Hello everyone. I have just this minute updated the catalogue with copies of the absent voters list for the parliamentary constituency of Ilkeston in 1918. The names you can find inside are those of people who were still enrolled in the armed forces at the end of the war. You can find all three absent voters lists on our catalogue – the others cover Western Derbyshire and Chesterfield. Click on the one you want to use, and this should open up a catalogue entry with sections of the volume shown as downloadable pdf files. And that’s it! No other absent voters lists survive, as far as we know. (Please let us know if you have heard different.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
This treasure, from collection D6326, is to be found in a sketch book kept by Maude Verney around one hundred years ago. It was chosen by Becky, one of the archivists.
The artist was the wife of Frederick Verney (1846-1913), Member of Parliament for Buckingham. The Verneys were benefactors of the area, and related to the family of Florence Nightingale. Becky says:
I chose this item because of the different perspective it gives to mining and collieries. The typical mental image of mining is bleak and grey, but this image, drawn from real life, emphasises that the colliery could be beautiful in its surroundings.
Among the many characters who appear in the Harpur Crewe records a personal favourite is emerging in the shape of Richard Fynderne Harpur Crewe (1880-1921). Richard (or Dickie, as he was known to family and friends) was the only son of Sir Vauncey Harpur Crewe, the 10th Baronet (1846-1924). There was certainly a contrast between the two in how they lived their lives. Sir Vauncey was what could reasonably be called “an old stick in the mud”, someone who settled down to a somewhat sedentary existence and resisted all intrusions of modern life into his life. He famously refused to countenance the introduction of such new-fangled inventions as electricity, cars and telephones at Calke Abbey.
No doubt, he would have banned aeroplanes had he had the chance. Dickie, however, embraced the new technologies whole-heartedly, and it was in an aeroplane that he most clearly exhibited his more adventurous inclinations. On 25 February 1912, at about 5.20 in the afternoon, at the Brooklands Aerodrome, Surrey, he climbed into a 2 seated 70 Gnome Bleriot monoplane behind the pilot T.O.M. Sopwith. After a few basic instructions from Sopwith on how to position himself (legs in, with his weight as close to the pilot as possible), the engine was started, and after a short wait to warm it up properly, the signal was given to go, and off they rushed. Dickie did not know quite when they left the ground, but leave the ground they did. The plane was soon “very much up” and proceeded to make several circuits of the Aerodrome, climbing steeply one moment and then dropping suddenly the next, banking and circling, carefully avoiding another machine also out flying, before finally swooping down at speed towards the earth, straightening up and then touching the ground “with a slight bump” several times, and eventually landing “after a series of little jolts.”
We know all this from a written description made of the flight by Dickie, who wrote down his experiences after the event in his distinctive handwriting on five pages of notepaper, and which he kept in a small envelope which emerged from a box of photographs in the Harpur Crewe collection. Dickie’s response to it all was unequivocally positive, talking of “a magnificent sensation – a glorious feeling”. He summed up what he felt about flying with Sopwith in the sentence “The experience is a joy.”. You might like to read what he says in a full transcript I have made here of the document (reference number D2375/M/177/1).
Notes on Sopwith flight at Brooklands
What is most remarkable about it, to my eyes, is that only half an hour before another aeroplane had crashed, “a fearful wreck indeed”, from underneath which a certain Watkins had been dragged clear, looking pale and in pain, having apparently broken his thigh. I’m not sure I would have been quite so ready to become of one of “those magnificent men in their flying machines”, which, judging by the photograph, seem to have been held together with not much more than string.
For Dickie it was a clearly exhilarating and enjoyable experience in himself, but he also recognised the potential use of aeroplanes in military engagements. He talks about being able to see objects in a wide field of view clearly at a height of 2000 feet and that a trained observer could take in a lot which would be very useful to a military commander. His perceptive comments will go on to be proved correct in two years time on the outbreak of World War
Louis Bleriot had famously been the first to cross the English Channel in a plane in July 1909, less than 3 years before Dickie’s flight. Bleriot was a pioneering experimenter in aviation, designing and developing the first engine-powered monoplane, and formed his own aeroplane-building business. Following his successful Channel flight, he built and developed more flying machines, including the one flown by T.O.M. Sopwith.
Thomas Octave Murdoch Sopwith was a driven young man, excelling initially in motor cycling racing before turning his attention to aeroplanes. In 1910 he won the not inconsiderable sum of £4000 in achieving the longest flying distance from England to the Continent and used the winnings to found the Sopwith Flying School at Brooklands. A few months after his flight with Dickie, he and others followed Bleriot’s example and set up the Sopwith Aviation Company, which went on supply the allied forces in the Great War (later known as the First World War) with thousands of aeroplanes, including the famous Sopwith Camel. After the war ended, his company fell foul of anti-profiteering taxes, but he soon set up, with Henry Hawker, another aeroplane manufacturing company originally called Hawker Aircraft, later known as Hawker Siddeley. Sopwith lived to the grand old age of 100, dying only in 1989, not really that long ago, or so it seems to me!
Harpur Crewe Cataloguing Project Archivist
We are pleased to announce the 1918 Absent Voters Lists have now been cleaned and digitised! Here’s how we did it…
With the anniversary of the start of World War I upon us, like many heritage institutions around the country, the Conservation Team at Derbyshire Record Office have been working to preserve and conserve documents from the first world war era. Particular priority has been given to those documents which will be used the most by the public, and at the moment we have decided to work on electoral registers from the period 1914-1919. Continue reading
Having spent two weeks with the Derbyshire Record Office for work experience, I realised that archiving requires a surprisingly large amount of filing work! Watching programmes like “Who Do You Think You Are?” portrays a more simplistic view of local study offices where everything is prepared for the celebrity as soon as they arrive, with very little work clearly visible. So the level of research, attention to detail and thoroughness I met with at Derbyshire Record Office was surprising. I received a lot of valuable information about the correct way to store and protect documents…
(Below: How best to store delicate documents using the 4 flap folder method)
…the importance of digitization to the Record Office and the heritage of both Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire through Picture the Past (http://www.picturethepast.org.uk/)
In particular, I really enjoyed copying out the old recipes of several 19th Century cooks ready for digitization. Although this may not sound incredibly interesting to some, I found the quirky and sometime unintelligible recipes both amusing and a challenge. The recipes of Emily Mary Kilpin, a 15 year old domestic servant for the Thornhill family, were particularly entertaining with their unpredictability, supplying recipes for “egg jelly”, “furniture polish” and a a “cream substitute” in quick succession, and also for the insight into the trends in her cookery with recipes for two different types of lemon curd, a lemon pudding and lemonade all entered on the same page in her book.
On the other hand, the cookery book of her employers, the Thornhills, highlights a stark contrast between social classes in the early 1900’s society. For example, not only is the handwriting and language more advanced, there are far fewer recipes included by the family, possibly because they did less of their own cooking and relied more upon servants like Emily Kilpin herself.
Overall, my work experience was hugely enjoyable, the new building and facilites are great, and the staff were all very friendly and helpful. I’d recommend anyone interested in local history or the humanities to make use of the opportunites that the Derbyshire Record Office provide, either for academic, professional or personal reasons.
By Will, the work experience student
Now then… Stop me if you have heard this one before (and if you have, it may be because you recall a flurry of press activity in the late 1990s), but did you know that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle submitted a design for a bullet-proof vest to Field Marshal Haig during the First World War? Well, he did. And it was in connection with this that Conan Doyle ordered some bullet-proof materials from Ferodo, the very successful brake-lining manufacturing company based in Chapel-en-le-Frith.
Philip Norman’s article about the sale of Conan Doyle’s personal archive in 2004 expresses the opinion that, if the device had been adopted, it “would doubtless have saved many lives”. (See http://www.sherlock-holmes.co.uk/news/doyle.html – the website is that of the Sherlock Holmes Museum, based at 221b Baker Street.)
This post is topped by a photograph of the entry in question, from the Ferodo company archive, held here (D4562/8/5). The entry is neither very informative nor very beautiful, but it is certainly interesting. And hard to read! If anybody can offer an interpretation of what the record is really telling us, we could improve our catalogue description, which currently calls the volume simply “sample report summaries 1915-1926”.
Many thanks to Will, who is here on work experience, for locating the entry, and spotting the Philip Norman article.
From the Ashbourne Telegraph, 2nd August 1912, Derbyshire weather not unlike early July 2012:
CLOUD-BURST AT ROWSLEY – REMARKABLE FLOODS
On Saturday there was a cloudburst at the Haddon Hall tunnel, about a mile and a half from Bakewell on the Midland line. Debris from the hills above the railway was quickly washed down and a large part of an embankment slipped, and the earth completely blocked the line from Manchester to Derby.
Water streamed into the Haddon tunnel until it was about two feet deep, and traffic was completely dislocated, and for over half an hour several expresses were held up in the vicinity.
It was found that some damage had been done to the railway, and it was necessary for the trains to proceed with caution. A party of Bakewell golfers, who were proceeding to Matlock to play a match found that their train was unable to proceed, and they walked home again. Expresses between Manchester and London were diverted via the Dore and Chinley line, but the local traffic was stopped on both sides of the Haddon tunnel.
The whole of the sidings were flooded – that is 36 miles of rails.
Mr. A. Hawes, Clerk to the Bakewell Guardians, said the roadway by Haddon Hall was under water as well as Rowsley. He added: “I think the worst of the fall was beyond FillifordBridge, where the water was so high on the roads that it forced holes through the boundary walls one could crawl through. The amount of damage done must be enormous.”
On the moors above Sydnope, over the 1,000 feet level, Mr. Edwards a dog fancier, resides with his family. His experience was alarming. Lightning first struck his house in the roof, ran along the gutters, and down the spouts to earth. A second flash struck the chimney, and ran down into the house, where it swept the fire out, and burnt the hearth rug. Mr. Edwards says the house was full of strong smelling sulphur and smoke for some minutes, and he took his wife and child out of the house for safety.
Lightning also struck a house in Vineyard Terrace, belonging to the Stancliffe Estates Co., and there it went through the roof and two ceilings, and finally visited the front room, smashing the fire-grate. At Hackney three trees – an oak, a pear, and an apple – in a row were struck. Cows are also reported to have been killed in the fields.
Much damage was also done to the well-known cottage which stands close to the Haddon Hall, and the flood from the hills was so great that the occupants only just managed to get out of the building in time. All round this historic spot the meadows were under water.
The County Local Studies Library holds the Ashbourne Telegraph, 1903-1957 – just ring to book a microfilm reader.