The Gratitude of First World War Prisoners to Margery Swanwick of Chesterfield

A post from catalogue volunteer, Roger.

The Record Office recently purchased several letters and postcards at an auction which illustrate aspects of humanitarian work during the First World War.

Margery Eleanor Swanwick (1880-1959) a resident of Whittington, Chesterfield was active both in providing parcels of food and other comforts to Allied soldiers imprisoned in Germany, and in supporting Belgian refugees accommodated in Chesterfield.  This post concerns her support of a number of prisoners of war.

Surviving documents include postcards and letters sent to Margery Swanwick.  The postcards, purposely printed by the German authorities, convey messages of thanks from four prisoners who received parcels.  There are also four letters from organisations involved in the despatch of parcels and one letter from the wife of a prisoner.

It is not clear from the documents how the four recipients of Margery Swanwick’s parcels were selected: the beneficiaries were not from Derbyshire.  The collection includes two postcards sent by William Marshall, a private in the Sherwood Foresters Regiment, whose expressions of thanks give no biographical details. 

There are six cards from William Leonard Gothard, also a private in the Sherwood Foresters Regiment.  His home was at Old Westwood, Jacksdale, Nottinghamshire.  He was so grateful to Margery Swanwick that he had his wife write a letter of thanks.  William Gothard had left home in August 1914, just a week after the birth of his first child, and was taken prisoner two months later.  It is clear that Margery Swanwick corresponded with both William Gothard and his wife, and there are indications that Margery Swanwick may have visited Mrs Gothard. 

The third English prisoner to receive parcels from Margery Swanwick was William Marke.  He tells of his birth in Hanwell, Middlesex; he joined the East Sussex Regiment in 1904 and was later a gymnastic instructor attached to the Devon and Cornwall Light Infantry at Bodmin where he met his wife.  He writes of his two daughters, one of whom he had not seen. 

Intriguingly the fourth recipient of parcels was a Russian soldier, Alex Petrow.  Five of the postcards sent in his name convey a printed message in German acknowledging receipt of parcels.  A sixth card contains a message of thanks written on Alex Petrow’s behalf by a fellow prisoner.

Postcard from Gothard to Mrs Swanwick, ref: D6287/5/3/1
Postcard from Private W. L. Gothard at Kriegsgefangenenlager, No. 1 Camp, Munster to Mrs Swanwick, 28 Feb 1916 (ref: D6287/5/3/1)

The cards illustrate the range of goods sent in parcels and convey not only thanks but specific requests.  The Russian soldier’s fellow prisoner confirms that “socks and underclothing would be of great comfort – winter is now here and very cold.”  William Gothard asked for, and was sent, a French dictionary: “I am endeavouring to master the French Grammar in my spare time.”  His parcels also contained a sewing kit and a small heater, for which he later asked for refills.  William Marke was appreciative of a spirit lamp.  He politely asked for biscuits to be replaced by bread.  He even asked for, and was sent, specific physiology and anatomy textbooks “for which you will have to write to the Board of Education.”

In December 1916 came a substantial change.  The sending of parcels was formalised.  It was no longer open to private individuals to choose items and to send parcels themselves.  Parcels were assembled and packed at depots established by organisations such as regimental associations.  Margery Swanwick’s role changed from sending items of her own choice to making a regular financial subscription.  The document collection includes four letters from organisations concerned with these arrangements. 

Two of the prisoners continued to correspond with Margery Swanwick.  They regretted the changed arrangements.   William Gothard wrote: “the parcels under the new scheme arrive regularly but they are not like the old home ones.”  William Marke regretted the loss of a personal link: “the parcels under the new scheme are quite good, although they have not the pleasing effect the ones packed by yourself had.  You know we miss those fancy things that we have been used to, which we know has pleased our friend in packing.”

The writers expressed hopes for the future.  William Marke was thinking about his Army work after the War: “I am sure [the physiology books] will help me considerably in my branch of the service when the war is finished.”  William Gothard’s wife was looking forward to when “this terrible war is over, and he is safe home again.”

Detailed descriptions and transcriptions of the postcards and letters can be seen in the Record Office catalogue under reference D6287/5.

Addendum: Thank you to Roger for his admirable work in transcribing these letters, several of which are in French. We are very grateful.

The Mysterious Mrs Munday

October is Black History Month, which is the ideal time to write about research I’ve been doing on an early figure in Derbyshire’s Black History, Mrs Munday.

I first came across Mrs Munday around ten years ago, when I was working for Sandwell Community History & Archives Service and doing some Black History research there on a completely different person. A parish register at St Martin’s Tipton (now in Sandwell but historically in Staffordshire) reads:

John an Ethyopian boy page to ye Lady Pye was baptized ye 29th day of July 1705.

Extract from St Martin's Tipton parish register 29 July 1705
Extract from the parish register for St Martin’s, Tipton from http://www.findmypast.co.uk

This is a very early mention of a person of colour in Sandwell, but the Pyes weren’t a local Tipton family. The only way to find out more about John was to trace ‘ye Lady Pye’ and it turned out there were two Lady Pyes at the time. One was the wife of Sir Charles Pye baronet (1651-1711) of Hone [Hoon], Derbyshire and MP for Derby in 1701 and the other Lady Pye was his mother in London.  I couldn’t find out anything about the older Lady Pye, but the younger seemed more likely anyway, partly because the Pyes lived in Derby (slightly closer to Tipton than London, although it was hardly round the corner) and partly because as a younger woman she might be more fashion-conscious.  At the time, a black page boy was a fashionable status symbol.

Credit: Yale Center for British Art, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

As slavery was legal in England at the time, Lady Pye’s page, John, may well have been enslaved. This 1708 painting of slave trader Elihu Yale (seated in the middle), with the Duke of Devonshire (on the left, wearing red) shows an enslaved page boy like John, standing on the right.

Letters from the younger Lady Pye to her cousins, Abigail and Robert Harley, survive in the archive of the Duke of Portland, and what’s known as a ‘calendar’ of the archive was published in several volumes as a report by the Historical Manuscripts Commission (HMC) – a calendar is a list that includes a detailed summary of the contents of each document.   I took a look at the HMC report in case Lady Pye mentioned in a letter that she had been to Tipton and baptised her page.  She didn’t of course, but there was a letter written at Derby on 4 May 1706 which ended with this sentence:

We have now Mrs Munday in our neighbourhood that is thought as pretty a black woman as most is.

What a find!  Not only might John, the African page, be living in Derby with the Pyes in the early 1700s, but there was a high-status woman of colour, presumably married to one of Lady Pye’s neighbours in or near Derby.

When I moved from Sandwell to Derbyshire, it seemed the perfect opportunity to find out more about Mrs Munday.  The Mundy family of Markeaton Hall and Allestree Hall in Derby, seemed highly likely to be the family that Mrs Munday belonged to – spelling wasn’t consistent at the time, and Mundy was sometimes spelled Munday.  The Record Office holds archives of the Mundy family, so there was hope of tracing Mrs Munday.  Unfortunately, the archives aren’t fully catalogued and there was only a rather confused paper interim list for the collection.  I just didn’t have time to try and make sense of the archive… until lockdown.   Whilst the Record Office was closed due to the pandemic, a number of us worked on getting those paper lists into our online catalogue.  The work isn’t yet complete (I’m slowly going through one set of boxes to check the contents) but the bulk of the collection is now on our online catalogue.  So, what did this mean for Mrs Munday?

I initially had high hopes of Edward Mundy as her husband.  I’ve already blogged about his beautifully written account book dating from 1682 to 1697 – in it he mentions expenses for transporting goods to and from Barbados so perhaps he had visited himself and married a Barbadian?  Sadly, he died in 1702 and his will (proved at Lichfield in 1705) mentions no wife or children.  

Vogages to Barbados in Edward Mundy's account book
Extract from Edward Mundy’s accounts ledger (D517/BOX/13/2)

Even more promising was another Edward Mundy who lived out in Barbados.  He was born in 1603, so he seemed a bit too old to be Mrs Munday’s husband, although of course she could have been a much younger widow or a daughter (the term ‘Mrs’ didn’t necessarily mean a woman was married).  Although I couldn’t find his death or marriage, there are some very useful Barbados records on Ancestry.com, with which I found his wife Elizabeth’s will.  However, she died in 1687, by which time he had already predeceased her, and although her will mentions their three daughters, it is clear that they were all married at the time of her death.

There is an excellent family tree of the Mundy family which was deposited in 2006 (reference number D6611/1) but this gives no clue as to who might have been the husband of Mrs Munday.  I began to wonder if the letter mentioning her had been transcribed correctly in the HMC report – maybe I was on a wild goose chase.  The Duke of Portland’s papers are now at the British Library, so I asked my sister (who lives in London) to go to the British Library and have a look at the original letter.  The HMC report gives a good summary of the contents of each letter but isn’t a complete transcription, so could my sister check the original and see if there was more information in the letter?   Here was another problem, however.  The letters haven’t been fully catalogued by the British Library, and when she checked the bundle that should have had the 1706 letter from Lady Pye it wasn’t there.

So is there any proof that Mrs Munday ever existed?  One day I may well go to the British Library and work my way through some of the other bundles of letters in the Portland papers, in case the letter got mixed in with them.  But what if I can’t find it?  Without the original letter, we only have the HMC report to go on, although this is a pretty reliable source.   We know the Mundy family had links with slave plantations in Barbados, so it’s possible that one of them married a Barbadian woman.   It’s also possible that Mrs Munday was an illegitimate daughter of a Mundy and an enslaved woman in Barbados, who was brought back to Britain, as was the case of Dido Elizabeth Belle in the 1760s.  She may have been the wife of a London cousin of the Mundy family who was just visiting Derby – or the Munday name might have nothing to do with the Markeaton and Allestree Mundy family.

Portrait of Dido Elizabeth Belle Lindsay and her cousin Lady Elizabeth Murray by David Martin. Original at Scone Palace. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

I would love to be able to identify her, but like anyone who is trying to research people in the early 1700s, I’m hampered by the lack of available records.  In the meantime, she’ll just have to live in my imagination, elegantly dressed and walking around the bustling streets of Derby, socialising with those fashionable women like Lady Pye, who may themselves have had African servants, probably enslaved, in their own households.

An Insider’s View of north Derbyshire Libraries around 1950 – part 2 (Buxton)

Last week, Roger shared some stories from Dora Axon relating to her experiences as a librarian in Whaley Bridge and Chapel-en-le-Frith; this week, we hear about her experiences in Buxton, where she started work in 1949.

At this time the library at Buxton was the responsibility of the borough council, in contrast to the libraries at Whaley Bridge and Chapel en le Frith which were Derbyshire County Council establishments.  After having failed to secure appointment to the chief officer’s post of librarian and museums officer at Buxton Dora Axon accepted appointment as first assistant.  Her letters include much detail of her thoughts about whom to approach for testimonials; about the conduct of the interviews, and about the merits or otherwise of other candidates.  After three weeks in the new job Dora Axon writes of enjoying the experience.  She writes approvingly of the recently appointed chief librarian.  She lists her responsibilities, believing that she might have more accurately been designated deputy chief, rather than first assistant:

I am consultant on administration and policy, and responsible for the Staff. I have never met so small a staff that required so much looking after in my life.  Three in number, they are free, untrained and uncurbed: they have never met a rule about librarianship and when introduced to one quite forget to carry it out – or don’t – the whole place is chaos.

Dora Axon records her hope of achieving an improvement within two months.  Her duties also included classification and cataloguing, book selection and ordering, and even acting as understudy to the borough meteorologist.  She anticipated that a large proportion of her time would be spent in her office and that she would not achieve the familiarity with readers that she had known in her previous job at Whaley Bridge.

Six months or so later improvements appear to have been elusive:

It is usual for a successor to deplore the shortcomings of his predecessor, but surely there has never been a place like Buxton.  Everywhere we found chaos, and no method of dealing with it except falsifying records and tearing up the evidence!  Worse still the staff trained on this happy-go-lucky lack of principle and system are incapable of recognising system – or even the need for it. … Our young and capable and enthusiastic new librarian is a thwarted and disgusted man, regretting, I think, his move to such an unprogressive hole.  You would term it Bumbledom at its worst. 

Dora Axon goes on to criticise the actions of committee men: appointing a qualified person, only to block every improvement he tries to make; and seeking to employ staff and stock a library service on the cheap.  Such improvements as were being made involved hard work:

The up-hill task, training the stupid glamour girls, is mine, and in all my work I have never encountered such a gradient.

Dora Axon felt further burdened by the presence of a young wealthy volunteer discovering whether she might like to pursue training as librarian:

So far as we are concerned she is an additional blot; she doesn’t want to work, won’t work, “downs” a job she dislikes, and objects to doing anything as told, or accurately.  She is with us for three months: I had had enough after the first morning.

In July 1950 Dora Axon wrote a long letter while on holiday in Ilfracombe – she includes her observations of the libraries in Ilfracombe and Bideford.  In relation to Buxton it seems likely that she was correct about the regrets of the recently appointed chief librarian: in less than a year he had left.  Her application for the chief’s post was not successful:

Though I had the backing of my own Committee, they were over-ruled by the Mayor. … who shouted “No women” and flung the six applications [from women] aside without consideration. To an appeal made by the Library chairman, who said: “She’s capable and she’s qualified – what more do you want?” the Mayor said: “She’s a woman and we can’t have a woman head of department.”

Three weeks after the successful candidate had started work Dora Axon submitted a claim for salary re-grading.  The salary claim was pursued for many months: Dora Axon accuses the town clerk of presenting, at the ultimate hearing, “lies and evasions.”  She was ultimately successful:

I have crashed into the Admin. Profess. And Technical Grades where no woman in Buxton has ever got before!

Having been in post for two years Dora Axon was able to list positive achievements:

The staff are “falling to” when given a job.  And I am getting an increasing number of people who introduce themselves with “I’ve been advised to come to you – I wonder if you can help me …”.

An Insider’s View of north Derbyshire Libraries around 1950

Nearly 40 years ago, the record office purchased a small bundle of letters primarily sent to Charles Kay Ogden, the founder of the Orthological Institute which was concerned chiefly with the development of Basic English. 

Cataloguing volunteer, Roger Jennens, has recently listed all the letters and here he writes of the rich observations they contain from a librarian working at in north Derbyshire around 1950 . 

The writer of the letters, Dora Axon of Buxton, returned to work in 1948 following the death of her husband.  A qualified librarian who had previously worked in Manchester, she had not been in paid employment during the fifteen years of her marriage.  She was appointed to a post at Whaley Bridge library but in the interval before that library was ready to be opened she was asked at short notice to assist at the library at Chapel-en-le-Frith.  At the time this was a busy centre for library provision in north Derbyshire, including a mobile library.  Dora Axon records her enjoyment of the work: she found every one of the staff welcoming.  Perhaps her assessment of the library users has a hint of condescension:

The borrowers are not bad – all kinds, but extremely friendly with just two or three intelligent ones. The library is a meeting ground for all the villagers and there appears to be no rule against talking, which everyone does, out loud. We never “shush” then as we used to do in Manchester; it’s awfully funny and delightful.”

Dora Axon was impressed by the mobile library service:

Extract of letter from Dora, 28 Sep 1948. Ref: D2313/2/58

She was, however, hopeful that she would not be required to go out on a round:

Some rounds are terribly hard going: the issues reaching 700 a day and  a handful of special requests that all need looking up and securing for the next call.

Early in 1949 a branch library was opened in the windowless basement of council offices in Whaley Bridge.  The library was open from 2pm to 8pm daily, with a half-hour closure at 4.30pm. The new provision soon proved popular: the initial book stock of 5,000 volumes was soon increased to 6,000. In the first few weeks 800 readers were registered:

They clatter down the stairs at 2pm prompt and only reluctantly do they clatter up at 4.30pm and 8pm. …  They are a nice public, the “Whaleys” from labourers to professional men, from country women who call me “luv” to nice middle-class “ladies” and from nice laddies of 14, (we don’t cater for younger), to university and college students. 

Dora Axon was kept busy, particular on days when no assistance was forthcoming from another library:

All my nice borrowers apologise for troubling me and some offer to help.  360-500 issues a day; new readers to enrol and help; a postal service to attend to and all the ordinary routine work – it would keep 3 staff occupied at all times and it’s all supposed to be done by one!

Before long, mindful of the potential impact of winter weather on her daily bus journeys between Buxton and Whaley Bridge, and reluctant to remain working in a basement Dora Axon applied for a post at the library in Buxton.

Whaley population has lapped me up and will, I know, be sorry to lose me.  And I shall never again have such congenial borrowers, nor such  a splendid collection of books, every one asking to be read.

Next time: Dora describes her experience in Buxton.

See the new catalogue in full under reference D2313.

When family history becomes a little more complex…

Very few family historians are able to trace their ancestors back through the civil and parish registers without hitting some kind of complication, whether that be a “missing” entry, an “extra” entry making it unclear which is correct, the resettlement of their family elsewhere or other issue.  Often, such cases can be resolved with a bit of extra digging and thinking outside the box as to how to find the correct information.

One such case arose following the transfer in from Chesterfield Library of a collection of poems written by John Cupit – it wasn’t terribly complicated, but did send me down a bit of rabbit warren before I got to the bottom of it.  The collection had been transfered with the following biographical information: John Cupit, of Clay Cross. He was also an inventor, watch repairer and worked at Parkhouse Colliery. The Cupit family lived at Danesmoor and were carpenters and joiners, and John’s mother Sarah was a daughter of William Henry Wilson of Pilsley Hall, a farmer and land surveyor. John was raised by his grandparents, George and Ann Cupit.

I wanted to provide more information in our catalogue, at the very least years of birth and death for John.  Fortunately, amongst the poems and other items in the collection was a letter to the Chesterfield Borough Librarian in 1956 enclosing a short poem that John had written on his 86th birthday which gave his date of birth as 5 June 1871.

Perfect!  Now I have a date of birth and from this I can probably find a year of death using the online civil registration indexes as I know he is still living in Chesterfield, aged 86 because he says so in his letter to the Librarian.  For most searches I tend to use FreeBMD as it gives you a little more control over what you are actually searching.  However, if I have no success with this site, or if I am searching for entries after 1992, I will use Ancestry.com as it contains indexes up to 2007 and as a trade-off for less control over your search terms you get much more flexibility in the results, showing other possible entries when what you were expecting to find doesn’t exist.

In this case I discovered John’s death in Chesterfield (district) in 1963.  But I still wanted to know what else could I find out about John: he had been described as a poet, inventor, watch repairer and miner – what evidence could I find for all this?  Why so varied?  He was raised by his grandparents – why?  What happened to John’s parents? Did this inspire his poetry?

The census returns for 1841-1911 are an absolutely essential tool for family historians searching for ancestors in this period, and later. Unfortunately, it is not possible to access any later census returns due to the 100-year embargo on each, however, some limited access has been provided to the National Register of 1939 which was compiled as part of preparations for a possible war with Germany. Perhaps more out of habit than anything else, I tend to use Ancestry for searching the 1841-1911 census returns and Find My Past for searching the 1939 register (although each is now available via both sites).

I discovered that in 1881 (the first census in which John would appear, having been born two months after the 1871 census), he was indeed living with George and Ann Cupit at Guildford Lane, Danesmoor – but he is described as their son, not their grandson. George is described as a joiner, as is his 26-year old son (also George). Furthermore, although John is described as the son of George and Ann, bearing in mind their ages, 76 and 66 respectively, it is much more likely that he is their grandson.  Did the enumerator recording the information mishear or have stated he is their son in order to cover the true story about his parents?

The next step was to find out more about George and Ann.  In the 1861 and 1871 census returns they are found at Gents Hill (also Hillocks) in Clay Lane (now Clay Cross), variously with children Mary, Henry, John, Joseph, George and Walter. The John recorded in the 1861 census was aged 13 and therefore certainly not John the poet born in 1871.  Although it was quite common for younger children to be named after older siblings who had passed away, it was still much more likely that George and Ann were indeed John the poet’s grandparents – was this older John (aged 23 in 1871) be his father?

Unfortunately, I then came to some difficulty in tracing John the poet in the 1891 census. I was able to find him in 1911 at Market Street, Clay Cross, with his wife Allina, their three children, his widowed mother-in-law (Emily Goodwin) and another Goodwin, aged 11 and therefore perhaps Allina’s nephew.  He is described as Joiner – Colliery, which may explain the references to him being a miner and joiner, as he worked as a joiner at a mine.  He was also fairly easy to find in the 1901 census, this time as an unmarried boarder in Staveley, and again described as joiner; possibly at a colliery as he is boarding with James Potter, a colliery foreman.

None of this helped in finding him in the 1891 census, and that was just the beginning of the complications. Usually after finding the birth of an ancestor, the next step is to find their parent’s marriage – but searching both FreeBMD and Ancestry I could find no reference to the marriage of a Sarah Wilson to a man with the surname Cupit.  I was fairly confident of John’s mother’s name, as he had recorded this information himself in his letter to the Borough Librarian, also referring to his “grandsire” William Henry Wilson of Pilsley Hall. Perhaps Sarah had been married before and was a widow when she married John’s father, so I also searched for any marriage of a Sarah [surname unknown] to a [forename unknown] Cupit (again much easier on FreeBMD) – but still no luck.

Having hit a bit of a brick wall with the Cupit’s, I tried to find out more about the Wilson’s, John’s maternal ancestors.  At the time of the 1861 census William Henry (born c1798), his wife Urania (born c1823) and four children including a daughter Sarah (born c1850) were living at Upper Pilsley.  William is described as a Farmer, Landowner, etc. Ten years later, the family is still in Pilsley: Sarah is no longer with them, there are two more daughters (twins born c1863), and a granddaughter, Maud M Randle aged 2. A further ten years later, Urania, now widowed, is at Pilsley Hall with three daughters, two sons and Maud whose surname is now given as Wilson. Is this perhaps Sarah’s daughter by a previous relationship?

Success!  Marriage found in 1868 (quarter 4) of a Sarah Wilson to a James Randall, in the Chesterfield district. The civil marriage indexes though do not give sufficient detail to be certain you have found the correct people, but with the Derbyshire Anglican parish registers now available via Ancestry, it is much quicker and easier to search and identify the details: Sarah, daughter of William Henry Wilson, surveyor, married James Randall at Chesterfield on 31 December 1868.

Although Sarah and James had been married in 1868, and Maud born in 1869, by the time of the 1871 census, the two were separated – James lodging in Pilsley and Sarah (described as married, though using the surname Wilson) lodging in Rotherham with a Chesterfield family and was seven months pregnant with John the poet.  Was James John’s father, or was John the result of an extra-marital relationship that was the cause of James and Sarah’s separation?

For me, this is could have been where the story ended because we don’t have access to the birth registers that might have included John’s father’s name – of course anyone else would have been able to order copy certificate from the Register Office.  By now, I really wanted to know the answer.  Perhaps John’s marriage entry would give me a clue because after 1837, the registers include a space for the groom and bride’s fathers’ name – even today their mothers’ names are not recorded.

The 1911 census stated that John and Allina had been married for 6 years, and I found reference to a marriage registration (via FreeBMD) in Chesterfield district, quarter 3 1904.  Unfortunately, there was no corresponding entry on Ancestry in the Derbyshire parish registers, so the couple were either married in a non-conformist church or not married in a church at all.  With more time, I could have manually searched any non-conformist registers for the Chesterfield and Clay Cross area; as above, the most efficient way to see what name John gave as his father’s would have been to order a copy certificate.

Still not quite ready to give up, I then looked again for Sarah (John’s mother), and found her in the census returns 1881-1911 married to a Joseph Cupit, a Carpenter.  Although her first husband was still alive (living with his parents in Pilsley in 1881, and described as unmarried), Sarah Wilson appears to have married Joseph Cupit in 1873 (Belper district).  As John’s birth was registered under the surname Cupit in 1871 two years before this marriage and Joseph was the son of George and Ann (as per the 1871 census found earlier), I was confident I had found his father.

According to the 1911 census, Sarah and Joseph had at least twelve children, and when I found them in the 1891 census, I finally also found John the poet with them, aged 18 and a colliery labourer – I had probably seen this entry the first time round but dismissed it because the date of birth was a few years out, even though I really should have known better.

The question that all this couldn’t answer was whether John was brought up by his grandparents, or whether this was an assumption made purely on the basis that he was at their house on census night in 1881.  However, perhaps this answer is contained within John’s poems and other works in his archive, now held under reference D8251.

John Cupit was interviewed in the Derbyshire Courier on 23 October 1909 (page 8) in relation to his flying model of a monoplane, under the heading ‘A Clay Cross Aeroplane’, with a photograph of the man himself.  According to a note the following week (2 November 1909), the model was put on display at Armistead Bros. of Corporation Street, Chesterfield [cycle agents].

Perfection in Accounting

Whilst we’re in coronavirus lockdown, one of the collections I’m working on is D517, the archive of the Miller Mundy family of Shipley Hall.  I had to nip into the office the other day (we go in regularly to make sure the environmental conditions in the stores are as they should be) so I took a quick look at a couple of items in the collection which needed some better descriptions.  These are two account books from the 1600s (reference numbers: D517/BOX/13/1-2).

Both books are large and parchment bound.  The first was an account book (1682-1697) belonging to Edward Mundy of Markeaton Hall.  I know very little about Edward but I can tell that he was an extremely neat and organised man, as his accounts are an example in financial perfection.

D517-BOX-13-1-Ledger apparel reduced

Edward Mundy’s ledger, 1680s (D517/BOX/13/1)

The book is divided into a ledger at the front and a journal or day book at the back.  If you’re not familiar with accounting practices, a ledger is arranged by type of expense, or the person or business which is being paid or charged, whereas a journal, also known as a day book, is a chronological account of money coming in and out.  Edward’s ledger crosses over two pages, one page with credit and one with debit.  There are numbers at the sides of the ledger and journal entries so that Edward could check his ledger entries against his journal entries and vice versa.

D517-BOX-13-1-Journal first page top

Beginning of Edward Mundy’s journal (D517/BOX/13/1)

Just look at that beautiful writing!  Edward Mundy really took his time to make the ledger and journal pleasing to the eye as well as practical.

From this book we can learn a lot about Edward Mundy’s business dealings, which include wool, sugar, and cotton, as well as his household expenses, what he spent on horses, clothes and shoes, and his ‘parish dues’.  Lots of people are named, including his servants Jarvis Woodruff and Hester Jenkinson.

The second book in this box is an even earlier ledger from 1661-1662 and relates to a textile business that seems to have been jointly owned or invested in by a John Tufnayle and Mrs Elizabeth Clerke.  Who these people are and how they are connected with the Mundys is not yet known, but the ledger is similarly well written:

D517-BOX-13-2 ledger Lixa

Ledger entry, 1661 (D517/BOX/13/2)

It doesn’t quite reach the perfection of Edward Mundy’s ledger, but it’s pretty good.  Here it looks as if the business is exporting textiles (baize, ‘bocking’ and ‘colchester’), possibly to Lixa in Portugal.

This large volume was only used as a ledger for a few pages.  Eighty years later, Charles Palmer from Ladbroke Hall in Warwickshire obviously decided it would make a useful book in which to (very roughly!) record the rents he was getting from his tenants.

D517-BOX-13-2 rental

Rent for the year 1742 (D517/BOX/13/2)

It’s hard to imagine a greater contrast in both organisation and handwriting.  Ordinarily I would say that eighteenth century handwriting was a pleasure to read, but definitely not in this case.

Who owned my car?

This is a pretty common question for us at the record office.

Did you know? Vehicle registration was introduced in 1903 under the responsibility of the Borough and County Councils.

Although in other parts of the country many vehicle licensing records do survive, unfortunately, this is not the case for Derbyshire, so enquirers may be left disappointed with our answer.

The few records that do survive for Derbyshire are registers of fees for local taxation licences 1909-1910 and local taxation police reports and ‘failure to licence’ reports 1910-1911 (ref: DCC/UL).  There are more records surviving for Derby Borough including Registers of motor cars and motor cycles, plus some other vehicles between 1903 and 1947 (registration numbers CH were used up to 1933 and RC thereafter) – see D1890 for a full catalogue list.

A central system for was established in 1965 under the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Centre (DVLC), now DVLA.

For records after 1974, contact the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency.   We do know that some people have been successful in obtaining information from the Kithead Trust relating to vehicles registered in Derbyshire before 1945.

Occasionally, you might also find records in other collections.  In particular, the archive of Kennings Ltd of Clay Cross (D4547) includes new and second hand car registers, 1949-1974 and licence registers 1954-1969.  If the vehicle you are interested is was purchased by a business (particularly a transport business such as a bus company), search the catalogue for records of that company.

If you want to find out more, try Philip Riden’s How to Trace the History of Your Car (1998).

Here is an absolutely fascinating story from Mike, a recent enquirer who was trying to find out more about his vintage car…

A History of Sunbeam 14/40 Registration number NU2525 – by Mike (current owner)

Mike’s Sunbeam at home…

This Sunbeam 14/40 open tourer was purchased by Mrs Grimshaw-Taylor on 28 February 1924 for her son Sydney (Sidney). He kept and used the car for many years, until in 1939 he stored it on a farm in Ockbrook. The story as told by the owners of the farm was that a gentleman, who had gone abroad during the Second World War, had left the car on their farm with the intention of collecting it upon his return from the conflict. However, he had not showed up and they had assumed that he had been ‘lost in action’.

In 1957, the car was purchased for £12 by Bryan Barton of Chilwell on behalf of Ken Wilson who had previously restored Bull Nose Morris, and was keen to purchase the Sunbeam, but did not have the necessary funds. Ken would repay Bryan by doing work for him until the debt was repaid, rectifying a TR2. The Sunbeam was registered to Bryan on a continuation log book, dated 30 October 1957, and later re-registered to Ken on his birthday, 27 August 1971.

One evening, possibly in the 1960’s or 1970’s, when visiting Eric O’Dell in Kidderminster, Ken was presented with “some old books on cars” and on top of the pile was a Sunbeam handbook. Ken immediately opened it, and just as quickly put down. “That is the chassis number, and that is the engine number of my Sunbeam”. At the end of the war, Lieutenant Eric O’Dell, ex Royal Engineers, had returned from Italy by train with his commanding officer, Captain Sydney Grimshaw-Taylor: “What are you going to do when you get home Eric?” “Well the first thing that I am going to do is to buy a car”. “You can have mine. I will send you the books”. Eric received the books but never collected the car.

Ken was given the books relating to the Sunbeam, now realising that he was the second owner. Sometime later, Ken discovered in a local newspaper the obituary of a prominent local solicitor and ‘war hero’, Mr Sydney Grimshaw-Taylor.

After 36 years of ownership, Ken decided that it was time for a younger fellow to look after his pride and joy. Initially, when I first saw the Sunbeam I was not taken, mainly due to it not having a driver’s door, which is impractical in my small garage. We went for a drive in the car to view the spares that would be sold with the car, and I drove it back. We said our goodbyes with a promise that we would be in touch, knowing full well that that was not going to happen due to the impracticality of having only three doors. But for the next 2 or 3 days I could not get the car off my mind.

…and in France, with Mike

As a result we returned to Nottingham and have now celebrated 27 years as the custodians of the Sunbeam, registration number NU 2525.

 

 

With thanks to Mike for sharing his story and his photographs.

Clay Cross Treasures – one volunteer’s quest through the archives

It seems logical to have an introduction. I’m Phil, I’ve been volunteering now at the Record Office for 4 ½ years. Prior to this I had worked here for 2 ½ years and got very attached to the place! I couldn’t be got rid of that easily!

Over those 4 ½ years I have helped out by working mainly with first hand archive documents, which have ranged from First World War soldiers’ diaries, planning applications in Long Eaton, the Sheepbridge archive (which I have only half completed!) and the current ‘task’, which I seem to have been engaged on for many months… More of this in a minute. First some background…

I believe it was one of the archivists, who set me off on, what has for me, become something of an obsession! Becky first asked me whether I would be prepared to do it- it might take a while to complete! The task: sift through the Clay Cross Company’s archive (which up until then had not been catalogued) to seek out an original blueprint for Stephenson’s Rocket, supposedly buried somewhere in the archive!

What a challenge. I was asked to check all the boxes, ledgers, maps and plans looking for this piece of history’s legends. Becky provided a catalogue of all the places where I could locate the Clay Cross archive, and warned me that there were aspects of the collection that had simply ‘disappeared’. The recorded boxes were easy to locate in one of the main archival stores, the others (and there were lots of these) were somewhere in ‘Room Q’. Now Room Q is to be found in the basement of the new extension. It is the place where mould has a footing, dust has accumulated on archives that have arrived ‘raw’ in the record office- yet to be cleaned, and treasures lie undisturbed, awaiting discovery.

So, the search began. At first, I was merely skimming through the boxes and then returning them to the shelves. But that seemed to be wasting an opportunity, for such is the nature of life these days, it is uncertain when or if the archive might ever be catalogued. So, I asked would it be okay if I catalogued the contents of each of the boxes and identified where each part of the archive might be found?

I embarked on the journey of ‘discovery’ months ago- so many in fact, that I can’t remember exactly when I started. I have looked through all the archive, found the hiding places of much ‘lost’ material. I can say for certain that the Stephensons’ blueprint is not to be found in the Record Office. I still have a sizeable chunk of the archive to catalogue, but I have found so many treasures, so many connections to the Stephensons. It was George, that incredible man of vision, a true pioneer, who founded the Clay Cross Company all those years ago…

It has been an amazing experience and one which I have felt privileged to have been asked to do. I shall, in future blog posts, talk about some of these treasures. … One sad fact remains: the Clay Cross empire has gone, along with all of the physical signs of the collieries, blast furnaces, iron works, quarries… the legend lives on though- I hope, never to be forgotten…

Beware who you call a fool (April or otherwise)

Ok, I’ll admit that this may be a tenuous link to April Fool’s Day but on searching our catalogue for documents mentioning the day so favoured by pranksters I came across this document from 1661 within the Court of Quarter Sessions papers.

Q-SB-2-630

It tells of the case of John Hague from Aston who, when at Sara Barbors’ house in Derwent, spoke of the “act of oblivion” (The Indemnity and Oblivion Act of 1660) and called King Charles II a fool and a knave.

The Indemnity and Oblivion Act (its full title being ‘An Act of Free and General Pardon, Indemnity and Oblivion’) gave a general pardon to those who had committed crimes during the Civil War and Interregnum, with exception of crimes such as murder, witchcraft and piracy.

According to this witness statement, given to the Justices of the Peace on the 30th May 1661, John Hague voiced his opinion that the King was a fool not to void the Act and punish the Roundheads who had, of course, supported Parliament during the Civil War.

… [G]raynefoote in … gent taken oath before … Eyre Esq[uire] one of his Ma[jes]ties Justices of [the Peace] for the s[ai]d County, the thirtyeth day of May in the thirteenth yeare of the Raigne of o[urr] Suvaraigne lord King Charles the Second, as fouloweth

This informant saith that upon the nyneth day of this instant May he being in Company with one John Hague < an inhabitant within Aston in the said County >, Thom’ Thornell & [?others] at one Sara Barbors House in Derwent in the s[ai]d County: He the s[ai]d John Hague, in this informants heareing, tooke upon him to speake of the act of oblivion, & said the Kinge was a foole & a knave, if he made it not voyde, & hanged not upp all the Roundeheads, whereuppon this Informant ap[re]hended him, the said Joh Hague, telling him of the dangerous Consequences of the words: for by him speaken as afores[ai]d, but this informant furth[er] saith th[a]t the s[ai]d John Hague grew high in his languadge, & repeated the words over & over,

Roger Barber

Robt: Eyre

We may have more freedom to voice our opinions these days but in 1661 this was not a sensible course of action and could indeed have “dangerous Consequences”.  I don’t know what happened to John but it seems he was foolish to share his opinions!

N.B. those eagle eyed out there may have noticed the date as written in the document.  Documents written during the reign of Charles II are dated from 1649, which would have been the year Charles II began his reign following the death of his father, had there not been an Interregnum.

 

Owd Sammy Twitcher

Before the record office closed due to the Covid-19 virus, Melanie, one of our Archives Assistants, discovered the tale of an interesting Derbyshire character….

With delight, I came across an account of Owd Sammy Twitcher’s visit to Matlock – or visit ‘tu’t Watter Cure Establishment at Matlock-Bonk’, held at the Derbyshire Record Office in Matlock.

For those of you new to this beloved character, Owd Sammy is fictional character featured in a series of booklets written by Joseph Barlow Robinson in the late 1800s.

At the time, there was rise in popularity of affordable weekly almanacs and books for adults and children alike in Derby and across the county; many – such as this – were published by Bemrose, a respected and prolific publisher in Derby.

Owd Sammy is highly entertaining and comical; uniquely his various escapades in and across Derby.  Accurate details are provided about Derby and the county at that time.

As with all Owd Sammy accounts, the book is ‘roat, kompoazed, an hillustarted by a Darbysher Mon’ – written, composed and illustrated by a Derbyshire man, and written entirely in Derbyshire dialect! This wonderful book was published in 1871 and contains cartoon illustrations and descriptions of the multiple water treatments available in Matlock at the time. There is also an account of a fight with the bath man!

To help the reader understand the dialect, there is even a glossary, and when read out loud, the reader will sound and speak with a true fluent Derbyshire tongue!

So, as a non-Derbyshire person, ah’l teych mysen, cos weel, ahm sure, ah canna spok Darbysher varry weel!

The second part of the book does describe Matlock at the time, with detail about the establishments and treatments that were available, as well as activities and entertainment available for tourists. Mr Smedley’s, Rock House, Matlock House, Jackson House, Tor House, Prospect to name a few. Another delightful snapshot of the period, is detailed in the advertisements at the back of the book. Other than for Mr Smedley’s Hydro and Matlock-Bank, these are mainly for businesses based in Derby itself, where the publisher Bemrose was based. The last advertisement includes a few lines penned by a patient.

Owd Sammy Twitcher 2

Melanie, Archives Assistant