John Kenyon Winterbottom: turnpike trust clerk, not wholly trustworthy

We have published a few previous posts about Roger’s work as a cataloguing volunteer.  In the following post, Roger tells us about some recent discoveries:

In the mid-nineteenth century the Thornsett Turnpike Trust managed a number of roads in and around New Mills. Some Trust records have survived in Derbyshire Record Office collection D535, and in the course of listing these records I have come across two small documents that made me curious. The first is a letter written in 1844 by Edward Reddish, clerk to the trust, to Ebenezer Adamson, treasurer. Reddish mentions a “hiatus” in the books between 1840 and 1843 “following the absconding” of John Kenyon Winterbottom. Winterbottom was a Stockport solicitor who amongst many public offices undertook the duties of clerk to a number of turnpike trusts. He was for a time town clerk of Stockport and a local magistrate. He was a founding partner in a local bank and his was one of the names printed on that bank’s banknotes. His story is remarkable, not only for what happened but also for the amount of information available to anyone wanting to discover his story.

Through digital collections of historic British newspapers it is possible to follow the story of his downfall.  By 1840 he was facing financial difficulty. Under threat of bankruptcy he absconded. There were rumours that he had been seen on the quayside at Liverpool close to a ship bound for America. An alternative speculation was that he had gone to France. He was found to have forged signatures in order to receive payment of £5,000 from the life insurance policy of one of his former clients. After four years’ absence Winterbottom returned to Liverpool where he was recognised and arrested. He was convicted of the forgery and sentenced to transportation for life.

It was the practice that any pleas for mitigation of sentence were made not at the trial but subsequently to the Home Secretary. One consequence is that amongst the Home Office records held at Kew (National Archives series HO 18 and HO 19) are the many petitions and letters submitted on Winterbottom’s behalf.  (Some Home Office records are included in a data set called “England & Wales, Crime, Prisons & Punishment, 1770-1935” on, which can be used free of charge in Derbyshire Record Office or your local Derbyshire library.) The sentence provoked such disquiet that within weeks petitions signed by some 20,000 residents of Stockport, Liverpool and Manchester were submitted: signatories included almost every magistrate, clergyman and businessman of Stockport and district. Poignantly there were letters not only from Winterbottom’s wife but also from his victim, the widow who had trusted Winterbottom to deal with her late husband’s estate.

The sentence was not changed and aged in his mid-fifties Winterbottom was taken first to Millbank prison in London and then to the penal colony of Norfolk Island and ultimately in 1847 to Tasmania.  Convict records survive in Kew (National Archives series HO 10 and HO 13) and several records are available on Find My Past or Ancestry (also available for free to visitors here).  During this time there were further fruitless appeals by Winterbottom himself and by associates in England: a final petition was submitted in 1852, accompanied by testimonials to Winterbottom’s exemplary conduct written by senior members of staff and visiting magistrates at Norfolk Island and Tasmania. Winterbottom followed an established sequence: work at the penal colony followed by confinement at a probation station and assignment to local civilian employers. In 1855 he was granted the relative freedom of a ticket of leave.

By 1857 Winterbottom had sufficiently re-established himself in Hobart that in competition with fourteen others he was appointed town clerk of Hobart. A further digital collection, of Australian newspapers, is valuable:  It is clear from reports of a meeting of Hobart town council that by 1867, when Winterbottom reached the age of 78, there were misgivings about his work as town clerk. But how might the aldermen challenge their venerable old servant? They broached the subject by suggesting that he should take some leave; then made a formal request for his resignation, with a pay-off of a year’s salary. But it seems that once the aldermen had openly voiced their misgivings others were freed to speak. Within a week the aldermen learned that two years earlier Winterbottom had sold council debentures and kept the £400 payment for himself. He was allowed a few days’ grace but did not repay the money. In court he pleaded not guilty but offered his advocates nothing substantial as a defence. He was found guilty and sentenced to two years imprisonment which he served in Hobart prison. He was released in September 1869, a few months after his eightieth birthday and appears to have lived in Hobart until his death in 1872.


Treasure 29: Bryan Donkin’s day book

This treasure has been nominated by Maureen Greenland, on behalf of the Bryan Donkin Archive Trust, of which she is Secretary.  Maureen writes:

The many letters, diaries and records held in the Donkin Collection (D1851) throw light on both the personal and the working life of the brilliant engineer Bryan Donkin. Born in 1768, he started his career in London in the early years of the nineteenth century, bringing to perfection the first successful machine for producing paper. His firm moved to Chesterfield a century later, providing work for the town from 1902 for over a hundred years. Continue reading

Finding my house on a Matlock tithe map

Tithe map of Matlock, showing my house

Tithe map of Matlock, showing my house

As a student on work experience at the county record office I always wanted to find my house on a map to see if it was there or not. Therefore I decided to look for it on an 1848 tithe map. After a short while I concluded that this was my house (see map on left). The reason why I knew that my house would be on a map like this was because the previous home owners told us that the house dated back as early as the seventeenth century.

Tithe map2

The map was really exciting because it was evidence that the house was there at that time and it backed up what the previous home owners said. After that I found my house on the tithe award showing the plot number (394) and the home owners who owned it. In 1848 George Keeling was the occupant of the house with a court, privy, road and garden! 167 years from then the house is still occupied (and standing!).

Alex Jackson

Progress and Travelling thoughts

Its now mid-June and we’ve already had two Bank Holidays in the last month. The weather is getting warmer (hopefully!) and the days are getting longer. Can you guess where I’m going with this? Yes, the holiday season will soon be upon us and for many of us that means we will be dusting off a very important document which enables us to travel abroad – the passport.

In 1846, Sir William FitzHerbert, 4th Baronet of Tissington, travelled briefly abroad and the images below are of his passport which was issued to him for doing so. You can see what it looks like as well as the fold out page that is the offical document. It is notable that it is more ‘low-tech’ than the passports we have today! You can read more about the history of passports on Wikipedia. Some brief notes mention that he went to Hamburg, now a city in Germany, but which was then a fully independent state.

I’m making steady progress with the catalogue. Now everything in each box has been listed I have entered all the information into an excel spreadsheet, which should be completed shortly. I am doing this in accordance with ISAD(G), the international standard for cataloguing archive collections which ensures consistency. The next step is to go through the data again and give each item a reference number, before expanding on some of the descriptions.

I’ll let you know how I’m getting on in the next post.



Treasure 22: Servants’ Wages book, Derby Royal Infirmary

This treasure is chosen by David Jenkins, who used to be one of the archivists, but now works as Derbyshire County Council’s Corporate Records Manager.  He writes:

I have chosen a Servants’ Wages book from the Derby Royal Infirmary which details the wages paid at the Infirmary from 1828 to 1855. The Infirmary was built by voluntary contributions in 1804 with the first patients being admitted in 1810. The ‘servants’ mentioned in the book span a variety of occupations including cooks, kitchen maids, laundry maids, porters, and nurses. The book provides a snapshot of the staff employed at the hospital in that period – this is especially valuable because records of an individual’s employment from the 1800s can be very hard to find.

Treasure 22 Wages book

The wages book was one of the most memorable archival collections I have dealt with because of the unusual addition that came as part of the same auction lot.  We had not paid attention to the last line of the auction house’s description, and were very surprised when we received a package which contained both the wages book and a Victorian death mask! Sadly we know no further information about the mask, who the deceased was or if she even had a connection to the Infirmary.

Treasure 19: Thomas Bateman’s grangerised copy of the Lysons’ Magna Britannia

Treasure 19 Grangerised book (a)

This treasure dates from the days before books routinely came with illustrations, and when prints and engravings were (just as today) highly prized by collectors.  It was chosen by Sue Peach, Local Studies Librarian, who writes:  “We don’t like the idea of defacing books nowadays, but the antiquarian Thomas Bateman of Middleton by Youlgreave (1821-1861)  personalised all four Derbyshire volumes of Magna Britannia by Daniel and Samuel Lysons, by pasting in cuttings and engravings, a process known as “grangerising”. By doing so he has given us a wonderful resource, many of whose images are now on Picture the Past”.

Treasure 19 Grangerised book (b)

Bateman’s contemporary, Isabella Thornhill (1800-1878), had the same idea, and grangerised her version of the Lysons’ text in six separate volumes, as described in our catalogue.  You may remember reading of Isabella, who was one of the Gell family, in a previous post after we acquired her diary.

Treasure 15: An account of a Clairvoyant regarding Sir John Franklin’s lost Arctic expedition

Treasure 16 John Franklin (a)

This letter (D3311/81/1) dates from 1849 and comes from the Franklin family papers held here. These include letters, diaries and poems of Eleanor Anne Franklin (nee Porden), letters and journals of William Porden, letters and other papers of Sir John Franklin and Lady Jane Franklin, as well as letters of Eleanor Isabella Gell (nee Franklin).  There are some prints and several printed works including works by and belonging to Eleanor Anne Franklin (nee Porden) and works about the Arctic and Franklin’s expeditions.

Treasure 16 John Franklin (b)

The mystery of Franklin’s lost expedition has inspired many artistic works, poetry, dramas, and traditional folk songs such as “Lady Franklin’s Lament”, commemorating Lady Franklin’s search for her lost husband.  The search came to an end in September 2014, when the remains of Franklin’s ship, the Erebus, were discovered in the Victoria Strait near King William Island, as you can see from this BBC report.  This treasure was chosen by our Assistant Conservator, Clare.

Who watches the watchmen?

Here’s some more evidence of how useful we have been finding our volunteers. Our volunteer Mavis recently wrote a fuller description of a volume in the archives that had previously been described in only three words: “Belper Watchman’s Journal”.  The full description, courtesy of Mavis, can be read on the catalogue, under reference D5917.

The first thing that had to change was the word watchman, which should have been watchmen.  There was not one of them, but a whole team, charged with keeping good order in the town overnight, and maintaining a record of the people they encountered as they patrolled the streets.  It had been a legal requirement to employ watchmen since 1233, but these records date from the 1840s, and the men were not, so far as I can tell, employed by the state.  (Please correct me if I’m wrong! I won’t mind.)  Instead, their wages were paid by textile giants the Strutt company, which owned such a high proportion of the property in Belper.  Among their principal duties was the checking of gas for street lighting and water levels.  This was not what I had been expecting to be told, so in curiosity I checked the catalogue for our Strutt collections and realised that there was a whole series of similar records which we received separately from D5917 (reference D6948/11).  The volume that Mavis had described was a sort of long-lost brother to the others.

An article of 1835, published in The Mirror of Literature, Amusement, and Instruction, Volumes 25-26 (J. Limbird, 1835), gives a detailed description of the system devised by William Strutt to ensure diligence among the watchmen employed by the company.  The article states that the system had been emulated in Derby, and credits it with halving the number of watchmen required in that town, from twenty to ten.  The men walked separate rounds from 11pm to 5am.  Rather than carrying out the traditional watchman’s function of calling the hour, they were instructed to proceed silently and to use their lanterns “on urgent occasions” only.  In addition, the men’s routes and timings were periodically changed, with a combined effect of making it harder to predict the arrival of the watchman, who should therefore be better placed to detect bad behaviour.  The article continues:

In order to compel each watchman to go the route that is fixed for him at the times appointed, watch-clocks are provided at certain stations.  These clocks effect their object by means of certain pegs, each of which is required to be put down by a bolt within a quarter of an hour of the time fixed upon; and unless so put down, it remains up, and in the morning registers every quarter of an hour of neglected time.  The clocks are examined by a steady, responsible man every morning, and the results noted down in a book under the same number and route of each watchman.  If any one of them has omitted putting down a single peg, the superintendent copies the time and number of each omission in a book, which lies at the house where every clock is fixed, to enable the occupier of the house to examine if the superintendent enter [sic] those pegs right, which are missed, and into another book in which he copies all omissions and remarks.  These omissions are explained by the watchman to the superintendent every morning at five o’clock, and if he gives an account of his his having taken up disorderly persons, of having watched suspicious ones, or having been otherwise properly occupied … the omissions are allowed

Do bear in mind that this describes the system in Derby, but it is said to have been modelled on that of Belper, so it looks like this is a decent explanation of how these records were created.

Sir John Franklin: Fabled Arctic ship found

You may have seen in the news that a team from Canada believe they have discovered one of the ships from the lost Franklin expedition

Franklin was one of the outstanding explorers of the early 19th century, but it was the Admiral’s tragic end that earned him iconic status. As a young midshipman, Franklin served at Trafalgar. He then commanded a frigate in the seas around Greece between 1830 and 1833. Four years later, in 1837 Franklin was appointed Governor of Van Diemen’s Land (now Tasmania), a post he held until 1843. His lasting reputation derives from his major expeditions to the Canadian Arctic in search of the North West Passage. He embarked on the third in May 1845. The last sighting of his ships was in July 1845. Relief expeditions were mounted, but by 1850 it was clear to everyone except his second wife Lady (Jane) Franklin (1792-1875) that the expedition was lost. She continued to raise funds to send out search parties until 1859 when proof was found of the deaths of Franklin and his party.

Derbyshire Record Office holds a good range of records relating to Franklin and his various expeditions, including papers relating to the many searches for the final expedition after 1845. The papers have come to the Record Office through Franklin’s daughter, Eleanor Isabella. Eleanor was the daughter of Franklin’s first wife Eleanor Anne Porden (died 1825), and the wife of Rev. John Philip Gell, of the Gell’s of Hopton Hall, near Wirksworth and Carsington.

Lady Franklin's Final Search p1

D3311/112/2 Lady Franklin’s Final Search p1

Lady Franklin's Final Search p2

D3311/112/2 Lady Franklin’s Final Search p2









D3311/219 Copies of Instructions to Captain Sir John Franklin in reference to the Arctic Expedition of 1845, 1848

D3311/219 Copies of Instructions to Captain Sir John Franklin in reference to the Arctic Expedition of 1845, 1848


D3311/95 ‘ Echo from the deep’ – Newspaper cutting from the Daily Express 14 Apr 1965 regarding discovery of Erebus or Terror – although it transpired that this was not one of the lost ships


Also in the collection;-

D3311/81 – An Account of a clairvoyant describing where to find Sir John Franklin and his ships, copied by E.J. Gell, 1849

D3311/51/1-4 Extract from Capt. Fitzjames’ letter to Mr Barrow regarding Sir John Franklin 1845; Extract from a letter from a Canadian missionary, Rev Father Tacke describing an expedition setting off to find Sir John Franklin’s 1845 expedition 1848
2 Notices of the expedition’s discovery and search 1849

A transported convict writes home

[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.]

D4716/1: Sydney, New South Wales, 20th June 1841

My dear father and Mother, I have taken the opportunity of writing you these lines trusting the same will find you both in good health, Brothers and sisters, and all relations and enquiring friends, as it leaves me by the blessing of God in good health at present. Continue reading