Daniel Dakeyne: Genealogy 18th century style

As not all of us who are currently working from home can carry on with our ‘normal’ job (repairing documents requires access to the conservation studio), I have found myself copying old typed lists into spreadsheets, so they can be imported into our online catalogue. The archive of the Dakeyne family of Darley Dale (D9) was a joy to work on: it was one of the first collections to be deposited with the county council, way back in 1922 when the Record Office didn’t even exist yet!

The archive mainly relates to Daniel Dakeyne, who was born on 29 April 1763 and lived at Holt House in Darley Dale until his death in 1806, aged 43. He was a lawyer, banker and an antiquary, who amassed a great deal of documents and information intending to write a topographical and genealogical history of Derbyshire. This ambition was never realised, but he has left us with fascinating glimpses into how genealogical research was carried out in the 18th century. For instance, on the 20 November 1792 he writes:

“I applied to the Librarian of the British Museum for a reading order…he could not do it except I brought with me a recommendation from some gentleman of reputation & respectability…”

Fortunately he had no trouble in finding a suitable friend:

“I then immediately applied to Mr Balgay for a letter of recommendation…& by 5 o’clock in the evening I was in possession of a reading order”


He even tells us when the British Museum opening hours were:

“…the time of reading is five days a week from 11 o’clock in the forenoon till 3 in the after.”

time of reading

Researchers in the 18th century clearly faced similar problems to their modern counterparts, whether it be reading old handwriting…

“the whole day in Doctor’s Commons and found the following wills which I read with great difficulty being in very old character & in Latin”


…or the expense of getting access to collections, in this case the Duchy of Lancaster:

“…the most minute research is charged 10/6 which must for every opening of a book be repeated…” (That’s £41 in today’s money!)


There is also every researcher’s greatest fear, written in a PS on a letter from 1792:

“Preserve this letter lest I should lose my notes by any accident.”


Dakeyne didn’t do all his research himself – he had some help from Samuel Ayscough (possibly the same Librarian of the British Museum?), who showed his appreciation for an unusual form of payment in 1794:

“A pheasant & a brace of remarkably fine hares is a reward by far greater than any little assistances or civilities I may have showed to you could merit.”


And all of us at the Record Office echo Ayscough’s sentiments that:

“To render the researches of others more easy, was it not part of the duty of my situation, I should find it my inclination…”


The original typed list from the 1960’s has now been copied into a spreadsheet and all the extra detail about the collection will appear on our online catalogue soon.


Free talk: Derbyshire Diaries

Join our Local Studies Librarian on Tuesday 3 March at 2pm here at the Record Office in Matlock for a free talk in which you’ll delve into Derbyshire’s past by eavesdropping on some of the personal diaries written by its residents and visitors. There will be readings from some of the published diaries held in the Local Studies collection.

Book your place now on our Eventbrite page.



Happy Valentine’s Day!

A treat from our Franklin collection: the Valentine poem Eleanor Porden wrote in 1823 for her fiancé, John Franklin. We’re very lucky to have two versions – here’s the original draft:

draft frontdraft recto

And here is the letter she sent him on 14 February 1823, with her handwriting ‘disguised’:

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The symbols on the letter (presumably purporting to be Inuit) tie in with the mention of Coppermine River, the river in North Canada John Franklin had traveled down during his Coppermine Expedition of 1819 to 1822.  Eleanor seems to be writing as if she is an Inuit woman – see the post about Miss Green Stockings to find out more!




Repairing the Richardson letters

In our Franklin collection is an album containing about a hundred letters, mainly written by Sir John Franklin (1786-1847) to his good friend and fellow arctic explorer, Sir John Richardson (1787-1865). The letters had been stuck into the album with a shiny, translucent tape, which had also been used to carry out repairs. In order to ensure the long-term survival of these letters we decided to remove them from the album: many were loose already and at risk of falling out, and the tape was causing further damage to the paper.

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We carried out a few tests on the repair tape and found that the adhesive was water soluble. The inks used were stable in water, so we were able to wash the letters and remove all remnants of the tape this way. An additional benefit to having washed the letters is that it has flushed out all kinds of dirt and degradation that had become ingrained in the paper, and it has re-invigorated the paper fibres, making the letters feel stronger again.

All the letters have now been repaired with handmade conservation repair paper and wheat starch paste. Here are some examples of letters before, during and after the process:

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In case you were wondering, if in a few hundred years’ time one of our successors wants to remove these repairs in order to treat the letters with whatever amazing technique that may be available then, all they will need to do is wash them again and all our repairs will simply float off.

We have of course saved the original album as part of the collection – if you would like to see it and the letters, just pop in and ask for D8760/F/FJR/1/1/1-92. Or have a look on our catalogue for a description of their contents, as they are full of fascinating information about Franklin’s expeditions, his time in Tasmania, and his home life. But as we are in Matlock, my favourite snippet has to be this from 13 June 1823:

D8760 F FJR 1 1 5 Matlock

‘I went up today to Matlock, and was much delighted with the scenery. I think it equals in richness and the picturesque anything I have seen – though it is not so grand as some we have beheld in America. Mrs Richardson will be gratified to learn that its prettiest parts reminded me of different spots in Scotland.’ (D8760/F/FJR/1/1/5)

Looking out of my window as I type this, with the tops of the hills shrouded in mist, I can only agree!


Flowers of remembrance

We’ve just archivally packaged a very touching group of items: dried flowers collected from the grave of Eleonar Gell (Sir John Franklin’s daughter) in Tredunnoc, Monmouthshire. They were mounted on black-edged card by her husband John Philip Gell for their seven children – Eleanor, Franklin, Philip, Mary, Henry, Alice and Lucy – and stored together in a blue cover.

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The date on the cards is that of Eleanor’s funeral, a few days after her death on 30 August 1860 – she was 36.

The flowers are still in remarkable condition and to keep them that way we’ve placed each card in an archival polyester sleeve and then made a folder to store them in so we keep them out of light.  We’ve then made another folder so we can keep the dried flowers together with the cover.

This memorial to a lost parent’s love should now be safe for at least another 160 years.


The Strange Case of the Wandering Spoon

Fantastic detective work from our colleagues at Buxton Museum!

Buxton Museum and Art Gallery

I am working on a project funded by the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation that is overseeing the re-homing of the objects from the School library Loans Service in Derby. This collection consists of paintings, studio pottery, archaeological, ethnographic and social history items. Sadly, Buxton Museum and Art Gallery can only keep a small percentage of this wonderful and eclectic mix of items. Through detective work that involves sifting through old records, myself and my colleague have been gathering information on where the items came from over the fifty years the service was collecting. We are contacting museums and community groups in the areas that these objects originate from to see if they would like the items so that they can have a new lease of life.

The Roman spoon at Buxton museum and Art Gallery

One of these items is a Roman silver spoon, elegant in its shape and practical in…

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The stilly night

For National Poetry Day, an excerpt from a poem by Thomas Moore, as copied out by William Howitt (1792-1879), from Heanor:

Oft in the stilly night

When slumber’s chain has bound me,

Fond mem’ry brings the light

Of other days around me;

The smiles, the tears

Of childhoods years,

The words of love then spoken;

The eyes that shone,

Now dim’d and gone,

The cheerful hearts, now broken.

Thus, in the stilly night,

When slumber’s chain has bound me,

Fond mem’ry brings the light

Of other days around me.




Discovering objects

Our crowdfunding campaign for packaging the objects from our Franklin collection has reached its £1000 target! A huge thank you to everyone who has donated – your support is much appreciated.

The Franklin objects have made us realise that we have other fabulous, exciting – and sometimes downright strange – objects in some of our other collections, which should also be properly packaged in museum quality boxes. So we’ve decided that any extra money we receive through our crowdfunding campaign will be spent on looking after those items.  We’re sure to discover more of them as we start hunting through our collections, but to give you an idea of the kind of objects we have:

An Ashbourne Shrovetide football from the 1930’s:


A beautiful piece of embroidery from 1937, showing Bakewell Market Place:


And a collection of textile samples, including this elephant pattern:


If you’d like to help us look after these and other objects (we’ll blog about more of them as we uncover and re-package them), then you have until 3.00 pm on Friday 19 July to donate on our crowdfunding page.

Arctic scraps

In our Franklin collection we’ve come across this scrapbook:

D3311 87 001

It was most likely put together by Lady Jane Franklin herself, although we don’t know whether she gave it the rather fabulous title of ‘Arctic scraps’. It is full of newspaper cuttings, prints, and other material related to the efforts to find the missing expedition.

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It also includes posters offering rewards for helping in the search: Lady Jane herself offered £3000 to whaling ships willing to take part and the UK government even offered £20,000. The National Archives has a handy currency converter, which tells us that this equates to approximately £240,500 and £1,6 million in today’s money!


We don’t have a £20,000 reward on offer, but we do have a selection of rewards for you to choose from if you donate to our crowdfunding campaign. And if  you choose the Behind the Scenes Tour, we’ll even add in a cup of tea and some nice biscuits…