A father’s letter

When you work with archive collections, sometimes you come across something that makes you stop in your tracks – a document that takes your hand and transports you through time to its author, making them so tangible, so real, that the intervening centuries vanish and you’d swear they were standing right next to you.  That happened to me yesterday with a letter I came across, a perfectly ordinary letter from William Porden, the 18th century architect, to his daughter Eleanor Anne Porden.

D3311 2 2 front

D3311 2 2 back

The content is of course sweet, written by a caring father to his loving daughter, and the reference to smallpox inoculation only two years after it became available is certainly interesting. But what really got me was the handwriting: it is completely different to his normal joined-up style.  Then I realised Eleanor would only have been five at the time, still learning to read and needing clear letters to decipher her father’s words.  I write notes to my daughter in block capitals to spare her the agony of trying to decipher my atrocious handwriting – that two hundred and eighteen year gap suddenly feels very small indeed.



Thank You Matlock Ladies Luncheon Club!

A big thank you to Matlock Ladies Luncheon Club who have given us a £70.00 donation for our Junction Arts photographs project.  The charity Junction Arts celebrated its fortieth anniversary last year and deposited its archive here at the Record Office so future generations would be able to marvel at the wonderful work they do.  Although all the paperwork is undoubtedly fascinating, the nearly three thousand photographs and two thousand negatives are what makes this collection so special: seeing the smiles, the joy, the happiness of children, adults and the elderly, as communities come together to create art.

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To make sure these wonderful people will continue to make everyone smile for centuries to come, we need to package the photographs in archival quality polyester sleeves so they’re save to handle and can’t get damaged by rubbing against each other or sticking together, as some are already doing.  The total cost for packaging all the photographs and negatives is £853.82 – rather too big an amount for us to conjure up, which is why we’re fundraising:


So next time you’re in Matlock, do have a look at our donations box and display in reception – every pound saves five images.  And if you’re feeling especially generous, of course we accept donations over the phone as well: just call us on 01629 538 347 and be sure to leave your name if you’d like your own personal thank you on our display.


Adopt A Piece of History discount extended

We’re extending the 50% off discount for our Adopt A Piece of History scheme to Thursday 14 December, so there are still two weeks left to choose that perfect gift. Our Treasures include our oldest document from 1115, a delicious Bakewell Pudding recipe from 1837, an artist’s tool roll, the Eyam Parish Register, a medieval dance notebook (as seen on the example certificate below), a railway plan and many, many more.  And each one of our other records is available for adoption via the Unique and Become a Part of History options – have a look on our catalogue and search for a place, person, date, parish, school or any subject you can think of to see what gems we hold!

Christmas delivery deadlines:

  • Thursday 14 December for Unique Certificates and Become a Part of History
  • Thursday 21 December for one of the Treasures




Arch I’ve Conserved

Join us here at the Record Office on Thursday 23 November from 10.30 to 12.00 to celebrate Explore Your Archives week with a talk and demonstration on how we repair paper and parchment documents.  It’s a free event, but with limited places, so booking is essential. The easiest way to book a place is via our Eventbrite page, or call us on 01629 538347.

Please be aware that although the talk will be delivered in a room accessible via a lift,  the conservation studio – where the practical demonstration will be held – is on the second floor and can only be reached via stairs.

Arch poster


Christmas shopping made easy

Have you started shopping for presents yet?  It’s that time of year again when we’re all racking our brains, trying to come up with something original for loved ones who already seem to have everything.  To help you be super-organised, we’re offering 50% off our Adopt A Piece of History scheme throughout November. That means that during November:

  • You can adopt any one of our 50 Treasures for only £10.00. They include our oldest record from 1115, a railway plan, a gardening book, a parish register, a beautifully hand-drawn map, ramblers guides, a Rolls Royce photograph, an artist’s tools and many more (see the full list on our 50 Treasures page).  Simply fill in the form, tell us whose name to put on the certificate and we’ll email it to you.


  • You can adopt anything at all from our collections for only £17.50. The parish register that mentions great-great-grandparents, an old map of a well-loved area, your favourite of our Woodward cartoons, an old school log book – feel free to browse our catalogue for inspiration.  Again, simply fill in the form giving us the reference number and a brief description of the item, as well as the name to put on the certificate, and we’ll email it to you.


  • You can let someone become a part of Derbyshire’s history for only £50.00.  Choose any item from our collections and tell us the reason for the adoption.  We will add your reason to the certificate and the adoption itself will be recorded in our official Register of Adopters, thereby immortalising the recipient, you and the reason for the adoption.


Full details of the scheme are on our Adopt A Piece of History page.


A Happy Adoption

We had a visit from one of our adopters recently, who adopted a parish register last year.  She was thrilled to be able to handle her adopted record and commented on how lovely the certificate is and how wonderful it is to have that extra connection with her past.



If you’d like to adopt one of our fifty treasures or anything else from our collection, either for yourself or as a gift, place your order on our Adopt A Piece of History page.


Digitising History

Have you ever worried that your old letters, certificates, photographs, maps and diaries are getting damaged whenever you handle them?  You want to share them with the family, give everyone the opportunity to connect with long-gone relatives, but you can see creases gradually turning into tears. And what about those framed photographs hanging on the walls?  They are fading in the light, changing gradually, getting irrevocably damaged.  The best way to keep all these treasures safe, is to make copies: this allows you to store the originals out of harm’s way, while the copies can be handled and displayed. With a digital copy you can even print off as many duplicates as you like, as often as you need them.

We have been copying our records in order to protect them for a long time, and I’m pleased to say that we’ve opened up our copying service to everyone, from individuals to heritage organisations: we can now digitise your history for you.

Digitising history image

Our experienced staff, using the same equipment they use for all the historic records we hold, are able to digitise:

  • diaries, journals and other bound volumes
  • letters, certificates and other documents
  • photographs
  • maps and plans
  • drawings, watercolours and prints

What are the advantages of trusting Derbyshire Record Office with your family’s history?

  • We have a state of the art digitisation system, including a book cradle for safely copying bound volumes.
  • Our staff are highly trained in handling delicate historic records.
  • Whilst in our care, you records will be kept safe in one of our secure archive stores.
  • We provide high quality images of at least 300 pixels per inch (ppi).
  • We give you the choice between TIFF files, which have a very high resolution but take up a lot of space and can be slow to open, or Jpegs, which have a smaller resolution, but take up a lot less space.
  • We put the images on a CD for you for free, or for a small charge on a USB stick

To ask for a quote, simply fill in a Digitising History quote request form on our website.


Mother’s Day Surprise!

Still looking for that perfect gift for Mother’s Day?  How about the parish register that shows the baptism or wedding of her ancestors?  Or a map of the area she grew up in, or the admission register of the school she went to? Perhaps she loves dancing, walking, trains, cooking, gardening, sport or art? Why not have a look at our Adopt A Piece Of History scheme and give her the chance to help protect her own and Derbyshire’s history.


And because it’s such a special occasion, we’ll waive our usual delivery times – just send through your order for any type of certificate and pay for it by noon on Friday 24th March, and your personalised certificate will be in your inbox by noon on Saturday 25th March.


Derwent Valley Mills celebrations in Belper

This Saturday, 11 March, the Derwent Valley Mills celebrates fifteen years of recognition as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  Between 11 am and 4 pm there will be all kinds of events at the Strutts Centre in Belper, including children’s activities, guided walks, talks, and stalls from forty heritage organisations.  We’ll be there with our stall, giving advice on how to use original records for your research and how to look after the old family photographs, letters and books we all have tucked away in a drawer or a box somewhere.


We hope to see you on Saturday!