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!

Bills, bills, bills…

Roger is one of a number of cataloguing volunteers who have been putting a great deal of work into collection D769, deriving from the practice of Taylor Simpson & Mosley, Solicitors, of Derby.  The collection includes a large number of maps which have been listed and available for many years, and an ever larger number of boxes which have never seen the light of day, because they have never been listed.  The volunteers have been going through some of these boxes in a bid to change all that.  Roger writes:

Amongst the documents in one box is a remarkable collection of invoices which record the debts owed by one Robert Curzon at the time of his accidental death in 1873. Robert Curzon and his wife Charlotte lived at Alvaston, although Robert Curzon’s duties as a captain in the Sussex Militia required him to spend time at the regimental barracks in Chichester.

Contemporary newspapers record that toward the end of September 1873, Robert and Charlotte Curzon went to a shooting party in Leicestershire. On their return journey the horse pulling their trap grew restive as they passed through the village of Diseworth. The trap overturned. Robert and Charlotte Curzon were thrown out, sustaining head injuries. Charlotte Curzon recovered but Robert Curzon died two days later, aged 32.

Some 250 invoices submitted after his death give a vivid indication of the breadth of Robert Curzon’s expenditure and the extent of credit he enjoyed during the months, and in many cases the years, before his death. Alongside the invoices are documents showing that Robert Curzon’s estate was not sufficient to meet the debts and his brothers took responsibility, in the process taking a bank loan of £3,000.

The retailers and suppliers represented include fishmongers, bakers, grocers, butchers, fruiterers, ale, wine and spirit merchants; florists and nurserymen; surgeons, dentists, chemists and hairdressers; drapers, glass, china and furniture merchants; tailors, dressmakers, hat makers, boot and shoe makers; jewellers, optical suppliers, watch and clockmakers; tobacconists; coach builders, cab hirers and livery stables; veterinary surgeons, blacksmiths, saddlers, harness makers, fishing tackle makers and gun and ammunition merchants; music suppliers, photographers and a portrait painter; taxidermists; hoteliers; newsagents, a theatre ticket agent, a library, booksellers and stationers; umbrella and cane makers; a timber merchant, plumbers, builders and ironmongers. There is even an invoice from Alvaston toll gate listing outstanding turnpike tolls. A handful of items give details of payments to servants and employees.

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Although many suppliers are from Derby there are many from London, and some from Chichester. Further afield are a jeweller and a taxidermist in Inverness; an antique dealer and livery stables in York; wine merchants in Leeds, Cologne and Bordeaux; and a portrait painter from Richmond, Surrey. A few items are in the form of note books, holding a chronological running record of goods supplied. The collection offers a colourful variety of printed billheads with decorative texts and illustrations. A few twenty-first century household names appear amongst the suppliers: W H Smith, newsagents, and Benson & Hedges, tobacconists, are immediately recognisable.

The invoices might provide a number of research opportunities. Many show abundant detail, such that it would be possible to construct a chronology of the daily life and travels of Robert Curzon over a period of at least twelve months. The detail might be of interest to students of domestic economy and those interested in the range amount and cost of foodstuffs available to a specific household in the 1870s. There are detailed invoices from chemists showing the supply of everyday household remedies; from nurserymen with specific information about plants and seeds supplied, and from tailors and dressmakers.

School admission records now online – including the mighty Steve Bloomer!

Have you ever wondered where your ancestors went to school?  If so, now might be a good time to emit a chirrup of joy, because Derbyshire’s contribution has been added to the ever-growing mass of information in the National School Admission Registers and Log-books dataset on http://www.findmypast.co.uk.  I had a tinker with it a few days ago and managed to find the admission record of Derby County legend Steve Bloomer.  Before he earned any of his 23 England caps, or scored any of his 297 league goals for the club, he was a pupil at Peartree Boys School in Derby.  His entry in the admission register is at the very bottom of this image: you can see he was born in Cradley Heath, and was the son of Caleb Bloomer, a smith.

SBloomer

School log books are also included in the project.  Now, anyone who has tried combing through a log book looking for references to their forebears as pupils will know that the odds are not so good.  But that is what makes the ease of searching by name so attractive – a quick check is all it takes, because the names that are mentioned in the log books have been indexed.  If one of your ancestors ever worked as a teacher, or a monitor, or as a pupil-teacher, the references can be quite illuminating – one headteacher writes: “Winifred Roberts and Edith Yates have been appointed monitors at £6 per annum from 1 Dec 1899.  If they can pass the Government Examination they will be paid as a 1st year Pupil Teacher from 1 Jan 1900”. (Don’t worry, they passed the exam – I checked.) And have a look at this list of Object Lessons from 1899.

Lessons

You see, quite apart from their genealogical value, log books are a window on another world.  (If you can think of a less clichéd way of putting that, do let me know.)  In particular, this is the world of the headteacher of that era: browse for a minute or two and you will vicariously experience the joy of winning praise from the school inspectors, the despair of having 150 pupils absent because of a measles outbreak, and the irritation of having junior teachers who don’t do anything quite as well as you did when you were a junior teacher.

If you would like to have a look at what is available, come over to your local library or right here to the record office, and log on to one of the computers.  This resource, which FindMyPast subscribers normally pay for, will be yours to play around with for free.  Here are a couple of sample pages.

Log2

Log