An Insider’s View of north Derbyshire Libraries around 1950 – part 2 (Buxton)

Last week, Roger shared some stories from Dora Axon relating to her experiences as a librarian in Whaley Bridge and Chapel-en-le-Frith; this week, we hear about her experiences in Buxton, where she started work in 1949.

At this time the library at Buxton was the responsibility of the borough council, in contrast to the libraries at Whaley Bridge and Chapel en le Frith which were Derbyshire County Council establishments.  After having failed to secure appointment to the chief officer’s post of librarian and museums officer at Buxton Dora Axon accepted appointment as first assistant.  Her letters include much detail of her thoughts about whom to approach for testimonials; about the conduct of the interviews, and about the merits or otherwise of other candidates.  After three weeks in the new job Dora Axon writes of enjoying the experience.  She writes approvingly of the recently appointed chief librarian.  She lists her responsibilities, believing that she might have more accurately been designated deputy chief, rather than first assistant:

I am consultant on administration and policy, and responsible for the Staff. I have never met so small a staff that required so much looking after in my life.  Three in number, they are free, untrained and uncurbed: they have never met a rule about librarianship and when introduced to one quite forget to carry it out – or don’t – the whole place is chaos.

Dora Axon records her hope of achieving an improvement within two months.  Her duties also included classification and cataloguing, book selection and ordering, and even acting as understudy to the borough meteorologist.  She anticipated that a large proportion of her time would be spent in her office and that she would not achieve the familiarity with readers that she had known in her previous job at Whaley Bridge.

Six months or so later improvements appear to have been elusive:

It is usual for a successor to deplore the shortcomings of his predecessor, but surely there has never been a place like Buxton.  Everywhere we found chaos, and no method of dealing with it except falsifying records and tearing up the evidence!  Worse still the staff trained on this happy-go-lucky lack of principle and system are incapable of recognising system – or even the need for it. … Our young and capable and enthusiastic new librarian is a thwarted and disgusted man, regretting, I think, his move to such an unprogressive hole.  You would term it Bumbledom at its worst. 

Dora Axon goes on to criticise the actions of committee men: appointing a qualified person, only to block every improvement he tries to make; and seeking to employ staff and stock a library service on the cheap.  Such improvements as were being made involved hard work:

The up-hill task, training the stupid glamour girls, is mine, and in all my work I have never encountered such a gradient.

Dora Axon felt further burdened by the presence of a young wealthy volunteer discovering whether she might like to pursue training as librarian:

So far as we are concerned she is an additional blot; she doesn’t want to work, won’t work, “downs” a job she dislikes, and objects to doing anything as told, or accurately.  She is with us for three months: I had had enough after the first morning.

In July 1950 Dora Axon wrote a long letter while on holiday in Ilfracombe – she includes her observations of the libraries in Ilfracombe and Bideford.  In relation to Buxton it seems likely that she was correct about the regrets of the recently appointed chief librarian: in less than a year he had left.  Her application for the chief’s post was not successful:

Though I had the backing of my own Committee, they were over-ruled by the Mayor. … who shouted “No women” and flung the six applications [from women] aside without consideration. To an appeal made by the Library chairman, who said: “She’s capable and she’s qualified – what more do you want?” the Mayor said: “She’s a woman and we can’t have a woman head of department.”

Three weeks after the successful candidate had started work Dora Axon submitted a claim for salary re-grading.  The salary claim was pursued for many months: Dora Axon accuses the town clerk of presenting, at the ultimate hearing, “lies and evasions.”  She was ultimately successful:

I have crashed into the Admin. Profess. And Technical Grades where no woman in Buxton has ever got before!

Having been in post for two years Dora Axon was able to list positive achievements:

The staff are “falling to” when given a job.  And I am getting an increasing number of people who introduce themselves with “I’ve been advised to come to you – I wonder if you can help me …”.

Treasure 43: An early Rolls-Royce photograph

This Treasure comes from the Ogden family collection:

Rolls Royce photo

Rolls-Royce began manufacturing motor cars in Derby from 1907. This photograph (D331/27/28), dates from the preceding year, and was taken outside the Cat and Fiddle pub near Buxton. Seated behind the wheel of the car with number plate AX205 is none other than Charles Stewart Rolls (1877-1910), co-founder of the company.

There is some writing on the back of the photograph saying it was given to F S Ogden in 1961 and dates from 1908 – this date was repeated in the original catalogue entry.  However, we have recently had to correct it: the same image features in Peter Pugh’s book “Rolls-Royce: The Magic of a Name: The First Forty Years of Britain’s Most Prestigious Company, 1904-1944” (Icon Books, 2015) and this dates the photograph to 22 Jun 1907.  If you would like to read the book, you can use the reference copy held here, or borrow one of the copies that may be found using the Derbyshire Libraries catalogue.

If you would like to support our work by adopting this document, for yourself or as a gift, have a look at the Adopt A Piece Of History page

 

 

New book

kt scan

Popular local historian Keith Taylor has written a new book on Buxton. Following the success of his Buxton Remembered in World War One, this covers the period 1920-1950 and continues the story into World War Two with details of the servicemen on the war memorials and their families in Buxton, Burbage, Chelmorton, Earl Sterndale, Fairfield, Harpur Hill, Peak Dale, King Sterndale, Taddington and Wormhill.
If you or your family hail from the White Peak of Derbyshire, this could be the ideal Christmas present.
Illustrated with 760 archive photographs, and published by Country Books of Little Longstone. Available priced £12 from Buxton Library and Derbyshire Record Office, or your local bookshop/online.

Sue Peach, Local Studies Librarian

On This Day: ‘Mad Leap From A Buxton Train’

From the Derby Mercury, 14th October 1896:

By the 5.30 slow train on Saturday, Buxton to Manchester, was a passenger named Ralph Belfield, who lives at Dove Holes, but belongs to Burbage.  His intention was to alight at Dove Holes, but it is supposed he fell asleep, and did not wake up until just past the station.  On finding he had gone beyond the the station, he appears to have opened the carriage door, and jumped out.  He fell head first into the six foot, and there lay until he was found.  He was fearfully out and smashed about the face, and his condition was indeed sorry.  As soon as assistance could be procured, he was conveyed to the Devonshire Hospital at Buxton, but, from some cause or other, was refused admission.  Dr. Haslewood’s services were requisitioned, and he attended to the man’s injuries, after which he was taken to his brother’s at Burbage.  He was suffering from concussion of the brain, but his condition was not, in the doctor’s opinion, really dangerous.   

We hold the Derby Mercury on microfilm  – just ring to book a microfilm reader.

Rain Stops Play?

Grounds of Smedley's Hydro, Matlock, c.1930 (D2618 Z/Z 1/3)

Grounds of Smedley’s Hydro, Matlock, c.1930 (D2618 Z/Z 1/3)

Now that Wimbledon is well under way, here’s a sprinkling of Derbyshire tennis-themed items from our collections for those hoping the covers keep off the courts of SW19.

Smedley's Hydro tennis courts, c.1930 (D2618 Z/Z 1/4)

Smedley’s Hydro tennis courts, c.1930 (D2618 Z/Z 1/4)

Hayfield Church Sunday School Tennis Club membership cards, 1930s (D2426 A/PI 35/3/2)

Hayfield Church Sunday School Tennis Club membership cards, 1930s (D2426 A/PI 35/3/2)

Wirksworth Grammar School girls' tennis team, 1926 (D271/10/6/10)

Wirksworth Grammar School girls’ tennis team, 1926 (D271/10/6/10)

(D5679/1)

(D5679/1)

Detail from Buxton tennis tournament supplement titled 'Ease + Elegance' (D5679/1)

Detail from Buxton tennis tournament supplement titled ‘Ease + Elegance’ (D5679/1)

Amongst many other tennis images on Picture the Past, I spotted this photo of the Goodall family of Ockbrook c.1896 (ref: DCER 001172).

The chap at top left is giving a classic (and early?) demonstration of the tennis racquet-as-guitar!

On This Day: ‘Velocipedes’

From the Buxton Advertiser, 28 August 1869:

VELOCIPEDES

On Thursday night about 9pm there was a disturbance in Spring Gardens, caused by the velocipede riders.  T. Widdowson, blacksmith, met and upset a velocipede, whereupon the whole of the brigade came down upon him, threatening vengeance.  Widdowson was obliged to obtain the assistance of neighbours and police to protect him from his excited assailants.  It appears strange to us that the authorities do not attempt to abate this velocipede mania.  After dark the streets are not safe, the velocipedes interfering with the comfort and safety of everybody.

The County Local Studies Library holds the Buxton Advertiser from 1855-1879 – just ring to book a microfilm reader.

Florence and the Pumpkins

From a craft session to a creative writing session, we grabbed some lunch at Chesterfield Library and humbly awaited the arrival of our next group who were coming to write stories using old local photographs from Picture the Past as inspiration. Here are some of the fantastic results;-

Some photos from the afternoon…

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

“Mary”: Victoria chose a picture of a very young Mary Milner in her pram in Dronfield (DCNE000743) and wrote a slightly sad story telling us about Mary’s first few years;-

“I never will like elephants”: Olivia’s story (with illustrations) was inspired  by an 1899 photograph of elephants parading down Chatsworth Road in Chesterfield (DCCC001392);-

Keep an eye out for more stories from this event as the young people finish their stories at home and send them in. In the meantime, here is the story written by our Conservator’s daughter, Rebecca, “Was it real?” inspired by the very white and snowy St John’s churchyard in Buxton (DCBM000010)

We’re looking forward to even more stories and poems from our session at Duffield Library on Wednesday 22 August and at Alfreton Library on Tuesday 28 August (both events are free but booking is essential; please contact the library concerned to book a place).