What do you have about dwarves in Norse Mythology or the future colonisation of space?

These are just two of the themes I have been looking into yesterday as part of a visit from students at the University of Derby doing a Creative Writing degree. This has now become an annual visit that challenges me every time to come up with items from the collections to inspire and inform the students, as part of an introduction to the opportunities for supporting their work that can be found amongst the archives.

Two of the students had been in touch in advance to advise what their interests were and what they were currently working on. There have been struggles in past years in identifying a selection of documents related to the students’ interests and current projects but when this year I received an email referring to “representations of Dwarfs in Norse myth and perhaps other representations of dwarfs or dwarf-like humans in folklore” and “space, future planet colonisations”. Fortunately, the latter also included a reference to “accounts of colonisation of British colony’s in the words of eye-witnesses”, which is much more what we might expect amongst our collections given the official roles undertaken by a number of Derbyshire gentry in the 18th-20th century (see in particular the Fitzherbert connection in the West Indies;- Gell family in South Africa;- Wilmot-Horton in Ireland and elsewhere).

After an ill-advised search in  the catalogue for ‘space’, which primarily turned up records relating to graveyard spaces, I tried terms such as planet, Mercury, Venus, Mars, solar, lunar, astronomy, etc. which was a little more successful. Knowing the relationships of Derbyshire personalities with The Lunar Society, and of John Flamsteed of Denby, some terms were less successful than I hoped. I also already knew that we had a couple of collections relating to the Rocketry department at Rolls Royce (see D4907 and D5290), so the selection also included a few drawings and lecture notes.  However, I was thrilled to find a reference to the Mars Colony Project of the 1960s amongst papers of the Derby Group of the British Interplanetary Society (ref: D317).  Fortunately, the student in question was also very pleased and fascinated with the selection, learning that whilst the US had plans to colonise the moon, the British (and European) aim was for the colonisation of Mars – obviously neither got very far!

Putting together a selection relating to dwarves and Norse mythology required a little more abstract thinking. Whilst Derbyshire is full of its own myths, legends and folklore, they don’t tend to contain many references to dwarves or Norse traditions. Based on my extremely limited knowledge of such fantasy fiction (primarily as a result of repeated viewings, though never readings, of the Lord of the Rings) the obvious Derbyshire connection was to mining (lead especially) and caving, and mountains. The resulting selection included;-

  • photographs of various Derbyshire lead mines and caves, notably Peak Cavern at Castleton which is particularly famous for Blue John (e.g. D4959, D1502, D869 and a large number from the local studies library, also available on Picture the Past)
  • an 18th century copy of civil war era lead mining customs and laws (D7676/Bagc/550)
  • a recipe for “spring mountain wine” (D307/H/28/1) – although the catalogue entry had read ?strong, which might have been more dwarf-like
  • several illustrations and caricatures by George Murgatroyd Woodward (1767-1809) of Stanton-by-Dale (ref: D5459).

The group were also fascinated by the people in the Victorian asylum admissions register and what their stories were (ref: D1658/1/5), a Great Seal of Charles I granting a pardon to Francis Leeke in 1639 after he purchased land without permission, (ref: D315/1) and an illustration of woman who grew four sets of horns (ref: D303/30/7). Other students spent time using the online catalogue to search for items relating to Irish immigration and seafaring, and made plans to come back during normal opening hours to pursue their own interests and research.

I look forward to hearing and reading what they come up with. It was good to hear from their lecturer that after last year’s visits one of the students who was interested in pirates on the high seas wrote a book partly inspired by records she consulted at DRO particularly relating to an individual who chased pirates across the seas – unfortunately I don’t have any details of the records she consulted, but we do hope to add a copy of the published book to our Local Authors collection in due course.

On this day… Belper Union Meeting of Guardians 10th June 1916

A post from Bernadette, currently on a work placement at the Record Office

As part of my work experience at the Record Office, I recently carried out a transcription of a meeting from Minute Book of the Belper Union Meeting of Guardians. Here is a summary of what I discovered as an example of a typical meeting and showing the kind of information you can find in other similar records.

From 1835, Boards of Guardians were elected by parishioners and were responsible for ensuring the poor were housed, fed and given work they were fit enough to undertake, this was instead of giving money to them to look after themselves. As years went by the guardians were given additional duties which were not related to the poor, and the county councils took over the all the jobs when the Boards of Guardians ceased in 1930.

Photograph of Babington Hospital, formerly Belper Workhouse (1999) See more at www.picturethepast.org.uk

Photograph of Babington Hospital, formerly Belper Workhouse (1999) See more at http://www.picturethepast.org.uk

Exactly 100 years ago today on the 10th June 1916 the Belper Union meeting, was chaired by J H Starkey. Twenty four people attended the meeting. The minutes from the previous meeting on the 27th May 1916 were taken and confirmed.

The Clerk examined the Master’s Day Book from the past two weeks and all was correct, he also looked at the other books required to be kept by the master. He reported that he had looked at the Outdoor Relief lists, receipt and expenditure book and Relieving Officers Relief Order books which were in accordance with orders from the guardians and was certified and signed.

The report on state of the workhouse accounts and books relative to the relief of the poor were looked at, directions were given regarding the future management and discipline of the workhouse, and an order of all the invoices totals were posted in the ledger to the credit of invoice accounts.

Invoice for the Midsummer quarter of weeks 9 and 10 for provisions, clothing, furniture, property, necessaries, repairs and drugs looked at in the meeting.

Out relief order for the past two weeks appear on the relieving officers receipts and expenditure books were posted in the Ledger to the credit of relieving officers for Arthur Dicken and Hubert Jauncey for out relief and non-settled poor for weeks 9 and 10.

Several sums on accounts for the guardians appeared to have been paid from the master’s receipts and payment book and these payments were ordered to be posted in the ledger. The payments included salaries for the engineer, clothing from the tailors and firewood for the month of May. It appeared that several sums on account of the guardians had been received.

The total amount was posted for the ledger to the debit of the master and credited as follows for May: firewood sales, pig, Sark Foundry Co and the common fund.

An order was given for cheques to be signed and all amounts to be posted to the ledger for credit of the treasurers and debited for accounts of the relieving officers, A Dicken and H Jauncey. There were also the salaries for the various people working in the workhouse from the probationers to the foster mothers. There were also the collector’s salaries for J G Walters in Alfreton, to the lunatic asylum for the removal of A G Morrell by A Dicken, subscriptions for Idridgehay Nursing Association, establishment for books from Shaw and Sons, maintenance for the Leicester union maintenance of C Spencer, and an invoice payment for F P Westridge for wood.

In the treasurers book it appeared the following sums had been received and the amount was posted to the ledger to the debit of treasurers and credit of the Parochial ledger from May 29 to June 9 for contributions for various areas in and around Derbyshire.

The collectors account includes payments for maintenance, out relief, lunatic asylum and rations.

The clerk had a letter from Mr F W Walters of Pentrich requesting a temporary sum of money due to the absences of the rate collector who had been called up for military service for the Parish of Pentrich. The move was made by Mr Towlson and seconded by Mr Bridges, and it was resolved to let payment to go ahead and charge to the Parish of Pentrich.

A circular letter from the Local Government Board which was dated 26th May, dealing with the Local Government Emergency Provisions Act 1916, was read by the clerk.

There was a leave of absence letter from Dr Clayton for a Dr R G Allen as Medical Officer for the Cottage Homes for leave from the 1st July, he had taken a commission in the R.A.M. Corps [Royal Army Medical Corps], which was granted. They then read out the report of the vaccination officer.

A letter from J Smith the barber thanked the guardians for granting leave, due to illness. He resumed his duties after illness.

Willie Mathers from the Training Ship in Exmouth was given permission to spend his time at the workhouse on his summer holidays.

A Deputation consisting of members and the Clerk, visited the Mickleover Asylum, and their expenses are to be paid.

The Clerk read a letter from the Reliving Officers requesting annual holidays – all were granted their annual holiday, and that the costs for substitutes for each were covered.

That brings an end to my post.