Family History from Newspaper Reports of  Court Proceedings: the Offensiveness of Matthew Goodden

Regular readers of our blog will be familiar with Roger, one of our cataloguing volunteers, here is his latest fascinating contribution.

This post arises from my continuing curiosity about a man named Matthew Goodden.  I first learned of him in 2017 while working on documents from the Thornsett Turnpike Trust (ref: D535).  An invoice had survived for payment to be made to Matthew Goodden of Abergavenny for items supplied to a toll house in New Mills.  Why, I wondered, would a man in Abergavenny be supplying items to a toll house in New Mills?  As explained in a post in 2017 I found that Matthew Goodden made a living from securing leases to collect tolls at locations across the country.  This work involved a substantial amount of travel: Matthew Goodden frequently travelled by train; he used tickets which he forged or altered,  a practice which landed him in prison on more than one occasion.  In the 2017 post I made only passing reference to Matthew Goodden’s family circumstances. Recently I’ve discovered more about his family and began to draft this post.  At a late stage I uncovered stark evidence of Matthew Goodden’s abusive behaviour which made me question whether to abandon this post.  But history cannot be limited to pleasant stories.  And I take into account that this is a victim’s story too and she spoke in detail in open court about her experience.

Matthew Goodden’s family story demonstrates the value for family historians of local newspaper reports of court proceedings; particularly in relation to individuals who find themselves in court frequently for one reason or another.  Matthew Goodden found himself facing criminal charges on several occasions: he was also a man who chose to initiate court proceedings in order to settle grievances; and people with a grievance against him took him to court.  Furthermore, after his death the financial arrangements he made for his family generated a dispute that ended in court.  Census records available every ten years from 1841 to 1911 are also an important resource for family historians.  But Matthew Goodden’s family story illustrates that even with the modern facility for digital searching there are challenges about using census records as a source of information about women.  The practice of women taking the surname of their husband or of the man they live with can make it difficult to follow the sequence of a woman’s life.

Matthew Goodden: toll collector, husband and widower

Matthew Goodden’s progress into adulthood is easily followed.  He was born in Yeovil, Somerset, in the early 1820s, the son of toll collector.  By 1841 he was living separately from his family, working at a toll gate in Castle Cary, Somerset.  Matthew Goodden was married at Southleigh, Devon, in 1846. In 1851 he, his wife and two sons were at a toll house near Cam, Gloucestershire.  The accumulation of money was a major objective: Matthew Goodden leased the right to collect tolls at locations across the country.  It becomes clear from a long sequence of court cases, from 1846 onwards, that a traveller who appeared to avoid paying Matthew Goodden or his employee the proper toll was at risk of being taken to court.  Conversely, on a number of occasions Matthew Goodden found himself in court, having demanded too high a toll or come to blows during an argument about payment.

Perhaps his money-making determination led him to overreach himself: for a short period in 1855 he was insolvent and spent time in prison in Taunton.  In order to save money he, in collaboration with his brothers, became accomplished in altering and forging railway tickets: for which he appeared at Gloucester Assizes in 1859 in what would be the first of several such court appearances.  I have found neither Matthew Goodden nor his wife and sons in the 1861 census.  But we can locate him through a newspaper court report: in September 1861 he  took a grievance to the Cheltenham County Court and from the report in the Cheltenham Examiner we can learn that he was at the toll house in Dowdeswell, Gloucestershire.  His wife died there in 1862.

Ann Williams: exploited employee?

At this point a young woman named Ann Williams enters the story.  Born in 1846, her roots were in the three neighbouring Gloucestershire villages of  Whittington, Foxcote and Dowdeswell.  She worked as a servant in the Goodden household in Dowdeswell.  Soon after his wife’s death Matthew Goodden moved to the toll house at Shavers End, Dudley, then in Worcestershire. He persuaded Ann Williams to join him there.  The evidence suggests that she should be regarded as an exploited employee rather than an unmarried wife.  At one point she was briefly remanded in police custody when Matthew Goodden claimed that she had stolen money from him.  She became pregnant:  her mother met Matthew Goodden and then arranged for her to be accommodated with Edwin and Sarah Penrose in Cheltenham; Matthew Goodden undertook to pay all expenses and visited her there after the birth of their daughter, Clara.  But payment was not forthcoming and Edwin Penrose went to court to recover the expense incurred in the care and maintenance of Ann Williams during her pregnancy and confinement. The case was heard in Cheltenham County Court in February 1866 and reported in Cheltenham and Birmingham newspapers.  As well as giving evidence about the arrangements for her confinement Ann Williams alleged that Matthew Goodden had “seduced” her in the toll house at Dowdeswell: this had happened immediately after his wife’s death.  (Ann Williams’ account indicates that what she endured would have been more appropriately defined as rape rather than seduction.  From a twenty-first century viewpoint it is starkly ironic that her evidence was being given in a civil action for recovery of a debt rather than in a criminal court for prosecution of a crime).

At some point Ann Williams returned to Dudley with her daughter and resumed* a relationship with Matthew Goodden (*MG went to Dudley soon after his wife’s death in 1862 and AW went with him. She was apart from him in Cheltenham for confinement and birth in 1865 and by the time of the Cheltenham court case in 1866 she was already back with him in Dudley, so resumed is the correct way to describe their relationship).  But in March 1871 Matthew Goodden was sent to prison for fraudulent use of railway tickets.  The census taken a few weeks later shows him in Nottingham prison.  At a toll house in Tipton were Ann Williams, listed with the surname Goodden, her daughter and her mother.  At a toll house a few miles away at Upper Gornal lived a toll collector named John Hill and his wife Harriet.  What happened next was related thirty years later in a court room in Monmouthshire, (for more see below), and reported in several newspapers.  While Matthew Goodden was in prison Ann Williams and her daughter went to live with John and Harriet Hill.  After some time John Hill “ran away” with Ann Williams: they settled in Manchester where a son was born in 1875 and a daughter in 1882.  In 1895, presumably after the death of John Hill, Ann Williams was married in Manchester to Charles Nolan, a widowed shoe maker.  When the census was taken in 1901 they were living in the Deansgate area of Manchester.  Thus in the six censuses between 1851 and 1901 Ann Williams is recorded under her birth surname and also under the surnames Goodden, Hill and finally Nolan

Sisters Harriet Hill and Mary Brettel

At some point after Matthew Goodden’s release from Nottingham prison Harriet Hill became his “wife” and stepmother to Clara Goodden (born Williams).  He employed Harriet’s sister, Mary Brettel as a toll collector.  A newspaper report in 1875 records a court case in which Matthew Goodden asserted a financial claim. In the Worcestershire County Court he sought to recover the sum of some £5 collected in tolls which he accused Mary Brettel of withholding. She disputed the claim and the court found in her favour.  The court was told that she had given birth to a child by Matthew Goodden and that the money she retained was to cover the costs of her confinement.  Three years later, when Mary Brettel was married in Wolverhampton, not only was Matthew Goodden present at the ceremony: he signed the register as a witness to the marriage.  This episode did not prevent Mary’s sister, Harriet Hill, living as Matthew Goodden’s “wife” for the last thirty years of his life.

Harriet, Clara and Matthew Goodden: settled in Abergavenny

After a failed bid in 1874 Matthew Goodden obtained in 1879 the lease of tolls in Abergavenny, Monmouthshire, and the census taken in 1881 shows him settled there with Harriett and Clara.  Toward the end of the nineteenth century the practice of providing for road construction and maintenance through tolls was discontinued. But some bridges remained subject to tolls and Matthew Goodden was able to continue as a toll collector at the Llangrwyney bridge over the River Usk between Crickhowell and Abergavenny.  In 1888 Matthew Goodden witnessed the marriage of his daughter Clara to James Gwatkin; someone made sure that the local newspaper knew to report that his wedding present to the couple was a cheque for £1,000.  In 1890 Matthew Goodden was convicted at Hereford Assizes of forging railway tickets: when the census was taken in 1891 he was in Hereford prison and Harriet was at the Bridge toll house with a young niece.  This toll house remained Matthew and Harriet Goodden’s home: they are recorded there in the census of 1901.

A disputed bank account

During his life Matthew Goodden sought to make financial provision for  his family. He was regarded as a man who “saved money in every possible way” and was reported to have accumulated between £7,000 and £8,000.   He did not make a will but sought to avoid death duties by depositing money in the names of his two surviving sons, Edwin and Robert, his daughter Clara, and his “wife” Harriet.  After his death in 1903 the money in one bank account, about £750, was a matter of dispute between Harriett Goodden and Clara Gwatkin, a dispute given added force by Clara Gwatkin’s objection to Harriet Goodden’s intention to marry Matthew Goodden’s brother Robert Goodden.  This marriage did take place about ten weeks after Matthew Goodden‘s death. The dispute about the deposited money was contested at a hearing at Monmouthshire Assizes in 1904. The evidence given in court, reported in several newspapers, included much detail about the sequence of events of Matthew Goodden’s life, detail which has informed this post.

Sources:

The major newspaper reports cited are:

(available via The British Newspaper Archive)

  • ‘Heartless Case of Seduction’ Cheltenham Examiner, 28 February 1866 (with similar text in: ‘Extraordinary Revelations in a County Court’ Birmingham Daily Gazette, 26 February 1866)
  • ‘Astounding Claim: Goodden v Brettell’ County Advertiser & Herald for Staffordshire and Worcestershire, 21 August 1875

(available the Welsh Newspapers website of the National Library of Wales)

  • ‘Old Man and His Money Abergavenny Family Dispute Remarkable Case Recalled Strange Story at Monmouth Assizes’ Cardiff Times and South Wales Weekly News, 27 February 1904

See also

A family historian has included a photograph of Matthew Goodden in their family tree on Geni.com, taken from Elizabeth Jack’s CD Victorian Prisoners of Gloucester Gaol: A Rogue’s Gallery (Gloucestershire Family History Society).

 

 

Records of Crime and Punishment

An introductory guide to historical records of criminals, policing, law and order in Derbyshire.

Most records relating to crime and punishment contain personal information – if the records relate to people who were born less than 100 years ago, access restrictions apply.  Please contact us to discuss arrangements for accessing these records.

Police

Outside of London, Justices of the Peace were first permitted to establish county forces under the 1839 County Police Act, but it was not mandatory until the County and Borough Police Act of 1856.  It was under this later Act that the Derbyshire Constabulary was established on 17 March 1857.  However, the first constabularies to be established in the county were in 1836 by the boroughs Chesterfield and Derby (under the Municipal Corporations Act 1835), Glossop borough followed in 1867.  Following mergers in 1947 a single force covered the whole county, plus Derby from 1967 and the main archive collection for the county and borough constabularies are held under reference D3376; although some records are held in other collections.

When the county force was first established, it was overseen by the County Quarter Sessions (see below).  In 1889 Derbyshire County Council took over the administrative functions of County Quarter Sessions and a Joint Standing Committee (see D919/C/1/6) was established consisting of equal numbers of justices and county councillors to oversee the county police force, with Borough Watch Committees maintaining responsibility over their respective forces.  The Joint Standing Committee had exclusive control of all buildings used for police and quarter sessions purposes – for minutes of the buildings committee see D919/C/1/7/1-2.  The 1964 Police Act abolished the Standing Joint committee replacing it with a Police committee of the County Council with magistrates forming one third of its membership, see D919/C/1/58/1-3 for the committee minutes.

A small number of other collections and a larger number of records in a variety of other collections of individual police officers, local bodies working with the police and related activities are also described in the online catalogue, along with details of items in the Local Studies Library.  Further items can also be found by searching for the word ‘police’ or other relevant words in the Title field.

This article, written by the great-great-grandson of a Victorian police constable, shows just how much can discovered about individual officers.  

Petty constables

Prior to the establishment of the professional police forces, maintaining law and order was primarily the responsibility of a local constable appointed by Justices of the Peace from a list of eligible candidates produced by the parish Overseers of the Poor.  Although sometimes referred to as the parish constable, the area they covered was not necessarily contiguous with the parish boundaries.  The constable would “present” to the county Quarter Sessions accusations usually of minor wrongdoing against people in his jurisdiction.  Some records, particularly 18th and 19th century constables accounts may be found amongst the parish archives, and presentments are also held in the county Quarter Sessions archive.

Quarter Sessions

The County Quarter Sessions was the main administrative and judicial body for the County of Derbyshire from the early medieval period until the late 19th century, and records survive chiefly from the 17th century.  The Quarter Sessions dealt with minor or preliminary judicial cases and with the administration of local government including oversight of the poor and settlement laws. 

The records are divided into four categories, with the main records relating to crime and punishment are:

  • Order Books (from 1682) record the decisions (i.e. orders) both administrative and judicial issued by the court, often including the place of residence and occupation of defendants along with a description of the crime and sentence (ref: Q/SO/1).  They also give information about the appointment of county and local officials, including indictments against parishes and their officials relating to failure to carry out their functions such as maintaining bridges and highways
  • Calendars of Prisoners (from 1694) are quarterly lists of  prisoners in the county gaol and houses of correction, and charges against them (ref: Q/SP).  They are handwritten until 1820 and ultimately also include age and some indication of literacy.  The records between 1729 and 1913 can be searched online.  
  • Orders of and bonds for Transportation to America between 1720-1772 (ref: Q/AT).
  • Jury lists recording the names of those eligible for jury service primarily for 1775-1875, with a few entries as early as 1702 and late as 1922 (ref: Q/RJ)
  • The minutes of the Police Committee and other records relating to the management of the Derbyshire Constabulary after 1857 are currently unlisted.  See Cox’s Three Centuries of Derbyshire Annals (1890) and Calendar of Records of the County of Derbyshire (1899) for further information.

The borough (now city) of Derby fell outside the jurisdiction of the county Quarter Sessions with Court of Record established 1446 and Quarter Sessions in 1611.  As with the county, matters of civil administration were transferred to the Borough Council in 1889.  Unfortunately, a fire in the 19th century and a flood in the 20th century destroyed many of Derby’s official records.  Nevertheless, some early records (including Order Books from 1628) do survive and are catalogued under reference D3551.

In 1972, Quarter Sessions and Assize courts (see below) were abolished and replaced by Crown Courts.

Petty Sessions, later known as Magistrates Courts

Since at least the 16th century, Justices of the Peace also presided over local courts of summary jurisdiction in cases of petty crime.  These Petty Sessions often covered very similar areas to the older hundreds and wapentakes.  From at least 1750 (when the earliest records survive) Derbyshire justices began to make returns of certificates of convictions to Quarter Sessions (ref: Q/UL).  There are also three registers of private jurisdiction between 1765 and 1859, but the main records begin in 1828.  They consist principally of registers of summary jurisdiction.  Separate registers may survive for licensing (particularly for public houses and theatres) from 1872, for juvenile offenders from 1933 and for minutes of special sessions, also called justices’ meetings.  A list of the archive collections for the Derbyshire Petty Sessions/Magistrates Courts can be found on our online catalogue

Petty Sessions also dealt with non-criminal business, particularly highways matters, appointments of parish officers, licensing and adoption cases.

TIP: as the majority of court records are limited in the information they provide, particularly with regards to witness statements, newspapers are often the most useful source for details of a particular case.

County Courts

The original County Courts developed out the Shire Courts of Anglo-Saxon England.  After the Norman Conquest, the Shire Reeves (Sheriffs) became their presiding officers and remained so until the establishment of the modern County Courts in 1846.  During the Middle Ages, the County Courts lost their criminal jurisdiction and their judicial competence was restricted to pleas of certain trespasses and actions for less than 40 shillings.  The only surviving Derbyshire records are the court books between 1826 and 1844 (ref: D2) and a book of pleas 1785-1795 (ref: D5836).  

The court books show that the County Court in the 19th century still considered many cases relating to small debts, but that the range of matters dealt with was very narrow, including arrangements for Parliamentary elections. 

County Courts in their modern form were established by Act of Parliament in 1846 as courts for the easier recovery of small debts.  Successive Acts widened their jurisdiction to any common law action, tort, contract, title to lands, probate, equity jurisdiction, bankruptcy and even Admiralty jurisdiction (though the latter of course doesn’t apply in Derbyshire).  Often the jurisdiction was limited considerably by the financial value of what was in dispute but undoubtedly they transacted a great deal of business, primarily relating to civil cases concerning debt and bankruptcy.   Unfortunately, only a small number of records have survived, including minute books (also known as plaint and minute books) and bankruptcy and Workmen’s Compensation Acts registers.  For further information about the collections and records available please see our online catalogue.

Assizes Court

The Assize Court was a national court that travelled to the counties on circuits.  Originally the assizes mainly dealt with property disputes, but eventually they began to try criminal cases.  From 1559 assize judges mainly dealt with the more serious criminal offences such as homicide, infanticide, theft, highway robbery, rape, assault, coining, forgery, witchcraft, trespass, vagrancy and recusancy.

As a national court, the records at held at The National Archives under reference ASSI.  Whilst you can search the catalogue for specific personal or place names, these records have not been fully catalogued and therefore searching by county may be more successful.  For Derbyshire, the following records survive:

  • Crown and Gaol Books, 1818-1945 (ref: ASSI 11)
  • Indictments, 1662, 1667, 1687 (ref: ASSI 80), 1868-1971 (ref: ASSI 12)
  • Depositions, 1862-1971 (ref: ASSI 13)

Other records for Derbyshire can be found under ASSI 15 and ASSI 88.  Some Calendars of Prisoners for Assizes cases 1830-1971 are held at Derbyshire Record Office under Q/SP, an index is available online up to 1875.

Manor court records

Some local minor crimes and civil offences relating to the management of the land came under the jurisdiction of the lord of the manor.  Use the Manorial Documents Register to discover what records have survived for each manor.

Further Reading
  • The National Archives research guides
  • Philip Riden (1987) Records Sources for Local History
  • Derbyshire Record Office (Archives First Series) Keeping the Peace: law and order in the past in Derbyshire. A Beginner’s Guide

School and College archives

A guide to archives of education in Derbyshire.

Before the Victorian period, there was limited access to formal education for most children because schooling was available mainly through fee-paying private, public and grammar schools.  In 1811 the Church of England founded the National Society for Promoting the Education of the Poor in the Principles of the Established Church and encouraged the creation of schools throughout the country.  The following year, the British and Foreign Bible Society supported non-denominational education through “British” Schools, sometimes also known as Lancastrian Schools.  Legislative developments (including the Factory Acts promoting the establishment of education for children at work and the 1834 Poor Law (Amendment) Act requiring three hours of education per day for children in the workhouse) were limited until the Education Act of 1870.

This Act established School Boards to build and administer schools where existing education provision was inadequate.  Acts of 1876 and 1880 made education compulsory for children up to aged 10 and in 1901 elementary education became free of charge.

The Boards were abolished by the 1902 Education Act and established County and County Borough Councils as Local Education Authorities (LEAs).  The LEA system remains in place today though it does not cover schools that have become academies.  After 1902, the next significant change came in 1944 when the Butler Act widened the availability of secondary education, laying the groundwork for comprehensive, non-selective secondary schools.

School Board records tend to include the minutes of the Board meetings and financial records.  A full list of archive collections for School Boards can be found here.

School records

Although many schools have transferred or deposited records (including non-denominational and some Roman Catholic schools) unlike for parishes and public-recording bodies, there is no statutory or other obligation on schools to transfer their archives to the record office. Dates of the records vary from school to school but most begin from the late 19th century.  We hold virtually no archive collections for fee-paying schools, and it is best to contact the schools directly as many of them have their own arrangements.  The main series of school records available:

  • Log books are the Headteacher’s record of daily activities and can include information relating to staff appointments and sickness, pupil attendance figures, curriculum information and comments on school buildings.  Occasionally they may refer to some pupils by name and almost always include useful information about the local area.  In the 19th and early 20th century, the report of the HM Inspector was usually copied into the log book.
  • Admission registers usually give dates of pupil’s entry and departure, often including reason for leaving, age and date of birth, name and address of parent/guardian.  Most Derbyshire pre-1914 admission registers and log books can be found on Find My Past (subscription required).
  • Minutes of the meetings of managers/governors/trustees, mainly relating to administration

Other records that might be found in a school archive collection include photographs, newscuttings, school magazines/newsletters, event programmes, a small number of schools rules and teaching schemes, some school scrapbooks and occasionally Inspection Reports.

Pupil cards are only held for a very small number of schools: Netherthorpe School at Staveley, Tapton House School, Chesterfield, William Rhodes Secondary School for Boys, Chesterfield, Violet Markham School, Chesterfield, Chesterfield Grammar School, St Mary’s Roman Catholic Secondary School, Chesterfield and Herbert Strutt School, Belper.

Finding the records

Lists of the archive collections for schools and colleges and universities can be found on our online catalogue.  To find records for specific school, college, school board (or all those in a particular town), search the catalogue entering the word ‘school’ (or ‘school board’ or ‘college’, etc.) and the school/place name in the Archive Collection Creator field:

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Other records relating to schools
  • Parish archives for references to private and charitable educational foundations
  • D335 for school plans submitted to central government for building grants in the 19th century and D2200 for plans created by the County Architect’s Department
  • County Council’s School Organisation files (mostly for closed schools) are held under references D2080 and D5288, with other records from the county council’s Education department under reference DCC/ED, including a small number of Registers of Teaching and Caretaking Staff arranged by school are available between 1904 and 1946, along with some Pupil Teacher records 1904-1908
  • OFSTED Inspection reports are held in Local Studies
  • House of Commons report of 1841/2 on educational provision is also available in Local Studies (class: 370.94251, file).
A note about access

Under the Data Protection Act, records containing personal information less than 100 years old are not generally available for public consultation. Access to these records may be permitted if evidence is provided that the individual to whom the information relates is no longer living. In many cases, we may not be able to provide access to the full record in the search room, as other people mentioned in the records may still be alive. In these cases, our staff can undertake a search of the records on your behalf and provide relevant extracts from the record.

Records not held by the record office 
  • pupil records or personal files for individual pupils (excluding the pupil cards for schools mentioned above)
  • examinations results and certificates
  • current school records.
Further Reading
  • Marion Johnson (1970) Derbyshire Village Schools in the 19th century
  • A. Clarke (1983) Finding out about Victorian Schools
  • P. Horn (1978) Education in Rural England, 1800-1914
Appendix: Features of Victorian school education
  • Class monitors: older school children who acted as teaching assistants
  • Pupil-teacher system: introduced in 1846, 13-year old children were appointed as pupil teachers within schools.  At the end of this time, they could progress to college to formally qualify
  • ‘Payment by results’: from 1862 grant aid was linked to regular pupil attendance and performance in exams
  • Standards: from 1862, pupils in elementary schools were divided into six standards according to age, ability and successful completion of annual exams.

 

 

Coal mining records

A guide to records of the Derbyshire coal mining industry (written March 1993, updated June 2020).

Development of coal mining in Derbyshire

There has been coal mining in Derbyshire since the medieval period.  Mining initially took place along the eastern edge of the county, around Dronfield, Chesterfield, Alfreton, Ripley and Heanor, where the coal seams occur close to the surface.  Production was not large, as charcoal was widely available as a source of domestic fuel, and the extent of coal mining operations depended on the interest of the private landlords under whose estates the seams lay. 

The demand for Derbyshire coal increased from the 18th century.  Local lead was now being smelted using coal fired hearths, whilst the construction of the Derbyshire canal network and subsequently the rail network, meant that both lead and coal could be distributed to wider markets far more cheaply than had hitherto been possible.  The incentive of profit attracted entrepreneurs into the coal industry and led to the formation and growth of large colliery companies.  In 1790, the partnership of Benjamin Outram, Francis Beresford, John Wright and William Jessop bought the freehold of the Butterley Hall estate (see comment below), from which they shortly took the name The Butterley Company, and began mining for coal and iron-ore.  See D503 for the large archive collection for the firm.

Coal Mining Archive Collections

Derbyshire Record Office holds a number of private family and estate collections relating to to coal mining on private lands:

  • D1881 Coke of Brookhill
  • D76 and D187 Hallowes of Glapwell
  • D2535, D126 and D513 Hurt of Alderwasley
  • D517 Miller Mundy of Shipley
  • D2536 Oakes of Riddings
  • D1763 Palmer-Morewood of Alfreton Hall
  • D255 Ray of Heanor Hall
  • D505 Rodes of Barlborough
  • D1000 Sitwell of Renishaw
  • D551 Strelley of Denby Old Hall

In some cases  these landlords worked the coal themselves, as part of their estate, in other cases they leased the right to work the ground in return for mineral rents.

The main coal mining archive held at the record office was received from the National Coal Board (NCB) in various consignments.  The Coal Industry Nationalisation Act 1946 transferred the ownership of all coal mines from the private colliery companies to the State.  The NCB records are public records, and whilst they do contain some post-1946 material, the bulk of the archive is made up of pre-vesting material inherited by the NCB from 80 collieries and colliery companies, including 1,400 plans and hundreds of photographs.  The records of each colliery and each company have not been kept together but were split up by the NCB and much material has been lost. Over 2020 and 2021 we are cataloguing and conserving this collection as part of the Wellcome Trust funded project Mining the Seams, in partnership with Warwickshire County Record Office, who are also cataloguing their coal mining records.

Between 2016 and 2017, the large archive of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) Derbyshire Area was also catalogued with funding from the Wellcome Trust.  As part of the project, it is now possible to search and download our anonymised data about coal miners’ occupational ill health and accidents in Derbyshire on the Miners’ Health and Welfare Project website.

A list of archive collections for coal mining companies can be found via the online catalogue, as can a partial list of Local Studies items relating to coal mining.

Coal Mining Records

Title deeds: large number of title deeds have survived both in the family collections and amongst the records of the NCB.  The purpose of the title deed is to show proof of ownership of the mine.  In many cases there may be a whole series of  title deeds for the same plot of land, tracing its ownership back to the Middle Ages.  In such cases it is unlikely that the early deeds will even mention coal.  Many colliery companies leased the right to work the local seams from the owner of the land and lease documents are likely to survive.

Other family and estate records: if the family worked the mines on its own estates then there may be accounts relating to the amount of coal produced and the costs incurred.  If however, the family leased the mines to a private company there may be accounts relating to the amount of mineral rent received.

Company records: by the late 19th and early 20th century colliery companies were producing a huge amount and variety of records, as the industry became the subject of increasing regulation.  The researcher may find sales ledgers, letter books, production figures, minute books, managers reports, equipment inventories, and even the occasional register of pit ponies.  For those attempting to trace an individual miner there are a limited number of staff registers, signing-on books, accident report books and pay records for several Derbyshire companies.

Price lists and Wage agreements: the early 20th century saw disputes over miners’ pay claims which culminated in the strike of 1926.  The NCB archive (formerly reference N3) contains much contemporary material relating to this issue, including a large number of price lists and wage agreements.  The price list is a printed list, published by the colliery company, detailing the amount the company is prepared to pay the miner for different types of work on a particular seam.  The prices paid are normally per ton of coal produced, or per yard mined, and will vary from seam to seam.

Maps and Plans: particularly of underground workings.  These can be difficult to use, especially when they do not show many (or even any) surface working to which the underground tunnels can be related. 

Derbyshire Coat of Arms

As we are using the opportunities of lockdown to convert old catalogues and resources into a digital format, I thought I would include this information about the Derbyshire coat of arms – the notes appear to have been written by Miss Sinar, the first County Archivist for Derbyshire, in the 1960s or 1970s.  I have re-typed almost word for word.

Derbyshire County Council were granted their current arms on 17 September 1937.  Until then the Council had used for its seal (on the advice of J. Charles Cox at its establishment in 1889), the old county badge of a rose with an imperial crown above it.  The imperially crowned rose is a royal device reserved for use by the crown or reigning monarch and those who have received the crown’s permission to use it.

John Reynolds of Plaistow, an 18th century antiquarian, wrote in 1750 that Edward IV granted the badge of the rose to Derbyshire and Charles II permitted the county to use his own device of a crowned rose – Charles II like his father and grandfather actually used a rose and a thistle beneath a crown.  The red and white Tudor rose imperially crowned was worked into the initial H on a number of Henry VIII’s charters.

Cox claims that Derbyshire was using the imperially crowned rose in the early 16th century and that Henry VIII or even Henry VII must have given permission.  Neither Plaistow nor Cox produce any evidence to support their claims and no-one really knows when and why Derbyshire began to use the rose or when and why the imperial crown was added.

The old badge was not authorised by the College of Arms, and when in the 1930s the County Council needed a new seal, it was decided to seek a grant of arms.  The Heralds could not use the crowned rose in the arms because no royal grant of the right to use it could be traced.  So a rose of the same type above a buck in a park was suggested.  Several towns in Derbyshire use a buck as their badge and the buck in the park is the old heraldic pun on Derby – a Scandanavian name which probably means the farm of the deer.  Deer were in fact plentiful in early medieval Derbyshire for many places have names associated with deer: Derby, Darley, Buxton, Hindlow, Harthill, Hartshay, Hartshorne (but not Hartington).

The council did not like the suggested design and asked the Duke of Devonshire, then Lord Lieutenant, if they might use the three stags heads from his arms.  There were two reasons – the three stags heads and the rose made a better balanced and more attractive design, and the Cavendish family have a long history in the county, both as land owners and in public service.  The duke agreed and the present design for the arms was then prepared by the College.

The heraldic description of the arms reads:

Or a rose gules surmounted by another argent both barbaed and seeded proper on a chief stable three stags heads caboshed of the third

County coat of arms 1937

The 1937 coat of arms (from a stamp in one of our library books)

The council also adopted, at the same time the motto: Bene Consulendo, by taking good counsel.  This is part of a phrase of Sallust, a classical Latin author, and is not actually part of the grant of arms.

Following local government reorganisation, the arms were re-granted to the new Derbyshire County Council in 1975 and supporters and a crest were also granted.

Coat of Arms

Coat of Arms granted 1975

The basic coat of arms is that first granted to the County Council in 1937, a Tudor rose with three stags heads above.  The rose was taken from the centuries old county badge, and the stags heads from the Cavendish arms by the permission of the Duke of Devonshire.

The new supporters, a stag and a ram, have special significance for Derbyshire.  Deer are very closely associated with the county, founded by the Danish invaders of the 9th century, who named their first fort, Derby, for the wild deer were so abundant in the area.  Sheep were introduced in the New Stone Age.  They were the foundation of local farming, and later provided the raw materials of the early cloth and leather industry on which many of the county’s towns are based.  The ram was the county’s regimental mascot.

The dragon of the crest, with his plainly turned out metal collar and golden pick, symbolises at once the county’s foundation by the Danes (men of the dragon ships) and also the county’s mining and engineering enterprise.  Dragons traditionally amass underground and guard great mineral wealth.  Derbyshire has mined, quarried and worked its raw materials for centuries to build the heritage of the present and future county.

Anglican ecclesiastical records

A guide to the archives of the Church of England in Derbyshire.

In 1969, Derbyshire Record Office was legally designated by the Bishop of Derby as the Derby Diocesan Record Office and parish records are also deposited under the Parochial Registers and Records Measure 1978.  The office is also approved by the Master of the Rolls for the deposit of tithe records.

The Diocese of Derby was created in 1927.  Prior to this, the whole county was an archdeaconry in the Diocese of Lichfield to 1884 and then in the Diocese of Southwell.

Diocese of Derby

Most the of diocesan records held at Derbyshire Record Office date from the creation of the diocese in 1927, although some series (including glebe terriers and tithe records, ref: D2360) were transferred from the diocesan registers of Lichfield and Southwell.  The records of these dioceses are held at Staffordshire Record Office and Nottinghamshire Archives respectively.

Broadly speaking the diocesan records here at Derbyshire Record Office fall into five categories:

  • Administration including induction papers, reports and files
  • Finance including minutes, accounts and reports
  • Churches and property including minutes, deeds, architect’s files and drawings, glebe terriers and tithe records
  • Education including minutes, reports and accounts
  • Social responsibility including minutes, accounts, reports and case books.

Some early boards created on an archdiaconal basis continued as diocesan organisations and these records are also held.  A list of all the archive collections for the Diocese of Derby can be seen here via our online catalogue.

Parishes

The basic unit of the Anglican hierarchy is the parish, sometimes with missions or chapels and sometimes united with other benefices or operating as part of a team ministry.  Changing patterns of population led to the creation of many new parishes in urban areas, particularly in the 19th and 20th centuries, some of which have now been amalgamated.  County boundary changes have sometimes been reflected in the transfer of parishes to different dioceses.  

A full list of parish archive collections can be seen here, or search the online catalogue using the place name and word parish in the Title field, and select Fonds as the Level:
Parish Search

Parish records may include:

  • Registers of baptisms, marriages, banns and burials (some as early as 1538), and occasionally services from the late 19th century
  • Faculties and other documents relating to the income of the church and to the church building
  • tithe maps and schedules
  • records of church schools and charities
  • accounts (and occasionally other records) of parish officials – churchwardens, constables/headboroughs, *surveyors of the highways and *overseers of the poor including settlement papers, removal orders, bastardy papers, pauper apprenticeship indentures, some as early the 17th century
  • minutes and other records of the *vestry and later the Parochial Church Council.

*Until 1894, the parish was also a civil administrative unit.

The commencement date of surviving registers and a brief history indicating when each of the non-ancient parishes was created and from which other parish/es can be found in our Parish Register Guide.

Rural Deaneries

When the Diocese of Derby was created in 1927, new archdeaconries of Derby and Chesterfield were established.  Within the archdeaconry, parishes were, and are, organised into rural deaneries.  Clergy within the deanery meet regularly in chapter or conference – no deanery chapter or conference minutes survive before the 1840s. 

A list of the archive collections for rural deaneries can be seen here via our online catalogue.

Presbyterian National Church

Episcopacy (rule of the church by bishops) was abolished in 1646 during the civil war and a Presbyterian national church came into being.  Fully developed, a Presbyterian church would have consisted of four levels of organisation: the congregation or parish presbytery; the clerical assembly (or classis) formed of delegates from the parochial presbyteries within a specific area; the provincial synod; the national assembly.

This system was never fully implemented in England but, in the 1650s, groups of ministers came together to establish “classical” assemblies such as the Wirksworth classis (ref: D125).  Much of its business consisted of the examination and ordination of candidates for the ministry, chiefly, but not exclusively, within the area of Wirksworth Wapentake. When the monarch was restored in 1660, the Church of England was also restored as the established church.

 

Building control plans

A guide to the history of building control and to the surviving plans at Derbyshire Record Office.

Building plan

In the early Victorian period, outbreaks of disease – especially the cholera epidemics of 1848 – aroused public concern over poor housing and defective drains and sewers. The Public Health Acts of 1848 and 1872, as well as the Local Government Act of 1858 framed important legislation for the evolution of building control.

When building regulation was first introduced in 1848, requiring that all new buildings or alterations to existing buildings were approved, this applied only to those areas covered by the new Local Boards of Health (established in populated areas not covered by Borough Councils) and the existing boroughs. For most parts of the country, building regulations were not established until 1894 under the new Rural and Urban District Councils (replacing rural and urban sanitary authorities established in 1872). 

Note: Building control plans should not be confused with the plans submitted for planning permission since 1948, although sometimes the same plans may have been used for both purposes.

About the records

Registers: of the plans submitted give varying levels of information over time. Typically the register includes the date the plan was deposited, a plan reference number, situation and description of the property, name of the person who submitted the plan and the address of the owner. Very occasionally the name of the builder is given and often the decision of the planning committee. Some, but by no means all, are indexed by street name and/or the property owner.

Plans: the existence of plans varies significantly between authorities, as due to the significant storage space required to house the plans, some files may have been destroyed by the authority or its successor after 1974.  For some authorities, only a selection of the plans have been retained.

Where they survive, the plans are detailed scale plans, usually with elevations, sections and a site plan, and often in colour. They were generally produced by professional architects, surveyors, or occasionally, builders. In the case of alterations to existing buildings, there may be both before and after plans.

The surviving plans are usually part of the building control file that includes a copy of the application form and sometimes additional correspondence about the project.

Unfortunately, registers and plans only survive for a small number of Derbyshire authorities.  Please see our catalogue for a list of pre-1974 authorities where building regulation registers and/or plans have survived.  If the authority is not listed, unfortunately this means no plans or registers have been deposited at Derbyshire Record Office.

Using the records
  1. Unless you already have a good idea of when the property was built (or altered) it is advisable to consult Ordnance Survey maps to help narrow down the date at which the work occurred.  Other sources can also help with this.
  2. Identify the local authority that was responsible for the area in question – we are working on making this information available via our online catalogue. In the meantime, please use this list: derbyshire-place-names-database (Download)
  3. Check our online catalogue to see if any building plans and/or registers survive for that authority – enter the authority name in the Title field (e.g. Chesterfield Rural District Council) and then select ‘Fonds’ from the Level field.  Alternatively, click here for a list of the 31 local authority collections containing building regulation records.
  4. Consult the registers and/or indexes if there are any – this is especially helpful for those collections for which no list of plan numbers is currently available.
  5. We are grateful to our volunteers who have recently catalogued the surviving building plans for a small number of the local authorities. For the remaining authorities, if you have identified a plan number from the register we can check the boxes to see if a corresponding plan survives.  Alternatively, you are welcome to work through the unlisted boxes for a particular authority to see if any relevant files are available.
Research Possibilities

Building control plans can provide useful information on the history of notable buildings, houses, mills, factories, cinemas, new streets, housing estates, and so on.  They can also be used to provide evidence about the development of local landscapes and topography, to examine the relationships between the built environment and public health, to compare different building types and styles, to trace the development of factory design, and as historic data about the influence of individual builders and architects.  Plans can also help in dating modern additions to older properties – particularly the installation of modern utilities and amenities.

Other Building Plans

This guide specifically looks at the records created as part of the local authority building control system from 1848 and planning permission from 1948.   However, other building plans do survive amongst the collections at Derbyshire Record Office, including in the family and estate archives and business archives.  For schools and other public buildings a large number of building plans are held under references D335 and D2200.

Ordnance Survey maps c1880 and c2005, at the 25”:1 mile scale giving sufficient detail to be able to see building shapes. For larger towns, 50”:1 mile scale gives even greater detail.

Other records

As the applications required approval from the relevant committee within each local authority, occasionally some useful information may be found amongst the minutes of that committee.  Check the catalogue list to see what is available for the relevant authority.

Further Reading

For a brief overview of the development of planning regulations, see Riden, Philip (1987) Record Sources for Local History.

Wonderful words

I first came across the word wapentake about 12 years ago when I started working at the record office – I understood that it described an ancient jurisdiction, similar in meaning (though not necessarily in geography) to the district and borough jurisdictions we have today.  I also discovered that the term hundred was also an area delineating a particular ancient jurisdiction.

I am currently reading Viking Britain, a very interesting book by co-curator of the British Museum’s 2014 Viking exhibition, Thomas Williams and actually learned the etymology (origin) of the word: it comes from the Old Norse vápnatak meaning weapon-taking thus telling us about the people (men) who would have attended the meetings from that area, i.e. those who carried weapons (Williams, 2017, p. 222).

This got me thinking about lots of other words that we come across quite regularly at the record office but perhaps just take for granted without thinking about where they come from. So here is a bit of, did you know… as well as some words unfamiliar to the modern vocabulary that favourites amongst our staff.

manuscript – comes from the Latin, manu meaning ‘by hand’ and script meaning ‘to write’

mortgage – a word common in the world outside of historical research, but do you know where the word comes from? Literally meaning ‘dead pledge’, as per the mort in mortuary, and the Old French for pledge gage

frankpledge – a medieval system of self-governance whereby men in groups known as tithings accepted mutual responsibility for the good behaviour of other members of the group. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word itself comes from a mistranslation of the Norman word friϸborh [frithborh] which in turns translates as peace-pledge

wardrobe – did you know that this was also a royal financial institution, evolving out of the role of the keeper of the king’s robes who was also responsible for managing his personal expenses?

hundred – in context of local administration, hundreds, like the wapentake was a subdivision of the shire. First explicitly mentioned around 940 AD but the hundreds with their regular judicial gatherings are undoubtedly earlier.

infangthief: formed from the following components – (1) the adverb in (2) fangen, being the past participle of fon meaning ‘to seize’ and (3) ϸéof meaning ‘thief’. Literally it means “thief sized within”, and in practical legal terms meaning the right of the lord to of a manor to try and to amerce (i.e. fine) a thief caught within the manor. By contrast, outfangthief is the right of the lord to pursue a thief beyond the boundaries of his jurisdiction and bringing him back to the manor court for trial.

roods and perches – historically land was measured in acres, roods and perches (a r p). Whilst we are still familiar with acres today, roods and perches have been lost to posterity. Traditionally, an acre is the area that can be ploughed by eight oxen in one day (the word itself coming from the Latin for field), there are four roods in an acre, and 40 perches in a rood.

messuage – an Anglo-French word originally referring to the portion of land for a dwelling place. It is probable that the word originated from a misreading of mesnage referring to economical management and the verb ‘to husband’

husbandman – husbandry refers to work in the domestic economy, not with respect to the domestic duties we think of today, but rather the agricultural side of domestic life. Husbandman refers specifically to the occupation of those employed in the field of husbandry. Although the original Middle English use of the word does relate more to the management of the household.

hereditament – from the Latin hereditamentum and referring to property that would be inherited by the common law descendent of its owner unless explicitly stated otherwise in a will. This is a common term in early modern and later title deeds, but the specific legal implication may not always be appreciated by its modern reader.

appurtenance – another very common term in title deeds referring to a ‘thing’ or minor property that pertains to another. It comes from the Latin appertinentia, and has equivalents in Middle English and Anglo French.

demesne – historically pronounced de-main, but now usually pronounced de-mean, this word has the same origin as the word ‘domain’ and ultimately comes from the Latin for lord, dominicus. It means the land owned and occupied by the lord rather than being let out to tenants – nevertheless, the work on the land was generally done by his feudal tenants.

nervous – did you see Melanie’s recent post about a letter in the Miller Mundy collection sent two days after the Battle of Trafalgar, which includes the following sentence relating to Admiral Nelson’s message to the sailors before the battle: “The Captains of course turn’d their men up and read the short but nervous sentence to them”. It was pointed out to me that ‘nervous’ did not mean apprehensive (perhaps about the impending the battle), but rather it is the Middle English meaning sinewy, vigorous and strong.

What about place names?  We can’t unfortunately provide a full list here, but here are some of the favourites of record office staff:

Fenny Bentley – meaning boggy grass pasture.

  • Like the Fens, fenny refers to marshy or boggy land
  • ‘bent’ comes from the Old English beonet and refers to ‘grass of a reedy habit’ or to a ‘place covered in grass’
  • -ley is a very common place-name ending meaning pasture

Nearby Hungry Bentley probably relates to the poor quality of the land or possibly the poor food of its inhabitants.

bourne – there are lots of places in Derbyshire and across the country ending with ‘bourne’ and it means small stream or brook. Ecclesbourne then means ‘church by the small stream’. Although it might be tempting to read Ashbourne as referring to a tree by a small stream, ash also means stream so Ashbourne literally means ‘stream stream’.

And did you know that the £ sign evolved from the abbreviated form of the Latin word for pound – libra. Contracted to li with a line through to indicate that it was abbreviated.

References

Thomas Williams (2017) Viking Britain: a history (link to library catalogue)

The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary (1959)

Kenneth Cameron (1959) Place-Names of Derbyshire

Do you have any favourite words or Derbyshire place names with an interesting origin?

Divorce records

A guide to finding divorce records

The main official record of a divorce is the Decree Absolute, copies of which can be ordered online via the UK Government website.  The earliest of these records is dated 1858.

Up to 1937, case files are held by The National Archives, and can be searched online by the name of petitioner, respondent or co-respondent for divorce suits in England and Wales, both successful and unsuccessful.  The files up to 1918 can be searched and downloaded via Ancestry.

Records available at Derbyshire Record Office

Although the main records of divorce are held centrally, we do hold registers of summary jurisdiction for various Derbyshire Magistrates Courts which include  references to the decree absolutes being granted after 1858.  The registers are arranged chronologically and tend not to be indexed but there aren’t too many divorce entries and they do tend to stand out from the other entries so it doesn’t necessarily have to be too time consuming to identify an entry if you don’t know the date.

Beware: as they contain personal information about individuals who may still be alive, the registers are generally closed to public inspection for 100 years.  We can supply information from the registers dated within the last 100 years to the data subject (i.e. the person to whom the information relates) or when proof is provided that the individual is no longer alive.  See our Data Subjects in Archives Privacy Notice for more information.

A list of the archive collections for Derbyshire magistrates courts can be seen via our online catalogue, including links to a full list of records for each court.

A very small number of deeds of separation and other divorce records are held in some of the family archive collections (including those that are part of solicitors collections) available at Derbyshire Record Office.

Further Reading

See The National Archives guide for more detailed information about records of divorce, including records before 1858.

 

Tithe maps

A guide to finding and using Derbyshire tithe maps and awards

Tithe maps were created for a large number of Derbyshire parishes between 1836 and 1853, and are a great resource for local, family and house historians as they are large scale maps accompanied by a schedule giving a range of information including showing who owned and occupied land and property in a particular parish at that time.

What are tithes and what is the Tithe Commutation Act?

The tithe was a tax payable to the Church of England calculated as one tenth of annual produce (i.e. crops, goods or livestock).  In 1836 the Tithe Commutation Act attempted to regularise this and commuted the levy into cash payments.  To determine what amount should be paid a tithe award and map were produced.  The total amount paid in tithes for the previous 7 years and rent charges were calculated.  The rent charge was divided among landowners according to the area and quality of the land involved.

Detailed surveys were required as each field had to be precisely measured and cultivation; the surveys were usually carried out by local surveyors with detailed instructions and supervision.  The original strict designs of the maps were relaxed by Parliament, meaning they were not standardised in scale or detail, and the surveys were carried out over a 20 year period, much longer than originally envisaged.

Tithe Maps

The scale of the maps is large, often showing individual buildings in block plan.  The best maps (first class), produced to the original proposals, were detailed and accurate enough for use to prove boundaries, however only 3% of Derbyshire maps are of this quality e.g. Duffield.  The main reason for choosing to produce a second class map was cost, as the landowners had to pay for them.  Scales vary, and some are very irregular, but often one inch to 6 chains was used.  Some of our tithe maps are also very large. Derbyshire tithe maps are considered a good record of woodland and parkland, but give poor detail of agricultural land use, only 2% of Derbyshire maps show actual crops recorded.  Field boundary ownership is not well recorded but the mapping of industrial use is, e.g.  lead, slate, smelting and paper.  Urban areas are often not mapped in detail if at all, but Turnpike roads are often distinguished.

The vast majority of Derbyshire’s tithe maps have been digitised and can be viewed on the public computers at the record office.  Alternatively, we can supply copies via email, please contact us for current costs.  Some maps can also been seen on CD at the relevant local libraries.

Tithe Awards

The accompanying schedule records owner, occupier, name, acreage and state of cultivation (e.g. arable, meadow, coppice, orchard) of each plot.  The entries in the award are arranged alphabetical by owner’s name, so it does take some time to identify the entry for the occupier or the plot number.

Extract from the Ashover tithe award, 1849 (ref: D253/A/PI/22/1)

A small number of tithe awards have been digitised and are available on the record office public computers, along with a small number that have been transcribed by local volunteers.

Tithe Map Coverage

There is a tithe map and award for each parish with land subject to tithe, with the Derbyshire records dating between 1836 and 1853.  Theoretically there are three copies of each map and award, the Parish and Diocesan copies (where they have survived) are held at the record office, with the Tithe Commissioner’s copy held at The National Archives.

This does not include any land free from tithes before the 1836 Act, so there are many places which are not be covered.  Search the online catalogue for using the words tithe map and the place name in the Any Text field.  Glebe land is also omitted and village centres may not be shown.  About 58% of the total area of Derbyshire was subject to tithes in 1836.  In some districts not all of the area was tithable.  The main reasons for exemption were modus, or small customary payments in lieu of the tithe, commutation at enclosure which replaced the tithe with an annual monetary payment, merger of tithes in the land if the owner also owned the tithe and exemption by prescription.

Uses of tithe maps and awards

Tithe maps and awards are particularly useful for village and building history, land use and field patterns, field and building names, property ownership and development.  Every dwelling and field subject to tithe is included on the map with a number that refers to the tithe award. The award records owner, occupier, description, use, acreage and sum payable.

Further Reading
  • Kain, Fry and Wilmot (2011) The Tithe Maps of England and Wales: A Cartographic Analysis
  • Kain and Prince (2000) Tithe surveys for historians
  • Harley (1972) Maps for the local historian: a guide to the British Resources
  • Hindle (1999) Maps for historians
  • Evans and Crosby (1987) Tithes Maps, Apportionments and the 1836 Act: a guide for local historians
  • H.C. Prince (1959) ‘The Tithe Surveys of the Mid-Nineteenth Century’ in Agricultural History Review Vol 7 Issue 1 Pages 14-26.  Back issues of this journal can be accessed online via the British Agricultural History Society website.