The Perils of the Miners’ Pit Head Baths

Among our work, we have been creating a database from Derbyshire National Union of Mineworkers’ tribunal cases relating to illness and injury.  Among the many injuries, illnesses and diseases, were those caused by visits to and working in the pithead baths.

Before the construction of pithead baths at collieries, miners would travel to and from work in dirty, damp clothes. Pithead baths were first discussed by the Mineworkers Federation of Great Britain at its annual conference in 1910 but for many reasons, ranging from worry over illnesses to a proposed charge for using the baths, there was difficulty in persuading miners that pithead baths were needed.

The first baths in Derbyshire were opened at Grassmoor colliery in December 1929. By the late 1930s ten of the county’s collieries, including Markham colliery, had pithead baths. In the late 1940s the Ministry of Fuel and Power decided that every pithead bath should have an attached medical centre. By the beginning of 1947 pithead baths had been built at 366 collieries across the UK with provision for 450,000 men.

The main two groups of injuries and diseases that we have come across resulting from pithead bath use have been slipping and/or falling and skin diseases such as dermatitis and athlete’s foot.

There were strict rules about using the baths (picture courtesy of National Coal Mining Museum for England):Pithead Bath Rules - compressed

Each colliery might have their own set of rules, too.  This is from the Markham Collieries: ‘The Bather’s Handbook’ [1935-1939] (our ref D1920):
a476_7-the-bathers-handbook-markham-colliery-1935x1939

These next two photographs were taken at the National Coal Mining Museum for England near Wakefield, a highly recommended visit.
The pithead baths at this Colliery (no longer in use of course!) certainly put the accidents suffered by both the staff and bath attendants and the miners themselves into context.
lockers

The pithead bath locker rooms could be dangerous places if the miners were eager to get home after their shift!

 

No Money No Soap

A very clear message!

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Dastardly Deeds, Danger and Drinking Dens in Draycott & Church Wilne!

Just in time for Halloween, our Local Studies Library has an intriguing set of booklets on display, describing some of the ‘darker’ history of  Draycott. These have been produced by the Draycott & Church Wilne History Group.

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‘Rogues and Miscreants’ starts with an interesting summary of Crime and Punishment including the ‘The Bloody Code,’ the justice system and the types of punishments available to miscreants.

The range of cases make a fascinating read, as does the personal information about the perpetrators.  Among the gory cases are some other interesting types of crimes such as ‘keeping petroleum for sale on premises without a licence, ‘riding without reins’ and ‘removing cattle along the highway without a license.’

 

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As with ‘Rogues and Miscreants,’ this booklet starts with a useful historical background – highlighting the press’s tendency to sensationalise the stories and details of unfortunate incidents (as with modern media!)

Some of it makes stomach churning reading, involving injuries and deaths caused by fires (including in a fireworks factory), drowning and traffic accidents. I wonder if there is a place in Derbyshire that is known as the ‘most accident-prone?’ Let us know!

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Next is some slightly lighter reading, about the pubs of Draycott & Wilne (although there are some accounts of drink-related crimes  thrown in for good measure!). Again there is a really useful general background history ‘How did Pubs Come About?’ and a useful summary of existing sources of information specifically about Draycott’s Pubs.

On the last page, the Draycott & Church Wilne History Group say they are interested in hearing any memories about the pubs in the area – so whether it’s The Cleaver, The Traveller’s Rest or The Coach and Horses you have a story about, please get in touch with them!

Last, but not certainly not least, the History Group have also produced a fabulous Draycott Historical Trail Map.  It’s a really handy size to carry and has over 15 points of historical interest on a really clear map.  What a great excuse to go walking in the area, visit a couple of the public houses, pore over the stories of rogues, miscreants and accidents and toast your health, I’d say!

The History Group also have a Facebook page if you are interested in contacting them via social media.

 

Aliens! Internees during the Second World War

Curious people that we are, we do like to receive enquiries that test our research skills. We recently received another interesting research enquiry, on the subject of internship during the Second World War.

The enquiry we had was regarding an employee of the John Smedley company based in Lea, near Cromford, originally from Vienna. We were asked whether we could add any information regarding her life, as a potential internee as an ‘enemy alien’ during the Second World War.

Via this enquiry we came across the National Archives Internees Records which can be viewed online and downloaded. Having looked through some of the images, they provide a fascinating and often sad insight into the backgrounds of many of who had escaped the Nazis and come to the UK to find work. Many were overqualified for the work they were doing and had often left other members of their families behind.

It’s also an interesting insight into the use of language during the prevailing political and social climate of the late 1930s and 1940s. Here are some examples of the information in these records, all of whom were exempted from internship (thanks to the National Archives who granted permission to use the images) :

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Internee 5Internne2Internee 3Internee 2

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We would really like to hear of any memories or stories you have relating to this subject in Derbyshire.

Digging up information about Burial Locations

Some of the diverse subjects that have been researched in the Local Studies card catalogue this week include air wrecks, monetary equivalents, the surname ‘Lomas’ and Florence Nightingale.

Cards

Florence

 

In particular though, this week, burial locations have been a frequent feature of research requests, so we thought this subject was well past its expiration date (if you’ll forgive the pun) for a mention.

In many cultures, the idea of being able to visit the physical location of a place of rest is reassuring for friends and relatives. Here’s how to make a start on searching.

Burial Registers

Burial Registers (found in parish registers) record information relating to the date of burial and the person buried rather than the location of the grave. Unlike civil cemeteries, it is unusual for churches to deposit grave registers at the Record Office, usually because they are not created in the first instance.

Memorial Inscriptions

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For some Derbyshire churchyards, groups of volunteers have created transcripts of the headstones and plaques in the church. These transcripts are known as Memorial Inscriptions, and include information only about those graves where the headstone/plaque was extant and legible at the time the transcripts were created usually, most were created in the 1990s and later. The Memorial Inscriptions do not include information about unmarked graves or graves where the headstone is no longer visible or legible.

They do also sometimes contain a very useful background to the cemetery or churchyard, and in particular these are a regular feature of the The Derbyshire Ancestral Research Group  transcripts. There may also be a graveyard plan.

Cemetery Records

Cemetery 5Cemetery 2

Cemetery Records can be tricky and a little time consuming to search as the indexes, although alphabetical, are not usually alphabetical after the initial letter.  For example, as shown above, under the ‘Hs’ you are very likely to find ‘Hewitt’ after ‘Hill.’ If the name you require is found in the Index, there will usually be a reference (normally a number and folio reference).  You then need to make a note of this in order to then search the Burial and/or Grave Register to find more details about the location. As with all records, the information provided varies from Cemetery to Cemetery.

Online Catalogue

Of course it is always worth searching our online catalogue for any information regarding graveyard plans or burials as you never know what you might unearth!

Picturing the Past in Photos, Postcards and Illustrations

We’re often asked for images, illustrations and photographs for a variety of reasons: house or building history, planning and model making are just a few. So we thought it might be useful to list a few sources of useful information about how to access images, both online and in our collections.

Firstly, with a title including ‘Picturing the Past’ we couldn’t forget to mention the fantastic website Picture the Past which has thousands of searchable images from throughout the East Midlands.  If you are particularly taken with an image you come across, you can even have it made into a cushion cover, coaster, or mug, among other items!

The images range from the scenic

PtPbike

to the posed

Family

to the celebratory

celebration

We also have an A-Z Illustrations card index in our collection Local Studies collection which can be accessed in our Card Catalogue Room in the Local Studies Library. This contains references to photos, illustrations, postcards and other imagery. These often provide clues as to what a building may have looked like internally as well as externally, railways, mines and industry, and family and public events.

 

You can also find photographs and images in our Archives.  A search for ‘photograph’ under ‘description’ in our online catalogue revealed 633 results.

In addition, if you are looking for aerial photos, the incredibly useful website Britain from Above has some useful images from around Britain. This is one of Derby.  Let us know if you have any useful sources for illustrations, photos or other types of images!

Derby from the Air

Scaling the Matlock Mountain!

 

Women's TourIf you happened to be in Matlock this lunchtime, you may have noticed a bit of an event going on! If you weren’t there, and were wondering what all the fuss was about i.e. cyclists, spectators, sirens, police motorbikes and cheering schoolchildren, it was the Women’s Tour – a professional women’s cycling race, which had a whole stage  planned in Derbyshire, going from Ashbourne to Chesterfield via Buxton, Youlgreave, Winster and Matlock.

The riders included Lizzie Armistead, Britain’s cycling world champion and professional teams from all over the world.  Some Derbyshire Record Office staff, along with hundreds of others all along the route, were cheering on the riders on the Queen of the Mountains race up Bank Road in Matlock.

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Of course, this is really also a shameless excuse to promote our current exhibition ‘Have bike, will travel,’ displaying the best of our archive and local studies material.  The exhibition runs until the 30th July.

We now have a family quiz sheet and ‘I love cycling’ badges to give away, with the badges courtesy of the Smarter Travel Team at Derbyshire County Council.

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From Maskreys to Coalmining Ancestors via Poetry

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When replacing the items people have borrowed in our Local Studies Library, I’m always amazed at the variety of items people have used for research, leisure or both!  Above are just some examples from this week.  It’s really reassuring to know that all these resources are available and especially that there are lots of local history societies still thriving.

The items this week ranged from the parish registers on microfilm, memorial inscriptions, journals, newsletters, reports, poetry books, novels and books old and new. However obscure your interest, you can search for it using our card catalogue index, or just ask us – you may be surprised what we have in our collections!

My personal favourite has to be ‘The Journal of The Inn Sign Society‘ – the Derbyshire connection is that not only does it feature Derbyshire inn signs, but the Chairman is based in Heanor. It features some beautifully painted artistic signs, from all over the UK and the world.

What’s the most interesting or memorable item you’ve used in our Local Studies Library? Let us know!

 

Distant family…or not so distant?

A recent visitor to the Record Office reminded me of a really important point when researching your family tree – distance! It’s important to remember how people travelled and why, in the past, which can help when searching nearby parishes and areas for those ‘lost’ ancestors.

The example in question was of a relative who had been born in Hucknall, but had possibly travelled ‘over the border’ for work.  The visitor initially thought that Heanor parish would have been too far away, having used a satnav to calculate the distance.  They obviously realised that this was giving them the distance by modern road, which we all take for granted so much these days (the distance was around 15 miles). However, as the crow flies, the distance was around 7 miles, a not unfeasible mileage for someone in the early 1800s to have walked to find work (particularly as the ancestor in question was an agricultural labourer).

It’s easy to assume that ‘in the old days’ our ancestors simply stayed in one place and worked wherever there was labour available locally. However, like the present day, people did travel long distances to a place of work, or perhaps where more lucrative work was available.

Capture

Of course many people also emigrated from the UK to try and increase their opportunities. If you think a relative may have emigrated, passenger lists for ships heading overseas can be found on family history websites such as Find my Past and Ancestry To get an idea of how many people emigrated from the UK between 1890 and 1960, I entered my name into the passenger lists, and it came up with 386 entries during those years!

Parish Map

Old maps can be a really useful source of information about the conditions, providing information about distance, terrain and settlements. Knowing the occupation of the person you are trying to trace is also useful (these can be found on census returns, or in trade directories). Additionally, knowing the main employment centres of the time can help e.g. mills, farms, manor houses.

Learning about the historical background as to how, why and where people travelled in the time period you are looking at can really help narrow down a tricky search (even though family members might convince you that your relatives never moved from one area!)

We have plenty of resources at the Record Office to help you with this: in addition to the online local studies and archive resources our Local Studies Library has county parish maps, trade directories and guides to ancestors’ occupations.  The other resource we have of course, are our helpful staff!

Let us know if you have ever been ‘led up the garden path’ by a relative you were sure never could have strayed far…

Finding your feet with Family History

Starting to do family history can seem a daunting task! Although there is now lots of information online with the help of websites such as Ancestry and Find My Past there are also numerous books which are a fantastic, tangible source of information and knowledge. These are excellent in providing a background of the type of sources you might come across, and why records appear in the they way they do! Forewarned is forearmed, as they say…

I asked an experienced colleague what she would recommend (thanks Vicky!) and she came up with two titles from our reference library:

‘The Oxford Companion to Family and Local History’ by David Hey

Family  History 5

David Hey’s guide is about as comprehensive as you can get! The thematic articles range from getting started with your family tree, to dealing with tracing your background by nationality and ethnicity, to searching agricultural and industrial histories. There is an absolutely indispensable A-Z glossary of terms you might come across and a useful list of all Record Offices and Special Collections in the UK.

‘Tracing your Ancestors through Local History Records’ by Jonathan Oates

Family History 7

Oates’ useful guide is easy on the eye, with illustrations and photographs of examples of the types of local history records that you might encounter in your search.  It explains the historical background to records in England, and looks at lots of different sources: books, journals, illustrations, maps and newspapers.  Although parish registers are the most popular way of searching a family tree, these other sources can provide a wider feel for the time and place family members lived, and how they lived.

I’d also recommend ‘Essential Maps for Family Historians’ by Charles Masters – it’s incredible how much information maps have – from Estate maps, enclosure and tithe maps to The National Farm Survey.

Family History 8

In addition to the more general guides, there are also specialist books which can help you trace ancestors who were in the Armed Forces, in a lunatic asylum, worked as a coalminer, lived in the colonies, in the clergy or were travellers, to name a few! The series of books ‘My Ancestor was a…’published by the Society of Genealogists are well illustrated and explain in plain language the historical background that these people would have lived in as well as the sort of records you could search to find information about them.

There is also a light-hearted look at the potential pitfalls of researching your family in ‘Granny was a Brothel Keeper’, which provides useful tips on how to avoid being led up the garden path, and a subtle warning about not believing everything you might see (and hear from well-meaning family members!) Written in no-nonsense terms (as you may have gathered from the title), there are real life researchers’ stories and lessons to be learned.

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Of course, if you are desperate to get back to a computer screen, you might find ‘The Family History Web Directory’ extremely handy!

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All the books mentioned can be found in our Local Studies library, along with our research guides at the Enquiry Desk. Libraries also have subscriptions to the Ancestry and Find My Past websites, so these can be accessed on the Library computers.

Please let us know if you have any personal recommendations or tips when researching family history, and we’ll be happy to pass them on!