An intriguing photograph

Sorting through a records of the Record Office earlier this week, I came across a small bundle of copy photographs of images elsewhere in the archive collections. The images were rather eclectic in their subject matter, featuring photographs from World War One, family and industrial photographs, and I browsed through them again whilst waiting for a staff meeting to begin on Monday morning. There was one in particular that was a little more obscure, it puzzled us for a little while  and then tickled us when we realised what it was. Take a look for yourself and see what you make of it…

A wooden panel with the title ‘Cemetery’ above … what we didn’t know. When we looked a little closer we saw three words that told us everything we needed to know and amused us in the process. These words were ‘Ferodo’ and ‘brake lining’ – it is a cemetery of the brake linings manufactured by Chapel-en-le-Frith based Ferodo.

(Apologies for the poor images – they are a photographs of a photograph of a photograph!)

We already knew the company and their staff had a good sense of humour and imagination from other items we hold in their archive collection, including our Treasure #26 Ferodo’s imaginative advertising.

This particular photograph comes from an album featuring images from the the company’s factory, Rye Flatt House at Combs in the small collection of papers of Herbert Frood, the firm’s founder, (ref: D5700). The main archive for the company is held under reference D4562, with a wide range of records relating to production, staff and promotional materials. My favourite item from the collection is not actually an archive, but an artefact…

Mounted display of original brake lining used by `Babs’  who broke the land speed record in 1927 and was buried later that year following an accident that resulted in the death of the driver, John Parrry-Thomas.

Treasure 26: Ferodo’s imaginative advertising

This treasure is an extraordinary map of another world called Nevacantell – a world filled with motoring hazards, mitigated by brake linings manufactured in Chapel-en-le-Frith.



It has been nominated by a former archivist at Derbyshire Record Office, Gary Tuson, who is now County Archivist at Norfolk Record Office. He writes:

The business archive of Ferodo, brake-lining manufacturers, contains a superb collection of advertising and promotional material. Ferodo’s advertising was imaginative: in the inter-war years, one theme which seems to recur is that of driving off a cliff if you haven’t fitted your car with Ferodo brake-linings – just one of the many hazards identified on the map of Nevacantell.


There are many more scenes within this map, which may be seen in our searchroom as a high-resolution scan on CD/173 or in its original form by ordering item D4562/17/2. For instance, have a look at the groups of bikers in this image:


Did you also spot the satirical tribute to the League of Nations? And how about this for an accident waiting to happen?


We are grateful to Ferodo’s current owners, Federal-Mogul, for letting us use this image.

Drive safely, everyone!

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Ferodo and the Bullet-Proof vest

Bullet proof materials

Now then… Stop me if you have heard this one before (and if you have, it may be because you recall a flurry of press activity in the late 1990s), but did you know that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle submitted a design for a bullet-proof vest to Field Marshal Haig during the First World War? Well, he did. And it was in connection with this that Conan Doyle ordered some bullet-proof materials from Ferodo, the very successful brake-lining manufacturing company based in Chapel-en-le-Frith.


Philip Norman’s article about the sale of Conan Doyle’s personal archive in 2004 expresses the opinion that, if the device had been adopted, it “would doubtless have saved many lives”. (See – the website is that of the Sherlock Holmes Museum, based at 221b Baker Street.)

This post is topped by a photograph of the entry in question, from the Ferodo company archive, held here (D4562/8/5). The entry is neither very informative nor very beautiful, but it is certainly interesting. And hard to read! If anybody can offer an interpretation of what the record is really telling us, we could improve our catalogue description, which currently calls the volume simply “sample report summaries 1915-1926”.

Many thanks to Will, who is here on work experience, for locating the entry, and spotting the Philip Norman article.

Derbyshire Motoring Pioneers added to Oxford Dictionary of National Biography

Here’s a press release from the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.   You can access this invaluable resource for reliable biographical information by visiting, with your Derbyshire Library card near at hand.

Two Derbyshire pioneers, who helped to shape British motoring in the twentieth century, are included in the latest update to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (, published on Thursday 30 May.

 Creator of the Ferodo brand of friction products, the inventor Herbert Frood (1864-1931) of Chapel-en-le-Frith, began his experiments to improve braking power in the age of the horse.  He noticed that even quite splendid horse-drawn carriages had shoddy and ineffective brakes.  He discovered that woven cotton blocks made more effective brakes, and initially marketed them to horse omnibus companies.  The emerging motor car industry gave his a new market – and a huge opportunity.  The great turning point – in Frood’s own words – was his application of asbestos, with its resistance to heat and fire, and by 1914 Frood was the leading maker of friction products.  He registered the Ferodo brand in 1920 and opened a purpose-built factory in Chapel-en-le-Frith in 1925.  Author Dr Peter Bartrip of Oxford University, who has researched the Ferodo archive in Derbyshire Record Office, writes that Frood’s ‘great achievement was to create an entirely new industry and turn it into a large and successful multinational business’. 

Dr Bartrip has also researched the life of Derby-born racer Reg Parnell (1911-1964), a driver for the family haulage business even before he was old enough to hold a licence. The opening of the Donington Park circuit in 1931 sparked the young Reg Parnell’s enthusiasm for motor racing.  From 1935 he was a regular on the circuit.  The Second World War interrupted his racing career but in 1946 he returned to motorsport, winning the gold star of the British Racing Drivers’ Club in 1947 and 1948.  This was a lean time for British racing, but Reg kept the flag flying with a third place finish in the inaugural grand prix at Silverstone in 1950.  Major success came when he managed the Aston Martin team from 1957 to 1960.  The team won at Le Mans in 1959.  Dr Bartrip writes that Parnell ‘could prepare a car meticulously and was an astute judge of a driver, identifying the potential of such talented prospects as John Surtees, Chris Amon, and Mike Hailwood’.  Reg bought a pig farm at Findern, Derbyshire and every Christmas gave members of the Aston Martin team cuts of pork from his farm.

Frood and Parnell are among over 60 pioneers of British motoring included in the latest update to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, ranging from the founder of the Aston Martin firm to the racer and team manager Bruce McLaren.