Fothers, Franklin and Folksongs

Around this time yesterday, I was at an interdisciplinary seminar at Brunel University, showing an assortment of lead-mining documents to an assortment of academics.  All those assembled had an interest in metals and mining during medieval and early modern times, whether from the perspective of a historian, geographer, palaeoecologist, sociologist or, in my case, archivist.  Here are three examples of the Derbyshire Record Office documents that I had digitised to take with me:

D258/27/1/18d258-27-1-18

This is a lease by the Abbot and Convent of the Dale (i.e. Dale Abbey) to Richard Blackwell of “Worseworth” (Wirksworth), of their lot and tithe ore at “the Gryffe” (Griffe). It dates from 1489.  The tithe was ten percent of whatever lead ore was extracted at Griffe during that period, whereas lot was a customary payment of every thirteenth dish of lead ore. For the six years covered by this lease, those payments would go straight to Blackwell – by the time the lease expired, he would know whether the bargain had been worth making.

The all-important measuring of lead ore would have gone on in a building like the one depicted in this map of Wensley of 1688, reference D239/M/E/5525:

d239-m-e-5525

See the circular yellow-green blob just to the right of the centre? Inside is a drawing of something marked “reckoning coe”, where the ore would be measured.  You can also see the “smithy coe” in the bottom-right corner.  (A coe is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as “a little hut built over a mine-shaft, as a protection to the shaft, or as a repository for ore, tools, etc” – although on the map it is spelled “cow”.)

Finally, there’s this petition, D258/10/9/35:

d258-10-9-35

It is addressed to the King from Wirksworth’s miners and argues that the town ought to have its own representatives in parliament, because as things stood the miners “have noe voyces” in choosing MPs.  To back up their argument, they point to the importance of the town’s barmote court in regulation of the lead industry, the employment of “many thousand people” in the mines, the profitable incomes from the customary dues of lot and cope, and the benefits of having so much lead “for the use of the kingdome in generall, and in transporting the rest to forraigne nations, whereby your Majestie hath greate customes, both for the leade exported, and for the other merchandize imported in exchange thereof”.  I am afraid we do not know exactly when this petition was drawn up, but it was not a success – Wirksworth never had its own parliamentary constituency.

After the seminar, heading home from Derby railway station, I chanced to hear a song by Jim Moray which has been nominated for this year’s BBC Folk Awards.  The reason I mention it is that it was clearly inspired by the life of Sir John Franklin, polar explorer (1786-1847).  You might want to have a look at some of this blog’s previous posts about Franklin, or listen to the the very final tune of Simon Mayo’s programme on the iPlayer.

 

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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.

 

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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-winners-and-highly-commended

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

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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… Literally!

I never thought that during this project I would literally be mining the archives… until this week when I began work on dismantling the 18th Century account book of Robert Thornhill, and to my surprise, hidden between the pages, I discovered what appeared to be deposits of lead!

D307 B 19 1 Lead particles found in between pages (1)

D307 B 19 1 Lead particles found in between pages (5)

This caused quite a scare for our health and safety team – Lead is a highly poisonous metal, and if it is inhaled or swallowed it can cause serious damage to the nervous system or brain. This being so, I stopped working on the book immediately, and our health and safety manager rushed to the scene to advise us on how to proceed.

Lead is dangerous if it is inhaled or ingested, but to inhale it the particles must be very fine and dust-like. Luckily the particles of lead we found were relatively large, and there was no evidence of dust, so we were told we were safe to proceed with precautions – wearing a mask, gloves and protective clothing; hand washing and proper disposal of the gloves and masks; and ensuring that the work area is cleared of all debris with Hepa filter vacuum cleaner…

D307 B 19 1 dismantling and numbering sections (1)

…Panic over!

However, in the midst of all this excitement, we had a thought…  the discovery of lead in this account book might tell us something about its history – the environment in which it was written, and where the work was carried out. We have collected samples of the lead and debris from the guttering of the pages and are hoping to get these tested using Infrared Spectrometry, a method of analysing the samples to identify the substances present. The findings could give us more clues about the provenance of the book, and lead mining history in general, which would potentially be valuable information for researchers.

Who knew this long neglected account book would cause such a stir?!

 

 

 

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:

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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.

book

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!