Don’t try this at home



This delightful suggestion is part of a brochure (probably produced in wartime) demonstrating the versatile uses of the Bratt Colbran Winch. Why does the Local Studies Library at Derbyshire Record Office have this item? Because Bratt Colbran became part of the Radiation Group Ltd, who produced stoves and grates, and who also acquired Park Foundry in Belper. I don’t know if the winch was ever produced in Belper, but the stove and hearth appliances certainly were.

Sue Peach, Local Studies Librarian

GRO latest





Great news for family historians, courtesy of the Lost Cousins website:

The General Register Office has just launched new online indexes of births and deaths for England & Wales which not only make ordering of certificates easier, they provide additional information that will make it easier than ever before for family historians to find the right entries.



Sue Peach

Book review: Renishaw Hall, the story of the Sitwells

seward sitwells

I was riveted by this very well-told account of the house and family. The first Sitwells were ironmasters, down to earth people rooted in the local coal and iron from which the wealth came to build Renishaw Hall. The house came to be greatly loved by its family:  neo-classical improvements were made to the original Stuart manor house in 1795 by Sitwell Sitwell (his odd name is due to his being christened Sitwell Hurt, and adopting the surname Sitwell when he inherited; Evelyn Waugh commented that it could have been worse: Hurt Hurt). In the early 20th century Sir George Sitwell’s love of Italy led him to design the famous Italianate gardens. The house is also apparently chockful of ghosts…

But Renishaw soon became more famous for Sir George’s trio of exotic, artistic children: Edith, Osbert and Sacheverell. If you enjoy poetry, try Edith’s strange rich imagery. Osbert is worth reading for the fascinating insights into the history of the house and family, but Sacheverell’s highly coloured style is an acquired taste; he wrote mainly as an art historian. The flamboyant three are out of fashion nowadays, but who knows;  some Downton Abbey style epic may feature them one day?

To borrow this book, see the Derbyshire Libraries catalogue at

Chesterfield Local Studies Library has a good Sitwell collection for reference, and there are also reference copies of most of their works at Derbyshire Record Office Local Studies. Original documents concerning the family, especially their land and coal interests, are in the Record Office: see





New book

kt scan

Popular local historian Keith Taylor has written a new book on Buxton. Following the success of his Buxton Remembered in World War One, this covers the period 1920-1950 and continues the story into World War Two with details of the servicemen on the war memorials and their families in Buxton, Burbage, Chelmorton, Earl Sterndale, Fairfield, Harpur Hill, Peak Dale, King Sterndale, Taddington and Wormhill.
If you or your family hail from the White Peak of Derbyshire, this could be the ideal Christmas present.
Illustrated with 760 archive photographs, and published by Country Books of Little Longstone. Available priced £12 from Buxton Library and Derbyshire Record Office, or your local bookshop/online.

Sue Peach, Local Studies Librarian

Lost Cause?

st jude

Happy St Simon & Jude’s Day! (28th October). Saint Jude is also known as “Jude the Obscure”, and is known as the patron saint of lost causes, a last resort as it were.

Here at Derbyshire Record Office we can’t absolutely guarantee to find that lost ancestor or the last tantalising piece of a genealogical or historical puzzle. But try our resources: parish registers, electoral rolls, calendars of prisoners, court records, maps, books, original documents, newspapers, magazines, images, and online access to Ancestry and a myriad other resources via our free computers.

And that’s not an exhaustive list; see our website at

But if you can visit us, or drop us an email to with your question if you can’t, we may just be able to help you with that long-lost cause, or point you in the direction of an answer.

Sue Peach

Local Studies Librarian

A Cautionary Tale


Our microfilm readers are very popular with customers wanting to view parish registers or newspapers on microfilm, and we enjoy welcoming visitors for this and other research. So it was very sad to have to take one out of circulation. The reason? Someone had spilt a drink next to the machine, which had caused electrical burnout. Fortunately there was no fire, but we still ended up with irreparably damaged equipment.

So if we ask you please not to bring food and drink “even if it’s only water” into the Local Studies Library or the Microfilm Room, don’t be offended. There is a very good reason for it. When you need refreshment, please take the opportunity to use our very pleasant break room and enjoy its fabulous views.

Sugar Day

sugar day

We perhaps think of rationing as a World War Two phenomenon, but it was also in force during World War One.

However, it was not introduced until near the end of the war, in 1918, first of all in London and then extending to the rest of the country by the summer.

This postcard is part of my grandfather George Henry Slater’s First World War archive, currently on display at Derbyshire Record Office. It shows a shop in Derby with an eager crowd of housewives outside. I love the little girl turning to frown at the camera; I wonder who she was? Fashions are changing: skirts are shorter and hats less extravagant.

If anyone can identify the shop, we’d love to hear from you.

Meanwhile, do visit our display on George, at Derbyshire Record Office until the end of April.

Sue Peach

Local Studies Librarian

Sue’s Soldier: Tom’s Tree

Sues Soldier image

Another anecdote that we didn’t have room for in our vitrine display is George’s story “Tom’s Tree”. George served in the King’s Royal Rifle Corps, and may have been a sniper some of the time, though as my mother said, he never talked much about that aspect. Understandably, picking men off in cold blood was not a popular duty.

My mother had told me “One time there was a German sniper hiding in a shelled-out farmhouse picking our men off one by one. My Dad and his mates hid in a moveable tree stump to retaliate”.  Although this sounds straight out of “Blackadder goes Forth (‘Baldrick, it’s your turn to be the tree’…   ‘But it’s always my turn!’), George did indeed write a short story called Tom’s Tree, which we understand the Illustrated London News published in the mid 20th century, though we haven’t been able to verify this yet. In George’s original, it’s the German who hides in a tree and is spotted by a keen-eyed Yorkshireman who just happens to notice that one particular tree seems to have moved each time you glance in its direction… 

George’s display is on at Derbyshire Record Office until the end of April; do come and pay him a visit.

Sue Peach, Local Studies Librarian


Sue’s Soldier: the mystery letter

mystery letter 1915 2

There was so much in George Henry Slater’s World War One memorabilia that we couldn’t display it all in our vitrine wall (Sue’s Soldier: on at Derbyshire Record Office until the end of April)

One of these items is the Mystery Letter. On Buckingham Palace headed notepaper, dated 3rd November 1915, it reads: “The Private Secretary begs to acknowledge the receipt of Mons: G Vermenlen Geelhand de Mergem’s letter of the 2nd inst: which has been submitted to the King, and for which the Private Secretary is commanded by His Majesty to thank Mons: de Mergem”.

We have no idea what this very official-sounding communication is doing in the archive of a humble rifleman’s family, so if anyone can throw any light on it, we’d be most grateful.

Sue’s Soldier

Sues Soldier image

As we began discussing ways to commemorate World War One, I half-jokingly said “There’s so much in my grandfather’s WW1 archive I could do a display on that — actually, I will, and I’ll call it Sue’s Soldier “.

Grandad was George Henry Slater, a Derby lad, apprenticed to a jeweller, who despite having a fiancée he loved very much, decided to join up in October 1915. His friend had been killed already, but he must have felt it his duty to go.

The display contains photographs, original letters and documents, postcards both romantic and comic, badges, and a host of memorabilia. It goes from George’s baby photo (in a frock!) to his discharge in 1918 and his marriage in 1920, and is full of little stories: the letter with the picture he always carried, the Little Fruit Shop, his vivid reminiscences of the Front, the Blighty One, the Australian Rescue, and more.

My family feel there is enough of interest in this story of a young man who survived the Great War, to share with a wider audience. It’s in our vitrine wall at Derbyshire Record Office until April; do come and visit George, and look out for further blog posts on the material that we just couldn’t cram in.