A history of the archives service for Derbyshire

Late last Spring I began what came to be a rather extensive piece of research into the development of the archives part of Derbyshire Record Office. After so much work I wanted to share what I had found, and on Monday we ran an event featuring a talk about the history of the archives service, an exhibition of our own archives (by which I mean the records we actually created rather than those we look after on behalf of the county) and a behind-the-scenes tour of some of the record office building. We couldn’t do the whole building as it is so big, and to be honest once you have seen one or two of our strong rooms, you have really seen the other 12 or 13 (yes, we do have 14 in total for archives and local studies).

I hope many of the people who read this blog are interested to hear how the record office has developed, and I do intend to write further posts in the future so please watch this space. For now here are a few photographs from the event

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Exactly one year ago today we opened our newly combined Local Studies and Archive service in our refurbished home in New Street. Thank you to all our customers for their patience and enthusiasm during the past twelve months – we hope you’ve enjoyed your new Derbyshire Record Office experience as much as we’ve enjoyed seeing you.

Packing up the old archive Searchroom

Packing up the old archive Searchroom

Getting the new Searchroom ready

Getting the new Searchroom ready


The Local Studies Library then...

The Local Studies Library then…

...and now

…and now









Finally a place to relax with a cup of tea

Even a place to relax with a cup of tea

Derbyshire Record Office re-opens: a report from Chaddesden Historical Group

We had our official re-opening on the 19th of March.  Here is a report on the occasion by one of our guests, Andrew Bailey, who is chairman of the Chaddesden Historical Group.  For more about the group, see www.chaddesdenhistoricalgroup.co.uk.

On Tuesday 19th March 2013 three members of The Chaddesden Historical Group had the pleasure of attending the opening ceremony of the recently completed Derbyshire Record Office.  This excellent facility now combines art storage space alongside the County Local Studies Library as well as a comprehensive Record Office.

The opening of this £4 million facility was performed by John Beckett, Professor of English Regional History at Nottingham University accompanied by Councillor Andrew Lewer, Leader of Derbyshire County Council which funded the project.

During the afternoon we were given the opportunity to see the much improved visitor facilities including a sandwich and coffee room and some of the more interesting treasures in the collection which included a map of Breaston dating from 1722 and a rather gruesome medical tome guaranteed to put you off the excellent buffet.

Opening Day

The most memorable contribution undoubtedly came from the Derbyshire Poet Laureate Matt Black who read his new poem entitled, ‘Somewhere in this building’ to a most appreciative audience.  Matt was kind enough to give me permission to reproduce this poem here which was inspired by a rather difficult to spot feature on the 1722 Breaston map, a ladder propped up against an apple tree.  

Somewhere in this building

on an old map, a ladder climbs quietly

into the arms of an apple-tree.

Once a man stood on that ladder. Where is he?

I want to know him, he comes from Then

but must still live Here, among these records,

frayed books and letters writ in gooSe quill.


Somewhere in this building you might find

his mother, rummaging through last month’s bills.

We’re all here, amongst the litter of our lives,

our marks, traces, footprints on these shelves,

like a new layer in a town of strata

where sea-lily feathers once washed the lagoon.


He is our data, our DNA, on yellow paper.

Somewhere in this building, he is real,

he walks the fields, you can find his children.

I can almost smell him, that hot afternoon,

four centuries back, on the Breaston breeze,

golden scent-of-earth in apple-sun.


Matt Black                                                                                           Matt Black © 2013


This poem encompasses everything that the DRO stands for and along with Rita and Mary I enjoyed a memorable afternoon that also gave us all the opportunity to say hello to some old friends.

Recent progress

Further to Becky’s post yesterday, here are some photos of what’s been going on so far this year: books at the County Hall Local Studies Library getting a good clean, then being boxed up and taken down to reside in fancy new shelves at New Street.  It’s been a lot of hard work, but we are remaining cheerful.  Derbyshire Record Office regulars will recognise the owner of the high-vis jacket as Stewart Sandars, our Stakhanovite General Assistant.  Stewart retired in January after many years of cheerful hard work.  We miss him already.

2013 01 a Local Studies moving books (2)

 2013 01 b Matthew cleaning local studies books (2)2013 01 e Stewart and Jamie delivering books to store A (3) 2013 01 d Shelving in computer room (3) 2013 01 c Snow covered carpark  2013 01 f Shelves (filled) store A (4)


Although we still have furniture to be assembled, reception and other counters yet to be arranged (amongst other things), we are pleased that everything has gone as much to plan as we could have hoped, and we will be re-opening on Tuesday 12 February at 11am.

From Wednesday 13 February we will open from 9.30am until 5pm on weekdays, and 9.30am and 1.00pm every Saturday morning.

We hope to see you in the coming months as the finishing touches are put into place.

Local History Fair

Calling all local history enthusiasts… this Saturday we will be holding a fantastic local history day at Chesterfield Library. The event includes talks, workshops, old films of Derbyshire, and the chance to find out about our new local studies and archive centre.

The event is FREE, but booking is required for some sessions – please call 01629 533400 for more information, or to book a place… don’t miss out!!

‘Cataloguing Change’

The crane, as photographed by Paula from Oak Road

Our Artist in Residence, Paula Moss, has been working with staff and focus groups to help re-shape our new building in a creative and insipiring way… and she’s been blogging about her experiences!

 Check out her blog ‘Cataloguing Change’ which she describes as; 

‘…a visual journal mapping my Residency with the Derbyshire Record Office over the next one and a half years. My role is to work alongside the staff to ‘design’ the interior and create artworks for the public facing side of the new Service building, Wyvern House.’

Reflections and view from the Search Room window, photographed by Paula