Treasure 44: the Calke Abbey Garden Book

Anyone who has had to look after a garden will appreciate the amount of work and dedication involved in maintaining the grounds of stately homes, such as Calke Abbey.

This garden book (D2375/E/G/4) dates from 1811, and it lists what each gardener was up to on each day and how much they were getting paid – there seems to have been an awful lot of digging and mowing going on!

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

Archives at the Abbey: 1 (un)stately home, 4 boxes, 8 hours, 600 visitors (well almost)

It was the busiest weekend I think we have ever had for staff from the record office, you have already heard about how we popped up at the Wirksworth Festival, which sounded amazing. I couldn’t make it along myself as I went along to Calke Abbey, home of the Harpur-Crewe family, with a small selection of original archives from their large collection (ref: D2375).

Oh my God! I can really touch it?! Oh my God!

It’s mouth watering stuff – are you putting up beds? I could stay all night. It’s wonderful

With over 580 visitors over just two afternoons, we were thrilled with how much people enjoyed handling the original material and amazed at some of the things they found out. Continue reading

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…

Preservation volunteers are go!

Back in May I mentioned that we were looking for preservation volunteers to help us clean and package the Calke Abbey archive – I’m happy to report that we now have two very dedicated volunteers who come in every Thursday afternoon.

 

Our volunteers in action

Our volunteers in action

Linda recently retired and was looking for a volunteering opportunity that would suit her interests, when Derby Local Studies Library suggested us. The fact that our current project deals with the archive of Calke Abbey is an added bonus for her, as she lives near the house and knows it well. Jennifer joined in order to learn new skills and because she has a passion for history and genealogy; she’s very pleased she can now help preserve the past.

We’re extremely grateful to both for all the work they’ve already done and will do in the months (even years!) to come. As you can see, there’s enough room for two more volunteers to join the project, so if you think this is something you might be interested in, you can find more details here.

 

Looking for preservation volunteers…

Would you like to help us look after Derbyshire’s history in a very direct and hands-on way?  If you have lots of patience, enjoy working delicately and precisely and are available on Thursday afternoons, this could be the project for you.  You may have seen previous posts by Neil about the work he’s doing regarding the archive of the Harpur Crewe family of Calke Abbey; we are now starting a volunteer project to clean and package this very large collection.  We are hoping to recruit up to six volunteers to work together on Thursday afternoons to clean off the dust, remove rusty staples and paperclips, put photographs in archival sleeves, sew protective pouches for the seals of medieval documents and pretty much do anything else the collection needs.  The photographs below give an idea of the variety of items contained in this collection, which range from the 14th to the 20th century, but if you’d like to know more details about the contents of the archive, you can follow this link to our catalogue: D2375

Bundle of 20th century documents

Bundle of 20th century documents

Envelope with 19th century contents

Envelope with 19th century contents

Envelope with stamps

Envelope with stamps

Early medieval deeds

Early medieval deeds

If you would like to know more about this project, please have a look on http://www.derbyshire.gov.uk/libraries, then select ‘Services’ and ‘Volunteering’.  At the bottom of the page you will see the profile for Derbyshire Record Office Preservation Volunteers; the page also has details on how to contact us to express an interest in joining the project.

Meanwhile do keep an eye out for an upcoming post by Neil about the latest exhibition in our Vitrine Wall showing the artistic side of the family: Art and the Harpur Crewes.