Sharing stories for World Book Day

Wednesday 5th March is World Book Day, a national celebration of reading. This year the theme is ‘share a story’ with the aim being to share a million stories across the UK.
With that in mind let me share a story from the local studies collection held here at the Record Office.

‘Blue John’ written by award winning local author Berlie Doherty, and beautifully illustrated by Tim Clarey, tells the story of the Queen of Darkness, who gives life to a child from the purple-blue heart of the glacier and the gold of the sun.  In the caverns deep beneath the mountain she keeps him safe, until Blue John hears children’s laughter from above ground, and longs to join them outside.Cover

This is a truly magical children’s book, inspired by the Blue John stone, unique to Derbyshire, and found in the caverns of Castleton.

Inside top

You can find this book and others by Berlie Doherty in Derbyshire Libraries, so why not choose something you can share for World Book Day?

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Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu

Last week was a time of goodbyes for us at the Record Office.  You may have seen my previous blog about the retirement of Local Studies Librarian Sue Peach, but we also had to say farewell under much sadder circumstances to another friend and colleague, Sue Hulse.  Sue H

After a brave fight, Sue died on 22nd March at Ashgate Hospice.  Her death was a shock and huge loss to us all and last week colleagues both past and present joined her family to say goodbye at her funeral.

The title of this blog is a mantra for peace spoken during yoga, which Sue was passionate about.  It opened her funeral service and the meaning behind it says a lot about Sue as a person:

“May all beings everywhere be happy and free, and may all thoughts, words and actions of my own life contribute in some way to that happiness and to that freedom for all”.

Sue came to us in Local Studies nearly 20 years ago from Sheffield Libraries. We were so thrilled to have found someone so perfect for the job, with a local studies background and interest in the subject.  She immediately brought us up to date with her computer skills, devising spreadsheets and databases where before there had only been reams of paper.  When we wanted to offer one to one computer sessions to our customers, Sue was an obvious choice.  She drew up comprehensive worksheets and with her knowledge and patience she loved helping people like this.  In those early days of computers if any of us had a problem – a file wouldn’t open, the printer wouldn’t work, we couldn’t figure out how to attach a document to an email – there was always the common cry of “Sue!!!”

Working part time in Local Studies, Sue also worked in the Stock Unit and at Bakewell Library where she was equally valued.

When in 2013 the Local Studies Library amalgamated with the Record Office, Sue found herself also working in the Search Room which meant learning a whole new set of skills. But as ever Sue threw herself wholeheartedly into the challenge and valued the opportunity to further expand her knowledge, and have the chance to work closely with the archive collection.

We will all miss Sue – as a colleague she was precise, dependable,  hard working and knowledgeable.  But more importantly as a friend she was gentle, kind, considerate and caring. It says a lot about Sue that customers have been as equally upset at her passing as have her friends.  Our thoughts go out to her family – to her husband Keith, her son Liam, her mum and her brother.  It was a pleasure to know her.

A fond farewell….

This past week saw us say a fond farewell to Sue Peach, Local Studies Librarian here at the Record Office.  With a career in libraries stretching over 40 years Sue has now said goodbye to spend more time with her family, friends and to enjoy the hobbies she loves – walking and bell ringing to name just two.  Although Sue had insisted she didn’t want a fuss, we couldn’t let her go without a proper goodbye, so friends and colleagues joined together on her last day to see her off in style.  Sue P's retirement (13) (2)

I asked Sue for a few details about her library career and so typical of her, she did the job for me and wrote a complete biography!  So here in her own words is Sue’s life in libraries:

“I started as a trainee with Derby Borough Libraries in the autumn of 1973, but we rapidly became part of Derbyshire County Council in 1974, and I then followed a training programme which brought me to Matlock for the summer.

I did a postgrad Librarianship course at Leeds which ran for the whole of 1975, then was based at Derby Central and Belper libraries. I remember I was considered lucky at library school, as I had a job to go back to.

I left in 1979 to have my son Adam, but was back again in 1983 because they needed librarians in the Reference Library, which was then in the Strand in Derby. This was really interesting detective work, as you could be asked anything, and you had to look everything up; no Internet. We also had Tourist Information for a while.

I had my second son Christopher in 1985, and in 1987 the Reference Library was amalgamated with the main Lending section. The work became even more interesting, as we now needed to know about popular authors and take requests. But this was still only Saturday work, and when in 1994 I saw a job advertised for a librarian at Swadlincote I applied and got the job. The team were great; everyone was so welcoming and friendly. Their theme song was “Simply the Best”, and they were. No fuddle or do was complete without “turns”, songs, sketches and dressing up; part of the Swad tradition.

In 2001 an internal job ad finally ended its journey in my tray (I’d been on holiday).The closing date was the following day, but it was for a Local Studies job, something I’d always been interested in, but the jobs were few and far between. There was a temporary post on offer because of maternity leave so I rang the Local Studies Development Officer Ruth Gordon, who said it wasn’t too late to apply. So began a most happy time, and when Lisa decided to come back on a 3-day basis, I was quite happy to drop a scale, and drop hours, just to be able to work in Local. This was definitely a golden time, working with Ruth, Lisa, Sues B and H, Julie, Norma, Barbara, Paul D and John T. I also got up to speed as a relief cataloguer. In 2006-7 I covered temporarily as Special Services Librarian at Chesterfield. This was useful because in 2007 I obtained hours as a Local Studies librarian there, working alongside Lesley Phillips.

Things were changing rapidly again though; Ruth was retiring and we were to amalgamate with the Record Office, under the new leadership of Sarah Chubb as Record Office and Local Studies Manager. Lisa and I took over most of Ruth’s jobs, including Local Studies book selection, binding and microfilming, all new skills for us. We acquired the Parish Register microfilms, plus Helen and Vicky to help us out, started getting to know our new colleagues in The Creche, and were involved in everything from choosing images for the new décor to visiting other history centres, measuring everything and learning how to pack, carry and unpack enormous crates of books…

My hours were transferred from Chesterfield to the Record Office in 2011, and I have ended my career with four very interesting years there and a lot of lovely new colleagues. You never stop learning: there were CALM and EDRM to get to grips with, not to mention the procedures by which documents are retrieved.

So thank you to everyone I’ve had the pleasure to work with, and for all the help and support which has always been there.  Love, Sue.”

And thank you Sue, we will all miss you and wish you a very happy retirement.

Oh what a lovely website!

The Derbyshire Lives Through the First World War project here at the Derbyshire Record Office is coming to a close.  But to create a lasting legacy of the wonderful activities that have gone on around the county to commemorate the centenary of the First World War we have created a touring exhibition that over the next two years should be coming to a location close to you and a brand new website.  desktopThis is now online and although we are still tinkering with it – adding captions to images, including more of your stories and adding specially made short films, we already have a site that includes a timeline, a gallery of images from our collections, information on lots of projects from around the county and a help section for anyone thinking of organising their own project in the future.

Have a look at our new site and let us know what you think.  If you’d signed up to our previous Derbyshire Lives Through the First World War blog, please do continue to follow us on our new site.  Our own project may be coming to an end but of course the First World War commemorations will continue until Armistice Day 2018 so there will be new projects to mention and lots to talk about.



Armchair travel

After all those weeks of planning, shopping, card writing and frantic present wrapping Christmas and the New Year celebrations are once again behind us.  Now we go back to our everyday lives, hoping that the winter weather isn’t going to be too unkind and looking forward to those first signs of spring.  To give us something to look forward to many of us start thinking about our summer holidays, dreaming about exotic shores and warmer climes.  Browsing through holiday brochures is one method but another way to escape is to immerse yourself into a good book and this month’s Derbyshire Library promotion ‘Armchair Travel’ encourages you to do just that.  Whether you pick a travel guide or novel you can be whisked across the world whilst snuggled up in your favourite armchair with a nice cup of tea.   But I for one don’t necessarily aspire to venturing too far afield. I’m quite happy to explore our own beautiful county, and to do that I too don’t have to leave the comfort of my armchair.

Derbyshire is a county of contrasts: gentle rolling pastures, hard limestone uplands, bleak dark peak moorlands, industrial mill and mining towns.  It’s hardly surprising that these varied landscapes have been inspiration to writers for centuries and the local studies collection at the Derbyshire Record Office has hundreds of novels, poetry and short stories which showcase our beautiful county.

Way back in the year 2000, to celebrate the new millennium, Derbyshire Libraries held a Millennium  Literature Festival. Our Local Studies Librarian at the time, Ruth Gordon knew that the Local Studies Library held a vast collection of local fiction but that our customers were largely unaware of its existence.  Unfortunately space issues meant the books were hidden away in the back of the library, away from our open access area, and indeed even though we’ve now got wonderful new premises alongside the Archives service in the Record Office, the local fiction collection is so large that it is kept in one of the storage rooms in the back.sense-of-place

Ruth saw that the Millennium Literature Festival was a great opportunity to publicise and celebrate this collection. Over many weeks she diligently took armfuls of books home with her, and happily read them all.  From all of this ‘homework’ Ruth wrote her Sense of Place booklet, which took a circular tour around the county listing all the books she had read and enjoyed. The booklet has been out of print for many years but you can still request copies to borrow through your local library.  Although now 17 years old (how time flies!) and so missing out all of the great fiction by authors such as Stephen Booth with his popular Fry and Cooper crime series set in the Peak District, which has been written since the booklet was produced, it nevertheless still makes fascinating reading.

In it we see novels which describe life in Derbyshire’s mining community such as Frederick Boden’s ‘A Derbyshire Tragedy’ 1935:

They sat themselves inside the smoky, coal dirty cabin, as near the fire as they could get, unwrapping their food and setting to. “Grand to see a bit of fire” Albert said….biting at the slice of bread in his hand……. “Fine,” Jud answered, “Nowt like a bit of fire.”…….The screens and riddles thudded and roared above them, and feathers of dust shot from the wagons on either side of the cabin as the coal crashed down the iron shoots”

and Albert Rhodes novel Calico Bloomers (1968):

The whirr of the steel rope and the metallic clash of folding gates announced the arrival of the cage. Tubs rumbled past them as they strode over the rails.  Steve saw they were full of rock and dirt.  The banksman standing by the cage checked their lamps and said brusquely, ‘Tally?’….. They entered the cage and the gates closed.  A moment of waiting; then the bottom of the cage fell away as they plunged into darkness.  As the brakes slowly came on, senses reverted to make him believe they were going back to the surface.  Filtered light brightened and with scarcely a bump they stopped.

Derby appears in many stories and an author who manages to capture much of the essence of the city is Carol Lake, particualry in her short stories ‘Rosehill: Portraits of a Midland rosehillCity’ 1989 which won the Guardian Fiction Prize for that year:

“Rosehill Street in late May – the sound of birds and the smell of anise and early summer greenery; movement of the sighing wind. Here comes Tazilim, hurrying along to Mohammed’s, one hand leaden, clutched about her baby, the other makes gay protest at her chiffon scarf, which whips about her head and shoulders like May ribbons in the warm wind.”

South Derbyshire, although another area of industry, also has a rural charm such as in JG Layberry’s series of books about a farming family in the Repton area which opens in 1911 and takes us through to the late 1980s. This is from ‘Hayseed’ (1980):

“The broad Trent swirled round the bend, friendly and comforting. From its surface the evening sun reflected in sheets of dazzling brightness…..It always makes me glad to see the old river, mused Bob with affection. Meg responded to his mood at once. When I was at school I read that Americans call the Mississippi “Old Man River” because it affects their lives so much. The Trent is a bit like that for us. We played here as children, picnicked here, fished here- at least Sam did- bathed here, and once or twice skated here. And we never run out of grass at this part of the farm.”

Nat Gould, who lived out at Pilsbury, wrote numerous light thrillers with a racing background but he also wrote a couple of locally inspired works based on the local farming communities. Hills and Dales of 1935:

Mill Hill was a typical Derbyshire country lane. On one side a rugged stone wall stood on the top of a bank and fenced in the fields.  On the opposite side was a thick hedge, through which the most obstinate sheep would have found it difficult to force its way, on account of the dense mass of briers and undergrowth, which almost hid the original hedge from view.

Alison Uttley’s timeless novels and short stories are all based on the dearly loved village of Cromford where she spent her childhood. “Lost in the creases of the hills, until one turned a sudden corner, and found the little stone houses clustering round the duck pond, climbing up the steep rocks and sleeping huddled together about the old market square.” (The Country Child. 1931.)

The limestone uplands of the White peak are captured in Berlie Doherty’s White Peak Farm, a vivid and sensitive description of a young girl and her farming family who are tied to the land:

“My home is on a farm in the soft folding hills of Derbyshire. Not far from us the dark peaks of the Pennines rise up into the ridge that is called the spine of England.  We’ve always lived there; my father’s family has owned the farm for generations.  He never wants to let it go.

Nothing ever seemed to change there. The seasons printed their patterns on the fields, the sky cast its different lights across the moors, but our lives, I thought, would never change…… And yet, about four years ago that change did come to us, casting its different lights across the pattern of our lives.”

In Katharine B Glaisier’s short stories ‘Tales from the Derbyshire hills’ (1907) the atmosphere of the White Peak is plain to see:

“ All colour seemed to have been washed out of the world about him….a stone cottage and a couple of barns looked more like exaggerations of the forlorn heaps of stones which had marked the ruin of bygone walls all along the latter half of his journey, than an actual place of human habitation. But in the grey vast of the November sky a thin film of smoke was slowly mounting.”

Crichton Porteous wrote several novels full of authentic rural detail based on his life as a farm labourer in the Combs area in the 1940s and 50s. These include Changing Valley, Man of the Moors and The Snow. The harsh climate is a recurring theme in all of these Dark Peak stories.

 “He turned the knob and instantly the door flew inward…..Into the space flew a cloud of whiteness in which the storm-lamp burned momentarily incandescent, as in the centre of an immense halo. The next instant it went out. With the snow, cold leapt in.” (The Snow)

A few simple paragraphs can immediately transport you to another place and as the titles mentioned in the ‘Sense of Place’ booklet are largely available to borrow through your local library, why not try a spot of ‘Armchair travel’ yourself.  No suitcase required.


Laugh out loud

Derbyshire Record Office

Each month Derbyshire Libraries run a special promotion and for the month of August the theme is ‘Laugh out loud’.  The world news just lately has been a little grim to say the least and I’m sure we could all do with something to put a smile on our faces, so I thought I’d investigate our Local Studies collection to see what  Derbyshire comedy connections I could find.

There are many comedy actors with close links to the county.  Arthur Lowe, the pompous Captain Mainwaring in the classic comedy series Dad’s Army was born in the north of the county at Hayfield. Robert Lindsey, who I remember as ‘Wolfie’ in the 1970s comedy Citizen Smith was born and grew up in Ilkeston.Arthur LoweRobert Lindsay

James Bolam, best known for roles in ‘The Likely Lads’ and ‘Only When I Laugh’ was educated at Derby’s Bemrose School. He moved to Derby as a 13 year…

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Laugh out loud

Each month Derbyshire Libraries run a special promotion and for the month of August the theme is ‘Laugh out loud’.  The world news just lately has been a little grim to say the least and I’m sure we could all do with something to put a smile on our faces, so I thought I’d investigate our Local Studies collection to see what  Derbyshire comedy connections I could find.

There are many comedy actors with close links to the county.  Arthur Lowe, the pompous Captain Mainwaring in the classic comedy series Dad’s Army was born in the north of the county at Hayfield. Robert Lindsay, who I remember as ‘Wolfie’ in the 1970s comedy Citizen Smith was born and grew up in Ilkeston.Arthur LoweRobert Lindsay

James Bolam, best known for roles in ‘The Likely Lads’ and ‘Only When I Laugh’ was educated at Derby’s Bemrose School. He moved to Derby as a 13 year old, joining the 3rd year at the all-boys school.  He initially trained as an accountant in Derby – but he also joined the Derby Shakespeare Company, appearing at the Derby Playhouse with them.

As a child growing up in the 1970s another TV favourite was ‘The Goodies’.  Who can forget the three-seater bicycle and Kitten-Kong? Tim Brooke Taylor, one member of the famous threesome was born in Buxton and at one time was honorary Vice-President of Derby County Football Club.

Dirk Bogarde appeared in more than 60 films with a career that lasted over 50 years. His early film career included the Doctor series such as Doctor in the House and Doctor at Sea, which made him one of the most popular British film stars of the 1950s. Before this, during the second world war however, he enlisted in the army, and was sent for training in the interpretation of aerial photography at Smedley’s Hydro in Matlock, now County Hall. His training in 1943 helped him in his role in the D-Day landings where he worked with the Army Intelligence Photographic Unit.

Moving away from the silver screen and on to the printed word, children around the globe for generations have laughed at the tales by the wonderful Roald Dahl.  Roald Dahl.jpg

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Matilda are just two of his creations, but who knew that Dahl, born in Wales to Norwegian parents was educated for a time at Repton School?

Another author whose writings have often reduced me to tears – is Chesterfield born Derek Longden.  I remember him reading his comic pieces on Radio Derby when I was a child – always hilarious.

His books on his life, starting with ‘Diana’s Story’ about the loss of his wife after years of her suffering with ME and followed by ‘Lost For Words’, about his mother had you one minute crying with laughter and the next with sorrow. So popular were they that they were adapted for television, with ‘Lost For Words’ winning a Bafta for actress Thora Hird.

Instead of words, cartoonist Bill Tidy is famous chiefly for his comic strips.  ‘The Cloggies’ appeared in Private Eye from 1967-1981,  a parody of the popular television series of the time The Forsyte Saga, but set in the industrial north instead of a genteel upper class society. Born in Cheshire, Bill now lives in Boylestone, near Ashbourne.

It’s not only people that have a comedy connection to Derbyshire – but places too.  Most of these memories seem to centre on my childhood, but bringing us more up to date we have Royston Vasey. The village in cult comedy The League of Gentlemen is actually Hadfield in Derbyshire.  The television series ran from 1999-2002 the brainchild of Jeremy Dyson, Mark Gatiss, Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton. It attracted a cult following and expanded into a full length film in 2005.

Other locations used in the series were Glossop and Hope Valley. If you knew the area you could spot:

  • Hilary Briss’s scary butcher’s shop (J.W. Mettrick & Son)
  • The old fishmonger’s became a veterinary surgery
  • The empty estate agent found new life as the Attachments dating agency
  • The little handicraft emporium was transformed into a joke shop one day and a video rental shop a week later

So here we have just a few of Derbyshire’s claim to comedy fame.  Your local library will have plenty on offer to put a smile on your face over the coming month, so why not pop in and have a look.


Weird and Wonderful Derbyshire

Hi, I’m Hannah and I’ve been lucky enough to have spent the last two weeks at Derbyshire Record Office on work experience. I already had a brief understanding of what goes on at the Record Office as my mum is one of the librarians, but I had no idea exactly what goes on behind the the scenes. The staff really do do an amazing job organising their time so that the public’s experience is as comfortable, enjoyable and useful as possible.

Earlier on in the week I was asked to look at a Local Studies inquiry that led me to the book ‘Curiosities of Derbyshire and The Peak District’ by Frank Rodgers and it absolutely fascinated me, so much so that I decided to use it as inspiration for this blog post.

Many people, including myself, don’t seem to appreciate the fact that they live in Derbyshire. Just because we don’t live by the sea, in a major city or somewhere where the sun is constantly shining, we tend to wish we lived elsewhere. However these people often don’t know how many amazing things you can find about and around the county. For one thing, The Peak District was the first national park to be set up in the UK, in 1951. Derby’s Silk Mill was Britain’s first factory and is the oldest one still standing in the world. Also I remember a while ago, my English teacher who had come over from Canada told our class that when researching Derby, she had found that it is supposedly the most haunted city in the UK! The look of shock on everyone’s faces just goes to show how much we know about where we live.

It’s the little things, that we don’t see unless we’re really looking, that I find the most interesting. For example, the top of each of the three gateposts to Ashbourne Church are supported by skulls. They are thought to be the work of Robert Bakewell, one of Derby’s finest craftsmen and are apparently meant to remind those who enter of their inevitable mortality!

Something else ‘little’ that I came across while researching, was the bull ring in Snitterton. For centuries, the cruel sport of bull baiting was popular throughout England-in fact, it was encouraged is it supposedly made the meat more tender.


The Bull Ring at Snitterton, courtesy of Picture the Past

Bulls would be chained by the leg or neck and tormented by dogs, trained to pin it by the nose-the most tender part of a bull. The Snitterton Bull Ring was preserved by the Derbyshire Archaeological Society in 1906. An old villager has memories of his father telling him how in the evenings, men would come from Winster,  Wensley and other villages to try their bulldogs against the Snitterton Bull.

The final, and probably the most interesting place I found out about was St Ann’s Well in Buxton. The well is believed to have healing powers and was visited by Mary Queen of Scott’s who suffered badly from rheumatism. How amazing would it be to go there now and

st ann's well

St Ann’s Well, courtesy of Picture the Past

know you are standing in the same spot that an ancient monarch stood in hundreds of years before? Even now, the well carries the inscription; ‘Well of Living Waters’.

So, after reading this blog post I really hope you start looking at the world around you-you never know what amazing things you might find! Also, I hope that if you ever get the opportunity to go to Derbyshire Record Office you will take it, because it really has opened my eyes and it is so so worth it.

Battle of the Somme remembered

While getting ready for work this morning I, as no doubt did many others, paused to observe the two minutes silence to mark the anniversary of the start of the Battle of the Somme. To hear the whistle once again signalling the moment when the soldiers went ‘over the top’ was incredibly emotional. This is the blog we have posted on our Derbyshire Lives Through the First World War site, telling the story of just one of the men who lost their life in this battle , one of the many who we think of today.