Derbyshire Heritage Awards Success!

Our Mining the Archives project won the Behind the scenes at the museum category of the 2016  Derbyshire Heritage Awards!  A big thank you to the judges for appreciating the quality of the work, to the National Manuscripts Conservation Trust for their funding and to Clare Mosley, Madeleine Marshall and Ian Maver for their hard work and expertise.



Lien Gyles and Sarah Chubb receiving the award


Congratulations also to our colleagues at Buxton Museum, who won the Young people in heritage category, and to all organisations who entered projects. The evening highlighted the imagination, creativity, determination and enthusiasm that thrives throughout the heritage sector in Derbyshire – a full list of winners and highly commended projects is on the Facebook page of the Derbyshire Museums and Heritage Forum.


All the winners and Highly Recommended projects

Mining the Archives Project – Conservation finished

For those of you who followed Clare’s posts about the work she was doing on our two very badly damaged lead mining account books: the conservation is now finished.  Clare went on maternity leave a few months ago (a boy!), but we were lucky enough to be able to recruit newly qualified paper conservator Madeleine Marshall to finish off the project.  Clare’s last post described how she washed all the pages of the 18th century volume, so let me explain what happened next…

Once all the pages were clean, they needed to be repaired so they would be safe to be handled again.  You can see in the photographs how Madeleine carefully needles out infills for the missing areas – basically we put new hand made paper where the original paper has crumbled away. We also sandwich the page between two sheets of very thin tissue, made from manila fibres, which gives it extra strength without obscuring the writing.  To stick it all together we make up our own adhesive, wheat starch paste, so we don’t add any potentially damaging chemicals to the documents.


D307 B 19 1 Maddie repairs 03

Needling out the repair


D307 B 19 1 Maddie repairs 01

Laying the repair in its place










The repaired pages are then re-assembled in their book sections and re-sewn:

D307 B 19 1 repaired sections trimmed 02

The repaired sections


D307 B 19 1 re-sewing

Sewing the textblock









Once we have our textblock we attach new boards:

D307 B 19 1 re-binding

Then we cover the book in book cloth:

D307 B 19 1 boards covered 01

The newly covered book drying out under weights



During the project we managed to turn this jigsaw puzzle

D7925 puzzling the pieces

Clare puzzling the pieces


into these readable sheets

D7925 after repairs

Fragments we couldn’t place with 100% certainty have been encapsulated, so they can still be examined


and this disintegrating book

D307 B 19 1 volume before repairs

into this readable one

D307 B 19 1 rebound

If you’d like to see either the actual volumes or their digitised images, ask for D7925 (the 19th century former jigsaw puzzle) and D307/B/19/1 (the 18th century rebound volume).

We remain grateful to the National Manuscripts Conservation Trust for their funding.

Dronfield History

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

Dronfield book covers

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

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

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

Mining the Archives exhibition

If you’ve been following Clare’s posts about the conservation work she’s been doing on lead mining related documents, you’ll be interested to know that our current exhibition features this project.  You can see how Clare has carried out repairs and we even have some of the pieces of 18th century lead we found tucked away in the pages of the account book on display.  The other half of the exhibition shows how the conservation team looks after our collections, making sure they don’t get eaten by pests, destroyed by mould or damaged in any other way while they’re in our care.

Clare was interviewed about the project and exhibition by Andy Potter from Radio Derby last week.  You can listen to the programme on the BBC website; the interview starts about 1 hour and 43 minutes into the show.

This free exhibition is on in our reception’s Vitrine Wall until Saturday 30 January, during normal opening hours.









Mining the Archives Project – Talk

Mining the Archives Poster

As part of the Mining the Archives Project, I will be giving a talk at Derbyshire Record Office on Friday 30th October 10.30am-12.00noon, all about the conservation work I have done on the project so far.

If you would like to find out more about exactly how I’ve conserved and preserved these fantastic historical documents, and also see them in the flesh, then come along!

Its free, but you will need to book a place via our Eventbrite page by following this link: Eventbrite Mining the Archives Talk

or call the Record Office on 01629 538347

Mining the Archives Project – Conservation Update

I’ve been busy working away on the mining the archives project and thought I would give a quick update on what’s been happening to that volume we found all the lead deposits in…

The 18th Century account book of Robert Thornhill (D307/B/19/1) has now been dismantled and cleaned. The cleaning process was very delicate as the edges of the pages are very fragile. Each page has been lightly surface cleaned using a ‘smoke sponge’ which is designed especially for conservation cleaning, and then brushed gently with a very soft Japanese brush.

The next step in preparing the pages for repairs is to wash them… yes really! It may seem like a strange thing to do, but we actually give each page a bath in a tray of water! This removes damaging dirt and impurities, and also re-invigorates the paper fibres giving it additional strength. The inks are tested for solubility first, as we don’t want to lose any of the information. The pages are given support whilst they are in the water using insect netting, and with a bit of care can be handled easily when wet.

washing 1

Documents in a bath of water

washing 2

Insect netting supports the documents so they can be handled when wet

washing 4

Before and after washing

washing 3

Dirty water remains!

After a good soak, the pages are removed from the bath and are left to air dry individually on pieces of thick blotting paper. Once dry they are ready for repairs to be carried out.

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

Mining the Archives Project – Conservation Update

I have now completed the bulk of the conservation work on  D248: Barmaster’s Lot and Cope account books, 1831-1870. Here are some of the repaired pages:



It really has made such a difference to all those pages which were in many pieces, as they can now be handled safely. The final few pages we came across in this pack were slightly different in appearance and texture to the others, and we think there may have already been some historic conservation procedures carried out on them which now requires some extra special treatment.

Whilst we investigate and decide what to do with the above, in the meantime I have begun work on the next document identified as part of the project; D307/B/19/1: Account book/ledger of Robert Thornhill, 1768 – 1829.


This 18th Century account book is still in its original, parchment-covered binding, which has considerable damage from a damp storage environment.  The book has suffered extensively from damp penetration, leaving the edge of every page extremely fragile and crumbling away. In its current condition this item cannot be used by researchers, as turning the pages will result in significant loss of information.

D307 B 19 1 crumbling pages 1D307 B 19 1 back end leavesD307 B 19 1 text block edge damage close up 2

Before I can repair the pages, the first job is to very carefully take the whole book apart. Each page will then be cleaned and washed before repairs are carried out. The original binding is too badly damaged to be re-used, so it will be kept with the item as part of the collection, and the repaired pages will be re-bound in a new binding.

So… scalpel at the ready, I will update you on how dismantling it goes!


Re-discovered: a late eighteenth-century lead-miner’s diary

You may have seen earlier posts highlighting how useful it is to have volunteers, and how useful it is to have a PhD student working with our lead-mining records.  Well, here’s a post that combines the two.

Last week, our volunteer Mavis examined and briefly described a collection, D3017, which had remained unlisted since we accepted it in 1986.  What had interested me was a mention on the Record Office Guide saying that D3017 included a c1789 coal mining diary.  On closer inspection, the thing turned out to have nothing to do with coal; it was the personal working diary of a particular lead-miner.  As Matthew Pawelski, our doctoral student, was on hand to confirm that this was quite a rarity, we digitised it to save wear and tear on the original.  I then spent a bit of time looking at it – just long enough to add a description to the catalogue.  If you follow that link, click on the catalogue entry for a fuller explanation, then click on the next link to see the description of the volume.

I also gave it a new reference number, because I couldn’t find any connection with the rest of that collection, so the diary is now D7812/1.  You can use a copy on any of the record office computers by looking for CD/348.

The diary seems to have belonged to John Naylor, who mined lead in the area around Ashford-in-the-Water.  (He gets a mention in Lynn Willies’s PhD thesis.)  The book looks rather home-made, and if you handle the document you can see how the pages have been roughly sewn together – in fact, it’s just possible that it was not originally a single volume, because it contains some quite different types of material.  For the most part, it’s a daily diary, covering 1789 to 1792, saying what tasks the diarist was engaged on, and where, as well as the dates of religious holidays when no work was done.  It’s also a personal account book, recording his spending on food and candles – for obvious reasons, lead-miners got through quite a lot of those.  As a sample, have a look at this page:


Here’s a transcription/explanation:

March 1790
21 March: C5 [C is for “church” – and the five means it is the fifth Sunday in Lent]
22-27 March: Knocking etc. all week
28 March: C6 [sixth Sunday in Lent]
29-31 March: at mine, knocking and budling
[No, I don’t know what budling is, but I’m confident one of our readers will know, and will post a comment below to explain.]

1790 March.  Bought of Mr Woodruf
9 March: flour, coarse, 1/2 stone: 1 shilling
10 March: meal, 4 pecks: 4 shillings
12 March: candles, 1 1b; 13 March: flour, coarse, 1/2 stone: 1 shilling, 8d
16 March: cheese, 4 1/2 lb: 1 shilling 5d
17 March: flour, 1 stone, coarse: 2 shillings
18 March: bacon, 3 lbs: 1 shilling, 10 1/2d
19 March: meal, 2 pecks: 2 shillings
20 March: bacon, 1 pound: 7 1/2d
24 March: flour, 1 stone; 26 March: ditto 1/2 stone, coarse, 3 shillings
27 March: Candles, 1 lb; 28 March: beef, 1/2 lb: 4 shillings 11d
Total: £1, 2 shillings, 6d

April 1790
1 April: at mine, budling
2 April: knocking
3 April: budling
4 April C: Easter Sunday
5-10 April: at mine all this week, knocking, budling and washing. Margaret Harrison came to knock two days this week and one washing – in all, three days
11 April: C1 [First Sunday after Easter]
12 April: John and Margaret knocking and washing a little
13 April: knocking ourselves, water [What’s that about water? There’s some writing next to it – a measurement of depth?]
14 April: knocking ourselves
15-17 April: Margaret washing
18 April: C2 [Second Sunday after Easter]

I’m no handwriting expert, so I couldn’t swear it’s all written by the same person, although I think that’s the likeliest explanation.  The reason we think the writer is John Naylor is this page, which says “John Naylor his book”.


Notice the adjacent page?  It contains an epitaph, headed “The Grave has never been denied”:
Ho, ho, lies here
‘Tis I the good Earl of Devonshire
With Cate my Wife, to me full dear
That we spent we had
That we left we lost
That we gave, we have

I don’t know if that’s a quotation, or if Mr Naylor was an aspiring poet.  (If you know, don’t be shy – please use the comments box below.)  We might infer literary aspirations from the bits of the volume that have been used as a commonplace book for prayers, devotional writings and short essays on esoteric subjects, such as “On Dreams”, describing to the attitudes of Ptolemy, Galen and Solomon towards dreams.

Mining the Archives Project – Conservation Update

I’ve been working away on the conservation of documents as part of the Mining the Archives Project, and have so far repaired over 50 individual pages of D248: Barmaster’s Lot and Cope account books, 1831-1870.

damaged cope account book before repairs damaged cope account book before repairs

Each page is extremely fragile – the book has been badly damaged by damp and mould, which has caused the paper to lose all of it’s strength and it is literally falling to pieces. The book had been dismantled years ago, so the pages are in no particular order with fragments muddled up and all over the place. Before I can begin the treatment process the first task is to puzzle all the pieces back together so that all the bits are in the right place. This can be very tricky due to the extent of the damage, a bit like a very complicated mouldy jigsaw puzzle!

lead mining puzzling pieces

Once I am sure everything is in the correct place I can begin the repairs. I have to be certain about this, because otherwise the information may not appear accurate, particularly as these are account books, so contain a lot of complicated numbers and arithmetic. After painstaking attempts, if I can’t find where a piece definitely goes, it will be saved in case researchers (or jigsaw enthusiasts) want to try and attempt to find where it fits in the future.

As you can see it requires a lot of patience, but it is very satisfying when you manage to match one up successfully!