Lockdown Stories: Working from Home

From earlier blog posts, you will have realised that I, like my colleagues at the Record Office, am working from home during this period of lockdown.

For me, in my modest cottage, this has taken some adjustment. Firstly, child number two, aged 21, arrived home from University with a friend in tow – both with the huge pressure of deadlines to meet for coursework, dissertations to complete and final exams to pass for their undergraduate degree courses. Hmmm, a puzzle to solve. Three adults into a small cottage has meant one of us in the basement bedroom (fondly known as the ‘dungeon’), one in the dining/sitting room (also referred to as the ‘yoga studio’) and me in the kitchen (near the food).

Archivist Becky dropped off a laptop, keyboard and mouse, which after 72 hours of quarantine were ready for use. With some assistance from the Derbyshire County Council IT department, I had already set up my personal PC and phone to allow limited access to the Record Office databases and communications system. Once switched over to the laptop and equipment Becky had dropped off, full access was enabled and I was ready to go.

The work task assigned to me has been a pleasure to work on, for which I feel extremely grateful.

The Miller Mundy family of Derbyshire has provided us with a true insight into their lives as landed gentry and politicians from the 1700s onwards. Based at Shipley, Markeaton and Walton, the family was extremely large and unravelling the different strands of this family has been challenging at times, particularly with their fondness for the names Edward, Frances/Francis, Godfrey, Robert, Nellie, Georgiana and Alfred, used in almost every generation. The astounding number of children born to each generation, with Edward Miller Mundy (1775-1834, son of Edward, father to Edward) fathering 13 children with his wife, Nellie, adding to the puzzle.

Aside from the family seat in Derbyshire, there is a long history of involvement in both local and national politics. Several members of the family became Members of Parliament, High Sheriffs and Magistrates. With so many children, it was usual for sons other than the first born heir to enter the military or church.

I have been transcribing letters from George Miller Mundy written to his Father, Edward Miller Mundy. George was in the navy, Captain of The Hydra, and wrote extensively about the Napoleonic War. George’s writing style is clear, and he is well educated, sometimes quoting Shakespeare, although not always entirely accurately. He writes of battles and strategies naming ships familiar to us, as well as naval officers such as Collingwood, Hardy and Nelson, the enemy Villeneuve and Napoloeon; politics as well as his feelings. Reading them transports me to another era.

It has become clear that in spite of the size of the family, there is a deep affection and respect for one another, which is very touching to read.

My working day is a stimulating break from being stuck at home baking, reading, learning Spanish and playing the Ukulele. As a part-timer, I work four hours per day over four days, which is ideal for this task. I have now rigged up a large monitor, discovered in child number one’s room (on a sabbatical and currently isolating in Panama). The large screen has helped considerably in trying to decipher the somewhat tricky handwriting. Zooming in on a big screen aids with seeing how letters are formed, leading to understanding specific words.

Generally, the internet connection has been very reliable for all three of us working. Today has been the first day of failing, which has made me realise how reliant we are on technology. I fear this lockdown would have been far more isolating without our Skype and zoom meetings with colleagues and friends. Working from home would have been a completely different story, and may have been nigh impossible in some cases.

Melanie's workstation

 

This image shows my home office set up in my kitchen; I am lucky to have enough space for a desk. The handwritten/highlighted notes show my first attempt to plot the Miller Mundy family structure! I choose to work with the radio on (Radio 4 or 6) as I like some background noise. This is not heard by the two students elsewhere in the house.

Not far from wherever I am, you will find my two dogs, Nora the Greyhound and Nelson, my Jack Russell. Nelson is 13, and when I named him as a nine week old puppy, I did not envisage I would be reading letters about Lord Nelson’s heroic actions, victories and demise.

So, here is ‘my’ Nelson.

Nelson the dog

Melanie Collier, Archives Assistant

 

A letter from Trafalgar

Part of a very moving collection of letters in the Miller Mundy collection (D517) from October and November 1805, George Miller Mundy wrote an account to his father just two days after the Battle of Trafalgar.  George was captain of HMS Hydra and spent many years patrolling the seas around Cadiz and Gibraltar, engaging in combat.  It is clear that Lord Nelson was very much admired and respected by his men, and his demise at Trafalgar was sorely felt, in spite of the tremendous victory.

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Letter from George Miller Mundy to his father, 1805 (D517 BOX a 3 part 2)

George writes about the day of the battle, and describes how Commander-in-Chief, Admiral Lord Nelson inspired his men to victory:

“One of the most characteristic circumstances of his conduct on the great day was a Telegraphic message to the fleet in general just as they were going into action. It was!

“England espects [sic] British Seamen will do their Duty, this Day”

what could have been more expressive and more exhilarating to men who looked to him as a father? Can you conceive any more to the purpose? The Captains of course turn’d their men up and read the short but nervous sentence to them. Imagine the unanimous response of

“We will do it”

and three lusty Cheers”

The letter continues to describe how Lord Nelson’s unique and inspired strategy repeatedly broke the French line of ships, demolishing the fleet of their enemy.  The cost was:

“the loss of Lord Nelson. A Frenchman shot him of the Fore tops thro’ his shoulder which lodg’d in his back, he liv’d some hours, and when Hardy went down & told him the Trinidad (the pride of Spain) had struck! & some others. He said, he was satisfied it was a victory, and almost immediately expir’d, so departed, this wonderful man.”

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Letter from George Miller Mundy to his father, 1805 (D517 BOX a 3 part 2)

History tells us that Nelson was recognised as a hero by the nation.  The monument, Nelson’s Column, in Trafalgar Square in London, has the inscription ‘England expects every man will do his Duty’ at it’s base, the same message described by George in his letter.

Melanie, Archives Assistant

Escape from 200 French infantry on the beach in northern Spain using guile, cunning and some fish!

So in my earlier post, we heard how George Miller Mundy managed to be reunited with his ship HMS Hydra after a beach skirmish. However, not all his crew managed to board a fishing boat to do the same. In the letter dated 1st May 1809 written to his father, Edward Miller Mundy of Shipley, he describes the adventures of fellow Englishman Radford…

‘Radford had a narrow and rather extraordinary escape he had, like myself, been obliged to remain on shore at Castel de Fels in consequence of the great sea on the beach, and as he could not pass Barcelona very safely by land he went to Tarragona where he got a passage in a packet boat bound for Mataro and on the 27th when near Barcelona found himself in the midst of the French squadron which he took to be English and without hesitation went alongside the [French vessel]…‘

So, mistaking an enemy French vessel for an English one, whilst on board a Spanish packet boat with Spanish crew threatening to stab him (rather than being discovered harbouring an English seaman by the French), what did Radford do?

‘of course he soon discovered his error, but how to get away again was the business, and the Spaniards on the Boat were going to stab him conceiving that he had acted treacherously, in this disastrous situation he thought of asking, or rather holding up some fish to the French officer, who was attending at the side, who refused them, on which he immediately cut the rope and dropt astern, most fortunately for him, the ship was in the act of making sail in chase of the Hydra which occupied the whole crew’

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Excerpt from George’s letter to his father, 1st May 1809 (D517 Box A 3 part 2)

 

Quick thinking Radford tricked the French officer, who was more concerned with chasing the Hydra, into thinking he was simply crew of the packet boat, by offering him fish and so secured his escape!

Melanie, Archives Assistant

Perfection in Accounting

Whilst we’re in coronavirus lockdown, one of the collections I’m working on is D517, the archive of the Miller Mundy family of Shipley Hall.  I had to nip into the office the other day (we go in regularly to make sure the environmental conditions in the stores are as they should be) so I took a quick look at a couple of items in the collection which needed some better descriptions.  These are two account books from the 1600s (reference numbers: D517/BOX/13/1-2).

Both books are large and parchment bound.  The first was an account book (1682-1697) belonging to Edward Mundy of Markeaton Hall.  I know very little about Edward but I can tell that he was an extremely neat and organised man, as his accounts are an example in financial perfection.

D517-BOX-13-1-Ledger apparel reduced

Edward Mundy’s ledger, 1680s (D517/BOX/13/1)

The book is divided into a ledger at the front and a journal or day book at the back.  If you’re not familiar with accounting practices, a ledger is arranged by type of expense, or the person or business which is being paid or charged, whereas a journal, also known as a day book, is a chronological account of money coming in and out.  Edward’s ledger crosses over two pages, one page with credit and one with debit.  There are numbers at the sides of the ledger and journal entries so that Edward could check his ledger entries against his journal entries and vice versa.

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Beginning of Edward Mundy’s journal (D517/BOX/13/1)

Just look at that beautiful writing!  Edward Mundy really took his time to make the ledger and journal pleasing to the eye as well as practical.

From this book we can learn a lot about Edward Mundy’s business dealings, which include wool, sugar, and cotton, as well as his household expenses, what he spent on horses, clothes and shoes, and his ‘parish dues’.  Lots of people are named, including his servants Jarvis Woodruff and Hester Jenkinson.

The second book in this box is an even earlier ledger from 1661-1662 and relates to a textile business that seems to have been jointly owned or invested in by a John Tufnayle and Mrs Elizabeth Clerke.  Who these people are and how they are connected with the Mundys is not yet known, but the ledger is similarly well written:

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Ledger entry, 1661 (D517/BOX/13/2)

It doesn’t quite reach the perfection of Edward Mundy’s ledger, but it’s pretty good.  Here it looks as if the business is exporting textiles (baize, ‘bocking’ and ‘colchester’), possibly to Lixa in Portugal.

This large volume was only used as a ledger for a few pages.  Eighty years later, Charles Palmer from Ladbroke Hall in Warwickshire obviously decided it would make a useful book in which to (very roughly!) record the rents he was getting from his tenants.

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Rent for the year 1742 (D517/BOX/13/2)

It’s hard to imagine a greater contrast in both organisation and handwriting.  Ordinarily I would say that eighteenth century handwriting was a pleasure to read, but definitely not in this case.

Explore Your Archive – A Derbyshire Spirit Story

From the Derby Mercury, 26 September 1860:

A Derbyshire Spirit Story

The following singular story is given in Owen’s “Footfalls on the Boundary of Another World,” as being told to the writer by William Howitt and given in Mr Howitt’s own words:-

The circumstance you desire to obtain from me is one which I have many times heard related by my mother.  It was an event familiar to our family and the neighbourhood, and is connected with my earliest memories; having occurred, about the time of my birth, at my father’s house at Heanor, in Derbyshire, where I myself was born.  My mother’s family name, Tantum, is an uncommon one, which I do not recollect to have met with except in a story of Miss Leslie’s.  My mother had two brothers, Francis and Richard.  The younger, Richard, I knew well, for he lived to an old age.  The elder, Francis, was, at the time of the occurrence I am about to report, a gay young man, about twenty, unmarried; handsome, frank, affectionate, and extremely beloved by all classes throughout that part of the country.  He is described, in that age of powder and pigtails, as wearing his auburn hair flowing in ringlets on his shoulders, like another Absalom, and was much admired, as well for his personal grace as for the life and gaiety of his manners. 

One fine calm afternoon, my mother, shortly after a confinement, but perfectly convalescent, was lying in bed, enjoying from her window the sense of summer beauty and repose; a bright sky above, and the quiet village before her.  In this state she was gladdened by hearing footsteps which she took to be those of her brother Frank, as he was familiarly called, approaching the chamber-door.  The visitor knocked and entered.  The foot of the bed was towards the door; and the curtains at the foot, not withstanding the season, were drawn, to prevent any draught.  Her brother parted them, and looked in upon her.  His gaze was earnest, and destitute of its usual cheerfulness, and he spoke not a word.  “My dear Frank,” said my mother, “how glad I am to see you!  Come round to the bedside: I wish to have some talk with you.”  He closed the curtains, as complying; but instead of doing so, my mother, to her astonishment, heard him leave the room, close the door behind him, and begin to descend the stairs.  Greatly amazed she hastily rang, and when her maid appeared she bade her call her brother back.  The girl replied she had not seen him enter the house.  But my mother insisted, saying, “He was here but this instant.  Run! quick!  Call him back; I must see him!”  The girl hurried away, but after a time returned, saying that she could learn nothing of him anywhere, nor had any one in or about the house seen him either enter or depart. 

Now my father’s house stood at the bottom of the village, and close to the high road, which was quite straight; so that any one passing along it must have been seen for a much longer period than had elapsed.  The girl said she had looked up and down the road, then searched the garden – a large, old-fashioned one, with shady walks.  But neither in the garden nor on the road was he to be seen.  She had inquired at the nearest cottages in the village, but no one had noticed him pass.  My mother, though a very pious woman, was far from superstitious; yet the strangeness of this circumstance struck her forcibly. 

While she lay pondering upon it, there was heard a sudden running and excited talking in the village street.  My mother listened: it increased, though up to that time the village had been profoundly still; and she became convinced that something very unusual had occurred.  Again she rung the bell, to inquire the cause of the disturbance.  This time it was the monthly nurse who answered it.  She sought to tranquilise my mother, as a nurse usually does a patient.  “Oh, it is nothing particular, ma’am,” she said, “some trifling affair,” – which she pretended to relate, passing lightly over the particulars.  But her ill-suppressed agitation did not escape my mother’s eye.  “Tell me the truth,” she said, “at once.  I am certain something very sad has happened.”  The woman still equivocated, greatly fearing the effect upon my mother in her then situation.  And at first the family joined in the attempt at concealment.  Finally, however, my mother’s alarm and earnest entreaties drew from them the terrible truth that her brother had just been stabbed at the top of the village, and killed on the spot. 

The melancholy event had thus occurred.  My uncle, Francis Tantum, had been dining at Shipley Hall, with Mr. Edward Miller Mundy, member of Parliament for the county.  Shipley Hall lay off to the left of the village as you looked up the main street from my father’s house, and about a mile distant from it; the road from the one country-seat to the other crossing, nearly at right angles, the upper portion of the village street at a point where stood one of the two village inns, the Admiral Rodney, respectably kept by the widow H–ks.  I remember her well – a tall, fine-looking woman, who must have been handsome in her youth, and who retained, even past middle age, an air superior to her condition.  She had one only child, a son, then scarcely twenty.  He was a good-looking, brisk young fellow, and bore a very fair character.  He must, however, as the event showed, have been of a very hasty temper. 

Francis Tantum, riding home from Shipley Hall after the early country dinner, that day, somewhat elate, it may be, with wine, stopped at the widow’s inn and bade the son bring him a glass of ale.  As the latter turned to obey, my uncle, giving the youth a smart switch across the back with his riding-whip, cried out, in his lively, joking way, “Now be quick, Dick; be quick!”  The young man, instead of receiving the playful stroke as a jest, took it as an insult.  He rushed into the house, snatched up a carving-knife, and, darting back into the street, stabbed my uncle to the heart, as he sat on his horse, so that he fell dead, on the instant, in the road. 

The sensation throughout the quiet village may be imagined.  The inhabitants, who idolised the murdered man, were prevented from taking summary vengeance on the homicide only by the constable’s carrying him off to the office of the nearest magistrate.  Young H–ks was tried at the next Derby Assizes; but (justly, no doubt, taken into view the sudden irritation caused by the blow) he was convicted of manslaughter only, and, after a few months’ imprisonment, returned to the village; where, notwithstanding the strong popular feeling against him, he continued to keep the inn, even after his mother’s death.  He is still present to my recollection, a quiet, retiring man, never guilty of any other irregularity of conduct, and seeming to bear about with him the constant memory of his rash deed – a silent blight upon his life.  So great was the respect entertained for my uncle, and such the deep impression of his tragic end, that so long of the generation lived the church-bells of the village were regularly tolled on the anniversary of his death.  On comparing the circumstances and the exact time at which each occurred, the fact was subtantiated, that the apparition presented itself to my mother almost instantly after her brother had received the fatal stroke.

Heanor church burial, 4 February 1795, M465 vol 4

Heanor church burial, 4 February 1795, M465 vol 4

Derby Mercury, 5 February 1795

Derby Mercury, 5 February 1795

D4734/1/10/11 Account of murder of Francis Tantum in 1795

D4734/1/10/11 Account of murder of Francis Tantum in 1795

Derby Mercury, 19 March 1795

Derby Mercury, 19 March 1795

D4734/16/20/3 Elegy on death of Francis Tantum by F. Skerrett for newspaper, 1795 (pt1)

D4734/16/20/3 Elegy on death of Francis Tantum by F. Skerrett for newspaper, 1795 (pt1)

D4734/16/20/3 Elegy on death of Francis Tantum by F. Skerrett for newspaper, 1795 (pt2)

D4734/16/20/3 Elegy on death of Francis Tantum by F. Skerrett for newspaper, 1795 (pt2)

D4734/16/20/3 Elegy on death of Francis Tantum by F. Skerrett for newspaper, 1795 (pt3)

D4734/16/20/3 Elegy on death of Francis Tantum by F. Skerrett for newspaper, 1795 (pt3)

Q/RA 1/3 Register of licensed victuallers, 1795

Q/RA 1/3 Register of licensed victuallers, 1795

Excerpt from Pigot's Directory, 1821-1822

Excerpt from Pigot’s Directory, 1821-1822

Heanor church burial entry, 16th February 1848, DVD 83

Heanor church burial entry, 16th February 1848, DVD 83

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