Authenticity Hoo-Ha pt. 2: Did Lord Byron and Princess Victoria etch their names on the windows?

Sir Hilary Jenkinson held that authenticity is one of the defining characteristics of the archive. Here is the second of three blog posts about some recent authenticity issues.

On being asked to visit a former hotel to pick up a donation of records, any archivist would expect there to be guest books. Less expected is a pane of window glass. In fact, I would go so far as to say that the “Byron Window” is the most unusual item I have accessioned in twelve years as an archivist. Why is it called the Byron Window? Because it is said that Lord Byron (i.e. George Gordon Byron, 6th Baron Byron, 1788-1824) scratched a poem onto it. The lines read:

Where so ever is folly court
Mortal unthinking will resort
For want of reason, still,
Shame on our sex! As for the fair
They all want something everywhere
And something want they will

These etched lines have not gone unnoticed. The Byron Window is mentioned in a variety of magazine articles, including a feature in Derbyshire Life in 2010, and the sale catalogue from when the Temple Hotel was auctioned in 1975.

But how do we know this to be the work of Byron? We don’t, really – in fact, I am not even sure that the squiggle nearest the poem says Byron!

D8116/3/1: The Byron Window

D8116/3/1: The Byron Window

An article on the Andrews Pages cites William Adam’s 1840 guide book “The Gem of the Peak” as evidence that the poet visited the Old Bath in Matlock Bath, and at first glance, I thought the Adam reference extended to the etched window itself – however, it certainly isn’t mentioned in any of the editions we hold here.

William Adam describes The Temple as “originally built as a lodging house or appendage to the Old Bath for the comfort and convenience of those visitors, who wished to be out of the noise and bustle of a crowded Inn”, and observes that the house had been “much improved and enlarged” by its owner, Mrs Evans. He also remarks that the name of Walter Scott is inscribed on a window in room 5 (without making any claim as to who made the inscription).

So, hang on… William Adam was interested enough in Byron to mention his visit to Matlock Bath and interested enough in inscriptions on windows to mention Scott – but did not think to tell us about Byron inscribing a window?

What puts the kybosh on the thing is the date right next to those lines. “6 Oct 1784” is the easiest bit of the whole thing to read, and dates it to before Byron’s time.  (Unless the date and the poem are unrelated?  I would be delighted to be proved wrong!)

The window pane is, transparently, something that a large number of people have inscribed over the course of centuries – so whether or not their number includes Lord Byron, this is an amazing addition to our collections.  I don’t think I have the heart to investigate the other claim, which is that a young Princess Victoria put her name on the same bit of glass!

Saying Hello

My name is Frances Lund and I’ve been volunteering at Derbyshire Record Office for the last two weeks now, although it feels like longer than that! I’m actually a qualified archivist and am developing my skills whilst looking for my next employment opportunity which is why I’m volunteering. The task I’ve been working on so far is an accession of material which belongs to the FitzHerbert Family of Tissington. You can find out more about this collection here. There are twenty boxes of material, of which I have surveyed the contents to establish what there is and where it fits into the collection. This is somewhat unusual as long time users and researchers will note that this collection is otherwise already fully catalogued! The next step is to finalise the box list and create a theoretical catalogue, before importing it all into CALM. I’ll also be posting some photos of what I think are the most interesting items over the next few weeks so keep following if you’d like to find out more.

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.

Harpur Crewe Exhibition_00016a
Harpur Crewe Exhibition_00011
Harpur Crewe Exhibition_00018a

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”.

Re-discovered: a late eighteenth-century lead-miner’s diary

You may have seen earlier posts highlighting how useful it is to have volunteers, and how useful it is to have a PhD student working with our lead-mining records.  Well, here’s a post that combines the two.

Last week, our volunteer Mavis examined and briefly described a collection, D3017, which had remained unlisted since we accepted it in 1986.  What had interested me was a mention on the Record Office Guide saying that D3017 included a c1789 coal mining diary.  On closer inspection, the thing turned out to have nothing to do with coal; it was the personal working diary of a particular lead-miner.  As Matthew Pawelski, our doctoral student, was on hand to confirm that this was quite a rarity, we digitised it to save wear and tear on the original.  I then spent a bit of time looking at it – just long enough to add a description to the catalogue.  If you follow that link, click on the catalogue entry for a fuller explanation, then click on the next link to see the description of the volume.

I also gave it a new reference number, because I couldn’t find any connection with the rest of that collection, so the diary is now D7812/1.  You can use a copy on any of the record office computers by looking for CD/348.

The diary seems to have belonged to John Naylor, who mined lead in the area around Ashford-in-the-Water.  (He gets a mention in Lynn Willies’s PhD thesis.)  The book looks rather home-made, and if you handle the document you can see how the pages have been roughly sewn together – in fact, it’s just possible that it was not originally a single volume, because it contains some quite different types of material.  For the most part, it’s a daily diary, covering 1789 to 1792, saying what tasks the diarist was engaged on, and where, as well as the dates of religious holidays when no work was done.  It’s also a personal account book, recording his spending on food and candles – for obvious reasons, lead-miners got through quite a lot of those.  As a sample, have a look at this page:


Here’s a transcription/explanation:

March 1790
21 March: C5 [C is for “church” – and the five means it is the fifth Sunday in Lent]
22-27 March: Knocking etc. all week
28 March: C6 [sixth Sunday in Lent]
29-31 March: at mine, knocking and budling
[No, I don’t know what budling is, but I’m confident one of our readers will know, and will post a comment below to explain.]

1790 March.  Bought of Mr Woodruf
9 March: flour, coarse, 1/2 stone: 1 shilling
10 March: meal, 4 pecks: 4 shillings
12 March: candles, 1 1b; 13 March: flour, coarse, 1/2 stone: 1 shilling, 8d
16 March: cheese, 4 1/2 lb: 1 shilling 5d
17 March: flour, 1 stone, coarse: 2 shillings
18 March: bacon, 3 lbs: 1 shilling, 10 1/2d
19 March: meal, 2 pecks: 2 shillings
20 March: bacon, 1 pound: 7 1/2d
24 March: flour, 1 stone; 26 March: ditto 1/2 stone, coarse, 3 shillings
27 March: Candles, 1 lb; 28 March: beef, 1/2 lb: 4 shillings 11d
Total: £1, 2 shillings, 6d

April 1790
1 April: at mine, budling
2 April: knocking
3 April: budling
4 April C: Easter Sunday
5-10 April: at mine all this week, knocking, budling and washing. Margaret Harrison came to knock two days this week and one washing – in all, three days
11 April: C1 [First Sunday after Easter]
12 April: John and Margaret knocking and washing a little
13 April: knocking ourselves, water [What’s that about water? There’s some writing next to it – a measurement of depth?]
14 April: knocking ourselves
15-17 April: Margaret washing
18 April: C2 [Second Sunday after Easter]

I’m no handwriting expert, so I couldn’t swear it’s all written by the same person, although I think that’s the likeliest explanation.  The reason we think the writer is John Naylor is this page, which says “John Naylor his book”.


Notice the adjacent page?  It contains an epitaph, headed “The Grave has never been denied”:
Ho, ho, lies here
‘Tis I the good Earl of Devonshire
With Cate my Wife, to me full dear
That we spent we had
That we left we lost
That we gave, we have

I don’t know if that’s a quotation, or if Mr Naylor was an aspiring poet.  (If you know, don’t be shy – please use the comments box below.)  We might infer literary aspirations from the bits of the volume that have been used as a commonplace book for prayers, devotional writings and short essays on esoteric subjects, such as “On Dreams”, describing to the attitudes of Ptolemy, Galen and Solomon towards dreams.

Treasure 9: The Gregory Mine Reckoning Book

This treasure has been chosen by Matthew Pawelski, who is working towards a PhD on the history of the Derbyshire lead industry, as a part of a collaboration between Lancaster University and Derbyshire Record Office, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

Matthew’s chosen record is a reckoning book from Gregory (or Gregory’s) Mine in Ashover, covering 1782-1803 (D1101/L/4).

Here is a video clip in which he explains what a reckoning book is, and what makes this one so special:

Explore Your Archive – On This Day: French Prisoners of War

From the Derby Mercury, 14th November 1811:

On Wednesday the 6th inst. Dominique Ducasse, Captain and Aid-de-Camp to Gen. Dufour, Tugdual Antoine Kerenor, Lieutenant, and Julien Deslories, Ensign, three French prisoners of war at Chesterfield, were conducted from the house of correction there, by a military escort, on their way to Norman Cross Prison, for having broken their parole of honor.  The two former were apprehended at the Peacock Inn, (along with George Lawton, of Sheffield, cutler,) about 10 o’clock on Saturday night, the 26th ult. by the vigilance of Mr. Hopkinson, the landlord, who much to his credit, refused to furnish a post-chaise to carry them to Derby, and dispatched a messenger to the Commissary at Chesterfield, detaining them until the return of the messenger; the next day they were conveyed back to Chesterfield, and Lawton is now in our county gaol to take his trial for assisting in the escape. 

D5459/1/5 French Prisoners, George M. Woodward, 1783

D5459/1/5 French Prisoners, George M. Woodward, 1783

The same escort took another prisoner (Monsieur Bernier, an Ensign) from Newark, where he was recaptured, on the information of the Waiter, at the Saracen’s Head Inn, having also escaped from Chesterfield; and the Transport Board have ordered 15 guineas to be paid for the recapture of these three prisoners. 

In short, that Board have since, in consequence of the great number of escapes of French prisoners of war on parole in this kingdom, ordered that in future, the following rewards shall be paid, for recaptures, viz., 10 guineas for every commissioned officer, 5 guineas for every non-commissioned officer, and 20 guineas for every British subject convicted of assisting such prisoners to escape. 

And we are sorry to find, that this Government have lately been under the necessity of ordering the French aspirants and midshipmen on parole in this country, into close confinement in consequence of the French Government having sent the English midshipmen on parole in France, to prison, and their not releasing them though remonstrated with, by our Government; this conduct of the French Ruler, in the present situation of affairs, is too obvious to need comment.

There will be more about Napoleonic prisoners of war on the blog next Thursday.

explore-flyer (cropped)

Explore Your Archive – On This Day: Wirksworth Balloon Ascent

From the Derby Mercury, 12th November 1823:

On Friday evening last a very numerous and respectable assemblage of the inhabitants of Wirksworth were highly amused by the ascent of a fire balloon of extraordinary dimensions, the property of Mr. James.  It ascended from the bottom of the hill called Oakcliffe, and took a southerly direction over Ireton and Kedleston, and is supposed to have travelled at least 12 or 14 miles.  The inflation commenced about a quarter past 8 o’clock, and at nine the balloon was deemed sufficiently distended; the light was then attached to the bottom, and it ascended very majestically amidst the reiterated shouts of the assembled multitude.  From its amazing magnitude (being about 6 yards in height) it was visible for the space of nearly 20 minutes.  The crowd of spectators was immense, and the company retired highly delighted.  We are happy to add that no accident occurred on the occasion.

D5459/1/28/11 [A Balloon], George M. Woodward, [1783-1786]

D5459/1/28/11 [A Balloon], George M. Woodward, [1783-1786]

explore-flyer (cropped)

Explore Your Archive – Theatricalia: Or, a Visit to the Playhouse

Miss Ellis presents several drawings by the much admir’d Mr George M. Woodward, to which are added further theatrical diversions from the collections of Derbyshire Record Office.

D5459/1/56 Sidonian Visages: or the working up of the Passions, George M. Woodward [1780s]

D5459/1/56 Sidonian Visages: or the working up of the Passions, George M. Woodward [1780s]

D5459/1/34/2 Mrs Siddons as Lady Macbeth, George M. Woodward, 1787

D5459/1/34/2 Mrs Siddons as Lady Macbeth, George M. Woodward, 1787

D5913/1 Wirksworth playbill, 1801

D5913/1 Wirksworth playbill, 1801

D258/7/5/31 (pt1) Letter from Thomas Hillyard to Mrs Blower asking for her patronage for Tideswell theatre with a list of plays

D258/7/5/31 (pt1) Letter from Thomas Hillyard to Mrs Blower asking for her patronage for Tideswell theatre with a list of plays, [c.1800s]

D258/7/5/31 (pt2) Letter from Thomas Hillyard to Mrs Blower asking for her patronage for Tideswell theatre with a list of plays, [c.1800s]

D258/7/5/31 (pt2) Letter from Thomas Hillyard to Mrs Blower asking for her patronage for Tideswell theatre with a list of plays, [c.1800s]

D258/7/5/30 Tideswell playbill, 1807

D258/7/5/30 Tideswell playbill, 1807

D5459/1/34/23 Mr Lewis in the character of Mercutio, George M. Woodward, 1787

D5459/1/34/23 Mr Lewis in the character of Mercutio, George M. Woodward, 1787

D24 Z/Z 15 Chesterfield playbill, 1804

D24 Z/Z 15 Chesterfield playbill, 1804









explore-flyer (cropped)