The building plans of Osmaston Manor – now ready for use

You may recall a previous blog post about Osmaston Manor, describing the accidental rediscovery of some building plans.  They had not been listed (perhaps because of their poor condition) but nor had they been repaired, and their existence had been more or less forgotten.

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They have now been cleaned and packaged and, in some cases, repaired. They have also been described in clearer terms in the D1849 catalogue.  If you would like to have a look at these records, you can order them out for use in the search room or you can log on to one of our Netloan computers and look for CD number 397, which contains good quality copies.

Treasure 46: Register of child factory workers

This treasure comes from the Belper-based cotton spinning company W G and J Strutt Ltd and is a register of children dating from May 1853 to April 1860 (D6948/14/5).  Education was not made compulsory until 1880, so the use of children’s labour in the Strutt mills in Belper was very normal.

The register records the reference number of each child’s certificate of employment, the first day of employment or re-employment and when they worked in the morning or afternoon. A column notes when they change their group or leave – or come to the end of their thirteenth year and become classified as “young persons”.

Rediscovered: plans of Osmaston Manor, 1850-1873

It happens this way in archives sometimes.  One minute, you are moving a roll of plans from one shelf to another, and carefully keeping a record of its new location; the next, you are rediscovering some long-lost treasure*.

It was in 1978 that we acquired collection D1849, the archives of the Osmaston Estate.  The collection includes rent books, tenancy papers, some plans and photographs, and family papers of the Walker family, which acquired Osmaston Manor after the death of Francis Wright (1806-1873).  A list for the collection was circulated soon afterwards.  However, entry D1849/14 on that list, (“Osmaston Manor plans”) had no descriptive details, and our internal record to say which shelf held the plans said only “number not used”.

As I intimated above, the plans were re-discovered when there was a need to rationalise some of our storage.  That is the good news.  The bad news is the state they were in:

D1849 14 Osmaston Manor plans.JPG

As carefully as I could, I took a few minutes to have a look at them, so as to add some details to the catalogue.  The relevant entry now reads:

D1849/14: Plans of Osmaston Manor, 1850-1873.

Approximately 20 architectural plans and sketches of building works. Most of the plans bear the name of Francis Wright Esq.  Including:
-Plan of Osmaston Manor showing pipeage
-Section drawing showing details of cresting on conservatory
Details of windows on proposed lodge at village entrance (rough, in pencil) at scale 1.5 inches to 1 foot
-Elevation of flag tower
-Plans of fountain
-Section drawing showing “bridge across the back road”. Signed by Henry Isaac Stevens, architect, dated 18 Feb 1850.
-Plan of stable court and surrounding buildings at scale 1 inch: 8 feet. Stamped “Butterley Ironworks” on the reverse
These items are in poor condition and cannot be produced until conservation work has been completed.

I cannot be any less vague about the details, and for once it’s not my fault – if I had spent any longer trying to inspect the goods, I would only have worsened their condition.  Lien, our Senior Conservator, has had a look at the plans and will be deciding how best to render them fit for use in future.  That may be a long-term project, but an early stage will be to get the plans stable enough to photograph or scan, so people can view them on the computers in our searchroom.

It makes sense that at least one of the plans is stamped “Butterley Ironworks” – in 1830, Wright had become senior partner in the Butterley Company, “which he dominated for the next forty-three years”, according to his entry in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.  The same source takes the view that “the outward sign of Wright’s success was the building of a great country house, Osmaston Manor, outside Ashbourne, in 1846–9”.

And if you want to show off your success by erecting buildings, you hire the best architect you can find.  In Wright’s case, it was Henry Isaac Stevens of Derby (1806-1873 – yes, his years of birth/death really are the same as Francis Wright’s).  I only saw the signature of Stevens on one of the plans, which was dated 1850, but at least some of the others will be his work, and given the dates of construction mentioned in the DNB, I feel sure that the 1850 plan will not be the oldest in the bundle.

Osmaston Manor was demolished in the 1960s.  You can find out more about it on the Osmaston Park website, which describes what this location has to offer as a wedding venue.

*”treasure” is an over-worked term when it comes to news of archival discoveries, so I’m sorry for using.  But the truth is, it’s ALL treasure to somebody, or we wouldn’t be keeping it!

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.

On This Day: ‘Man Killed In A Lead Mine’; ‘A Candidate For Transportation’

From the Derby Mercury, 16th December 1857:

Man Killed In A Lead Mine

On Friday last, a poor man named Thos. Thorpe, went from his cottage at Bonsall, to Mr. Greaves’, Cliff-house, Matlock, to beg a handful of mint, and not returning on that night or the next, his wife and family became seriously alarmed for his safety.  On Sunday morning some neighbours went in search, and ascertained that Thorpe had left Cliff-house with a quantity of mint, about six in the evening of Friday.  They then tracked his course homewards by leaves and sprigs of mint, to a mine shaft on Masson, then recently run in, but there the traces of the mint ceased.  On removing the rubbish in the hole the poor fellow was discovered about six feet from the surface, of course quite dead, and the body was removed to a farmhouse near to await a coroner’s inquest.

A Candidate For Transportation

Police Office, Derby  George Marshall, a youth of 14, was charged as follows:- Police-constable Davis stated: Prisoner came to me this morning and said, “Mr. Davis, I shall find you a job to-day.”  I replied, “What shall you do?”  He said, “I shall commit a robbery.”  I endeavoured to persuade him to go home, but he would not, and said, “I shall go to the first watchmaker’s shop I can, break a window, steal a watch and run my chance, as I mean to have seven years.”  I knew that prisoner had been twice convicted at the sessions, and also that he had been twice summarily committed, and therefore I thought it best to lock him up.  Prisoner, in reply to questions from the Mayor, said that he would rather be transported than live in Derby; that he had a comfortable home and neither his father nor his mother-in-law behaved ill to him, but he did not like to stay at home.  The Mayor doubted whether sending prisoner to gaol again would be productive of any good, as it was evident he had a propensity for stealing and leading an idle life; but on the mother-in-law saying they had done all they could for him, and that if he did not return home (and he said he would not) something worse was sure to happen to him, the Bench committed him, as a rogue and vagabond, for three months with hard labour.

We hold the Derby Mercury on microfilm  – just ring to book a microfilm reader.

On This Day: ‘Local News’

From the Derby Mercury, 23rd July 1851:

THE DERBY POLICE FORCE – The members of this force have received leave of absence, in detachments, for a week to visit the Great Exhibition, and the Watch Committee has presented 1l. to each man, from the police fund.  The first detachment, consisting of Sergeant Hill  and seven men, left Derby on Saturday last, to return next Saturday.

LATTER-DAY SAINTS – On Sunday last, a party of the above sect visited Belper.  They selected a spot on the outside of the town, and many of the curious visited the place of meeting, but were greatly disappointed.  Instead of a sermon it was a lecture.  The orator professed to be a chemist, and spoke more upon art and science than religion.

PILSLEY WAKES AND TAP-DRESSING – The romantic little Peak village of Pilsley exhibited an unusually gay and animated appearance last week, in consequence of the inhabitants having provided unusual attractions for their friends.  The custom of well-flowering, as practised at Tissington, had been adopted, and the floral decorations exhibited were of a most ingenious, effective, and pleasing character, and reflected great credit on the parties by whom they had been designed and executed.  A party of bell-ringers from Mottram, with no fewer than 42 hand-bells, contributed to enliven the proceedings in the intervals of the dancing and rustic sports…One little singular and rather amusing incident we cannot refrain from noticing.  A large common grass snake had been caught and apparently killed, and the ingenious villagers had formed the reptile body into “the Duke’s crest”, and placed it, attached by damp clay, to an ornamental device composed of flowers, crystals, &c.  It turned out, however, that “The snake was only scotch’d, Not killed-” and on the sun shining out inconveniently warm, his snakeship, not exactly comprehending his elevated position, nor entirely enjoying his novel and incomprehensible lodgings – watched his opportunity, and glided off, displacing some of the delicately-arranged finery, by which he was surrounded.      

The County Local Studies Library holds the Derby Mercury – just ring to book a microfilm reader.  If you have a Derbyshire library card you can also view 19th century issues of the newspaper here.