A Fraudulent Governess

I recently happened upon some material which piqued my interest: it was a small envelope of correspondence 1896-1900 relating to a former governess to Sir Vauncey Harpur Crewe’s daughters at Calke Abbey, named Miss Adams, who was involved in a court case.  If you’ve read my blog posts about Elizabeth Appleton, you’ll know that governesses have a particular fascination for me, so I felt compelled to find out more about Miss Adams.

D2375-F-L-1-1-7 cropped resized

Reference number D2375/F/L/1/1/7

There was a suggestion that Lady Crewe might have to testify at the court case and letters from his daughter to the governess might be produced as evidence.  Sir Vauncey Harpur Crewe was clearly trying to prevent this happening and distance his family from any scandal.  With a bit of judicious searching on Ancestry, Findmypast, and the British Newspaper Archive (all free to use at the Record Office and your local Derbyshire library)  I found a wealth of information about Miss Adams, also known as Sarah A’Court among other names, which paints an interesting picture of her.

Within the envelope were three notes from the governess herself to Sir Vauncey in 1896, just before she left his employ.  Sir Vauncey had obviously dismissed her, as her notes show she is unhappy to be leaving.  Her writing is difficult to read, but one letter reads ‘Believe me when I tell you I am so bitterly miserable’:

D2375-F-L-1-1-7-3-snip

As Sir Vauncey was a notoriously difficult man, the fact that he decided she had to go wouldn’t necessarily count against her.  As it transpires, however, Sir Vauncey may have had good reason to dismiss her .

Sarah Elizabeth Hamp Adams was born in 1868, the daughter of a solicitor, Francis Hamp Adams, in Upton Bishop near Ross-on-Wye, Herefordshire.  She claimed to have married on 19 December 1892, which is how her name changed to Sarah A’Court, but had separated from her husband.  The marriage apparently didn’t take place in England and she would give no further details about this mysterious husband; it’s unlikely he ever existed.

In 1900, under the name Sarah A’Court, she took a Mr and Mrs Denny to court for false dismissal and slander.  They had employed her as a governess the year before, but had dismissed her on the grounds that she had been previously employed as a parlour maid by a friend under a different name, Susan Adams.  They therefore didn’t believe any of her references that stated she had worked as a ‘high class governess’ to families like the Harpur Crewes, although as we know, at least some of those references were actually true.  She lost her case, however, when the supposed real ‘Susan Adams’ refused to testify in court.

The case caused something of a sensation in the press, as did its sequel when the governess was tried for perjury at the Old Bailey.  Newspapers reported that Sarah A’Court had tried to pay a young woman to say that she was Susan Adams.  In fact, Sarah had taken the job as a parlour maid under the name Susan Adams and had written her own reference as ‘Countess A’Court’.  She was convicted and sentenced to eighteen months’ hard labour.

News cutting

Suffolk and Essex Free Press 30 May 1900

You would think a perjury conviction might be the end of Sarah A’Court’s desire to take people to court but not so!  With the help of the British Newspaper Archive it’s possible to trace at least some of her further career through her legal actions:

In August 1907 she sued the Great Western Railway Company for damaging some furniture and in December of the same year she was herself successfully sued by two former staff of her dressmaking business, ‘Madame Elizabeth’, for wrongful dismissal.  In 1908 she also sued Messrs Debenham & Co for damages to her business from their delivery of goods – a case which the judge clearly found frivolous.  In June 1911 she sued a former employer for the balance of her salary as governess in Scotland and in December 1915 she sued Lady Elsie Arrol for running her over in her car.  By this time she had a business in Great Portland Street, London as a dressmaker, masseuse, and teacher of Swedish Drill.

She finally appears in court in March 1928 when she is a boarding house keeper in Golders Green and has been accused of falsifying a cheque from one of her tenants.  She is described as hitherto of good character but somewhat eccentric.  She died in 1939.

We often have a mental picture of a governess as a worthy but down-trodden woman.  Not so Miss Hamp Adams alias Mrs Sarah A’Court alias Susan Adams alias Miss Marcia alias Countess A’Court!

Canadian Red Cross Special Hospital Buxton 1915 – 1919

A hundred years ago this year, the building that now houses Buxton Museum was just winding up as a military hospital for Canadian First World War servicemen. Buxton Museum have just posted some fascinating new research about the museum’s hospital years.

Buxton Museum and Art Gallery

The building that Buxton Museum and Art Gallery is housed in has a varied past, beginning its existence as a spa hotel in the 1800s before becoming a museum in the 1920s. It also had a brief lesser-known role as a war hospital. Derbyshire Museums Manager Ros Westwood sheds light on this dim chapter of Peak Building’s history:

We are often asked about the role of this building in the First World War.

Peak Buildings

The museum was built in about 1875 as a hydropathic hotel, offering cold water treatments. By 1915 the Peak Hotel was (again) up for sale. The Canadian Red Cross Society secured a lease to establish the Canadian Red Cross Convalescent Hospital, No 2, Buxton

The Canadian Red Cross Hospital, Buxton opened in May 1916, under the command of Lt. Col. H.D. Johnson C.A.M.C.  He would soon be relieved by Major F. Guest (later Lt. Col.) and in…

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Opening hours consultation

Between 11 November and 22 December 2019, we will be consulting about reducing our opening hours from 30 to 22.5 hours a week.

Derbyshire County Council’s budget continues to face huge pressures, with greater demands on adult social care and services for vulnerable children.  The council’s budget for the coming year is around £500 million, with a savings target of £33.4 million.

At its meeting on 11 September 2019 our Cabinet agreed a new Five Year Financial Plan
for the County Council and this included a range of budget savings proposals. One of the areas identified was a review of opening hours and staffing levels at the Record Office to achieve savings of £60,000.

We are now consulting over proposals to reduce the opening hours by a day a week. There is no proposal to change the current pattern of Saturday opening.

Please make sure you have your say, either by filling in a paper consultation form at the Record Office or online at: www.derbyshire.gov.uk/recordofficeconsultation before the closing date of 22 December 2019.

 

Discovering Franklin catalogue online

Three cheers!  The brand new catalogue of our material relating to Sir John Franklin, his family and friends, can now be viewed on our online catalogue in collection D8760.

discovering franklin

Archives Revealed funding and the help of volunteers has enabled us to catalogue in much greater detail than we normally would.  This means there are now four times more catalogue entries than there were before!    That’s a lot to browse through, so if you’d like to search the Franklin material instead, click on ‘Search our catalogue’, put ‘D8760*’ (don’t forget the asterisk at the end) into the ‘Reference number’ box, and then add your keywords into the ‘Any Text’ box at the top.  You can also add a date range to narrow down your search.

Over 1000 letters have also been exported into a spreadsheet.  If you are interested in Franklin, or just 19th century letters in general, the spreadsheet enables you to keyword search all the letters at once, or sort and filter them as you like.  You can download this as a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet here: Derbyshire Record Office D8760 letters with transcriptions.

Many thanks go to Neil Bettridge, our project archivist, and the volunteers who put so much hard work into this project.  Although the cataloguing project has now technically finished, we still have volunteers transcribing the letters and will continue adding to and improving the catalogue with more transcriptions and indexing as we have the time.

There are lots more stories to tell from the collection so this won’t be the last you hear about Franklin from us!  And don’t forget that you can also view some of the Franklin items and a couple of online exhibitions about them on Google Arts and Culture.

New online exhibitions

We’re excited to announce that Derbyshire Record Office has partnered with Google Arts and Culture to showcase highlights from our collections on the Google Arts and Culture website.  If you weren’t aware of Google Arts and Culture before, it features art works, objects and documents from over 1200 museums and archives around the world.

On the Derbyshire Record Office Google Arts and Culture page you can see 175 images that show off the huge variety of items that we hold.  There are also three online exhibitions to enjoy:

Franklin exhibit snip crop

The Last Voyage of Sir John Franklin links with our ‘Discovering Franklin’ project and tells the story of Franklin’s 1845 expedition to the Arctic which ended in tragedy.

 

 

Lady Jane exhibit snip crop

In Lady Jane’s Museum you can see all the objects which formed part of our recent crowdfunding project to package and photograph the objects in the Gell / Franklin family collection.

 

 

Treasures exhibit snip crop

And finally, you can take a look at A Selection of Derbyshire Treasures which gives a closer view of a few of the 50 treasures that have previously featured on this blog.

 

 

We have lots of ideas for more exhibitions and images to add to Google Arts and Culture so our content will continue to grow.  If you have any ideas for what you’d like to see added, let us know in the comments below.

 

Weird Derbyshire and Peakland

If you’re interested in Derbyshire customs and folklore then take a trip to Buxton Museum and Art Gallery this autumn, where a free exhibition called ‘Weird Derbyshire and Peakland’ is on until 9 November. The exhibition features photographs by Richard Bradley, author of ‘Secret Chesterfield’ and ‘Secret Matlock and Matlock Bath’ so if you’re inspired to find out more, you can pick up the books at your local library.

Buxton Museum and Art Gallery

Derbyshire – and the Peak District, which spills over into the neighbouring counties of Cheshire, Staffordshire, Greater Manchester and South and West Yorkshire – has one of the highest concentrations of calendar customs in the UK. These encompass everything from rituals of very ancient (possibly Pagan) origin like the well dressings and the Castleton Garland Ceremony; to more modern alternative annual sporting contests dreamed up over a pint or three down the local pub. Examples of the latter include Bonsall Hen Racing, the Mappleton Bridge Jump, the Great Kinder Beer Barrel Challenge and the World Championship Toe Wrestling Championships.

DSCF0980 copyright Richard Bradley

The area is peppered with ancient stone circles such as Arbor Low and the Nine Ladies, which provide a strong ritual focus into the 21st Century, drawing visitors from around the world seeking answers to their own individual questions. In addition, a number of unusual old carvings…

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Take a tour of H.M.S. Terror

Our  Discovering Franklin project to catalogue and preserve the archives relating to Sir John Franklin is nearly finished.  Within the next couple of months we will be publishing the brand new and very detailed catalogue of the collection.  We will also be launching online exhibitions and images for people to explore through an exciting new venture which we are tantalisingly keeping under wraps until we have a definite launch date.

Whilst you’ll have to wait a little longer for our Franklin material, do take a look at an amazing video which Parks Canada have just released giving an underwater tour of H.M.S. Terror, one of Franklin’s ships which disappeared in the Canadian Arctic nearly 175 years ago and was rediscovered in 2016.

Excitingly, their latest exploration shows that records of the expedition are likely to be sitting in the ships, waiting to be recovered.  Just imagine being the archivist who gets to catalogue that material!

 

 

 

 

Historical recipes – both good and bad

I was interviewed by Andy Twigge for BBC Radio Derby today and we discussed a few recipes from our many historical recipe books.  I made a couple of things for him to try: one was the gluten-free rice cake which I’ve blogged about before, and the other was Jumbles from Mary Swanwick’s 1740s recipe.

The one I didn’t make, but rather tickled me, was from a seventeenth century book.  It’s from the archive of the Gell family of Hopton Hall and like all such home recipe books, it contains a mix of medicinal and cookery recipes.   I would strongly recommend that you don’t try this one at home.

Recipe for convulsion fits

Reference no: D258/32/15/1

Here’s my transcription with modernised spelling and punctuation:

Mrs Evelyn’s excellent powder for Convulsion Fits

Take a dozen young moles, flay them, draw them and quarter them, lay them abroad in a dish and dry them in an oven until they will powder. Take elecampane root, cleanse, slit and dry them in an oven to powder. Take red peony roots and Jews ears [a kind of mushroom], powdered after the same manner.  Take also a little of the                      of a healthy woman when it is burnt to powder.  Beat them severally and take of each powder a like quantity by weight.  Mix them well together and keep them close tied up for use.

Take of it 3 mornings before and after the full and change, in a spoonful of black cherry water as much as will lie on a shilling, fasting, and drink 2 or 3 spoonful of black cherry water after it.

The black cherry water definitely sounds like the best bit!  I’m not entirely sure about ‘the full and change’ but I think that is referring to the moon, the full moon often being seen as the culprit for fits of insanity.  As for what you should be powdering from a healthy woman, if you have any suggestions, let us know in the comments.

You can hear snippets of my conversation with Andy Twigge by listening to his lunchtime radio programme every day this week at around 2.15pm – or catch up with it on the BBC Radio iPlayer.  I’ll post the Jumbles recipe later this week, for those that would like to give it a try.  I promise that it’s much more palatable than the recipe above!

The Amazing, Award Winning, Pop Up Archives Project!

The 2019 Derbyshire Heritage Awards took place last Friday (3 May) at the impressive (but rather chilly!) Barrow Hill Roundhouse.  The Record Office was delighted to win the Reaching New Audiences award for the Amazing Pop Up Archives Project.

Derbyshire Heritage Awards 2019

Karen Millhouse and Sarah Chubb with the award for Reaching New Audiences

This Heritage Lottery Funded project was devised and led by archivist Karen Millhouse, working with a group of young people, artists and an experienced family history researcher.  Together they ‘popped up’ at events around the county, bringing archives to places where people would normally never expect to see them.  Hundreds of people came to look at the documents, listen to songs and stories, and tell their own stories of their lives and the place where they lived.

It’s been a great project and we’re so pleased that it has been recognised by this award.  If you’d like to find out more about what the team did, do take a look at some of the blog posts created along the way.  And congratulations to all the award winners on Friday – there is a lot of amazing work going on in Derbyshire!