital Derbyshire (improve the county’s broadband coverage and speed)

Donut Creative Arts Studio (youth arts facility)

Live Life Better Derbyshire (helping us all get healthy and stay that way)

Our Derbyshire (the staff website of Derbyshire County Council – the Web Archive only preserves the public-facing bits)

Park Smarter (information on parking, and a place to pay up if you have received a penalty charge notice)

Safer Derbyshire (the website for community safety)

Schoolsnet (services and information for schools)

Our congratulations to all the winners!

Blackwell Red Cross Hospital

During the First World War, the Blackwell Colliery Company played a large role in helping the war effort, both at home and on the front. A quarter of men employed by the company, 1128 men, went off to fight in tunnelling corps, while others who didn’t fight contributed funds for the war effort. Around 116 of those who fought were killed, meaning the village of Blackwell and its connected collieries would have known loss. Despite this, the company were determined to boost community spirit by providing Christmas entertainment during and after the war. These shows were held at the Brigade Hall for widows and orphans of the war.

Perhaps one of the most important parts of the colliery company’s role was providing a Red Cross Hospital, which operated in the Boys’ Brigade Hall in Blackwell. The idea was first proposed to the military in September 1914. The colliery company and its employees raised funds for the equipment needed and throughout the war, to make sure the space was offered as a free hospital. It opened in June 1915 with 10 beds. They were also allowed to be part of the Christmas audience.

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List of Patients treated at Blackwell Red Cross Hospital, ‘Lest We Forget’: The Blackwell Colliery Company Ltd War Souvenir booklet, N42/6/8

With the hospital and a soldiers’ camp on the cricket ground set up in Blackwell, it meant that soldiers, especially injured ones, would have been a common sight. A volunteer corps was also created from locals who were unable to fight, so they would have also taken part in the defence of the village if required.

The hospital itself was seen as a successful venture. It would have been run by nurses from the Voluntary Aid Detachment, a joint effort run by the Red Cross and St John’s Ambulance to provide field nursing, first aid, cooking and hygiene practices at hospitals either in the UK or in the Commonwealth. Before its closure in 1917, it had treated 133 patients with wounds and disabilities of differing severities. Someone who often visited to show her support for the hospital was the Duchess of Devonshire. Her visit is pictured below.

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Photograph of the visit of the Duchess of Devonshire (1917), ‘Lest We Forget’: The Blackwell Colliery Company Ltd War Souvenir booklet, N42/6/8


‘Lest We Forget’: The Blackwell Colliery Company Ltd War Souvenir booklet, N42/6/8

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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.