Derbyshire: a hotspot for the paranormal?

Today’s post comes from a school pupil, who recently spent a week at Derbyshire Record Office. Here’s their story …

My name is Sophia and recently I have been on work experience at Derbyshire Record Office. During my stay, amongst the many interesting things I did, such as listing building plans and helping with the conservation of a collection, I undertook a research project of my choice using the Local Studies Library. As a fan of the supernatural, I chose to do it on paranormal activity in Derbyshire. There is a surprisingly widespread amount of spooky activity, but I focused my attention around Ashover.

I found some incredible cases using various books in the library, such as ‘Ghost Walks in Derbyshire and the Peak District’ by Barbara Wadd, as well as accessing the Ancestry and British Newspaper Archive websites from the computers there.

A great example is the story I found in The Derbyshire Times of Saturday 22nd August 1874, where it recounted one of the tales written by John Bunyan in 1680 in his book ‘The Life and Death of Mr. Badman.’

Bunyan describes the story of a 17th century lead mine worker in the parish of Ashover called Dorothy Matley, whose job it was to wash the rubbish from the lead ore. She was well known by the other towns folk for being “a great swearer and curser and liar”.

Then, on 23rd March 1660, a lad caught her stealing from his breaches, which he had laid nearby. As was customary she protested her innocence by asking God to “make the earth open and swallow me up.”

One George Hogdkinson, an Ashover man “of good report”, was passing when he heard Dorothy crying for help. Looking back, he saw “the woman, and her tub and sieve, twisting round and sinking into the ground…. So she and her tub twisted round and round till they sank about three yards into the earth and there for a while staid. … the man …did begin to think which way to help her: but immediately … the earth fell in upon her and covered her.”

When found, she was given a formal burial, with the Ashover parish register containing this entry:

“Dorothy matly, supposed wife of John fflint, of this parish, foreswore herselfe; whereupon / the ground open, and she sanke over hed March 23rd / and being found dead she was buried March 25th.”

Was this the Hand of God passing judgement; or was it a sink hole, which can be caused by mining? We may never know.

To conclude, this was a fantastic experience and opened my eyes to the world of archives. The staff were all so kind and friendly, and much thanks goes to them for helping me. It was wonderful week and a great place to research the varied history of the county.  

Thanks to you as well Sophia. We wish you the best of luck for your future. If you are interested in work experience or volunteering opportunities with Derbyshire Record Office, more details can be found here.

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