Mother’s Day Surprise!

Still looking for that perfect gift for Mother’s Day?  How about the parish register that shows the baptism or wedding of her ancestors?  Or a map of the area she grew up in, or the admission register of the school she went to? Perhaps she loves dancing, walking, trains, cooking, gardening, sport or art? Why not have a look at our Adopt A Piece Of History scheme and give her the chance to help protect her own and Derbyshire’s history.

aph-certificate

And because it’s such a special occasion, we’ll waive our usual delivery times – just send through your order for any type of certificate and pay for it by noon on Friday 24th March, and your personalised certificate will be in your inbox by noon on Saturday 25th March.

 

Results of our 2016 Visitor Survey

Back in Autumn 2016, we participated in the national survey of visitors to archives, which is carried out by the Archives and Records Association (ARA).  The national results have just been published – these may be of more interest to archivists than visitors, but if you’d like to see the results for the whole country, you’ll find them on the ARA website under the heading ‘PSQG National Survey of Visitors Reports’.  For Derbyshire, here are a few highlights:

This compares well to the national averages, which were 9.8 for attitude of staff, 9.7 for quality of staff advice, and 9.3 for the service overall.

The gender profile of our visitors has changed markedly since we last did the survey in 2011.  Then, 52% of our visitors were female and 48% were male.  A lot more men seem to be using us now: in 2016, 62% were male and 38% female.

Five years ago, 81% of our visitors were researching family history.  This has nearly halved – in 2016 only 41%  of our visitors say they are researching family history.  Local history is now the most popular topic of research at 43%.   We can’t say with absolute certainty why this shift has happened, but it’s likely to be caused by the rise in websites like Ancestry and Findmypast.  These websites mean that people can do a lot of their family history online, and don’t need to visit record offices so much.

For the first time, the survey asked people to say specifically what they were researching, and there is a fascinating range of subjects given, from the diary of Henry Colvile’s, who fought in late 19th century Uganda, to changes in church windows over the years.  If you’d like to see a bit more detail about what our visitors are researching, what they said about the Record Office, and our responses to their comments, we’ve compiled the key information into a document: 2016 Satisfaction survey – summary of responses.

You might think that this is all very interesting (or not!) but what impact does it have?  Well, knowing why people use us and what kind of subjects they are researching is enormously helpful in deciding what collections we catalogue or digitise, and the future work we do.   And the scores that our customers give for our various facilities and services help us to plan where we will be making changes.

As an example, the survey tells us that 49% of visitors search our online catalogue before their visit.  However, only 48% of them rated the usability of our online catalogue as very good.   We want more people to use the online catalogue, and for them to find what they want more easily so we’re at the very early stages of ambitious plans to overhaul the online catalogue over the next few years.

Thank you to everyone who participated in the survey.  I know it can feel like once you’ve popped your survey in the box, nothing happens, but it takes a few months to process the results for the whole of the UK.  Although it’s slow, it does eventually have an effect, so watch this space…

I love it when a plan comes together…

… with the original survey book alongside which it was created.

Plans and survey books are easily separated.  They are superficially very different: a survey may look like a standard hardback of several pages, and the plan that goes with it may be a single sheet, rolled up or folded.  The difference in size and shape means the pair of items are unlikely to be stored on the same shelf or in the same box.  In fact, each might be so useful on its own that from time to time, their custodians forget that they two items were designed to complement one another.

Here’s how they work together.  See the plot numbered 358 on this poor rate plan of Brimington dating from 1827? I have highlighted it with a black arrow.

D177 A PC 37

If I want to find out more about it, I can look at the survey book, and see that it was a Blacksmith’s shop and hovel, owned and occupied by George Richards, amounting to three perches in area.

D636 A PO 1

When Brimington Parish Council was created, as a consequence of the Local Government Act of 1894, the civil functions of Brimington parish began to be administered under a separate authority for the first time.  The church parish, meanwhile, retained its ecclesiastical duties.  In the division of assets, whether by accident or design, the new parish council got to keep the book, while the church held on to the plan.  Come the 1960s, each of these bodies began to deposit its historic records here, so that the survey and plan ended up in separate collections.

Today I added a cross-reference to the catalogue, and I believe it was the first time that anyone at our end had linked the two things together – although I gather from a researcher who visited today that both documents are mentioned by Philip J Cousins in his “Brimington : the changing face of a Derbyshire village”, published to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the parish council.

If you ever want to visit us to use the documents in our search room, or order a paid search of their contents, here are the all-important reference numbers: the book is D636/A/PO/1, and the plan is D177/A/PC/37.

Treasure 50: Walter’s gift of land in 1115

The very last of our 50 Treasures (D77/1/23/58) is believed to be the very first, chronologically: the oldest document we hold. Dating from approximately 1100-1115, during the reign of Henry I, this deed records the gift of a virgate of land by Walter of Ridware to Robert Mellor. The land in question was in Seale, more familiar to us today as Overseal and Netherseal. The term “virgate” was not used with great precision – but it means about 30 acres.

The building plans of Osmaston Manor – now ready for use

You may recall a previous blog post about Osmaston Manor, describing the accidental rediscovery of some building plans.  They had not been listed (perhaps because of their poor condition) but nor had they been repaired, and their existence had been more or less forgotten.

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They have now been cleaned and packaged and, in some cases, repaired. They have also been described in clearer terms in the D1849 catalogue.  If you would like to have a look at these records, you can order them out for use in the search room or you can log on to one of our Netloan computers and look for CD number 397, which contains good quality copies.

Derwent Valley Mills celebrations in Belper

This Saturday, 11 March, the Derwent Valley Mills celebrates fifteen years of recognition as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  Between 11 am and 4 pm there will be all kinds of events at the Strutts Centre in Belper, including children’s activities, guided walks, talks, and stalls from forty heritage organisations.  We’ll be there with our stall, giving advice on how to use original records for your research and how to look after the old family photographs, letters and books we all have tucked away in a drawer or a box somewhere.

Saturday

We hope to see you on Saturday!

 

Treasure 49: a letter from Congreve Butt, 1839

This letter (D5605/2/6) was written by a medic, Congreve Butt, to his brother Revd George Butt, who was vicar of Chesterfield from 1851 until his death in 1888.  It was nominated as one of our 50 Treasures by Vicky, a Record Assistant at Derbyshire Record Office, who picked it out for our “Thank You For Your Letter” outreach project in 2009. “I was surprised to find the content of this letter much richer than described in the catalogue entry”, says Vicky. “Although George went onto become a much respected Vicar of Chesterfield we don’t hear directly from the louche doctor again. Relatives say in much later correspondence that he became a ship’s surgeon bound for Calcutta – I just wonder what he got up to there?”

The letter is an entertaining read, but the handwriting is not easy – Vicky’s transcript follows beneath the scanned copy.

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Martley [Worcestershire] Nov 4th 1839

My Dear George,

Enclosed in some rough envelopes I have sent you a ham – which I trust will turn out well- and if it will not be unacceptable to you – I have received your two last letters which gave me great satisfaction as I wanted to hear from you having been kept in a long continued state of ignorance as to your state of health and progression in other matters. In fact I have not had any family communication since we met. With the exception of seeing Ewen whom I heard address a jury the other day. He performed his part far better than I could have expected, from the little I heard only at the fag end of the learned counsel’s speech –and I should not be surprised to see him worming his way to some eminence “nator fit” we all know & the youth possesses perseverance – Speaking of orators – what do you think of the poet Kilpins production? I have not yet read it but I have heard some persons speak of it in high terms – Kilpin says you are very amusing and find him matters for his wit – Did you find matter for “the man in the moon ?”

I heard of Lovery lately from the hearths of Wick – I think the second sister is staying in Oxford – Pray tell me if she is, and what you think of her – she took wonderfully with me not so much for her personal appearance as for her good qualities – which were remarkable – I found a strong contrast to some other members of her family . If old Conway Lovery (or rather, young ) is in Oxford pray tell me & remember me to him as I should like him to come a & spend two or three days at Xmas.

As I am now getting established in the opinions of many of my neighbours – and I am progressing as this thinly populated and poor neighbourhood will admit of – I am making enough to keep myself in pocket money & boot leather & not of any fresh debts – having received perhaps £20 altogether – and If I get the remaining £10 in my books paid by Xmas – I think I can strain a point to see an old friend for a day or two – especially as I have been requested to take my friends to some neighbouring families – where I always have a knife & fork & a welcome. Old Captain S when he sees me always sneaks away like a canine animal in a quandary – leaving my circle of acquaintance almost confined to Mrs Sparkes, Mr Kenton, Eginton,& Archy[…]

We have a pleasant curate just arrived. He was at East Garlton in the summer months cooking at the curacy – His name is Davis – he is very gentlemanly – keeps two carriages & preaches extempore in a manner not unwitting of a metropolitan pulpit – I have not visited Price recently – I rather think that he has voted me a bore, as he has hinted two or three times on the expense of going to Worcester to see Mr Lechmore, so I trouble him as little as possible – I suppose you know old Sir Winnington is translated to another world – I do not know his son.

[The curate referred to was Revd Edward Acton Davies M.A., who was rector of Areley Kings by the time he died in 1880, aged 74.]

It is a great difficulty this to lie by and let my “wanton zeal mould in roosted sloth” – but I groan & endure & read books of a voluminous size from the library being relieved from my monotony by being visited by about one patient a day – & an occasional bit of cheating at vingt un with some of the fair agricultural nymphs of this vicinity – among whom I am sorry to say that I cannot help maintaining my ancient character for being fond of a bit of “getting upstairs and playing the fiddle”. I say sorry, because all the world expects a medical man to be always wrapt up in an odour of gravity – in fact to assume a humbugging puritanical deportment which it is my misfortune to lack – time, however, which will soon turn me bald, may perchance give me a due share of that other inestimable quality.

[Vingt-et-un is the French version of the card game known as blackjack or pontoon – but somehow I don’t think this is what he is alluding to.]

In your letter of October 4th – you describe my letter as a non descript one – What will call this? – Something of the same sort. My hand is quite out – I have written to no one & for no one. I am obliged to take up with the subjects of conversation I meet with, instead of enjoying the company of any rationally educated people – It is therefore marvelous that the product of my brain should be a rambling hodge podge , a pot pourri as the Gauls have it. Besides when I take up my pen in your behalf I have so much to ask you & so much to say that I scarcely know where to begin far less where to end. I thought therefore that your reverence will not measure my feeble epistolary power by your own signature ones – but will be taken into your generous consideration that, however great a jumble & even concentration of ideas – distinct or otherwise there may be in my cranium – yet I am not weekly exercised by the utterance of them in writing of humour (not that I mean to say you with your own nor anything to the contrary) as you are. Nor am I in a classical soil – Genius within this country – men whose talk is of bullocks abound here to the exclusion of all others.

I wish you would lend me your pistols for a short time when you don’t want them – they would afford me a small variety in my retreat & I want to shoot a dog or two which always fly at me – & in kicking of whom I hurt my toe – you shall have them back honor bright.

The day after I sent your box , Perrott sent me a new copy of Coleridge – all three vols which is the one you have – as I may as well keep the other I send you the two. You did not tell me whether all the books were right – I think my “Bacot on Syphilis” is amongst your books – Please take care of it. [John Bacot’s “A Treatise On Syphilis” (London, 1829).]Can you tell me how long Henry will be in Paris ? I would like to commission him to get some bougies [A thin flexible surgical instrument] if I knew his address – Bloxham knows a gentleman in the customs at Dover who would pass anything for him – It is the india rubber bougies & catheters which I mean and which are made so much better in Paris than anywhere else. Plague upon it – I just see by referring to your letter that Henry is in London – when we get the penny postage I’ll write him a letter. Apropos Remember me to Penny – and B.M.

Your very affectionate brother Congreve

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.

 

Treasure 47: Plan of proposed railway to Mapperley Colliery

This treasure (Q/RP/2/207) is a plan of a proposed railway to Mapperley Colliery, submitted to the Quarter Sessions Court in 1889 by the Great Northern Railway. It shows the line between the Heanor branch and the Midland Railway branch to Mapperley Colliery.

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This is one of over three hundred railway plans and books of reference in the Quarter Sessions collection – the reason we have them is that from 1792 onwards, anyone who planned to build a canal, turnpike road or railway had to deposit plans with the Clerk of the Peace for any affected county.

aph-mapperley-rail-plan-01

If you would like to support our work by adopting this document, for yourself or as a gift, have a look at the Adopt A Piece Of History page