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.


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

Sues Soldier image

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.


The House of Wonders:

The Randolph Douglas Collection

House of Wonders poster

Discover the world of Randolph Douglas, escapologist, engineer, skilled miniaturist, model maker and extensive collector. Douglas was a talented performer of “self-liberating” illusions and became a friend of contemporary escapologist Harry Houdini during the early part of the 20th century.

Douglas established The House of Wonders museum at Castleton, where he displayed a collection of curiosities from all over the world, from geology, natural history and art, to locks and tools of the escapology trade, and intricate miniatures he made himself.

In the 1980s Derbyshire County Council bought the Douglas Collection with the kind support of the PRISM Fund and it is now held at Buxton Museum & Art Gallery.

The Record Office is delighted to display specially selected highlights from this eclectic collection.  The exhibition will be ‘in the wall’ at the Record Office from Thursday 27th November 2014 to Saturday 31st January 2015 – normal opening times apply and it’s free to see!

Derbyshire Record Office, New St, Matlock, DE4 3FE

Tel: 01629 538347

A Sense of Place

DRO visitors will have seen our latest vitrine wall exhibition, A Sense of Place, focusing on the Local Studies Library’s Local Authors collection.  Inspired by a booklet published by former local studies librarian Ruth Gordon, we highlight Derbyshire-connected writers from Erasmus Darwin to Richmal Crompton to Stephen Booth, and the varied depictions in print of the Derbyshire landscape (both rural and industrial) and historic Derbyshire events.

Back Tor, Edale, c1980, courtesy of Albert Hugh Robinson and

Back Tor, Edale, c1980, courtesy of Albert Hugh Robinson and

Our county also provided inspiration for settings in such novels as Pride and Prejudice and Adam Bede, and the backdrop to a short story featuring Sherlock Holmes.  Did you know that cricket fan and Marylebone Cricket Club player Sir Arthur Conan Doyle may have amalgamated the names of wicket-keeper Mordecai Sherwin and Derbyshire bowler Frank Shacklock for his famous character, and that Sherlock’s brother’s name was perhaps inspired by another Derbyshire bowler, William Mycroft?  All three played in the match between Derbyshire and the MCC, reported on in the Derby Mercury, 17 June 1885.

A Sense of Place runs until Saturday 22nd November.


WW1 Centenary

One hundred years ago today, Britain declared war on Germany and entered a conflict which would claim millions of lives and affect millions more.

To mark the centenary, we have an exhibition – The Last Summer – which you can come and view in the Record Office reception area until Saturday 27th September.  Looking at Derbyshire people and places, pastimes and events during the summer of 1914, it documents our county during the last few months of peace.

Buxton 1914

The Broad Walk, Buxton, 1914

(Joseph) Arthur Hodgkiss  of Baslow

(Joseph) Arthur Hodgkiss of Baslow


This Thursday 7th August, we are also holding an event ‘Archives Aloud: Voices from the Front’ – using letters and diaries to bring to life the voices of those who served during the First World War.

Starting at 2pm, it is free to attend but you will need to book either by e-mail ( or phone (01629 538347).  You are welcome to bring your own family letters and stories to share with us too.