Wonderful words

I first came across the word wapentake about 12 years ago when I started working at the record office – I understood that it described an ancient jurisdiction, similar in meaning (though not necessarily in geography) to the district and borough jurisdictions we have today.  I also discovered that the term hundred was also an area delineating a particular ancient jurisdiction.

I am currently reading Viking Britain, a very interesting book by co-curator of the British Museum’s 2014 Viking exhibition, Thomas Williams and actually learned the etymology (origin) of the word: it comes from the Old Norse vápnatak meaning weapon-taking thus telling us about the people (men) who would have attended the meetings from that area, i.e. those who carried weapons (Williams, 2017, p. 222).

This got me thinking about lots of other words that we come across quite regularly at the record office but perhaps just take for granted without thinking about where they come from. So here is a bit of, did you know… as well as some words unfamiliar to the modern vocabulary that favourites amongst our staff.

manuscript – comes from the Latin, manu meaning ‘by hand’ and script meaning ‘to write’

mortgage – a word common in the world outside of historical research, but do you know where the word comes from? Literally meaning ‘dead pledge’, as per the mort in mortuary, and the Old French for pledge gage

frankpledge – a medieval system of self-governance whereby men in groups known as tithings accepted mutual responsibility for the good behaviour of other members of the group. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word itself comes from a mistranslation of the Norman word friϸborh [frithborh] which in turns translates as peace-pledge

wardrobe – did you know that this was also a royal financial institution, evolving out of the role of the keeper of the king’s robes who was also responsible for managing his personal expenses?

hundred – in context of local administration, hundreds, like the wapentake was a subdivision of the shire. First explicitly mentioned around 940 AD but the hundreds with their regular judicial gatherings are undoubtedly earlier.

infangthief: formed from the following components – (1) the adverb in (2) fangen, being the past participle of fon meaning ‘to seize’ and (3) ϸéof meaning ‘thief’. Literally it means “thief sized within”, and in practical legal terms meaning the right of the lord to of a manor to try and to amerce (i.e. fine) a thief caught within the manor. By contrast, outfangthief is the right of the lord to pursue a thief beyond the boundaries of his jurisdiction and bringing him back to the manor court for trial.

roods and perches – historically land was measured in acres, roods and perches (a r p). Whilst we are still familiar with acres today, roods and perches have been lost to posterity. Traditionally, an acre is the area that can be ploughed by eight oxen in one day (the word itself coming from the Latin for field), there are four roods in an acre, and 40 perches in a rood.

messuage – an Anglo-French word originally referring to the portion of land for a dwelling place. It is probable that the word originated from a misreading of mesnage referring to economical management and the verb ‘to husband’

husbandman – husbandry refers to work in the domestic economy, not with respect to the domestic duties we think of today, but rather the agricultural side of domestic life. Husbandman refers specifically to the occupation of those employed in the field of husbandry. Although the original Middle English use of the word does relate more to the management of the household.

hereditament – from the Latin hereditamentum and referring to property that would be inherited by the common law descendent of its owner unless explicitly stated otherwise in a will. This is a common term in early modern and later title deeds, but the specific legal implication may not always be appreciated by its modern reader.

appurtenance – another very common term in title deeds referring to a ‘thing’ or minor property that pertains to another. It comes from the Latin appertinentia, and has equivalents in Middle English and Anglo French.

demesne – historically pronounced de-main, but now usually pronounced de-mean, this word has the same origin as the word ‘domain’ and ultimately comes from the Latin for lord, dominicus. It means the land owned and occupied by the lord rather than being let out to tenants – nevertheless, the work on the land was generally done by his feudal tenants.

nervous – did you see Melanie’s recent post about a letter in the Miller Mundy collection sent two days after the Battle of Trafalgar, which includes the following sentence relating to Admiral Nelson’s message to the sailors before the battle: “The Captains of course turn’d their men up and read the short but nervous sentence to them”. It was pointed out to me that ‘nervous’ did not mean apprehensive (perhaps about the impending the battle), but rather it is the Middle English meaning sinewy, vigorous and strong.

What about place names?  We can’t unfortunately provide a full list here, but here are some of the favourites of record office staff:

Fenny Bentley – meaning boggy grass pasture.

  • Like the Fens, fenny refers to marshy or boggy land
  • ‘bent’ comes from the Old English beonet and refers to ‘grass of a reedy habit’ or to a ‘place covered in grass’
  • -ley is a very common place-name ending meaning pasture

Nearby Hungry Bentley probably relates to the poor quality of the land or possibly the poor food of its inhabitants.

bourne – there are lots of places in Derbyshire and across the country ending with ‘bourne’ and it means small stream or brook. Ecclesbourne then means ‘church by the small stream’. Although it might be tempting to read Ashbourne as referring to a tree by a small stream, ash also means stream so Ashbourne literally means ‘stream stream’.

And did you know that the £ sign evolved from the abbreviated form of the Latin word for pound – libra. Contracted to li with a line through to indicate that it was abbreviated.

References

Thomas Williams (2017) Viking Britain: a history (link to library catalogue)

The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary (1959)

Kenneth Cameron (1959) Place-Names of Derbyshire

Do you have any favourite words or Derbyshire place names with an interesting origin?

Discovering objects

Our crowdfunding campaign for packaging the objects from our Franklin collection has reached its £1000 target! A huge thank you to everyone who has donated – your support is much appreciated.

The Franklin objects have made us realise that we have other fabulous, exciting – and sometimes downright strange – objects in some of our other collections, which should also be properly packaged in museum quality boxes. So we’ve decided that any extra money we receive through our crowdfunding campaign will be spent on looking after those items.  We’re sure to discover more of them as we start hunting through our collections, but to give you an idea of the kind of objects we have:

An Ashbourne Shrovetide football from the 1930’s:

football

A beautiful piece of embroidery from 1937, showing Bakewell Market Place:

embroidery

And a collection of textile samples, including this elephant pattern:

elephant

If you’d like to help us look after these and other objects (we’ll blog about more of them as we uncover and re-package them), then you have until 3.00 pm on Friday 19 July to donate on our crowdfunding page.

A pattern book with a difference

While moving some of our outsize items to more suitable shelves last week (a seemingly endless job), I came across an unusually thick volume (D4984/11/1).  I don’t normally look at the records I’m moving – I would never get anything done if I did! – but occasionally I allow my curiosity to get the better of me and I removed the packaging:

D4984 11 1 pattern book

I’m sure you’ll agree it’s big!  When I opened a random page, it became clear that this is a pattern book, with some lovely fabric samples:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

We have other pattern books in our collection and they’re always a pleasure to look at, although most have a wider variety; the samples in this book are all very delicate and in pastel colours.  Looking at some other pages, I was surprised to find examples of metal fastenings and some kind of metal rods – definitely not something I’d come across before:

And then right at the back of the book it all goes very feminine again, with examples of pretty trims and bows:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Intrigued, I looked in our catalogue when I got back to my office: it is indeed a pattern book, dating from the late nineteenth century, from an Ashbourne company called Richard Cooper and Co. Have you guessed what they made?

Corsets!

 

Coming up this summer: Ashbourne Treasures

Ashbourne Library, St Oswald’s Church and the Ashbourne Heritage Centre are to host what promises to be an informative and inspiring exhibition during July, August and September of this year.  The exhibits in “Ashbourne Treasures” are all of vital importance to the history of the town, and they include the original charter of Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School, of which we are the proud custodians.  Go and see the treasures if you can.  While you are at it, you could book yourself a ticket for one of the associated events, running throughout the summer, such as Dan Cruickshank’s talk on Georgian Towns.  More information is available at www.ashbournetreasures.com.

A day at the archive issue desk…

Every day the search room staff produce a wide range of documents, differing not only in the information they provide, but also the dates they were created, how and why they were created, how and why they will be used. All documents are collected and returned through the issue desk so we can ensure the best protection and security possible during access. As part of this procedure, all our visitors must order the documents required so that we can retrieve the correct item from the stores, sign to say they have received the document, initial to say they have returned it, and a staff member must sign to say they have returned it to the stores.

The gallery below includes many of the documents that were requested and consulted on one particular day last month (Tuesday 13 October). On that day, we had visits from:

  • a county council colleague working in the legal services department
  • an Australian lady trying to find a photograph (unsuccessfully) and other information (successfully) about a criminal ancestor
  • a medieval historian searching for clues about land ownership in Eggington
  • a budding local historian interested in that peculiarly Derbyshire tradition of well-dressings
  • a second family historian searching for the father’s name of one of her ancestors who was born a bastard in 1818
  • a third family historian endeavouring to discover the exact grave location of an ancestor buried at St Oswald’s church in Ashbourne
  • a National Trust volunteer from Calke Abbey looking for various bits of information relating to the house and the Harpur Crewe family for a new learning resources being developed there.


Not  all our visitors go away satisfied with what they have found out, sometimes because they were expecting to find something else, and sometimes because the records didn’t actually give them an answer at all. However, it is very rare that we have that we have visitors who have not enjoyed the experience of searching through and handling the archives. Often they have to test their skills of reading old handwriting (and the archivist’s skills sometimes too!). Usually they unintentionally discover how different records were created and kept at different times and in different places – for example, it is extremely uncommon to find a record of where in a churchyard a particular grave is located, but there are some churches or vicars that did record this information.

Another day in the life of the issue desk coming next month…

Forthcoming WEA course in Ashbourne

News reaches us of what sounds like an engaging new course run by the Workers’ Educational Association, called “An appreciation of the Derbyshire Dales and Staffordshire Moorlands”.  This is how it is described in the promotional literature:

The Derbyshire Dales and the Staffordshire Moorlands is an area of great beauty and fascinating variety. This course offers an understanding of the area through its art, architecture, churches, landscape, work and associated stories. Given an 18th and 19th century focus, the legacies of the Romantic Movement and the Gothic Revival will be sought. This forthcoming WEA Course will be tutored by Danny Wells. It runs for five Tuesday mornings (11.00-1.00) from Tuesday 3 March 2015 at All Saints Community Hall (Catholic Church), 23 Belle Vue, Ashbourne DE6 1AT. No previous knowledge is assumed. A fieldtrip to explore the architecture of Leek is intended on Wednesday 25 March 2015. For further details and enrolment please contact WEA, Derby on 01332-291805; e-mail derbyoffice@wea.org.uk

Explore Your Archive – Prisoners of War

I first became aware that there had been Napoleonic prisoners in Derbyshire when I came across an unusual gravestone at St Mary and All Saints church, Chesterfield, aka the Crooked Spire.  The inscription translated as ‘In memory of Francois Raingeard, thirty years of age, Prisoner of War, died 1oth March 1812’ and bore the message ‘Stop Traveller!  If thro’ Life’s journey, Sympathy Has found a seat in thy Breast; thou’ll drop a pitying tear to the memory of one who…’; the last line started ‘In Friendship…’, but the rest had worn away.

This wasn’t the first time there had been prisoners of war in Derbyshire.  During the Seven Years’ War with France, the Victoria County History (Vol 2) states that 300 French prisoners were sent to Derby in July 1759.  Apparently the churchwardens of Derby All Saints made an “absurdly boastful and vainglorious entry” in their books concluding:

Their behaviour at first was impudent and insolent; and at all times vain and effeminate; and their whole deportment Light and Unmanly; and we may venture to say from our observation and knowledge of them that in any future war, this Nation has nothing to fear from them as an Enemy.  During their abode here, the road from this place to Parliament was by an Act of Parliament repair’d; the part from St. Mary’s Bridge (which by reason of the floods was impassible) being greatly raised.  Numbers of these people were daily employ’d, who work’d in their Bag Whigs, Pigtails, Ruffles, &c., a matter which afforded no small merriment.  But to their Honour let it be remembered, yet scarce an Act of Fraud or Theft was committed by any of them during their stay amongst us.    

Whilst prisoners of war from the lower ranks were held in prisons or on prison ships, officers were placed on a parole of honour in which they promised not to leave or escape from the town they were sent to.  Derbyshire’s central geographic position made it an ideal place to hold the men.  Our local studies library copy (940.27) of part of the National Archives’ general entry book of French prisoners of war on parole shows that from December 1803-July 1812 there were 172 prisoners on parole at Ashbourne and from November 1803-June 1811 there were over 400 held at Chesterfield.  The parish registers for Chesterfield show that aswell as Frenchmen there were at least a few Polish, Swiss, German, Italian and Hungarian prisoners too.

D302 Z/W 1 Weekly accounts, December 1812

D302 Z/W 1 Weekly accounts, December 1812

We have at the Record Office a bound volume of letters, accounts and reports (to the Transport Board) by John Langford (D302 Z/W 1) who was appointed as the agent for the care of parole prisoners at Ashbourne in March 1812.  The accounts and the discharge information can sometimes record prisoner’s names, the name of the prize i.e. from which vessel or place the prisoner was captured, whether the prize was a man of war, privateer or merchant vessel, what rank the prisoner held, and in some records the date of the beginning of their parole at Ashbourne, their date of discharge and how much they were paid.  One particular list which records prisoners at Ashbourne who hadn’t been held on parole or in prison anywhere else in the country, also records details of their age, height, hair colour, eye colour, face shape, complexion, figure, and any wounds or distinguishing marks.

D302 Z/W 1 Accounts of subsistence paid, 1812

D302 Z/W 1 Accounts of subsistence paid, 1812

Whilst the papers don’t reveal that much about their day-to-day activities, there are some letters which let us glimpse into individual lives, such as one from 26th November 1812 giving the account of a Monsieur Frohart who was judged to be in a state of insanity.  He was lodging with a Mr Mellor in the town and it was Mellor who reported to Langford that Frohart, having been restless and singing and making a noise the preceding night, appeared deranged the next morning and ran into the street only half-dressed and broke the windows of several neighbouring properties.  Apparently a couple of years previously he had been in a similar state whilst being on parole in Chesterfield.

Other letters record the various escapes of prisoners, such as Jacques Perroud, the captain of the privateer the ‘Phoenix’, who ran away in the night in April 1812 and was believed to be heading to the Kent coast.  A physical description of him is included and it also reports what he could be wearing, topped by a new hat with a narrow crown, broadish brim, a ribbon and a small white buckle.  Captain Perroud left behind at his lodgings a trunk, four small French dictionaries, three pairs of cloth pantaloons, four old cotton shirts and two cotton pillow cases.

Between 1803 and 1815, around ten prisoners (all men on parole at Chesterfield) appear in the Quarter Sessions Calendars of Prisoners, though I’m sure the actual figure was much higher.  Half of them are being tried on charges of breaking or exceeding their parole and the other half are up on bastardy charges for fathering illegitimate children.  There are at least twelve prisoners of war, including Francois Raingeard, buried in the Crooked Spire churchyard.  From 1806 onwards there are approx. ten marriages of prisoners of war to local women and about eighteen baptisms of children of prisoners, either with wives who were also taken as prisoners or women they had met and married in Chesterfield, and also a few illegitimate children.  

The Ashbourne St Oswald registers seem to show that one local family was particularly welcoming:  15th August 1808, Vincent Pierre Fillion, a French Prisoner of War, married Hannah Whitaker, spinster; 7th May 1810, Louis Hugand, a French prisoner, married Mary Whittaker, spinster; 30th December 1811, Peter/Pierre Dupre, Prisoner of War in Ashbourne, married Elizabeth Whittaker, spinster; 26th November 1812, Otto Ernst d’Heldreich, Prisoner of War, married Margaret Whittaker, spinster. 

Whilst a few remained in Derbyshire, most of the prisoners of war, and their families, eventually returned to mainland Europe.  But aswell as the legacy of a method of glove-making which carried on and thrived in Chesterfield during the nineteenth century, as the story goes it was a French prisoner who first introduced the recipe for what is known as Ashbourne Gingerbread, which is still made and sold in the town two hundred years later.

EYA-poster-poetry-workshop

Explore Your Archive – Reading, Writing and the Theatre Royal

Compare and Contrast – a selection of Derbyshire Record Office documents regarding Regency children and education.

Derby Mercury, 18 November 1829 (pt1)

Derby Mercury, 18 November 1829 (pt1)

Derby Mercury, 18 November 1829 (pt2)

Derby Mercury, 18 November 1829 (pt2)

From 'Sorrows, sacred to the memory of Penelope', 1796 (published by Sir Brooke Boothby whose daughter Penelope died aged 5)

From ‘Sorrows, sacred to the memory of Penelope’, 1796 (published by Sir Brooke Boothby whose daughter Penelope died aged 5)

From 'Sorrows, sacred to the memory of Penelope', 1796 (published by Sir Brooke Boothby whose daughter Penelope died aged 5)

From ‘Sorrows, sacred to the memory of Penelope’, 1796 (published by Sir Brooke Boothby whose daughter Penelope died aged 5)

D2375 M/84/24 Printed orders to parents on the admission of their children into charity schools, 18th cent

D2375 M/84/24 Printed orders to parents on the admission of their children into charity schools, 18th cent

D6948/15/2 Pages from Belper Mill Girls School admission register, 1820s

D6948/15/2 Pages from Belper Mill Girls School admission register, 1820s

Dronfield Academy advert, Derby Mercury, 11 July 1811

Dronfield Academy advert, Derby Mercury, 11 July 1811

D5410/17/6 Letter from Alleyne Fitzherbert (b.1815) at Tissington Hall (pt1)

D5410/17/6 Letter from Alleyne Fitzherbert (b.1815) at Tissington Hall (pt1)

D5410/17/6 Letter from Alleyne Fitzherbert (b.1815) at Tissington Hall (pt2)

D5410/17/6 Letter from Alleyne Fitzherbert (b.1815) at Tissington Hall (pt2)

D5410/17/5 Letter from William Fitzherbert (b.1808) at Charterhouse School, 1819 (pt1)

D5410/17/5 Letter from William Fitzherbert (b.1808) at Charterhouse School, 1819 (pt1)

D5410/17/5 Letter from William Fitzherbert (b.1808) at Charterhouse School, 1819 (pt2)

D5410/17/5 Letter from William Fitzherbert (b.1808) at Charterhouse School, 1819 (pt2)

EYA-poster-story-boxes

D394 Z/Z 49 Apprenticeship indenture of William Smith alias Waterfall of Bakewell, 1812 (pt1)

D394 Z/Z 49 Apprenticeship indenture of William Smith alias Waterfall of Bakewell, 1812 (pt1)

D394 Z/Z 49 Apprenticeship indenture of William Smith alias Waterfall of Bakewell, 1812 (pt2)

D394 Z/Z 49 Apprenticeship indenture of William Smith alias Waterfall of Bakewell, 1812 (pt2)

EYA-poster-poetry-workshop

D5459/1/35 Part of 'Sunday Morning', George M. Woodward.  On the back is written: 'GM Woodward sketches when a child.  These are evident proofs of his natural Genius he used to draw before he could speak plain (W.W.)' - the handwriting is that of his father, William Woodward.

D5459/1/35 Part of ‘Sunday Morning’, George M. Woodward. On the back is written:
‘GM Woodward sketches when a child. These are evident proofs of his natural Genius he used to draw before he could speak plain (W.W.)’ – the handwriting is that of his father, William Woodward.

New Exhibition: Harvesting Histories

An exhibition to discover the history of Derbyshire farms and farming, exploring the lives of local farmers from the manor to the Second World War – Harvesting Histories

The specific inspiration for this exhibition stems from a series of workshops delivered by the Record Office in June to accompany the BBC’s “Great British Story: A People’s History’, presented by Michael Wood. The workshops encouraged participants to discover the archival resources available for researching the history of farming and agriculture in their local area.

However, the inspiration for farming theme of the workshops actually stemmed from a project run by Junction Arts, Combine: Farming Heritage | East Midlands, involving young people, farmers and local communities working with museums and archives to research the history of farming in each county. Derbyshire Record Office hosted the Derbyshire group of young people in February and March 2012 and had a fantastic time working with the young people and their teachers to discover the history of Derbyshire agriculture, particularly in the Dethick area. More information about the project, which is shortly due to move in to Phase Two consisting of an extensive touring programme for displaying the work created in Phase 1, can be found at www.combinefarmingheritage.org

If you want to see any of the original material in the exhibition or other related material, it can be consulted free of charge in our search room in Matlock. Please contact us for more information on 01629 538347.

A guide to the archival resources available for researching Derbyshire agicultural history can be downloaded from our website at http://www.derbyshire.gov.uk/leisure/record_office/education/exhibition/default.asp