All in a Quilt…..

I have already mentioned medieval Dronfield Hall Barn in a previous post, which opened  in April as a Cultural Centre in the town.  We recently added their publication “A History of Dronfield in a Quilt” to our collection. At the time this project was proposed, April 2014, work began on designing and making a quilt to celebrate its opening. It was decided to base it on the medieval history of the town. As this was intended as a community project, helpers were sort from the district and 30 volunteers came forward.


The group looked into the  Old Dronfield Society archives, and at the Parish Church for ideas . The medieval windows of St Johns Church became the basis of the design. Vibrant primary colours were chosen, fabric bought and Photoshop helped with fitting together the different elements. Finally the finished individual pieces were sewn together and it was entered into the NEC’s Festival of Quilts where it received a commendation.


Dronfield History

In 2015 Dronfield Heritage Trust published 2 of the last books by the late David Hey, who lived in Dronfield Woodhouse from 1974, and was a trustee of Dronfield Hall Barn project. He had been actively involved in the local history of the area for many years. We have recently added them to our collection.

Dronfield book covers

The Houses of the Dronfield Lead Merchants. A surprise to many people, is that the oldest houses in Dronfield were built with profits from the lead trade. The first chapter summarises the lead industry in Derbyshire, and the book goes on to give details of the individual properties. It’s illustrated throughout with maps, and photographs, and there are separate short paragraphs defining terms, such as “Fother – the measure of weight by which 2 boles of lead were sold.” The history of the Rotherham family is also covered, as they were one of the most successful long established families in the Dronfield lead trade. Each chapter has notes and references listed at the end of the book for anyone who wishes to do further research.

Medieval and Tudor Dronfield, begins by looking at the ancient parish of Dronfield. The present landscape in and around Dronfield has retained some of its medieval history. Roads, fields, woods and hamlets are discussed as well as the Parish Church. The parish was influenced by Beauchief Abbey long before it became responsible for it. There is a chapter on Timber framed building, and the final chapter gives details of Dronfield Hall Barn. Again it’s illustrated with drawings, maps and photographs and notes and references for each chapter at the end.

Both books are a fitting addition to the many other items David Hey wrote during his career.

Flying Scotsman Designer

Our colleague and friend Sue wrote this post about a year ago when the restoration of the Flying Scotsman had been in the news, with a statue of its designer Sir Herbert Nigel Gresley unveiled at Kings Cross Station. At the time, Sue recalled that Sir Nigel was brought up in Netherseal, the 4th son of Rev Nigel Gresley rector of Overseal and Netherseal now in Derbyshire. Here is her post:

Netherseal Census

He is listed with his family at Netherseal Rectory on the 1881 Census aged 4 above.

His family can be traced back to the Norman conquest, some say before and the Netherseal branch descended from Rev Thomas Gresley (d 1785) who lived at Netherseal Hall. Thomas had plans to rebuild the hall, living there just after the Civil War, but this did not happen as he intended. His descendant Rev William Gresley brought about some changes and extensions, after he unexpectedly inherited the baronetcy from a distant cousin in 1837. Thomas his son, chose to live at Netherseal. As the fortunes of the family diminished it was demolished in 1933.

Rev Nigel Gresley and his wife Joanna, Sir Herbert Nigel’s parents, were comfortably off as we can see from the census above, and employed a number of servants. Rev. Nigel was the 5th successive member of his family to be Rector of Netherseal and died in 1897.

Sir Nigel ‘s famous Pacific’s, of which the Flying Scotsman was the second of the later class A-1, did not appear until 1922. He also went on to design other engines notably the Mallard. We have further information about his career and the history of his family at Derbyshire Record Office.

Butterley Gangroad Project


Butterley Gangroad also known as Crich Rail-way was built in 1793.  It was one of the earliest Derbyshire Railways and the first to be built by Benjamin Outram. The first steam locomotive was also used there in 1813.  A group of local people formed the Butterley Gangroad Project of Derbyshire Archaeological Society in 2013 to research the railway supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

This type of railway had cast iron rails, and waggons were often pulled by horses or used gravity and counter balance on inclines. They were used to bring coal and minerals to the canals to improve transport in areas where canals weren’t economical. There were many such lines linking with the Cromford Canal.

Benjamin Outram was born in Alfreton and his father had a small foundry in Ripley. He trained as a surveyor and worked for William Jessop on the Cromford Canal. He created the famous Butterley Works near Ripley to make use of the local iron and coal reserves. He was interested in plateways, early railways which used “L” shaped rails and waggons with flangeless wheels, and improved the concept to allow heavier loads to be carried. Trains of waggons could be pulled by teams or “gangs” of horses which was much more economical. The Butterley Company exported railway technology all over the country.

The first of these rail-ways, which was about a mile long, is at Crich, and ran between a limestone quarry established by the Butterley Company there and a wharf on the Cromford Canal at Bullbridge. In 2015 the Butterley Gangroad Project published the above book of their research including a section reviewing documents in our collection at Derbyshire Record Office. The work also contains plans, photographs and other details of their research and they have donated copies to Derbyshire Libraries.

If you would like to see which Derbyshire libraries have a copy apart from ourselves, or request a copy you can do so here

Thoughts of Summer Meadows…


The bright sunshine today streaming through our windows was a relief from the dull wet days of the last few months. It brought to mind Alan Willmot and Nick Moyes new “Flora of Derbyshire”, ISBN 9781874357650, which we bought for our Local Studies Collection. A flora of the county hasn’t been produced since 1969, and this new work describes the occurrence and distribution of over 1,900 wild flowers, trees, conifers, ferns, horsetails and clubmosses, and has taken 18 years of work to produce.

 It’s illustrated in colour with English and scientific names for each species, and information about habitats and conservation status, and is set to become a standard reference work for the county. The Derbyshire Red Data List of the most threatened plants is also included which will be a useful resource for naturalists and conservationists.

 As well as distribution maps and colour photographs of many species there are also a chapters on “Where to see plants in Derbyshire”, and “Derbyshire – its landscapes and vegetation”. Just right for planning some walks in the spring and summer.

If you would like to see which Derbyshire libraries have a copy apart from ourselves, or request a copy you can do so here