Treasure 17: The George Woodward cartoon collection

This treasure is a collection of nearly 500 prints and drawings by the artist George Murgatroyd Woodward (1765-1809). Brought up in Stanton by Dale, Derbyshire, Woodward’s artistic talents were apparently evident at a young age, and according to his father ‘he used to draw before he could speak plain’.

The Woodward collection includes his earliest known drawings, a series of pen and ink sketches produced when still in his teens, as well as a series of portraits of actors in Shakespearean roles from between 1782 and 1787.  These include an image of Nick Bottom from Midsummer Night’s Dream, which is available for adoption on our Adopt A Piece Of History page.  In this video, Lien and Mark have a look at this and other illustrations:

Depictions of the earliest balloon flights in England are also included, as are a number of preparatory drawings for his published caricatures.  Here are some of the balloon pictures:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

We have now added digital images of all the Woodward cartoons to our online catalogue.  You can browse them by following this link – this takes you to an overview page showing each image’s file title, but you can then click on any given entry to see the full description and a thumbnail image.  If you click on the thumbnail image, you will see your chosen cartoon in all its full-screen glory.  To search within the collection, click on Advanced Search, then use a keyword or two in conjunction with the reference D5459* (don’t forget the asterisk).  I tried using the word “clown” in the title field and got a single image of a clown – if you try the same thing, you may see why some people have nightmares about them!

During his brief career Woodward collaborated with some of the best known caricaturists of the day in order to produce his prints, and the collection includes examples of work produced in conjunction with Thomas Rowlandson, Isaac Cruikshank and Thomas Newton.

Woodward was more interested in the humour to be found in everyday life than in high politics and his caricatures provide a fascinating insight into the tastes and fashions of 18th century England.

As our Senior Conservator Lien explains in the video, she nominated the Woodward collection as one of Derbyshire Record Office’s 50 Treasures after being introduced to the archive during her job interview.  ‘There was this massive heap of dirty and damaged prints, drawings and watercolours lying on a table and I was asked what I would do with them…we certainly ended up doing all the work I’d suggested.’

As mentioned above, the Nick Bottom illustration is one of the Treasures listed on our Adopt A Piece Of History page – but if you have a personal favourite Woodward cartoon, you can still adopt that.  Just give us the details after choosing “adopt a unique piece of history”.

Three Uses for the Burney Collection (2)

More now from the Burney collection, and the second of three suggested uses for the database. If you are a family historian or biographer, and you suspect the subject of your research ran into financial trouble, you could check lists of recent bankruptcy cases. Here, for instance, are notices from the Gazetteer and New Daily Advertiser (London), dated 15 June 1772. I picked it out because of the reference to Tideswell, but could just as easily have turned it up by looking for individual names. If you want to use the Burney collection, grab your Derbyshire library card and head to: Tideswell

Three uses for the Burney collection (1)

Revd Charles Burney (1757-1817) was a busy chap.  Not content with being a busy priest and schoolmaster, he spent much of his time and money gathering together a vast array of books, newspapers and news pamphlets.  The whole collection was bought for the nation by the British Museum in 1817, and is now held at the British Library – where, happily, it has recently been digitised for our enjoyment.  It is quite a resource, being described as “the largest single collection of 17th and 18th century English news media”, and can be accessed using your Derbyshire library card right here:

I offer three possible uses of this database, having had a go at searching for Derbyshire place names.  Here is the first: you could use the Burney collection for researching the history of a property or a landed estate.  To prove it, here is a notice from the Public Advertiser (London), from 31 March 1775:


I will blog another couple of these later in the week.

James Ledekin’s description of the Bahamas

[2018: images from the “Thank You For Your Letter” project have been deleted to make space for new posts.  The images have been retained within Derbyshire County Council’s internal records system so that we may re-use them in the future.]
D37 M/H 20/14: Beaumont, Long Island, Bahamas

Mr Holland,

Sir I make no doubt yow was surprised at the steps I have taken, in leaving England for the Bahamas.  Indeed it was a thing unthought of untill I arrived in London; Continue reading