What do you have about dwarves in Norse Mythology or the future colonisation of space?

These are just two of the themes I have been looking into yesterday as part of a visit from students at the University of Derby doing a Creative Writing degree. This has now become an annual visit that challenges me every time to come up with items from the collections to inspire and inform the students, as part of an introduction to the opportunities for supporting their work that can be found amongst the archives.

Two of the students had been in touch in advance to advise what their interests were and what they were currently working on. There have been struggles in past years in identifying a selection of documents related to the students’ interests and current projects but when this year I received an email referring to “representations of Dwarfs in Norse myth and perhaps other representations of dwarfs or dwarf-like humans in folklore” and “space, future planet colonisations”. Fortunately, the latter also included a reference to “accounts of colonisation of British colony’s in the words of eye-witnesses”, which is much more what we might expect amongst our collections given the official roles undertaken by a number of Derbyshire gentry in the 18th-20th century (see in particular the Fitzherbert connection in the West Indies;- Gell family in South Africa;- Wilmot-Horton in Ireland and elsewhere).

After an ill-advised search in  the catalogue for ‘space’, which primarily turned up records relating to graveyard spaces, I tried terms such as planet, Mercury, Venus, Mars, solar, lunar, astronomy, etc. which was a little more successful. Knowing the relationships of Derbyshire personalities with The Lunar Society, and of John Flamsteed of Denby, some terms were less successful than I hoped. I also already knew that we had a couple of collections relating to the Rocketry department at Rolls Royce (see D4907 and D5290), so the selection also included a few drawings and lecture notes.  However, I was thrilled to find a reference to the Mars Colony Project of the 1960s amongst papers of the Derby Group of the British Interplanetary Society (ref: D317).  Fortunately, the student in question was also very pleased and fascinated with the selection, learning that whilst the US had plans to colonise the moon, the British (and European) aim was for the colonisation of Mars – obviously neither got very far!

Putting together a selection relating to dwarves and Norse mythology required a little more abstract thinking. Whilst Derbyshire is full of its own myths, legends and folklore, they don’t tend to contain many references to dwarves or Norse traditions. Based on my extremely limited knowledge of such fantasy fiction (primarily as a result of repeated viewings, though never readings, of the Lord of the Rings) the obvious Derbyshire connection was to mining (lead especially) and caving, and mountains. The resulting selection included;-

  • photographs of various Derbyshire lead mines and caves, notably Peak Cavern at Castleton which is particularly famous for Blue John (e.g. D4959, D1502, D869 and a large number from the local studies library, also available on Picture the Past)
  • an 18th century copy of civil war era lead mining customs and laws (D7676/Bagc/550)
  • a recipe for “spring mountain wine” (D307/H/28/1) – although the catalogue entry had read ?strong, which might have been more dwarf-like
  • several illustrations and caricatures by George Murgatroyd Woodward (1767-1809) of Stanton-by-Dale (ref: D5459).

The group were also fascinated by the people in the Victorian asylum admissions register and what their stories were (ref: D1658/1/5), a Great Seal of Charles I granting a pardon to Francis Leeke in 1639 after he purchased land without permission, (ref: D315/1) and an illustration of woman who grew four sets of horns (ref: D303/30/7). Other students spent time using the online catalogue to search for items relating to Irish immigration and seafaring, and made plans to come back during normal opening hours to pursue their own interests and research.

I look forward to hearing and reading what they come up with. It was good to hear from their lecturer that after last year’s visits one of the students who was interested in pirates on the high seas wrote a book partly inspired by records she consulted at DRO particularly relating to an individual who chased pirates across the seas – unfortunately I don’t have any details of the records she consulted, but we do hope to add a copy of the published book to our Local Authors collection in due course.

New acquisition: George Beeland, drapers and cloth merchants

While Derbyshire Record Office rarely buys documents, much like No. 33 buses, another find has popped up at auction and we’ve made another exception.

This time for three ledgers detailing the accounts of George Beeland’s wholesale drapers and cloth merchants business, which traded from 23 Iron Gate, Derby throughout the 1850s.

3 Vols

George Beeland originally ran this business in partnership with William Henry Wood. However, when they went their separate ways at the start of 1850, Beeland continued the business as sole owner until 1862.

Inside

Stephen Glover, in his History and Directory of the Borough of Derby, notes the partner’s started trading from Iron Gate in 1849. It even appears that George may have come from a family of drapers. Various trade directories record a William Beeland, draper trading from Iron Gate as early as 1843.

Corn Market

When Beeland and Wood established the business in 1849, there was also a George Beeland, draper and a William Beeland junior, woollen draper and tailor, both on Iron Gate. William Beeland senior, a draper, traded from 57 Friar Gate, together with perhaps his wife and daughter (Mrs. & Miss Beeland) who ran a millinery and dress rooms from the same address.

If you’d like to these account books, just come and visit us and ask for D8172.

Adopt A Piece of History discount extended

We’re extending the 50% off discount for our Adopt A Piece of History scheme to Thursday 14 December, so there are still two weeks left to choose that perfect gift. Our Treasures include our oldest document from 1115, a delicious Bakewell Pudding recipe from 1837, an artist’s tool roll, the Eyam Parish Register, a medieval dance notebook (as seen on the example certificate below), a railway plan and many, many more.  And each one of our other records is available for adoption via the Unique and Become a Part of History options – have a look on our catalogue and search for a place, person, date, parish, school or any subject you can think of to see what gems we hold!

Christmas delivery deadlines:

  • Thursday 14 December for Unique Certificates and Become a Part of History
  • Thursday 21 December for one of the Treasures

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The Alan Turner Opera Company’s eye-catching archives

Last month, Derbyshire Record Office was delighted to accept the donation of five rather extraordinary albums of photographs and news-cuttings (D8089) assembled by Alan Turner (1902-1965).  Turner was Managing Director of the Ernest Turner group, which included the Spa Lane Mills in Derby.  However, the principal focus of the collection is not textile production, but theatrical productions.  Alan Turner’s eponymous Opera Society/Company put on numerous performances in London in the 1920s and 1930s, before relocating to Derby in later years.  Here is a sample of some of the fantastic photographs and ephemera in the first volume:

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It wasn’t just opera, though Continue reading

Mother’s Day Surprise!

Still looking for that perfect gift for Mother’s Day?  How about the parish register that shows the baptism or wedding of her ancestors?  Or a map of the area she grew up in, or the admission register of the school she went to? Perhaps she loves dancing, walking, trains, cooking, gardening, sport or art? Why not have a look at our Adopt A Piece Of History scheme and give her the chance to help protect her own and Derbyshire’s history.

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And because it’s such a special occasion, we’ll waive our usual delivery times – just send through your order for any type of certificate and pay for it by noon on Friday 24th March, and your personalised certificate will be in your inbox by noon on Saturday 25th March.

 

Treasure 40: a plan of Derby’s canals, 1792

This treasure (Q/RP/1/79) is a 1792 plan of canals around Derby, from Smithy Houses near Kilburn to the Erewash Canal at Sandiacre. It also shows the branches from Coxbench to Smalley Mill and from Derby to the Grand Trunk Canal at Swarkestone. There are dozens of canal plans and books of reference in the Quarter Sessions collection – the reason Derbyshire Record Office holds so many of them is that from 1792 onwards, anyone who planned to build a canal, turnpike road or railway had first of all to deposit plans with the Clerk of the Peace for any affected county.

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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.

Adopt a Piece of History

Would you like to help look after Derbyshire’s rich history? Through our Adopt a Piece of History scheme you can adopt any item from our collections, in the knowledge that your contribution will directly support our work to keep Derbyshire’s history safe for the future.

If you’reaph-certificate looking for a truly unique gift, why not let someone else adopt a piece of history? Whether they love sport, art, gardening or trains, there is something in our collections they would be proud to help look after too. And with different options and prices, this could be just the surprise you’ve been looking for.

Adopt a piece of history for £20
Choose an item from the list of favourites on our blog and get a personalised e-certificate. Our favourites include suggestions for keen ramblers, bakers, dancers, engineers and many more.

Adopt a unique piece of history for £35
Choose your own favourite from our collections to make a truly personal gift. You might want to adopt the parish register that shows the marriage of two of your ancestors, a map of the area they grew up in or that document that made all the hours of searching worthwhile.

Become a part of Derbyshire’s history for £100
To celebrate a special occasion or commemorate a loved one, choose your own favourite from our collections and tell us why it’s important to you. The recipient’s name and adoption details will be entered into our official Register of Adopters and be kept as part of the archive for ever. Your adoption will also be visible on our online catalogue and the recipient will receive a special invitation to our annual Open Day to visit their adoptee.

You can see all the details about the scheme and fill in an order form on our Adopt a Piece of History page. And do take a look at the other pages on our Support Us tab, which give details about our volunteering opportunities.

 

Free talk: Preserving Your Past

Many of us have our own little (or even quite large) archive at home: letters, photographs, diaries and other treasures that remind us where we’ve come from and bring us close to loved ones who aren’t around anymore. If you’d like to find out how best to care for these unique family heirlooms, do come along to the Derby Family History Festival on Wednesday 8 June at Derby Central Library, where I will be delivering a talk at 12.30 entitled ‘Preserving Your Past’.  I’ll explain how paper and other records get damaged and what you can do to protect your archive, so you can pass it on safely to future generations.

The Record Office will be there all day with a stall as well and there are lots of other talks and activities going on, as you can see on the poster:

 

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We hope to see you there!

 

Advent Calendar – Day 3

Another day closer and another item featured from our collections… what might it be?

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You can see an enlarged version of today’s item here; to view the whole presentation and other records for the church, we can arrange access through our search room and public computers at the Record Office in Matlock.

And don’t forget, if there is an item you particularly like in our Advent Calendar why not nominate it for our 50 Treasures?

School admission records now online – including the mighty Steve Bloomer!

Have you ever wondered where your ancestors went to school?  If so, now might be a good time to emit a chirrup of joy, because Derbyshire’s contribution has been added to the ever-growing mass of information in the National School Admission Registers and Log-books dataset on http://www.findmypast.co.uk.  I had a tinker with it a few days ago and managed to find the admission record of Derby County legend Steve Bloomer.  Before he earned any of his 23 England caps, or scored any of his 297 league goals for the club, he was a pupil at Peartree Boys School in Derby.  His entry in the admission register is at the very bottom of this image: you can see he was born in Cradley Heath, and was the son of Caleb Bloomer, a smith.

SBloomer

School log books are also included in the project.  Now, anyone who has tried combing through a log book looking for references to their forebears as pupils will know that the odds are not so good.  But that is what makes the ease of searching by name so attractive – a quick check is all it takes, because the names that are mentioned in the log books have been indexed.  If one of your ancestors ever worked as a teacher, or a monitor, or as a pupil-teacher, the references can be quite illuminating – one headteacher writes: “Winifred Roberts and Edith Yates have been appointed monitors at £6 per annum from 1 Dec 1899.  If they can pass the Government Examination they will be paid as a 1st year Pupil Teacher from 1 Jan 1900”. (Don’t worry, they passed the exam – I checked.) And have a look at this list of Object Lessons from 1899.

Lessons

You see, quite apart from their genealogical value, log books are a window on another world.  (If you can think of a less clichéd way of putting that, do let me know.)  In particular, this is the world of the headteacher of that era: browse for a minute or two and you will vicariously experience the joy of winning praise from the school inspectors, the despair of having 150 pupils absent because of a measles outbreak, and the irritation of having junior teachers who don’t do anything quite as well as you did when you were a junior teacher.

If you would like to have a look at what is available, come over to your local library or right here to the record office, and log on to one of the computers.  This resource, which FindMyPast subscribers normally pay for, will be yours to play around with for free.  Here are a couple of sample pages.

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Log