Coming up this summer: Ashbourne Treasures

Ashbourne Library, St Oswald’s Church and the Ashbourne Heritage Centre are to host what promises to be an informative and inspiring exhibition during July, August and September of this year.  The exhibits in “Ashbourne Treasures” are all of vital importance to the history of the town, and they include the original charter of Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School, of which we are the proud custodians.  Go and see the treasures if you can.  While you are at it, you could book yourself a ticket for one of the associated events, running throughout the summer, such as Dan Cruickshank’s talk on Georgian Towns.  More information is available at www.ashbournetreasures.com.

Weather history and parish registers

We have some pleasantly summery weather in Derbyshire just now.  If it should get too warm and you wish to be transported to cooler climes, you could always try reading a new article by the University of Nottingham’s Lucy Veale and others, entitled “‘Instead of fetching flowers, the youths brought in flakes of snow’: exploring extreme weather history through English parish registers”.  It features a reproduction of a descriptive ‘Memorial to the great snow’ of 1615 which can be found inscribed in the Winster parish register.

Draco dormiens nunquam titillandus…

… Or: Never Tickle A Sleeping Dragon.  It is twenty years since the publication of the first Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.  I admit that this anniversary has little to do with archives – if it were the anniversary of The Order of the Phoenix, we could argue that what went on in the Hall of Prophecies is a classic illustration of why delicate records need appropriate storage facilities – but it does give us another excuse to show off some more cartoons by George Woodward (1760-1809).  Here’s a 1785 drawing of a magician, with something of the Dumbledore about him:

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And here’s an 1813 print showing a pair of witches in a hayloft, complete with some fantastic beasts:

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For more about the Woodward collection, have a look at some of our previous Woodward posts.

Treasure 39: Florence Nightingale’s letters to C B N Dunn

Today is Florence Nightingale’s 197th birthday, and (not coincidentally) also International Nurses Day – to mark the occasion, here is one of our 50 Treasures posts, about the Florence Nightingale correspondence held here. You can read any of the letters at Boston University’s very user-friendly website, http://archives.bu.edu/web/florence-nightingale

Derbyshire Record Office

Florence Nightingale’s letters to Crich surgeon C B N Dunn are a fascinating read, for their social history content as well as for the insights they can provide into the life of their author.  You can find out more about them in some of our previous blog posts.  In this example (D2546/ZZ/54), Nightingale tells Dunn of candidates for membership of the local Women’s Club – not a recreational club, but a benefit society, which provided a form of insurance against sickness and death.  It was hoped that Dunn could “pass” people as being in good health on joining the club. Collection D1575 (deriving from the Nightingale family’s estates) includes the rules of Lea Friendly Society dated 1832 – this society may well have been the forerunner of the Women’s Club mentioned in the letter.

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50 Treasures – an easier way to explore

A few weeks ago, we finished blogging about Derbyshire Record Office’s “50 Treasures” series of documents, specially selected to illustrate the depth and variety of our archives and local studies material. It’s a project that began back in 2012, as the record office celebrated its 50th anniversary. All 50 posts can be found by searching the blog in the usual ways, but you might like to know that it is now possible to get a bird’s eye view of the full project from our new 50 Treasures page. It is also now possible to adopt your favourite – have a look at the Adopt A Piece Of History page for details.

The Alan Turner Opera Company’s eye-catching archives

Last month, Derbyshire Record Office was delighted to accept the donation of five rather extraordinary albums of photographs and news-cuttings (D8089) assembled by Alan Turner (1902-1967).  Turner was Managing Director of the Ernest Turner group, which included the Spa Lane Mills in Derby.  However, the principal focus of the collection is not textile production, but theatrical productions.  Alan Turner’s eponymous Opera Society/Company put on numerous performances in London in the 1920s and 1930s, before relocating to Derby in later years.  Here is a sample of some of the fantastic photographs and ephemera in the first volume:

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It wasn’t just opera, though Continue reading

Texting U in the 19th century

This is a bit of fun – and a promising start for the new blog from Hampshire Archives and Local Studies

Hampshire Archives and Local Studies

Letter writing is seen as a dying art in the twenty first century as most people now phone, text, tweet, facebook or email. Before all of these inventions, letter writing was the main form of communication, particularly among ladies of the upper classes who were well educated and had plenty of time to write to their often copious relatives and friends. Young ladies in particular often enjoyed combining their drawing skills with that of writing a letter, as can be seen in the example below, which also resulted in an enjoyable puzzle for the recipient to resolve.

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I love it when a plan comes together…

… with the original survey book alongside which it was created.

Plans and survey books are easily separated.  They are superficially very different: a survey may look like a standard hardback of several pages, and the plan that goes with it may be a single sheet, rolled up or folded.  The difference in size and shape means the pair of items are unlikely to be stored on the same shelf or in the same box.  In fact, each might be so useful on its own that from time to time, their custodians forget that they two items were designed to complement one another.

Here’s how they work together.  See the plot numbered 358 on this poor rate plan of Brimington dating from 1827? I have highlighted it with a black arrow.

D177 A PC 37

If I want to find out more about it, I can look at the survey book, and see that it was a Blacksmith’s shop and hovel, owned and occupied by George Richards, amounting to three perches in area.

D636 A PO 1

When Brimington Parish Council was created, as a consequence of the Local Government Act of 1894, the civil functions of Brimington parish began to be administered under a separate authority for the first time.  The church parish, meanwhile, retained its ecclesiastical duties.  In the division of assets, whether by accident or design, the new parish council got to keep the book, while the church held on to the plan.  Come the 1960s, each of these bodies began to deposit its historic records here, so that the survey and plan ended up in separate collections.

Today I added a cross-reference to the catalogue, and I believe it was the first time that anyone at our end had linked the two things together – although I gather from a researcher who visited today that both documents are mentioned by Philip J Cousins in his “Brimington : the changing face of a Derbyshire village”, published to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the parish council.

If you ever want to visit us to use the documents in our search room, or order a paid search of their contents, here are the all-important reference numbers: the book is D636/A/PO/1, and the plan is D177/A/PC/37.

Treasure 50: Walter’s gift of land in 1115

The very last of our 50 Treasures (D77/1/23/58) is believed to be the very first, chronologically: the oldest document we hold. Dating from approximately 1100-1115, during the reign of Henry I, this deed records the gift of a virgate of land by Walter of Ridware to Robert Mellor. The land in question was in Seale, more familiar to us today as Overseal and Netherseal. The term “virgate” was not used with great precision – but it means about 30 acres.

The building plans of Osmaston Manor – now ready for use

You may recall a previous blog post about Osmaston Manor, describing the accidental rediscovery of some building plans.  They had not been listed (perhaps because of their poor condition) but nor had they been repaired, and their existence had been more or less forgotten.

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They have now been cleaned and packaged and, in some cases, repaired. They have also been described in clearer terms in the D1849 catalogue.  If you would like to have a look at these records, you can order them out for use in the search room or you can log on to one of our Netloan computers and look for CD number 397, which contains good quality copies.