Bryan Donkin on the BBC (again)

Previous posts about Bryan Donkin have included links to television programmes that give him a mention. Now Richard Donkin has let us know of a recent episode of BBC2’s Inside The Factory, which includes a segment on the history of the tin can, and Donkin’s role as an innovator in this field.  If the BBC iPlayer is available in your country, you should be able to watch the programme at any time in the next couple of weeks at this address:

Bryan Donkin book launched

There was a great turn-out at Chesterfield for the launch of Maureen Greenland and Russ Day’s new book, “Bryan Donkin: The Very Civil Engineer, 1768-1855”. The town is rightly proud of the company that Donkin created, and the legacy of technological innovation that it leaves us.

There was a slide show, the screening of a film about Donkin’s Rose Engine (dating from 1820, now housed at the Science Musuem), and we had some of those extraordinary engineering drawings on display:

We were also lucky to hear from former Donkin managing director Terry Woodhouse, who told us about his first encounters with the DonkDonkin_launch_2in archive, which he was instrumental in preserving for future generations. Terry described just a few of the ideas that Bryan Donkin’s talents and perseverance were able to turn into a reality: a machine for making paper, the first cans for preserving food, more efficient nibs for pens, an anti-fraud device used in the manufacture of bank-notes. One can argue that Donkin has never been given full recognition for his achievements – that’s something that this book will undoubtedly address.

Bryan Donkin book launch at Chesterfield Library

Genius deserves to be celebrated. So please do join us in celebrating the genius that was Bryan Donkin by coming to the launch of a ground-breaking new biography of the man, written by Maureen Greenland and Russ Day.

Bryan Donkin book.JPG

The book draws heavily on the archival legacy of Donkin and the company he founded, which was based in Chesterfield from 1902 onwards. Some of the most striking and noteworthy of those documents, including original engineering drawings, will be on display at the launch, which is at Chesterfield Library on Tuesday 19th July at 4.30pm. There will also be a chance to meet the authors (and get them to sign a copy of the book) and to hear from Terry Woodhouse, who was the Managing Director of the Bryan Donkin Company for a number of years.

It’s a free event, with light refreshments available, so do come along.  You can book your free ticket by calling in at the library, or by telephone on 01629 533 400, or by email to

Derby University History Students help us find new ways to fundraise

Over the past few months, five second year history students from Derby University have been undertaking a module called Contemporary Issues in the Creative and Cultural Industries.  This has required them to tackle a real life work challenge which has been posed for them by the Record Office: how can we raise money to catalogue the Bryan Donkin archive?

In case the name Bryan Donkin isn’t ringing any bells, we’ve mentioned him a few times in our blog so far and you can expect to hear a lot more about him in the future.  Bryan Donkin (1768-1855) wasn’t a Derbyshire man, but the firm he founded, the Bryan Donkin Company Ltd, moved to Chesterfield in 1902.  Bryan Donkin was an engineer, inventor and industrialist whose name has been undeservedly forgotten.  Why should we know his name?  Because he developed two pieces of technology that we can’t live without: paper-making machinery (imagine a world where paper is still made by hand!) and that store cupboard staple, the tin can – you can read a bit more about these and other inventions on the Bryan Donkin Archive Trust website.

Derby University History Students

Derby University History Students – Eleanor, Kirsty, Bem, Becky and Tim

Last Friday, the students came to present their recommendations to staff from the Record Office, the Bryan Donkin Archive Trust and the University.  They did a fabulous job, with an extremely professional presentation and a host of well researched and interesting ideas.  Our next step will be to prepare a fundraising strategy using their suggestions, including considering setting up a body to do the fundraising, raising the profile of the archive, running events, crowdfunding, corporate philanthropy and grants.

A huge thanks goes to the students for all their hard work, professionalism and enthusiasm!  This was their first foray into the world of archives but hopefully not their last.  We’ve thoroughly enjoyed working with Derby University on this project and hope to continue working together, not least on taking forward some of the students’ excellent ideas.

Treasure 29: Bryan Donkin’s day book

This treasure has been nominated by Maureen Greenland, on behalf of the Bryan Donkin Archive Trust, of which she is Secretary.  Maureen writes:

The many letters, diaries and records held in the Donkin Collection (D1851) throw light on both the personal and the working life of the brilliant engineer Bryan Donkin. Born in 1768, he started his career in London in the early years of the nineteenth century, bringing to perfection the first successful machine for producing paper. His firm moved to Chesterfield a century later, providing work for the town from 1902 for over a hundred years. Continue reading

Bryan Donkin on the BBC

You may remember (how could you forget?) our blogpost about Bryan Donkin back in June:

It was just a link to a BBC web article about Bryan Donkin’s invention of the tin can, but I did also point out that Donkin’s experimental work on this is recorded in his series of diaries (D5029/1), held here.  Well, here’s another link in the same vein:

It takes you to the section of last night’s Inside Out programme which dealt with Donkin and the tin can.  You won’t have seen it unless you live in the Cumbria/North East region, but recent technological advances mean you can see it without so much as fiddling with an aerial.