Clay Cross Treasures – one volunteer’s quest through the archives

It seems logical to have an introduction. I’m Phil, I’ve been volunteering now at the Record Office for 4 ½ years. Prior to this I had worked here for 2 ½ years and got very attached to the place! I couldn’t be got rid of that easily!

Over those 4 ½ years I have helped out by working mainly with first hand archive documents, which have ranged from First World War soldiers’ diaries, planning applications in Long Eaton, the Sheepbridge archive (which I have only half completed!) and the current ‘task’, which I seem to have been engaged on for many months… More of this in a minute. First some background…

I believe it was one of the archivists, who set me off on, what has for me, become something of an obsession! Becky first asked me whether I would be prepared to do it- it might take a while to complete! The task: sift through the Clay Cross Company’s archive (which up until then had not been catalogued) to seek out an original blueprint for Stephenson’s Rocket, supposedly buried somewhere in the archive!

What a challenge. I was asked to check all the boxes, ledgers, maps and plans looking for this piece of history’s legends. Becky provided a catalogue of all the places where I could locate the Clay Cross archive, and warned me that there were aspects of the collection that had simply ‘disappeared’. The recorded boxes were easy to locate in one of the main archival stores, the others (and there were lots of these) were somewhere in ‘Room Q’. Now Room Q is to be found in the basement of the new extension. It is the place where mould has a footing, dust has accumulated on archives that have arrived ‘raw’ in the record office- yet to be cleaned, and treasures lie undisturbed, awaiting discovery.

So, the search began. At first, I was merely skimming through the boxes and then returning them to the shelves. But that seemed to be wasting an opportunity, for such is the nature of life these days, it is uncertain when or if the archive might ever be catalogued. So, I asked would it be okay if I catalogued the contents of each of the boxes and identified where each part of the archive might be found?

I embarked on the journey of ‘discovery’ months ago- so many in fact, that I can’t remember exactly when I started. I have looked through all the archive, found the hiding places of much ‘lost’ material. I can say for certain that the Stephensons’ blueprint is not to be found in the Record Office. I still have a sizeable chunk of the archive to catalogue, but I have found so many treasures, so many connections to the Stephensons. It was George, that incredible man of vision, a true pioneer, who founded the Clay Cross Company all those years ago…

It has been an amazing experience and one which I have felt privileged to have been asked to do. I shall, in future blog posts, talk about some of these treasures. … One sad fact remains: the Clay Cross empire has gone, along with all of the physical signs of the collieries, blast furnaces, iron works, quarries… the legend lives on though- I hope, never to be forgotten…

On this Day: ‘The Week’s Sports’

From the Alfreton and Belper Journal, 2nd December 1892:

The Week’s Sports

The football shown on Saturday by the different clubs was surprising and goes to show that football (like cricket) is a game upon which you cannot place much confidence as to the results, as the different matches lately played tend to show…

…Last Saturday Alfreton leapt out of the bucket and put another win to their credit, and this came when the least expected.  No one could have thought the Town would score two more points than their opponents last week who saw the teams previous to the commencement.  There were four of the Alphas team playing with the first, and whether it is owing to these four being included in the team that they gained their victory or no I cannot say.  Certain it is they had something to do with the result.  It was a pity the day was so unfavourable as the club are not having the best of gates, and it seems rather hard that they should receive so little support when they are proving themselves conquerors.  Many of the supporters thought there would be no match, as did also some of the first team players, in fact some were in bed while the play was on, and did not know anything of the affair until some considerable time after the match was over.  However, the Alphas were at hand and proved themselves equal to the task by their tactics and dash.  The Basford team were a tricky lot of fellows and played a fast game, but their defence is far from good, and it is chiefly owing to this defect that they were defeated on Saturday…

…Clay Cross journeyed to South Normanton and beat the home team by 4 goals to 2.  I have been in the company of the visitors lines man (Mr. Whitworth), and he tells me the language of the spectators was most disgusting I think the spectators ought to control their tongues a little…

…I am pleased to state that Chesterfield and Clay Cross have dispelled all the bitterness of rivalry that has existed between them , and Clay Cross are due at Chesterfield on Christmas Tuesday to face the “Crooked Spireites” in a friendly .  May the best team win.  Chesterfield have guaranteed Clay Cross £4 for the match.

Riddings received a severe beating at Ilkeston on Saturday.  Owing to the wet morning only nine of the team turned up, Wimbush and Brown being absent.  Starting with nine men, their misfortunes did not end there, Street straining his thigh after five minutes play and being of no further use to his side.  Partridge, the Riddings centre half-back, played a champion game, and was the best man on the field.  Burton also played a very good game.  Next Saturday Riddings visit Clay Cross, and have re-organised the team.  We shall see by the result whether it will be a success or not…

Lost again!  Belper Town three, Langley Mill four.  The best excuse to give for a losing team is they met better players.  I doubt it in this case.  Four to three leaves very little margin.  The ground at Langley Mill was in a terrible plight, pools of water and mud being plentiful.  Still I have a little excuse for Belper.  They had not the full team.  When the half-backs are absent it is like taking away the prop and down comes the whole structure.  Horrobin had promised up to Friday night to resume his place in the team.  Derby Junction got at him and he was tempted to Rotherham.  Jack Lynam could not go, and Green is on the sick list.  These three men would have won the match for Belper.  When the return is played I think there will be less croaking at Langley Mill than was the case last Saturday…

…I am reminded by a friend of a grand prize drawing Belper Town has arranged for Christmas on behalf of the funds of the club.  There are fifty prizes ranging from £3 3s. to two dozen of bitter beer.  Every little helps.  Who can tell what a stray ticket may do.  It is always the unexpected that happens.

RAMBLER        

We hold the Alfreton and Belper Journal on microfilm  – just ring to book a microfilm reader.