Finding Derbyshire Business archives

A guide to finding the archives of Derbyshire businesses.

Derbyshire Record Office holds nearly 1000 collections for businesses and trades across the county and city of Derby, primarily for the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries, although some date as early as the 16th century.  Amongst the largest of these collections are:

  • D1851 Bryan Donkin and Co. of Chesterfield, engineering firm (18th-20th century)
  • D3808 Stanton and Staveley Ltd, engineering firm (from 1841)
  • D5395 Robinsons & Sons Ltd of Chesterfield, textile and packaging manufacturers (from 1769)
  • D6948 W.G. and J. Strutt Ltd., of Belper, Derbyshire, cotton spinners (from 1771)

General sources for researching trade, industry and businesses in Derbyshire

  • trade, and later telephone, directories from the 1790s to the 21st century. The former give an alphabetical list of traders and firms for each Derbyshire town/village, with a separate county-wide list arranged by trade. They also include advertisements for various firms.
  • photographs of Derbyshire towns and villages, including lots of shop fronts, high streets and industrial sites from the local studies collection and other Derby and Derbyshire libraries are available via Picture the Past.
  • newspapers contain advertisements for specific businesses and specific products, as well as reports and articles relating to the businesses, the industry generally, and of course individual employees, directors, owners, etc. See our separate Newspapers research guide for advice on how and where to access local newspapers.
  • periodicals such as academic journals relating to specific industries, and also some company magazines.
  • census returns are very useful for studying employment patterns and trade in particular towns and villages during the 19th and early 20th century. See our separate Census Returns research guide for advice on how to access these records.
  • books and other published histories of individual firms, industries and trades and of local towns including an account of or reference to local businesses, as well as biographies of many local industrialists and business owners, as well as memoirs of individuals employed in local industries and individual companies. Check the Local Studies card catalogue by place and subject to find relevant sources.

Types of record you may find in a business archive

The number and type of records in an archive will vary, often according to the size and nature of the company, but also according to how conscientious the business was about keeping records in the first place and then looking after them was they were complete, as legislation and regulation relating to what should be kept and for how long is relevant a recent phenomenon. You may find:

  • corporate and governance records such as management/directors’ minutes, annual reports, articles of association, shares registers
  • communications records such as correspondence and press releases
  • financial records from annual statements of account to detailed day books and income/expenditure ledgers, occasionally there are also wages ledgers
  • property and estate records including title deeds, site plans and photographs, asset registers/plant inventories
  • human resources records such as staff magazines, rules and regulations, photographs of social clubs and events, and occasionally registers of employees
  • various records relating to research and development and sales and marketing
  • many collections also include personal memorabilia and family papers, some of which may be difficult to separate out from business records, including for large companies which may originally have been family firms.

Source: Managing Business Archives website from the Archives Sector Development team at The National Archives.

Looking for the records of a particular company

Screenshot of Catalogue Search options showing where to enter Business name

Search our catalogue entering the firm’s name in ‘Archive collection creator’, e.g. Ferodo (see right).

If you can’t find the records of a particular firm in our catalogue, it might be that the archive is held at another repository. The best places to search for records held elsewhere are Discovery managed by The National Archives and the Archives Hub.

The business archives we hold

The rest of this guide provides links to the catalogue relating to collections for different types of business. Each link will list the archive collections we hold. Click an entry in the list for more information about that collection and for a further link to a full list of all the records in that collection.

Agriculture and Horticulture
Farms and dairies
Animal husbandry, including cattle breeders, pig breeders, stud farms, etc. – see also Farms and Dairies above
Horticultural businesses
Commerce and Manufacturing
Accountancy, banking and financeBlacksmiths, metalworkers, ironmongers
Brewers and maltstersBuilding and construction
Chemical product manufacturersColour manufacturers – see also Textiles
Coal merchantsCo-operative societies
Drapers, tailors, glovers, hatters, shoemakersElectrical goods dealers, repairers, and manufacturers
Engineering and Heavy IndustryFood and drink
Glass and lightingHairdressers
Hide and skin industryHotels and public houses
Hydropathic institutionsLead dealers
Manufacturers (miscellaneous)Music and musical instrument dealers, repairers and manufacturers
Mutual Benefit SocietiesNewsagents
Oil refiners and fuel manufacturersPainters, Decorators, Plumbers 
Paper and packaging dealers and manufacturersPawnbrokers
Post officesPottery manufacturers
Printers, stationers, publishers and book dealersPrivate members’ clubs
TextilesUndertakers, monumentalists and stonemasons
Vehicle manufacturers and productsWatch and clock dealers, repairers and manufacturers
Wheelwrights, carpentry and joiners 
Professional Services
Chemists/PharmacistsDesigners/Drafting technicians
Land/Estate Agents and AuctioneersLegal practices
*including doctors, dentists, midwives, opticians and nurses, particularly before the establishment of the NHS in 1948
Entertainment and Culture
Cinemas and Theatres – see also theatrical/musical groups and public halls/social clubs
Media and Broadcasting, primarily material from BBC Radio Derby
Visitor Attractions, including deeds for the Heights of Abraham at Matlock Bath and Pan’s Garden at Ashover
Mining and Quarrying
Coal mining: companies and governance & organisation
Lead miners/mining: companies and governance & organisation (i.e. barmaster)
Mineral companies (not coal or lead)
Quarrying companies

See NCB for records of the National Coal Board and D1920 for records of the Derbyshire branch of the National Union of Mineworkers.

See also our coal mining and lead mining research guides, and Commerce and Manufacturers (above) for links to archives of mineral dealers and merchants.

AirportsBus companies
Canal companiesHauliers and carriers
Motor services & petrol stationsRailway companies
Turnpike trusts and bridge trusts 

Traditionally parishes were responsible for roads and highways. In the 18th and 19th century, around 60 turnpike trusts were established in Derbyshire by Act of Parliament, as were three bridge trusts. Each trust was responsible for building or improving and maintaining a particular stretch of road, financed by the collection of tolls. From 1871, the responsibility for these roads was gradually assumed by Highway Boards and parishes, although records do not survive for all places. In 1889 the County Council took over all main roads within its area (see DCC/SV) and in 1894 district councils became responsible for the remainder. Canals and railways were also built and maintained by private interests prior to nationalisation after World War Two.

We also have a separate research guide for records of vehicle licensing.

Electricity companiesGas companies
Telecommunications companiesWater companies

In the 19th century, utilities such as water, gas and later electricity and telecommunications, may have been supplied by local authorities or by private companies. It is always worth checking the records of the local authority (or authorities) for the area you are interested in as well as the archives of specific companies or boards. Many organisations supplied more than one utility. The links below also include details for regional authorities such as Severn Trent Water Authority (ref: D3040).

2 thoughts on “Finding Derbyshire Business archives

  1. Pingback: A guide to researching records of disability | Derbyshire Record Office

  2. I am researching my family tree and know that my Great Grandfather William Arthur Ward Turner was the schoolmaster at Tin Town the navvy village of Birchinlee in 1907/8. He is pictured in a book Memories of Tin Town written by Professor Brian Robinson. I would love to have a photograph of him to attach to my online tree but cannot use the ones in the book because of copyright laws do you have any school photographs of him that would be available to me.

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