Derbyshire perspectives – reading landscape

Derbyshire artist Peter Knight celebrates his love of the craft of print media with the layered continuum of exploring this remarkable county.  His exhibition ‘Derbyshire perspectives – reading landscape’ is on show at the record office.

Here, Peter tells us about his work and inspiration.

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I’d always been interested in books and illustrated books in particular. I was developing my work with a strong printmaking approach and discovering historical work by George Cruickshank, politically focused and beautifully etched, and other historical graphic artists. I was struck by how ‘current’, applicable and entertaining their work was.

I enjoyed the combination of printmaking and book structures and crucially in the late 1980’s I had discovered letterpress which in my time was available cheaply from junk markets if not from skips.

I was researching the history of chapbooks and street literature, eventually writing a small article for the Society of Bookbinders newsletter as a by-product – I’m interested in traditional forms of book structure; methods materials and conservation – but informing my activity with plenty of references, prototypes and conceptual starting points in the process.

My work is varied in concept and starting point – exploring and recording the existential threat to life in ‘Four Horsemen Approaching’, exploring history and carved archetypes in ‘An Unreliable Derbyshire Bestiary’ and collecting and classifying flotsom and jetsom in ‘a Scottish Rainbow’.

The work stems from a love of printing in many forms.

My work is at its most basic, essentially focussing on recording and listing. It sometimes involves classification, e.g. ’Twigs that say Y’, but my locality and the history, geology and received narratives of ‘place’ are normally the starting point.

Additionally I produce engraved pop-up cards and letterpress ephemera as a strategy to break even and pay expenses which just allows me to keep producing in volume – and they are often, but not always, fun to do.

I paint in my studio in Wirksworth. I show work at bookart shows and print shows so there is often a bit of a cross-over effect of different print forms on my exhibition stalls. I decided to call my imprint ‘The Common Press Crich’ as I live on The Common.

For public consumption I continue, amongst other things, with my interest with the effects of lead mining in my locality in Derbyshire; mining landscape, mining place names, mining vein names, even the names of wildflowers that thrive on spoil tips are fascinating, see ‘Scrins, Flats and Pipes’.

Also it was printed as a page matrix on one sheet of etched metal so references basic book signature structures.

I’m a member of the Society of Bookbinders so I get exposed to a wide range of traditional and experimental approaches to bookbinding. A number of my books have variable structures that are not limited editions; they have been evolving with time, so they continue.

For my own consumption I continue with what I call ‘My Mnemosyne Atlas’ project. Started in earnest six years ago, it is a series of ‘perfect bound’ annual volumes that collect all the bits of reference material, drawing, photocopying, material ripped out magazines, text and found material; essentially the detritus that accumulates in sketchbooks and falls out when you give them a shake. It is literally the material that falls through the gaps. It is the marginalised supporting material that has no other existence – mainly for copyright reasons, it has an audience of one.

‘Derbyshire perspectives – reading landscape’ is at the record office from Thursday 19th September 2019 to Friday 17th January 2020.  Normal opening hours apply.

Peter will be giving an insight into printmaking techniques as they relate to his work in a talk ‘A drawn response to Derbyshire Landscape – printing from metal’ being held at the record office on Monday 30th September 2.30pm-3.30pm. The talk is free, click here to book a place.

 

 

Exhibition: Franklin’s People

The latest exhibition on display at the record office throws light on some of the most important people in life of Arctic explorer Sir John Franklin, each with their own fascinating story.

There are his two wives, the poetic Eleanor, who died tragically young, and the formidable Jane, Lady Franklin, one of the celebrities of the Victorian age. There is also his daughter Eleanor, together with her clergyman husband John Philip Gell and their talented children.

There are also his friends and colleagues, noted explorers in their own right, such as Sir Edward Parry, Sir John Ross and Sir Leopold McClintock and John Rae, as well as people who briefly but spectacularly crossed his path such as the native North American known as Miss Green Stockings.

Items on display include (possibly) one of the last letters written by John Franklin, dated 6 July 1845.  Franklin and his expedition were last seen by Europeans only a few weeks later, on 26 July, after which they were never heard of again.

Visit us to see this and many more items associated with this fascinating individual and his incredible story.

This free exhibition runs from 23rd May –  13th September.

Derbyshire Record Office

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Matlock

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The Cabinet of Curiosities

Unsurprisingly, people don’t tend to think of an archive as a place where objects are held, but as many museums hold documents, often archive repositories can hold objects. Admittedly it’s not something which we seek to collect but on occasion objects come to us as part of an archive collection and it can be more sensible to keep them together than to separate them.

For example, back in 2009 the record office purchased at auction a servants’ wages book relating to the Derby General Infirmary. We were interested in the link the wages book had to Derbyshire and its possible use as a source of family history. The small book includes a list of servant staff at the infirmary which includes the job they performed, how much they were paid, and an indication of when the worked at the hospital.

Whilst the book itself is an excellent addition to our collection perhaps the most memorable thing about this acquisition was what arrived with the book. On the morning the document was delivered we were very surprised when, as part of the lot, we found a Victorian death mask.

We don’t really know much about the death mask, sadly it didn’t come with any supporting information, so whoever the cast is of will always remain a mystery.

As this is just one of many unusual and interesting objects held at the record office we decided to hold an exhibition to display a selection.

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Take, for example, a stoolball bat. Ever heard of stoolball? We hadn’t either. It’s an ancient English game, originating in Sussex, which has been played for over 500 years. It is believed to be the origin of cricket. Tradition has it that the game was played by milkmaids who used their milking stools as a wicket and the milk bowl as a bat. A stoolball bat is part of the collection we hold of the Gell family of Hopton Hall.

Alongside our death mask and stoolball bat you will see on display a pair of spurs which saw action in the Napoleonic Wars, a lock of flaming red hair given by the actress Frances Kemble to Robert Arkwright, son of Sir Richard Arkwright, on the eve of their wedding in 1805 and a printed nightshirt with links to Beatrix Potter.

The Cabinet of Curiosities exhibition is on at the record office until 17th May, normal opening hours apply.

The Junction Arts Story

An exhibition marking the 40th anniversary of Junction Arts, a Derbyshire based arts charity is now on at the record office.  The exhibition will celebrate the organisation’s achievements over four decades, illustrated using the newly acquired archive held here at the record office.

The exhibition will run from Thursday 22nd March to Saturday 29th September 2018. Normal office opening time apply.

 

Want to know more?   Come along to the record office for a film screening of a specially commissioned documentary film about the 40 year history of Junction Arts.  The film will be introduced by Jane Wells from Junction Arts and includes a short talk by the film maker Chris Bevan.

Thursday 29th March 2.00pm-3.00pm.  It’s free but booking is essential – follow the ‘Events’ tab at the top of this page to book.

 

Exhibition – The Amazing Pop Up Archives Project

Sadly we have completed our year of gallivanting around the county taking our archive collections out into the community and collecting people’s stories along the way. To celebrate the culmination of our project a special exhibition is now on in the reception area of the record office which tells the tale of a fascinating, exciting and rewarding year.

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“There are people out there with stories that will never be heard and this project was a way to tell them, a chance to be a part of something bigger in the long run.”  Emily, Pop Up volunteer

This exhibition takes us on a journey which started in Wirksworth, popped over to Ripley, down to Swadlincote, and ended in Gamesley. It features the contributions of the local people we met when we visited their neighbourhood along with songs, poems and musings created as part of the project – all inspired by Derbyshire’s archives and it’s people.

We can’t possibly fit everything we did into one exhibition so in the next few weeks we will upload a film of the project, with performances of all the songs and poems and footage from each event to the blog so keep an eye out for that.

The Amazing Pop Up Archives Project exhibition runs until the 16th March 2018.  Normal record office opening times apply.

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Stitching the Wars

Stitching the Wars was a two-year collaboration between older people in Derbyshire and arts organisation arthur+martha. It is the story of a community that survived two world wars and harsh poverty. It is a kind of documentary, constructed with recollection, poetry and the art of stitching. The project was led by artist Lois Blackburn, who met with local people to devise and stitch two quilts and gather reminiscence. Poet Phillip Davenport then worked with the groups to write poems from these reminiscences. Within the quilts many people speak, in voices rich with experience and feeling. In a sense their work is a history, and these quilts are the page on which it is written.

Stiching the wars

The quilt ‘A Bomber’s Moon’ describes the transforming effect of the First and Second World Wars on rural life. An ancient world of horses and humans is invaded by machines. The quilt is an aerial view of fields and hillsides, perhaps the view from the bomber of the title. Into this ‘landscape’ are sewn words and phrases which link to reminiscences and poems. Most participants were British, but a few were German and they contributed their own war memories. In this way the quilt speaks from both sides of the conflict, reaching towards a common human experience. Maybe this stitching helped to mend a few wounds.

The quilt ‘Fresh Air and Poverty’, describes a quieter war, the struggle everyday people made to keep their families fed and clothed in the years before, during and after the two World Wars. Here we find tramps on the march, children sleeping top to toe in crowded beds, and scrimping and saving is everywhere. But we also find delight in one another’s company; human warmth despite the cold.

Some of the quilt-makers were people with dementia, and it was noticed that stitching in a group, alongside reminiscence conversations, had a rewarding and beneficial effect. Using creativity, colour, touch and companionship to work to an ambitious goal, participants discovered the joy in remembering their early lives. These quilts are a communal act of remembering, a history made by community.

And it tells us: we are all made of this.

An exhibition of the quilts, poetry and reminiscences created throughout the project will be on show at the record office from Wednesday 4th October 2017 to Friday 4th January 2018 (normal opening hours apply).

(Image: Garry Lomas)

The Pentrich Rebellion – Bicentenary commemorations

What do Napoleon Bonaparte, the French Revolution, an Indonesian volcano and Derbyshire framework knitters have in common? They all played their part in one of the first truly working class rebellions in British History.

This June marks the bicentenary of the Pentrich Rebellion.

In April 1815 Mount Tambora in Indonesia erupted. This volcanic eruption was one of the most powerful in recorded history and resulted in two years of poor harvests, due to sulphur dioxide in the atmosphere preventing sunlight from reaching the earth’s surface. Sir Henry FitzHertbert of Tissington Hall wrote in his dairy, which forms part of the FitzHerbert family papers held at the record office:

This was the worst year which was ever recollected. The Spring was most severely cold, the snow falling as late as the 7th of June; and there was no grass till the end of June.”

As a result harvests failed and people could not produce bread to feed themselves or their families.

British soldiers returning from the Napoleonic Wars found an economic crisis at home and very few jobs to return to. Due to the Industrial Revolution new trades were emerging, demanding new skills, served by semi-skilled factory workers. Demand in some long established crafts decreased and many craftsmen lost their livelihood. Nowhere were the changes more marked than in the East Midlands, traditional home of framework knitting.

Unrest was growing. The success of the French Revolution led to the spread of revolutionary ideals across much of Europe. This brought fresh fears to the British monarchy and landowning classes, who stamped down on and severely punished any opposition to their authority.

It was within this atmosphere of unrest that on the night of 9th June 1817 men from villages on the Derbyshire-Nottinghamshire border, including Pentrich, South Wingfield and Alfreton, set out to march to Nottingham. They believed they were part of a general rising across the North and Midlands to bring down the unjust and oppressive government.  They were met, however, by military forces, who had known about the uprising thanks to a network of government spies, sent all over the country to uncover rebel plots.  The punishment was severe; for some, such as rebel leader Jeremiah Brandreth, it meant death, for others transportation to Australia.

There is, of course, much more to the story so come along to the record office to delve deeper into this fascinating aspect of Derbyshire’s history. We are holding an exhibition featuring original material from the time which runs from the beginning of June until the end of September.

Or why not join us at the Bicentenary Commemorative Day event being held by the Pentrich and South Wingfield Revolution Group, which takes place this Saturday (10th June) at the Social Club in South Wingfield.  We‘ll be there from 1pm till 5pm with lots of information on our collections and services, along with some original archive material taken from our exhibition.

For more information on the Bicentenary Commemorative Day see the Pentrich and South Wingfield Revolution Group’s website www.pentrichrevolution.org.uk/events

LGBT+ – Derbyshire’s “other stories”

lgbt-3Derbyshire LGBT+ is Derbyshire’s leading charity representing Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) communities. An exhibition here at the Record Office marks the beginning of the charity’s HLF funded project to document the history of the LGBT+ community by highlighting “other stories” that have not previously been told.

The project’s launch coincides with 50 years since the landmark 1967 Sexual Offences Act partially decriminalised sex between men over 21, paving the way for future legal advances for LGBT people in subsequent years. The project will record these changes, including capturing oral histories from members of the LGBT community who were part of the struggle for equal rights and were affected by the legal changes.

As part of this project, volunteers will work with the record office to discover stories of relevance to this community’s history that stretch back much further. Volunteers have already started working with our staff to identify these “other stories” from within the archives.

The project does not aim to apply modern labels to people from the past, but rather to highlight that their stories have something to tell us about the history of sexuality and gender identity.

The exhibition, in our reception area, provides an initial glimpse of some of the stories found so far in and around Derbyshire. The project itself will run throughout 2017 and 2018 and will be recruiting and training volunteers. If you would like to help identify stories and share them with a wider audience, you can get in touch with the project at otherstoriesLGBT.wordpress.com or email heritage@derbyshirelgbt.org.uk.

The exhibition runs from Thursday 12th January to Saturday 1st April, normal record office opening hours apply.

Scaling the Matlock Mountain!

 

Women's TourIf you happened to be in Matlock this lunchtime, you may have noticed a bit of an event going on! If you weren’t there, and were wondering what all the fuss was about i.e. cyclists, spectators, sirens, police motorbikes and cheering schoolchildren, it was the Women’s Tour – a professional women’s cycling race, which had a whole stage  planned in Derbyshire, going from Ashbourne to Chesterfield via Buxton, Youlgreave, Winster and Matlock.

The riders included Lizzie Armistead, Britain’s cycling world champion and professional teams from all over the world.  Some Derbyshire Record Office staff, along with hundreds of others all along the route, were cheering on the riders on the Queen of the Mountains race up Bank Road in Matlock.

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Of course, this is really also a shameless excuse to promote our current exhibition ‘Have bike, will travel,’ displaying the best of our archive and local studies material.  The exhibition runs until the 30th July.

We now have a family quiz sheet and ‘I love cycling’ badges to give away, with the badges courtesy of the Smarter Travel Team at Derbyshire County Council.

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Have bike, will travel – a splendid celebration of cycling

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Thursday 5th May saw the start of our latest ‘What’s in the Wall?’ exhibitions.  Running (or should I say pedalling?) until the 30th July, ‘Have bike, will travel’ is a comprehensive collection of items from our Local Studies and Archives, ranging from the late 19th century to the present day. Many of the photographs are courtesy of Picture the Past

Bicycle related photos, maps, magazines, drawings and diaries are all there, along with a large dose of nostalgia, from the early days of the penny farthing, the bicycle as an essential form of transport, to the cycling proficiency test and 80s BMXing!

This exhibition will coincide with the Aviva Women’s Tour which has a whole stage in Derbyshire on Friday 17th June (it will go up Bank Road in Matlock, definitely worth watching!) It will also coincide with the Eroica Britannia – a 3 day festival held in Bakewell from Friday 17th June – Sunday 19th June, which ends on the Sunday with over 4,000 riders taking part in a vintage bike ride.

Come and take a journey with us through the history of Derbyshire cycling.  The display is in our Reception area and we are based on New Street, Matlock – parallel with Bank Road (if you don’t know the road, come and take a look at the steep gradient the women will have to climb on the Derbyshire stage of the Women’s Tour!)

Directions are here and we are open Monday to Friday 9.30am – 5.00pm and Saturdays 9.30am – 1pm.  We have cycle parking as well as car parking.  Our other forthcoming events can be found here