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)

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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

New exhibition: 50 Treasures, part 3

A new exhibition has been installed in the vitrine wall in our reception area – if you are in the area or planning a visit, why not stop by and have a look? The items being displayed are all from our 50 Treasures series.  (There’s still time to nominate your favourite document from our archives or local studies collection – you could mention it in the comments box below if you like.)

The exhibition includes a number of Treasures which have already been featured in our blog:

You can also expect to see:

  •  Some of Frank H Brindley’s wonderful peak district photographs from the 1930s to the 1950s
  • A book called “Annals of Crime in the Midland Circuit”, describing hideous crimes and hideous punishments
  • The wartime diaries of Maria Gyte, 1911-1921
  • Autobiography and poems by Leonard Wheatcroft of Ashover (1627-1707)
  • A selection of records from the National Union of Mineworkers, Derbyshire Area, 1880s-2015
  • The Edmund Potter “shirt” and fabric pattern books mentioned in posts by Elissa and Clare in 2015

Each of these will be the subject of a future post – but if you would like to see the originals on display, you have until the end of April.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Agricola’s masterpiece at the record office

As a county Derbyshire has a long tradition with the lead mining industry and to celebrate this we have teamed up with The National Coal Mining Museum for England (NCM) to bring the exhibition The Craft of the Miner to the record office.

The exhibition centres on the book De Re Metallica, written by Gregorius Agricola, an eminent German scholar and scientist, in 1556. The volume, one of only a few copies to survive in Britain, is recognised as the most comprehensive work produced on the subject of mining during the 16th century.

De Re Metallica

A selection of items from the NCM’s collection are on display in our vitrine wall and include 17th century German mining manuals, pick heads, safety bellows and frog lamp.

De Re Metallica, made up of 12 books, describes mining methods and processes, including surveying, mine construction, pumping, haulage and ventilation and also includes information on mine workers’ health, mine administration and owners’ duties.

The importance of De Re Metallica and the superiority of German mining techniques at this time were recognised throughout Europe, Queen Elizabeth I herself encouraged German miners to visit England to share their knowledge and expertise.

Given the importance of mining to the county of Derbyshire, we are delighted to have these specially selected items on display in our reception area. The exhibition is on until Saturday 24th October 2015 and is free to view. The complete exhibition then moves on to The North of England Institute of Mining and Mechanical Engineers, Newcastle Upon Tyne, from January 2016, so see it here while you can!

Art and the Harpur Crewes exhibition

One of the things that have become quite noticeable from cataloguing the Harpur Crewe collection has been the artistic inclinations of quite a few members of the family. It first became apparent in the number of sketchbooks and individual examples of drawing that kept cropping up, so I decided to look into what other arty material was to be found among the records.

Sir George Crewe, the 8th baronet (1795-1844), in particular, revealed himself to be an enthusiastic amateur when it came to sketching. Though a busy and conscientious public administrator, he evidently took the opportunity in his moments of leisure to indulge himself in his drawing or painting of the natural world. The love of this type of activity passed down to his grandchildren, including Richard Fynderne Harpur Crewe (1880-1921) who continued to sketch ships, man and boy, and who also experimented in photographing images of the natural and man-made world, whether it be stupendous mountain scenery or the latest technological breakthroughs (cars, planes, airships).

The family also showed a distinct love of music, with several manuscript copy books of scores of pieces they liked. The most conspicuous example of this love was the commission given by Sir Henry Harpur, the 7th baronet (1763-1819), to Joseph Haydn, the most famous composer of the day, to compose a couple of marches for the Derbyshire Yeomanry in 1794.

To give you a taste of what can be seen, here are some of the images which didn’t make into the exhibition.

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Sue’s Soldier

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As we began discussing ways to commemorate World War One, I half-jokingly said “There’s so much in my grandfather’s WW1 archive I could do a display on that — actually, I will, and I’ll call it Sue’s Soldier “.

Grandad was George Henry Slater, a Derby lad, apprenticed to a jeweller, who despite having a fiancée he loved very much, decided to join up in October 1915. His friend had been killed already, but he must have felt it his duty to go.

The display contains photographs, original letters and documents, postcards both romantic and comic, badges, and a host of memorabilia. It goes from George’s baby photo (in a frock!) to his discharge in 1918 and his marriage in 1920, and is full of little stories: the letter with the picture he always carried, the Little Fruit Shop, his vivid reminiscences of the Front, the Blighty One, the Australian Rescue, and more.

My family feel there is enough of interest in this story of a young man who survived the Great War, to share with a wider audience. It’s in our vitrine wall at Derbyshire Record Office until April; do come and visit George, and look out for further blog posts on the material that we just couldn’t cram in.