The Miller Mundy archive – a lockdown project completed

If you are a regular follower of this blog you will have noticed several posts over the last year featuring the Mundy and Miller Mundy families. This is because one of our projects, which we began in March 2020 during the first Covid-19 lockdown, was to get the box list of the Miller Mundy archive (reference number D517) onto our online catalogue.

The Miller Mundys of Shipley Hall, Heanor, were a branch of the Mundy family of Markeaton Hall and Allestree Hall in Derby. They became the Miller Mundys when Edward Mundy (1706-1767) married Hester Miller (died 1767). Hester had inherited Shipley through her mother, Hester Leche, and so Shipley Hall became the Miller Mundy family’s principal seat until it was demolished in 1943.

Shipley Hall c1915 (Derbyshire Libraries – Picture the Past number DCAV001203)

The archive of the Miller Mundy family consists of 49 boxes, 34 of which contain title deeds and legal papers relating to property owned by the Miller Mundys. The deeds date back to 1501 and relate to property held outside Derbyshire as well as Heanor, Mapperley, Smalley and other places in Derbyshire. There are also more than 8 boxes of records relating to the Nutbrook Canal, which was built in 1796 to transport coal from Shipley Colliery to the Erewash Canal. The Miller Mundy family’s wealth largely derived from their collieries and there is quite a bit of correspondence in the collection about Shipley Colliery and the family’s coal interests.

Shipley Colliery c1920s-1930s (Derbyshire Libraries – Picture the Past image number DCAV003350)

Of course my favourite material in the archive is the family letters. They date from 1696 to 1862 and include all sorts of fascinating insights into the lives and times of the Miller Mundys – there are more blog posts to come inspired by the letters in this collection.

The Miller Mundy archive came into the Record Office in several batches over the period 1968 to 1985 so you might be wondering why it’s taken this long to get the catalogue online. Without external funding, there’s rarely enough time to properly deal with collections of this size. The first step is to make a list of everything in each box. There had been previous attempts to do this many years ago, but for some reason the lists we had were incomplete – some of the boxes had been completely listed, others hadn’t been touched, and yet others had been partially done, but with gaps in the list. In some cases there were boxes which obviously had come to us with a list, but the list didn’t necessarily tally with what was in the box!

During the first lockdown, we typed up the lists into Excel spreadsheets, which were then imported into our cataloguing system. Over the last six months, I’ve been slowly checking those lists against what’s in each box, making corrections and filling in the gaps. Even so, I haven’t been able to list everything – there are 4 boxes of deeds and legal papers which had too much in them for me to be able to sort through in the time I had – but most of the archive has been done. Where once there was only one record for the whole collection on our online catalogue, we now have 1660 catalogue records.

So that’s a lockdown job finally complete, though it’s not the end of what needs to happen with the collection. Box lists are really helpful, but as records that relate to each other are scattered around different boxes, the next step would be to arrange the collection so that everything is in a sensible order. After this, we would physically number the documents with their final reference number and repackage the whole collection. For a collection this size, though, this is an extremely time-consuming job which we just can’t manage at the moment.

One of the Miller Mundy archive boxes

To help the process along, though, we have done a lot more ‘item listing’ than usual. This means that some items, like letters, have been given individual catalogue entries, rather than having a single catalogue record for a whole bundle. When we have a bit of time, we can organise chunks of the archive, like the family letters, into a proper arrangement just using the catalogue entries. In this way, we should be able to gradually create a well organised catalogue of the collection bit by bit, which can also then be repackaged in manageable portions.

Although this process is likely to take years, it’s enormously satisfying to know that, even if the catalogue isn’t perfect yet, the Miller Mundy archive is at last accessible for research.

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Captain Mundy’s close shave and a game of ‘la chase’

Almost two hundred years ago, Captain George Mundy wrote a letter to his father, Edward Miller Mundy I on May 1st 1809, detailing an encounter with the French fleet in the Napoleonic wars five days earlier on Thursday, 27th April 1809. This letter is part of the Miller Mundy collection, which is an enlightening and fascinating insight into life at that time.

There are so many historical books, films and television programmes centred on the Napoleonic Wars, but to be able to read a first-hand account written by member of a family local and renowned to Derby, elevates your imagination and creates a much closer idea of what these seamen endured.

Captain Mundy's letter

HMS Hydra captained by George Mundy was anchored off Mongat, North East of Barcelona. He left his ship and writes that he

“arrived in the neighbourhood of the beach and immediately between me and the ship – a party of 200 French infantry that had marched out of Barcelona and came to plunder the village of Mongat – on the beach so heavy a surf that none of our boats could land, a squadron of men of war coming towards the Hydra”

He continues how he wished he could engage in ‘la chase’ – a chase, relying entirely on the wind and sea

“however it was to no purpose stewing and fretting and with a little exertion and some threats, I got a fisherman to launch me thro’ the surf and put me on board the old Hydra – never have I felt half the pleasure of getting alongside a good blazing fire after a long journey…as I did in putting my foot on the deck of my wooden residence – all the miseries I had been suffering vanished and I felt strong in my castle and able to undertake a good deal.”

Capt. Mundy’s delight at being back on board is clear, in spite of the considerable threat from the enemy fleet blocking their route.

And what happened next? After firing shots at the French infantry on the beach and faced with a whole squadron of Men of War, the Hydra managed to escape having used a secret signal to identify the enemy, and by skilled seamanship and bravery.

“soon under weigh (sic) and having given my friends at Mongat a few parting shots I made all sail towards the enemy advanced frigates (which I had then discovered them to be by their not answering the private signal) knowing that it was the only way to get off – that is to say by a little gasconade – by which I completely succeeded in escaping from the cul de sac – they had put me in, or rather shut me in – do not imagine that they were alarmed by the asserations and manoeuvre of the Hydra – no! The truth of the matter was that they took for granted that we supposed the squadron to be British and that we were joining them.”

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.

D517-BOX-13-1-Journal first page top

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:

D517-BOX-13-2 ledger Lixa

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.

D517-BOX-13-2 rental

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.