Charted Territory – celebrating the maps of the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site

The Derwent Valley Mills and the surrounding landscape were inscribed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2001. This recognition is well deserved as the valley saw the birth of the factory system, when new types of building were erected to house new technology for spinning cotton.

Snaking 15 miles down the valley of the River Derwent from Matlock Bath to Derby the World Heritage Site contains a fascinating series of historic mill complexes. No less important are the watercourses that powered them, the settlements that were built for the mill workers and the remains of one of the world’s earliest railways – all nestling within a stunningly beautiful landscape that has changed little over two centuries.

The building of mills, along with the need to provide housing and other facilities, resulted in the creation of the first modern industrial settlements.  With the expansion of these areas, maps were created to record these developments.

The Charted Territory exhibition, available on the Google Arts and Culture platform, is an exhibition which celebrates not only the informative and often beautiful maps and plans but also the project created to digitise them.   

Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site volunteers working on one of the Strutt maps

Born out of the Great Place Scheme, funded by National Lottery Heritage Fund and Arts Council England, a dedicated group of local volunteers catalogued over 200 historic maps and plans of the World Heritage Site held at the Record Office. Over 40 of these maps have been digitised to make them easily accessible to researchers.

Many of the maps featured in the exhibition are from the archive of the Strutt family who owned a large amount of land and property in the area.

The Charted Territory exhibition, and other exhibitions from the record office, can be accessed via our website.


As I write this, working from home, I’m looking out at what remains of that most magical substance which fell from the sky for most of yesterday.

Having grown up near the coast my experience with snow was limited.  If an inch fell once every 5 years or so we thought ourselves lucky.  Every minute of the ‘snow day’ we had at school is still fresh in my memory, simply because it was the only one I ever had.

And then I moved to Derbyshire and my love for ‘the white stuff’ blossomed.

Admittedly, I might grumble a little when its adversely affects my ability to undertake those everyday tasks.  Moving house on the day the ‘Beast from the East’ hit Derbyshire wasn’t that much fun. However, that stress was eased a little when I saw a neighbour, I’ll say of more mature years, hurtling down a not insignificant hill on a vintage wooden sledge.  The joy which snow can bring is not just for the kids.

Moving house day

I can only presume the hills on the far side of the valley are still pure white as they remain hidden by the freezing fog which refuses to lift.  It is a cold day. But before I filled my second hot water bottle of the morning I immersed myself in the latest chapter of Mark Gwynne Jones’s Voices From The Peak, an ‘audio artwork’. 

The project which is funded by Arts Council England, features the magical soundscapes, music and hidden narratives of the Peak District, with contributors spanning from Peakland hill farmers and miners, to poets, astronomers and even renowned musician Ashley Hutchings of Fairport Convention. Mark says “During 2020, the peaks and great outdoors have been more valuable than ever, so I hope these recordings will bring the magic of the Peak District to those who may not be able to visit.”

Chapter 2 is all about…snow.

I never tire of reading the accounts of extreme weather which we have in the Record Office collection and can easily get lost looking through the many images of a snowy Derbyshire which we hold.  If you too love anything weather related, particularly snow, then I’d urge you to make a nice hot drink and listen to the latest chapter in Mark Gwynne Jones’s ‘audio odyssey’, a project celebrating the diverse sounds and stories of the Peak District.

Chapter 2: Snow! was released on 13 January and you can listen online at Hear first-hand accounts of people’s experiences of snow punctuated by poetry and the beautifully atmospheric soundtrack – it actually brought a chill just listening to it.  I will now forever refer to a biting wind as ‘lazy wind’, the type that “doesn’t bother to go around you.”

And if you want to know when it will snow again, just ask a sheep.

The Miller Mundy archive – a lockdown project completed

If you are a regular follower of this blog you will have noticed several posts over the last year featuring the Mundy and Miller Mundy families. This is because one of our projects, which we began in March 2020 during the first Covid-19 lockdown, was to get the box list of the Miller Mundy archive (reference number D517) onto our online catalogue.

The Miller Mundys of Shipley Hall, Heanor, were a branch of the Mundy family of Markeaton Hall and Allestree Hall in Derby. They became the Miller Mundys when Edward Mundy (1706-1767) married Hester Miller (died 1767). Hester had inherited Shipley through her mother, Hester Leche, and so Shipley Hall became the Miller Mundy family’s principal seat until it was demolished in 1943.

Shipley Hall c1915 (Derbyshire Libraries – Picture the Past number DCAV001203)

The archive of the Miller Mundy family consists of 49 boxes, 34 of which contain title deeds and legal papers relating to property owned by the Miller Mundys. The deeds date back to 1501 and relate to property held outside Derbyshire as well as Heanor, Mapperley, Smalley and other places in Derbyshire. There are also more than 8 boxes of records relating to the Nutbrook Canal, which was built in 1796 to transport coal from Shipley Colliery to the Erewash Canal. The Miller Mundy family’s wealth largely derived from their collieries and there is quite a bit of correspondence in the collection about Shipley Colliery and the family’s coal interests.

Shipley Colliery c1920s-1930s (Derbyshire Libraries – Picture the Past image number DCAV003350)

Of course my favourite material in the archive is the family letters. They date from 1696 to 1862 and include all sorts of fascinating insights into the lives and times of the Miller Mundys – there are more blog posts to come inspired by the letters in this collection.

The Miller Mundy archive came into the Record Office in several batches over the period 1968 to 1985 so you might be wondering why it’s taken this long to get the catalogue online. Without external funding, there’s rarely enough time to properly deal with collections of this size. The first step is to make a list of everything in each box. There had been previous attempts to do this many years ago, but for some reason the lists we had were incomplete – some of the boxes had been completely listed, others hadn’t been touched, and yet others had been partially done, but with gaps in the list. In some cases there were boxes which obviously had come to us with a list, but the list didn’t necessarily tally with what was in the box!

During the first lockdown, we typed up the lists into Excel spreadsheets, which were then imported into our cataloguing system. Over the last six months, I’ve been slowly checking those lists against what’s in each box, making corrections and filling in the gaps. Even so, I haven’t been able to list everything – there are 4 boxes of deeds and legal papers which had too much in them for me to be able to sort through in the time I had – but most of the archive has been done. Where once there was only one record for the whole collection on our online catalogue, we now have 1660 catalogue records.

So that’s a lockdown job finally complete, though it’s not the end of what needs to happen with the collection. Box lists are really helpful, but as records that relate to each other are scattered around different boxes, the next step would be to arrange the collection so that everything is in a sensible order. After this, we would physically number the documents with their final reference number and repackage the whole collection. For a collection this size, though, this is an extremely time-consuming job which we just can’t manage at the moment.

One of the Miller Mundy archive boxes

To help the process along, though, we have done a lot more ‘item listing’ than usual. This means that some items, like letters, have been given individual catalogue entries, rather than having a single catalogue record for a whole bundle. When we have a bit of time, we can organise chunks of the archive, like the family letters, into a proper arrangement just using the catalogue entries. In this way, we should be able to gradually create a well organised catalogue of the collection bit by bit, which can also then be repackaged in manageable portions.

Although this process is likely to take years, it’s enormously satisfying to know that, even if the catalogue isn’t perfect yet, the Miller Mundy archive is at last accessible for research.


Markham Colliery Online Exhibition

The Arts and Humanities Research Council have been funding a joint project with the University of Wolverhampton and Northumbria University, known as ‘On Behalf of the People’, which focuses on coal mining communities from the nationalisation of the coal industry in 1947, right up until 1994 when collieries were winding down. Eight different case studies have been used as examples to highlight how these communities were similar or different across Britain. Dr Grace Millar has been using Markham Colliery, a colliery located at Duckmanton near Chesterfield, and once owned by the Staveley Coal and Iron Company, as a case study with the help of us at the Derbyshire Record Office and the Markham Vale Heritage Group.

Markham Colliery, which opened in 1882, was the largest colliery in the county. It had many pit shafts covering two different collieries at the site, which all shared a pit yard and other service buildings. Sadly it is probably most well known for it’s two large disasters in 1938 and 1973, before it finally closed in 1994.

Markham No. 2 and 3 Collieries, D4774/13/42/8 (1930s)

There were plans to have a physical exhibition about the project but due to the pandemic, a website has been created the case studies, including information on social clubs and activities, holidays, and strikes, just to name a few topics. For more information on the Markham example, please follow the link.

For anyone who’s been following the blog posts on our own Mining the Seams project about the Derbyshire coal field, I’m sure you’ll like to follow the blog section of the above website. There are certainly some interesting topics there for you to delve into and I would thoroughly recommend taking a look if you have any interest in the former mining communities not just in Derbyshire, but country wide. They welcome feedback on the website and its contents, or any memories you may have of coal communities, so I’m sure they would love to hear from you. Make sure to look out for the submission box shown on the bottom of their homepage if you wish to do so.

Hopefully the project will be able to put on some form of exhibition in the future, but for now, I honestly think this is a good introduction to the social and economic history of the coal industry in Britain. If not, have fun reading into the lives of miners through this excellent website.

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. 

Voices from the Peak

Did you know that this year marks the 70th anniversary of the creation of the Peak District National Park? The beautiful Peak District is mostly associated with Derbyshire, as the majority of its 555 square miles are in our county, but it also spills across our borders into Greater Manchester, Staffordshire, Cheshire and Yorkshire.

Kinder Scout looking towards Grindslow Knoll photographed by D C H Nicoll, 2002 (Picture the Past reference DCHP000558)

The Peak District was Britain’s very first national park and its stunning landscapes have long made it a popular destination for tourists, walkers, climbers, potholers and many more.

Rock climbing on Froggatt Edge, Froggatt, 1940s, from the collection of F H Brindley (Picture the Past ref PTPD300154)

To celebrate this anniversary, the Peak District National Park Authority, with funding from Arts Council England, has commissioned poet and recording artist Mark Gwynne Jones to create a series of audio artworks called Voices from the Peak. I listened to the first piece, ‘Burning Drake’ yesterday, which focusses on the area’s caves, lead and fluorspar mines – it was a beautiful combination of poetry, music and conversations with local people.

Former lead mine Magpie Mine, Sheldon, photographed by D D Brumhead in 1986 (Picture the Past reference DCHQ008841)

Whilst we’re aren’t able to go out and enjoy the magnificence of the Peak District in person, why not settle down in a comfy chair and listen to Voices from the Peak. You can also enjoy images of the Peak District over the past couple of hundred years from the comfort of your own home on Picture the Past. It’s a lovely way to pay a virtual visit to the Peak District whilst we wait until we’re able to travel there again.

My Family’s Claim Against the Butterley Company

One of my main tasks as an archive assistant on the Mining the Seams Project, is cataloguing documents. For me, this involves checking over documents and creating spreadsheets to correctly describe them for future users. Since I started on the project in October 2019, a lot of this has involved looking through various correspondence of the Butterley Company. The Company was established by Benjamin Outram in 1790 to work Derbyshire’s minerals, initially iron ore for their ironworks, but this expanded to include coal, which would help fire the ironworks. When coal became a popular fuel to use, they created large collieries to meet increasing demand for coal. It was one of the largest employers in the county, so you can imagine just how much material there is to wade through.

The one thing I didn’t expect to find was correspondence about Hill Top Farm in Swanwick, where my paternal grandma, Margaret, grew up. As this task is shared task with my colleague, Neil, due to current restrictions meaning I’m only in the office one day a week (prior to a change in COVID restrictions), it could have easily been him who came across the reference to mining damaging the farm.

As this task is shared task with my colleague, Neil, it could have easily been him who came across the reference to mining damaging the farm. To me though, finding a letter in my two times great grandad’s handwriting was emotional. Sadly I don’t know much about my family history on my dad’s side as both my grandad and grandma refused to talk about large aspects. My grandad ran away from home for an unknown reason at 14, and my grandma’s father sadly committed suicide, so she never wished to talk too much beyond her own childhood.

My great, great grandad’s initial letter to the Butterley Company, 26 Oct 1925, N5/166/3

When I first saw a the below letter mentioning repairs needed at Hill Top Farm in Swanwick, my heart jumped as I knew that was the family farm my grandma lived on as a child, but her sister, Josephine, when she was old enough worked with her husband. As soon as I saw that the person who had brought the claim was a Joseph Calladine, I knew it was my family because that was grandma’s maiden name. I quickly checked the census, just to find out what the connection was and found he was my two times great grandad. It meant even more than it would have done before because my grandma sadly passed away in April.

Letter written following inspection of the property, 5 Nov 1925, N5/166/3

So what was my great, great grandad doing writing letters to the Butterley Company for? He was claiming for damages done to the farm and 3 cottages he owned, which had been possibly caused by subsidence from workings at the company’s nearby Britain Colliery. The company came to inspect the damage a week after Joseph Calladine’s letter. It appears that Joseph had brought the mineral rights to a pillar of coal on his land at a similar time to him building the 3 cottages mentioned, probably hoping to avoid any possible damage. However, within 5 years, there were cracks in most of his buildings, including the cow shed.

Brief report of inspection, 4 Nov 1925, N5/166/3

Thankfully the inspection noted that no serious damage was done, but repairs should be completed once the ground had settled. So far I haven’t come across any mention of any more repairs that needed to be done later on, as was suggested might happen. I will have to keep an eye out just in case!

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.