Bills, bills, bills…

Roger is one of a number of cataloguing volunteers who have been putting a great deal of work into collection D769, deriving from the practice of Taylor Simpson & Mosley, Solicitors, of Derby.  The collection includes a large number of maps which have been listed and available for many years, and an ever larger number of boxes which have never seen the light of day, because they have never been listed.  The volunteers have been going through some of these boxes in a bid to change all that.  Roger writes:

Amongst the documents in one box is a remarkable collection of invoices which record the debts owed by one Robert Curzon at the time of his accidental death in 1873. Robert Curzon and his wife Charlotte lived at Alvaston, although Robert Curzon’s duties as a captain in the Sussex Militia required him to spend time at the regimental barracks in Chichester.

Contemporary newspapers record that toward the end of September 1873, Robert and Charlotte Curzon went to a shooting party in Leicestershire. On their return journey the horse pulling their trap grew restive as they passed through the village of Diseworth. The trap overturned. Robert and Charlotte Curzon were thrown out, sustaining head injuries. Charlotte Curzon recovered but Robert Curzon died two days later, aged 32.

Some 250 invoices submitted after his death give a vivid indication of the breadth of Robert Curzon’s expenditure and the extent of credit he enjoyed during the months, and in many cases the years, before his death. Alongside the invoices are documents showing that Robert Curzon’s estate was not sufficient to meet the debts and his brothers took responsibility, in the process taking a bank loan of £3,000.

The retailers and suppliers represented include fishmongers, bakers, grocers, butchers, fruiterers, ale, wine and spirit merchants; florists and nurserymen; surgeons, dentists, chemists and hairdressers; drapers, glass, china and furniture merchants; tailors, dressmakers, hat makers, boot and shoe makers; jewellers, optical suppliers, watch and clockmakers; tobacconists; coach builders, cab hirers and livery stables; veterinary surgeons, blacksmiths, saddlers, harness makers, fishing tackle makers and gun and ammunition merchants; music suppliers, photographers and a portrait painter; taxidermists; hoteliers; newsagents, a theatre ticket agent, a library, booksellers and stationers; umbrella and cane makers; a timber merchant, plumbers, builders and ironmongers. There is even an invoice from Alvaston toll gate listing outstanding turnpike tolls. A handful of items give details of payments to servants and employees.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Although many suppliers are from Derby there are many from London, and some from Chichester. Further afield are a jeweller and a taxidermist in Inverness; an antique dealer and livery stables in York; wine merchants in Leeds, Cologne and Bordeaux; and a portrait painter from Richmond, Surrey. A few items are in the form of note books, holding a chronological running record of goods supplied. The collection offers a colourful variety of printed billheads with decorative texts and illustrations. A few twenty-first century household names appear amongst the suppliers: W H Smith, newsagents, and Benson & Hedges, tobacconists, are immediately recognisable.

The invoices might provide a number of research opportunities. Many show abundant detail, such that it would be possible to construct a chronology of the daily life and travels of Robert Curzon over a period of at least twelve months. The detail might be of interest to students of domestic economy and those interested in the range amount and cost of foodstuffs available to a specific household in the 1870s. There are detailed invoices from chemists showing the supply of everyday household remedies; from nurserymen with specific information about plants and seeds supplied, and from tailors and dressmakers.

Volunteering at Derbyshire Record Office, Summer 2015

A lowly university student, panic-stricken and preceding her third and final year of studying Archaeology and Ancient Civilizations, it suddenly dawned on me… I need to decide what I want to do with my life!


The summer was fast approaching and I knew it would be the best (and last) real opportunity I would have to fully commit myself to work experience before having to decide which career path I would like to follow. I’ve always thought of working in the heritage sector, as history and learning are my passion and also the basis of my degree. In addition, I’m also extremely interested in local history, as I’ve grown up with parents who encouraged and fuelled this interest. Therefore, when searching through the options available, I came across Derbyshire Record Office in Matlock. I’ve always been interested in archives but, to be completely honest, was not too sure what it really meant to be an ‘archivist’. However, I was curious and intrigued to find out.

I got in touch with the Record Office and was put forward to Paul Beattie. We communicated via email and phone and he helped me to plan my volunteering around university and my part-time job. The Record Office were extremely flexible and helpful when it came to actually planning the time in which I could volunteer, basically leaving it to my discretion, which was tremendously accommodating for somebody like myself with such a busy schedule.

While volunteering, I was able to experience all areas available at the Record Office, including; the archives, local studies and conservation. I worked with various members of staff, all who were incredibly friendly, helpful and skilled at their jobs. I was able to experience: box-listing, cataloguing using archival software CALM, using microfilms, heat-set repair techniques on documents and many more equally exciting and new tasks. I received talks by different departments on; record keeping, conservation, archival projects, microfilm, special archives and more. I was also even lucky enough to view a few of the wonders of the archive – my personal favourite being Beatrix Potter’s grandad’s fabric books, which are breathtakingly beautiful and well preserved. While I was there, I was given the opportunity to delve into every area available and spend time where I enjoyed the most – this, in particular, really made my time spent at the Record Office, worthwhile and irreplaceable, as it accommodated my interests but also allowed me to explore other areas I had not considered before.

My time spent volunteering at Derbyshire Record Office has been both memorable and invaluable. I was welcomed warmly by all staff, given interesting and exciting tasks to complete that were accustomed to my own interests, and I was made to feel instantly ‘at home’. The people I met were highly skilled professionals who are accomplished at their jobs and more than willing to teach volunteers valuable skills that they can take away from the experience. They were also kind enough to answer my persistent questions about career opportunities and pathways and even gave me information and sources to look further into. I am immensely grateful to everybody at DRO for offering me their time and wisdom this summer. I know that my time spent volunteering has definitely helped bring clarity to my mind over the path to reaching my desired career. Thank you so much.

Kerry Edwards

Richard Arkwright and his family

On my work placement at the record office I had an opportunity to research a topic of personal interest. At school, I briefly studied Richard Arkwright in history, so I was keen to learn more about him and in particular his family. I searched the catalogue and found a notebook and some of his family’s estate papers. The notebook dates from 1800-1801; an accompanying piece of paper states that it was written by Sir Richard Arkwright’s grandson(Richard Arkwright III)  and it is believed that he wrote it whilst he was at university in Cambridge. He talks about the history of England from 55BC to 1423. A few years ago in school we studied the Battle of Hastings so I was curious to learn what he wrote! Unfortunately, the notebook was very difficult to read (see picture). Although, I managed to read a section on William the Conqueror:  “After this complete victory, William soon clarified him-self on the English throne; indeed the two earls Edward and Stigard Archbishop of Canterbury endeavoured to set up Edgar Aethling in preference”.


His family’s estate papers included a map of Willersley Farm (which Sir Richard Arkwright owned); he purchased the farm from Thomas Hallet Hodges of Wirksworth in 1782. Also, the file includes some bills from Willersley and a record of the furniture. There was also a document which described Arkwright’s (II) property and some of his belongings after his death on 23 April 1843. In conclusion, looking at some of the items that belonged to Sir Richard Arkwright and his son has given me further insight in to his life. The notebook was very interesting and showed what his grandson did when he was younger and perhaps showcases his passion for history. There are some other things that I would have liked to find out if I had more time, such as finding out more information about the court case (about land between Peter Nightingale and Arkwright) which was briefly  mentioned in the estate papers.


Ella Cooling

Smedley’s hydro, by Alex

In addition to researching my house, I also looked at documents relating to Smedley’s Hydro. What is now the County Hall in Matlock was once the hydro of John Smedley were people can come and relax with the water treatments, known as Smedley’s Hydropathic Establishment. Here are a few photographs from an old brochure for the hydro, showing it was surprisingly lavish and elaborately decorated.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Alex Jackson

Finding my house on a Matlock tithe map

Tithe map of Matlock, showing my house

Tithe map of Matlock, showing my house

As a student on work experience at the county record office I always wanted to find my house on a map to see if it was there or not. Therefore I decided to look for it on an 1848 tithe map. After a short while I concluded that this was my house (see map on left). The reason why I knew that my house would be on a map like this was because the previous home owners told us that the house dated back as early as the seventeenth century.

Tithe map2

The map was really exciting because it was evidence that the house was there at that time and it backed up what the previous home owners said. After that I found my house on the tithe award showing the plot number (394) and the home owners who owned it. In 1848 George Keeling was the occupant of the house with a court, privy, road and garden! 167 years from then the house is still occupied (and standing!).

Alex Jackson

A week in the life of a work experience student…

As a student with an interest in history (hoping to go on to studying this at university), I chose the archives as the ideal work placement for my year 12 work experience. With this in mind I applied to the Derbyshire Record Office in Matlock and have been spending a week here observing the work that is done.

On Monday morning I began my week of work experience at 9 o’clock starting with a tour of the record office itself (including archives and local studies). I was surprised by the amount of resources available especially in terms of the number of documents kept at the record office; with almost five miles of shelving to boast of throughout one can only imagine the amount of information available. Then there are the documents themselves. It was amazing to see the original and unique documents kept at the record office as well as how well they have been preserved. My first afternoon was spent in conservation, something I was eager to see; as well as being made aware of the different dangers posed to the documents kept at the record office (including temperature, humidity, insect damage, wear and possible fire damage) and how these risks are managed (for example through carefully monitoring the environment), I was also shown the different methods of repairing documents that have been damaged. I was even able to try a preservation technique for myself in the form of cleaning some documents.

On my second day I helped in a year five school session, in order to complete a project on local history they wished to use the facilities at the record office. The areas of interest included John Smedley, the hydros of Matlock, and begin to look at how leisure has changed from the industrial revolution. In order to fulfil this a session had been planned in which the children would look at documents relating to John Smedley, use documents to create their own exhibition on hydros, and create a timeline of leisure activities which had been sourced from the information available from the archives. There were two groups of students; those who weren’t at the record office were taken into Matlock in order to see how the town has changed from past photos to the present day. I found it enjoyable to work with the children and see how enthusiastic most were about the activities that had been planned for them. They seemed pleased to be able to use primary sources to find out more about figures they had studied (such as John Smedley).

Wednesday morning was spent in local studies which houses books relating to Derbyshire and also has computers where people can begin to research their family history. I was given a tour of the facilities offered then using was able to look at different types of census data (for example how the census changed between 1911 and 1841). Then, using the available facilities, I was given an example enquiry and had to find information about the given person – this included looking at their family through different censuses and finding baptism records to place approximate dates of birth. Although I did attempt some family history the fact that my surname is so common made it difficult. After lunch the project work began and my first task was re-cataloguing documents relating to Derbyshire sent from Sheffield Archives, this was a rather broad collection (ranging from a deed from 1386 to accounts). Admittedly some of the text was difficult to read (especially the older documents), however it became much easier over time to provide a description and locate a date. The information will soon be input into the online catalogue. The documents also needed to be numbered so that they worked with the system employed at the record office. Part of what I enjoyed most about the placement was the fact that I was able to get so close to the original documents therefore the project work was some of my favourite that I completed over the week.

Another part of the record office I experienced on my placement was the search room, this was on Thursday morning. After a tour and introduction to the services offered (including how specific documents could be found), I was able to order recipe books so that the second project could begin. This involved typing up the contents of recipe books which would then be available on the online catalogue. Whilst some of the recipes were familiar to me (including Bakewell pudding and gingerbread), others were not for example the extraordinary variety of wine. As these had been hand written it was often difficult to decipher exactly what the recipe was of, especially due to the fact that multiple authors were sometimes involved, although eventually the meaning could be found resulting in a lovely sense of accomplishment. The afternoon was then spent with ‘Picture the Past’, a project involving Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Derby City and Nottingham City aiming to digitise original photographs of the areas. These could be from libraries sent by the local authority or donated by the public and, as a result, there are photos of most areas on the website. Work here included checking links on the website and discussing how the services offered by ‘Picture the Past’ could be used in schools. To see the work done by the ‘Picture the Past’ project please see From searching the area in which I live I was able to see images of the railway and factories that had been present. It was fascinating to see how much the local area has changed even if there was some sense of familiarity in the landscape.

On my final day at the record office I continued with the work sent from Sheffield Archives (as several boxes were to be catalogued). Handling the documents myself made me aware of the huge amount of information held by the record office not only including legal documents but also personal letters and pedigree charts.

My week spent at the record office has been a truly interesting one, I have been fascinated by the documents I have seen and also the amount of resources that the record office and local studies offers to the public. As a result of my interest in history it has been remarkable to view and touch the documents that have evident historical importance.

Anna Burton




Potter and Co Collection: No Longer a Miscellaneous Box

In my previous post I was battling with my miscellaneous box, and was required to tackle it when it came to my attention that the collection needed restructuring.

5 hours and 94 items later, the box has been sorted through and catalogued onto CALM ready to be arranged into categories (series and subseries) during my next visit to the DRO.

With the items now identified, the box is no longer a miscellaneous box, although not entirely linked with the Dinting Vale Print Works collection that it was deposited with. However, due to the items’ connection with Glossop and Manchester, the items can be kept within the collection in a separate series.

Many of the papers belonged to Mr Hurst, who the library belonged to, meaning that many items may have just been swept up from his desk, such as newspapers, which makes my job even more difficult.

Box 13 items

Box 13 items

Now I am ready to put all the items into subseries, such as papers relating to the day-to-day Dinting Vale and printed books. Once organised, I can focus on numbering all the items and placing them in boxes and recording the new location.

That’s me for another week.

Progress and Travelling thoughts

Its now mid-June and we’ve already had two Bank Holidays in the last month. The weather is getting warmer (hopefully!) and the days are getting longer. Can you guess where I’m going with this? Yes, the holiday season will soon be upon us and for many of us that means we will be dusting off a very important document which enables us to travel abroad – the passport.

In 1846, Sir William FitzHerbert, 4th Baronet of Tissington, travelled briefly abroad and the images below are of his passport which was issued to him for doing so. You can see what it looks like as well as the fold out page that is the offical document. It is notable that it is more ‘low-tech’ than the passports we have today! You can read more about the history of passports on Wikipedia. Some brief notes mention that he went to Hamburg, now a city in Germany, but which was then a fully independent state.

I’m making steady progress with the catalogue. Now everything in each box has been listed I have entered all the information into an excel spreadsheet, which should be completed shortly. I am doing this in accordance with ISAD(G), the international standard for cataloguing archive collections which ensures consistency. The next step is to go through the data again and give each item a reference number, before expanding on some of the descriptions.

I’ll let you know how I’m getting on in the next post.



Treasure 25: The John Wheatcroft Plan of the Hubberdale Possessions, 1840

This treasure has been suggested by one of our regulars, researcher Steve Thompson.  He is the author of the text which follows.

D3266/92 is a very fine lead mining plan indeed, entitled “Plan of the Pipes and Rakes in the Hubberdale Title Within the Townships of Taddington & Flagg in the Queens Field and Hundred of High Peak by John Wheatcroft in June 1840”.  This very large plan, a little over eight feet by six feet, is drawn on a scale of 1 inch to 50 yards (1:1800), and demonstrates a very high standard of draughtsmanship. Continue reading

Potter and Co Collection: Dealing with “Miscellaneous” material

One of the worse phrases that can be used in an archive catalogue is the word “miscellaneous” since this does not explain the documents that are being held. In the Potter and Co collection I had, for the time being, filled a boxed with “miscellaneous” material to be dealt with at a later time. It allowed me to continue with the rest of the collection, but I could not hide from the difficult job I had in front of me.

Whilst numbering and reboxing the collection, see previous blog below, it came to my attention that many of the series needed restructuring and better grouping was required to help users find similar documents within the collection. Therefore, my “miscellaneous” box needed to come out of the strongrooms to be sorted out, and to be allocates to the series that I had created.

I found this a challenging job to do because there are about 100 items in this box, which may or may not be relevant to the Potter and Co, Dinting Vale, Glossop collection. But onwards and upwards; most of the box has been looked through and once everything had been noted down, I will start to allocate these documents, along with the other documents to the restructured series.

Miscellaneous box

Miscellaneous box