Treasure 23: Trade catalogues and almanacs

Old books and other publications can be a window on the past – you know this already, of course, or you wouldn’t be here.  Have you ever noticed how often it is the things our predecessors would have thought banal that cause us the greatest fascination?  Advertising, for instance.  Sue Peach has nominated as one of our 50 Treasures the range of product catalogues and almanacs that can be found in our Local Studies section.  She writes:

I picked these for their wonderful, quirky illustrations, many of objects we no longer recognise. In the days before Ebay, this is what people used.

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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.

A thank-you letter from Mr and Mrs Dunn

A researcher was in our searchroom recently, working on a book of trustees’ minutes from Bethel Methodist Chapel, Brimington, and came across this letter, pasted into the volume:

Minute book of Bethel Chapel trustees, Brimington

Minute book of Bethel Chapel trustees, Brimington

The full thing reads:


On behalf of Mrs Dunn and myself, I have pleasure in acknowledging the splendid Bible with which you so kindly favoured us upon the occasion of our recent marriage, and we beg to assure you how deeply we appreciate the gift, commemorating as it does, the first marriage solemnized within the walls of the Chapel of which we are both members, and we trust that our lives may be ruled by its message.

Again thanking you gentlemen, I am,

Sincerely yours,

William Dunn

If an excuse is needed for posting this, I’ll say that thank-you letters are always topical in January.  If that sounds a bit thin, let’s just say it was a heart-warming thing to encounter, ergo worth sharing.  And another thing…

  • You can tell this letter was meaningful to the trustees because the clerk pasted it into the volume so that it could be preserved.  However, I will bring this volume to the attention of our conservators; I’m confident they will tell me that the glue holding the letter in place isn’t helping its long-term future, and it will need to come out at some point.  We will then need to put a note on the catalogue saying which pages it was found between, because That Sort of Thing can be important.  For that reason, if you do ever come across an additional leaf in a volume in our archives, whether it is pasted, sellotaped, stapled or just left loose, do let a staff member know – but leave the page where it is until we get a chance to deal with it.
  • The last marriage to be solemnized in the chapel was in 1965, when it closed.  At that point, the church amalgamated with Brimington Trinity Methodist Chapel and moved to a new building on Hall Road.  The building was erected on the site where once had stood the Zion United Methodist Free Church, and the amalgamated body was called simply Brimington Methodist Church.  And it is still going today.
  • If you browse the catalogue for  Bethel Methodist Chapel, Brimington, you may notice that the marriage registers are not actually included.  That’s because they are part of a rather large artificial collection of records from various Methodist churches, D1820.  I would direct you to the catalogue entry for the collection, but the list attached to it is incomplete – that means a little more work for the FindersKeepers project, I fear.

On This Day: ‘Spitfire in Court’

From the Alfreton and Belper Journal, 3rd December 1909:



An extraordinary statement was made by a prisoner at the Chesterfield Borough Police Court, on Monday, the person in question giving the name of Luke Spitfire, of no fixed address, who was something of a “spitfire” by nature.

The man was charged with stealing a Bible, valued at 50s., from the Chesterfield Parish Church, on Saturday, and evidence was given that prisoner was seen to emerge from the building with the book underneath his coat.  Benjamin Gascoigne, a young man living in Durrant road, Chesterfield, asked Spitfire what he was doing with the Bible, and he replied that he was going to sit down and read it, although it was too dark to do so.  Police-constable Kee arrested the man, who made no answer to the charge.

Spitfire loudly requested the attendance of the priests to identify the Bible as the property of the church.  Having entered a plea of guilty, the accused went on to make the following amazing statement: “I have been a ratepayer for 20 years, and of course every ratepayer helps to keep the Bishops and the priests and everybody else between, and supposing I was stealing the Bible, I was only stealing part of my own property.  (Laughter).  It is no earthly use to me, because what is in the book I have swallowed.  I claim to be tried by my peers.  I am a B.A. and an educated man, and I am the same as Lord Byron, when he committed murder, he claimed to be tried by the Lords, and he got off.  I claim to be tried by my equals and not by ‘vagabones’.”  (Laughter).

Sentence of 28 days’ hard labour was passed.

The County Local Studies Library holds the Alfreton (and Belper) Journal, 1870-1935 – just ring to book a microfilm reader.

Happy Birthday to Reg Dean

Derbyshire Record Office would like to wish a belated Happy Birthday to Britain’s oldest man, Wirksworth’s own Reg Dean, who turned 110 on the 4th of November.  Mr Dean very kindly let us have his unpublished memoirs in 2010.  They are available to anyone who would care to book a session in our temporary searchroom (01629 538347 is the number – you will need to book at least a week in advance). 

Reg Dean was born in Tunstall, Staffordshire on 4 November 1902, the son of a master potter.  He joined the Manchester and Liverpool District Bank in Burslem aged 16, after a premature end to his school career.  After studying Greek and Latin, he was admitted to St Augustine’s College, Canterbury in 1923.  Ordained as a deacon in the Church of England in 1927 and a priest two years later, Reg Dean took up positions around the world, including Singapore and India, and was a volunteer army chaplain during World War Two.  He joined the Congregational Church in 1952 and served as minister in the United Reformed Churches of Wirksworth and Matlock until his retirement in 1982.  He was also a teacher at Herbert Strutt School, Belper between 1958 and 1968.  Reg Dean is a founder member and former president of the Dalesmen male voice choir, and has been Britain’s oldest man since June 2010.

New accession of educational records

Two new accessions that might interest anyone into educational history: the minutes of the Marston Montgomery School Board from 1888 to 1903, and the Sudbury District Education Committee from 1918 to 1923. School Boards were abolished after legislative changes in 1902, and the County Council decided to disband the Sudbury committee in 1923, so each volume covers the terminal phase of the body’s history. They are public records but had found their way into private hands, as sometimes happens. Happily, the historically-minded person who came across them donated them to us, so they are back in the public domain. They are yet to be catalogued but will have references D7413 and D7414.