A few weeks ago, the Ripley Heritage Trust alerted us to the possibility that there were historic Butterley Company records at the former company works in Ripley that were in danger of being severely damaged or destroyed. The works was sold after the Butterley Company closed down in 2009, since when the company that owns it has gone into administration. The site has been sitting derelict and is shortly to be sold for redevelopment.
After visiting the site in the company of the very knowledgeable members of the Ripley Heritage Trust, the Record Office was able to get approval from the owners of the site to salvage records, so this morning a team of four of us went down there with a van. If you find the sight of neglected records distressing, look away now:
As the pictures show, much was damaged beyond repair, but most of this material looked like purchase orders and timesheets, which aren’t of historical value. There were however, lots of engineering drawings, mostly dating to between the 1950s and the 1980s. Although some had been disturbed by vandals, and were ruined, many were still in plan chest drawers and had been well protected from the elements and the pigeons – mostly!
Some chests had drawers that couldn’t be opened:
But well-equipped in our protective clothing, we were able to salvage a good proportion of the drawings:
The drawings are now heading to our quarantine, and once our conservation team have given them the OK, we hope that the Ripley Heritage Trust will be able to use their expertise to identify the drawings so they will be accessible for research.
If you haven’t heard of the Butterley Company before, if was a company famed for iron founding and engineering. In its latter years it was responsible for prestigious projects including the roof of St Pancras Station (if you’ve ever been in the station you’ll know how impressive this is – if not, take a look at these images) and the Falkirk Wheel. Derbyshire Record Office already holds a substantial archive for Butterley (see our online catalogue) and Ripley Heritage Trust have just gained funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund for a project to document the history of the firm (see: https://www.hlf.org.uk/about-us/media-centre/press-releases/ripley-heritage-trust-secures-heritage-lottery-fund-support).
Thanks go to the Ripley Heritage Trust for alerting us to the records, and we are also very grateful to the owners of the site for allowing us to preserve this piece of Butterley history. It will take some time before the drawings are sorted and listed – if you, or someone you know, has an engineering background and/or used to work for the Butterley Company and would like to help, please leave a comment below and we’ll be in touch!