As I write this, working from home, I’m looking out at what remains of that most magical substance which fell from the sky for most of yesterday.

Having grown up near the coast my experience with snow was limited.  If an inch fell once every 5 years or so we thought ourselves lucky.  Every minute of the ‘snow day’ we had at school is still fresh in my memory, simply because it was the only one I ever had.

And then I moved to Derbyshire and my love for ‘the white stuff’ blossomed.

Admittedly, I might grumble a little when its adversely affects my ability to undertake those everyday tasks.  Moving house on the day the ‘Beast from the East’ hit Derbyshire wasn’t that much fun. However, that stress was eased a little when I saw a neighbour, I’ll say of more mature years, hurtling down a not insignificant hill on a vintage wooden sledge.  The joy which snow can bring is not just for the kids.

Moving house day

I can only presume the hills on the far side of the valley are still pure white as they remain hidden by the freezing fog which refuses to lift.  It is a cold day. But before I filled my second hot water bottle of the morning I immersed myself in the latest chapter of Mark Gwynne Jones’s Voices From The Peak, an ‘audio artwork’. 

The project which is funded by Arts Council England, features the magical soundscapes, music and hidden narratives of the Peak District, with contributors spanning from Peakland hill farmers and miners, to poets, astronomers and even renowned musician Ashley Hutchings of Fairport Convention. Mark says “During 2020, the peaks and great outdoors have been more valuable than ever, so I hope these recordings will bring the magic of the Peak District to those who may not be able to visit.”

Chapter 2 is all about…snow.

I never tire of reading the accounts of extreme weather which we have in the Record Office collection and can easily get lost looking through the many images of a snowy Derbyshire which we hold.  If you too love anything weather related, particularly snow, then I’d urge you to make a nice hot drink and listen to the latest chapter in Mark Gwynne Jones’s ‘audio odyssey’, a project celebrating the diverse sounds and stories of the Peak District.

Chapter 2: Snow! was released on 13 January and you can listen online at Hear first-hand accounts of people’s experiences of snow punctuated by poetry and the beautifully atmospheric soundtrack – it actually brought a chill just listening to it.  I will now forever refer to a biting wind as ‘lazy wind’, the type that “doesn’t bother to go around you.”

And if you want to know when it will snow again, just ask a sheep.

Voices from the Peak

Did you know that this year marks the 70th anniversary of the creation of the Peak District National Park? The beautiful Peak District is mostly associated with Derbyshire, as the majority of its 555 square miles are in our county, but it also spills across our borders into Greater Manchester, Staffordshire, Cheshire and Yorkshire.

Kinder Scout looking towards Grindslow Knoll photographed by D C H Nicoll, 2002 (Picture the Past reference DCHP000558)

The Peak District was Britain’s very first national park and its stunning landscapes have long made it a popular destination for tourists, walkers, climbers, potholers and many more.

Rock climbing on Froggatt Edge, Froggatt, 1940s, from the collection of F H Brindley (Picture the Past ref PTPD300154)

To celebrate this anniversary, the Peak District National Park Authority, with funding from Arts Council England, has commissioned poet and recording artist Mark Gwynne Jones to create a series of audio artworks called Voices from the Peak. I listened to the first piece, ‘Burning Drake’ yesterday, which focusses on the area’s caves, lead and fluorspar mines – it was a beautiful combination of poetry, music and conversations with local people.

Former lead mine Magpie Mine, Sheldon, photographed by D D Brumhead in 1986 (Picture the Past reference DCHQ008841)

Whilst we’re aren’t able to go out and enjoy the magnificence of the Peak District in person, why not settle down in a comfy chair and listen to Voices from the Peak. You can also enjoy images of the Peak District over the past couple of hundred years from the comfort of your own home on Picture the Past. It’s a lovely way to pay a virtual visit to the Peak District whilst we wait until we’re able to travel there again.

Books – from Breweries to Mountain Biking

Currently on display in our Local Studies library is a varied selection of newly acquired books, ranging from Heritage Walks, to an amazing story about a ‘ghost runner’ to a history of Burton breweries! A full list and details are below:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

  1. Edwin Smith: A Life in Derbyshire Cricket by Steve Dolman Edwin Smith played for Derbyshire in three different decades between 1951 and 1971.  Among his other many achievements, he also represented the county in 497 first-class matches, claiming 1209 wickets at an average of 25.79.
  2. Inglorious: Conflict in the Uplands by Mark Avery With an introduction by Chris Packham this book outlines the case against grouse shooting, and its effect on nature and the environment.
  3. White Peak Mountain Biking: The Pure Trails by Jon Barton Researched and ridden by a local rider, this book features 24 routes from 10.5 to 45 kilometres in length, suitable for riders of all abilities. The routes are varied and involve limestone descents, twisty woodland singletracks and cruising along easy cyclepaths through green fields and pretty villages in Derbyshire.
  4. Heritage Walks in the Heart of the National Forest Now that spring is on its way, some lovely walks await in this booklet, created by the Overseal Footpaths Volunteer Group in the picturesque (and very underrated!) National Forest area.
  5. Peak District Walks with History  by Dennis Kelsall The ten walks in this attractive pocket guide have been chosen to provide fascinating locations from different period of our history including Bronze Age, Iron Age, Norman, Medieval, 16th and 17th centuries, Industrial Revolution and Victorian. Another great excuse to go walking in the Peak District
  6. The Ghost Runner: The Tragedy of the Man they Couldn’t Stop by Bill Jones This book outlines the story of John Tarrant, who started life as a teenage boxer, but was subsequently banned from running.  He ran anyway, taking part in races even though he was not allowed to compete. All the reviews point to an extremely fascinating and readable story which is difficult to put down.
  7. Ind Coope & Samuel Alsop Breweries: A History of the Hand by Ian Webster This book charts the fortunes of two Burton upon Trent brewing giants: Samuel Allsopp,  and Ind Coope.  Researched from the extensive company archives and other literature, this book not only deals in historical fact but brings the story to life, with anecdotes about brewery life that are often humorous and candid, taken from numerous interviews with ex-employees ranging from directors and managers through to operators on the brewery floor. It should be worth a read for anyone who remembers Double Diamond, Long Life and Skol !

Advent Calendar – Day 12

Are you excited yet?

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Postcard of Carl Wark, Peak District (Ref: Local Studies, Postcards)

According to the Peak District Information website: “[Carl Walk] is very likely that the hill was fortified in the Iron Age (or earlier) at the same time as Mam Tor, which you can see from Higgar Tor, only a few hundred metres away, and a plaque alongside the hill records this. However, archaeologists now tend towards the view that the massive fortifications which can still be seen at the western entrance were probably constructed in the Romano-British period at the start of the Dark Ages, maybe about 500 AD, so the fort has a long and probably complex history of occupation. Along with nearby Higgar Tor, the hill is a fine viewpoint and makes a nice walk from the Fox House Inn on the Hathersage to Sheffield road”.

Postcard of Carl Wark, Peak District

Postcard of Carl Wark, Peak District

There are thousands of photographs, postcards and other illustrations in the local studies collection – many of them are now available to search and view online via Picture the Past (if you’re stuck for something to do after a hefty Christmas dinner, why not indulge in some nostalgia looking through the images on here).


Treasure 20: The Sheffield Clarion Rambers Guides

Here’s another treasure from the Local Studies collection at Derbyshire Record Office: some of the handbooks for walkers published by the Sheffield Clarion Ramblers. The driving force behind the group was George H B Ward (1876-1957), a Labour Party politician and activist. You can read more about him on the Kinder Trespass website.

The books were nominated as one of our 50 Treasures by Sue Peach, Local Studies Librarian, who writes:
I love these guides because of their delightful miniature size, so easy to slip into the rambler’s pocket, and for G H B Ward’s exhortations: “None but sturdy and proven men-ramblers must attempt this walk. Beginners must stay away”.

‘Geological resources at the Derbyshire Record Office’ by Jack O’Brien

Jack, 16, from Chesterfield has spent the last two months on work placement with the Record Office, and stemming from his interest in geology has investigated the archive and local studies collection available and kindly produced this guide, for which we are very grateful.

White Watson

White Watson was by profession a sculptor, marble worker and mineral dealer, he lived most of his life in Bakewell, Derbyshire. He was born at Whiteley Hall, near Sheffield, on April 10th 1760. He was the son of Samuel Watson, and it was from him that he learned his trade. They were both stone-masons and sculptors engaged with the rebuilding of Chatsworth House in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. 

There is no mention of any journey more than twenty-five miles  from Bakewell, and even visits to places as near as Sheffield and Leek were infrequent. Judging by surviving documents, he does not even seem to have visited his wife’s home in Leicestershire. 

The publications of White Watson’s  work are an inadequate picture of his true geological attainments, for example, only two of his detailed sections appeared as plates in his books. 

A section of strata of Derbyshire from East to West, by White WatsonWatson’s first work, ‘A Section of a Mountain in Derbyshire’, was apparently meant to be a generalised section of Derbyshire, not a specific locality. Within the section, he recorded three main beds of limestone with different basic properties and ‘mineral and fossil productions’ which were regularly seperated and penetrated by rake-veins and broken by faults. He followed the ideas of another geologist, Whitehurst who’s ideas were shown in the ‘Inquiry of 1785’. These were, observing the patterns in the strata and being able to forecast what would be found beneath the bed rocks of Derbyshire. 

Resources in local studies.

The local studies collection holds many geology related books and records, there are articles covering everything from Caving to coal fields, and limestone to moorlands. Many of the resources in local studies are very specific to the Peak District and Derbyshire. However, is is also a useful collection for research in to the geology of Leicestershire, Yorkshire and Nottinghamshire. 

There are many books regarding caving and the study of caves (speleology) in local studies. With the Peak District being so rich in caves; and many other geological landforms, in fact, there is bound to be quite a wide interest in the area. 

This book, for example, ‘British Caving’, covers all aspects of caving, including: both the science of caving and the practice of caving.

 British Caving - an introduction to speleology

  •  This shelf contains the local studies geological resources. 

 Book room 2

 More detailed searches.

This section of the card index shows all of the Geology related books, articles and publications held at the Derbyshire Record Office. The catalogue is extensive and gives access to geological maps, as well as the full works of White Watson. The card index also holds items relating to geomorphology and the landforms and drainage basins of Derbyshire. This would hold records of water table fluctuation as well as history of floods and flooding in Derbyshire and parts of Nottinghamshire. 

Card catalogue

Overall, the available resources at the Derbyshire Record Office would be more than adequate for amateur geologists, or anyone who is interested in finding out a little more about what’s under your feet!