Snow

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 www.peakdistrict.gov.uk/voicesfromthepeak. 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.

Somewhere in this building…

For National Poetry Day we thought it might be nice to re-visit this wonderful poem written for the Record Office by Matt Black, inspired by a beautiful 1722 map of Risley and Breaston from our collection.

Somewhere in this building

on an old map, a ladder climbs quietly

into the arms of an apple-tree.

Once a man stood on that ladder. Where is he?

I want to know him, he comes from Then

but must still live Here, among these records,

frayed books and letters writ in gooSe quill.

Somewhere in this building you might find

his mother, rummaging through last month’s bills.

We’re all here, amongst the litter of our lives,

our marks, traces, footprints on these shelves,

like a new layer in a town of strata

where sea-lily feathers once washed the lagoon.

He is our data, our DNA, on yellow paper.

Somewhere in this building, he is real,

he walks the fields, you can find his children.

I can almost smell him, that hot afternoon,

four centuries back, on the Breaston breeze,

golden scent-of-earth in apple-sun.

Matt Black                                                                                  Matt Black © 2013

www.matt-black.co.uk

When family history becomes a little more complex…

Very few family historians are able to trace their ancestors back through the civil and parish registers without hitting some kind of complication, whether that be a “missing” entry, an “extra” entry making it unclear which is correct, the resettlement of their family elsewhere or other issue.  Often, such cases can be resolved with a bit of extra digging and thinking outside the box as to how to find the correct information.

One such case arose following the transfer in from Chesterfield Library of a collection of poems written by John Cupit – it wasn’t terribly complicated, but did send me down a bit of rabbit warren before I got to the bottom of it.  The collection had been transfered with the following biographical information: John Cupit, of Clay Cross. He was also an inventor, watch repairer and worked at Parkhouse Colliery. The Cupit family lived at Danesmoor and were carpenters and joiners, and John’s mother Sarah was a daughter of William Henry Wilson of Pilsley Hall, a farmer and land surveyor. John was raised by his grandparents, George and Ann Cupit.

I wanted to provide more information in our catalogue, at the very least years of birth and death for John.  Fortunately, amongst the poems and other items in the collection was a letter to the Chesterfield Borough Librarian in 1956 enclosing a short poem that John had written on his 86th birthday which gave his date of birth as 5 June 1871.

Perfect!  Now I have a date of birth and from this I can probably find a year of death using the online civil registration indexes as I know he is still living in Chesterfield, aged 86 because he says so in his letter to the Librarian.  For most searches I tend to use FreeBMD as it gives you a little more control over what you are actually searching.  However, if I have no success with this site, or if I am searching for entries after 1992, I will use Ancestry.com as it contains indexes up to 2007 and as a trade-off for less control over your search terms you get much more flexibility in the results, showing other possible entries when what you were expecting to find doesn’t exist.

In this case I discovered John’s death in Chesterfield (district) in 1963.  But I still wanted to know what else could I find out about John: he had been described as a poet, inventor, watch repairer and miner – what evidence could I find for all this?  Why so varied?  He was raised by his grandparents – why?  What happened to John’s parents? Did this inspire his poetry?

The census returns for 1841-1911 are an absolutely essential tool for family historians searching for ancestors in this period, and later. Unfortunately, it is not possible to access any later census returns due to the 100-year embargo on each, however, some limited access has been provided to the National Register of 1939 which was compiled as part of preparations for a possible war with Germany. Perhaps more out of habit than anything else, I tend to use Ancestry for searching the 1841-1911 census returns and Find My Past for searching the 1939 register (although each is now available via both sites).

I discovered that in 1881 (the first census in which John would appear, having been born two months after the 1871 census), he was indeed living with George and Ann Cupit at Guildford Lane, Danesmoor – but he is described as their son, not their grandson. George is described as a joiner, as is his 26-year old son (also George). Furthermore, although John is described as the son of George and Ann, bearing in mind their ages, 76 and 66 respectively, it is much more likely that he is their grandson.  Did the enumerator recording the information mishear or have stated he is their son in order to cover the true story about his parents?

The next step was to find out more about George and Ann.  In the 1861 and 1871 census returns they are found at Gents Hill (also Hillocks) in Clay Lane (now Clay Cross), variously with children Mary, Henry, John, Joseph, George and Walter. The John recorded in the 1861 census was aged 13 and therefore certainly not John the poet born in 1871.  Although it was quite common for younger children to be named after older siblings who had passed away, it was still much more likely that George and Ann were indeed John the poet’s grandparents – was this older John (aged 23 in 1871) be his father?

Unfortunately, I then came to some difficulty in tracing John the poet in the 1891 census. I was able to find him in 1911 at Market Street, Clay Cross, with his wife Allina, their three children, his widowed mother-in-law (Emily Goodwin) and another Goodwin, aged 11 and therefore perhaps Allina’s nephew.  He is described as Joiner – Colliery, which may explain the references to him being a miner and joiner, as he worked as a joiner at a mine.  He was also fairly easy to find in the 1901 census, this time as an unmarried boarder in Staveley, and again described as joiner; possibly at a colliery as he is boarding with James Potter, a colliery foreman.

None of this helped in finding him in the 1891 census, and that was just the beginning of the complications. Usually after finding the birth of an ancestor, the next step is to find their parent’s marriage – but searching both FreeBMD and Ancestry I could find no reference to the marriage of a Sarah Wilson to a man with the surname Cupit.  I was fairly confident of John’s mother’s name, as he had recorded this information himself in his letter to the Borough Librarian, also referring to his “grandsire” William Henry Wilson of Pilsley Hall. Perhaps Sarah had been married before and was a widow when she married John’s father, so I also searched for any marriage of a Sarah [surname unknown] to a [forename unknown] Cupit (again much easier on FreeBMD) – but still no luck.

Having hit a bit of a brick wall with the Cupit’s, I tried to find out more about the Wilson’s, John’s maternal ancestors.  At the time of the 1861 census William Henry (born c1798), his wife Urania (born c1823) and four children including a daughter Sarah (born c1850) were living at Upper Pilsley.  William is described as a Farmer, Landowner, etc. Ten years later, the family is still in Pilsley: Sarah is no longer with them, there are two more daughters (twins born c1863), and a granddaughter, Maud M Randle aged 2. A further ten years later, Urania, now widowed, is at Pilsley Hall with three daughters, two sons and Maud whose surname is now given as Wilson. Is this perhaps Sarah’s daughter by a previous relationship?

Success!  Marriage found in 1868 (quarter 4) of a Sarah Wilson to a James Randall, in the Chesterfield district. The civil marriage indexes though do not give sufficient detail to be certain you have found the correct people, but with the Derbyshire Anglican parish registers now available via Ancestry, it is much quicker and easier to search and identify the details: Sarah, daughter of William Henry Wilson, surveyor, married James Randall at Chesterfield on 31 December 1868.

Although Sarah and James had been married in 1868, and Maud born in 1869, by the time of the 1871 census, the two were separated – James lodging in Pilsley and Sarah (described as married, though using the surname Wilson) lodging in Rotherham with a Chesterfield family and was seven months pregnant with John the poet.  Was James John’s father, or was John the result of an extra-marital relationship that was the cause of James and Sarah’s separation?

For me, this is could have been where the story ended because we don’t have access to the birth registers that might have included John’s father’s name – of course anyone else would have been able to order copy certificate from the Register Office.  By now, I really wanted to know the answer.  Perhaps John’s marriage entry would give me a clue because after 1837, the registers include a space for the groom and bride’s fathers’ name – even today their mothers’ names are not recorded.

The 1911 census stated that John and Allina had been married for 6 years, and I found reference to a marriage registration (via FreeBMD) in Chesterfield district, quarter 3 1904.  Unfortunately, there was no corresponding entry on Ancestry in the Derbyshire parish registers, so the couple were either married in a non-conformist church or not married in a church at all.  With more time, I could have manually searched any non-conformist registers for the Chesterfield and Clay Cross area; as above, the most efficient way to see what name John gave as his father’s would have been to order a copy certificate.

Still not quite ready to give up, I then looked again for Sarah (John’s mother), and found her in the census returns 1881-1911 married to a Joseph Cupit, a Carpenter.  Although her first husband was still alive (living with his parents in Pilsley in 1881, and described as unmarried), Sarah Wilson appears to have married Joseph Cupit in 1873 (Belper district).  As John’s birth was registered under the surname Cupit in 1871 two years before this marriage and Joseph was the son of George and Ann (as per the 1871 census found earlier), I was confident I had found his father.

According to the 1911 census, Sarah and Joseph had at least twelve children, and when I found them in the 1891 census, I finally also found John the poet with them, aged 18 and a colliery labourer – I had probably seen this entry the first time round but dismissed it because the date of birth was a few years out, even though I really should have known better.

The question that all this couldn’t answer was whether John was brought up by his grandparents, or whether this was an assumption made purely on the basis that he was at their house on census night in 1881.  However, perhaps this answer is contained within John’s poems and other works in his archive, now held under reference D8251.

John Cupit was interviewed in the Derbyshire Courier on 23 October 1909 (page 8) in relation to his flying model of a monoplane, under the heading ‘A Clay Cross Aeroplane’, with a photograph of the man himself.  According to a note the following week (2 November 1909), the model was put on display at Armistead Bros. of Corporation Street, Chesterfield [cycle agents].

Happy Valentine’s Day!

A treat from our Franklin collection: the Valentine poem Eleanor Porden wrote in 1823 for her fiancé, John Franklin. We’re very lucky to have two versions – here’s the original draft:

draft frontdraft recto

And here is the letter she sent him on 14 February 1823, with her handwriting ‘disguised’:

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The symbols on the letter (presumably purporting to be Inuit) tie in with the mention of Coppermine River, the river in North Canada John Franklin had traveled down during his Coppermine Expedition of 1819 to 1822.  Eleanor seems to be writing as if she is an Inuit woman – see the post about Miss Green Stockings to find out more!

 

 

 

The stilly night

For National Poetry Day, an excerpt from a poem by Thomas Moore, as copied out by William Howitt (1792-1879), from Heanor:

Oft in the stilly night

When slumber’s chain has bound me,

Fond mem’ry brings the light

Of other days around me;

The smiles, the tears

Of childhoods years,

The words of love then spoken;

The eyes that shone,

Now dim’d and gone,

The cheerful hearts, now broken.

Thus, in the stilly night,

When slumber’s chain has bound me,

Fond mem’ry brings the light

Of other days around me.

poem

 

 

A poem…

…this time for World Poetry Day (today!)

The Moth

Poor little Moth, how low thou’rt laid !

Would, thou hadst never thoughtless play’d

Round yon seducing light,

And flutter’d in its magic beam

Like one enchanted in a dream

Or vision of the night

D 3311 Attic Chest 1920_0007

 

Chosen from an early 19th C collection of poems, prose and ‘general whimsy’ known as the ‘Attic Chest’, edited by Eleanor Porden. The editor has given a little input to the original version, which was contributed by Eleanor’s friend Mary Ann Flaxman.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

A treat from our Franklin collection: the Valentine poem Eleanor Porden wrote in 1823 for her fiancé, John Franklin. We’re very lucky to have two versions – here’s the original draft:

draft frontdraft recto

And here is the letter she sent him on 14 February 1823, with her handwriting ‘disguised’:

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The symbols on the letter (presumably purporting to be Inuit) tie in with the mention of Coppermine River, the river in North Canada John Franklin had traveled down during his Coppermine Expedition of 1819 to 1822.  Eleanor seems to be writing as if she is an Inuit woman – our project archivist has been delving deeper into the background to this poem and will reveal all soon…

 

 

 

Joseph Waterfall – Poet of the Peak with ability

Do you ever get side-tracked by a subject while researching another? Most of us have at some point! This is probably one of the strangest and most interesting ‘distractions’ I have encountered. As part of a future exhibition about cycling, I have been searching through the Record Office for interesting bicycle-related items. During a thorough search of the Local Studies card index catalogue,  I came across a reference to ‘Waterfall, J Poems (broadsheets) published by J Waterfall 1890s.’

Card Ref Waterfall

It turned out to be a large book of printed poems and articles about Bakewell and the surrounding area, by a gentleman called Joseph Waterfall. His writings are entertaining and interesting in themselves, but the book also revealed an amazing insight into the author’s life, which raises many questions. We live in a day and age where it’s easy to be sceptical, and this story really is sometimes quite hard to believe.

According to the available information about him, Joseph was born in Maidstone, Kent, without the use of his legs and with limited use of his arms and hands.  He was born of poor parents, had no education, and in addition to doing some shoe shining, mainly lived off parish relief due to his disability. He spent the last years of his life in an almshouse in Bakewell. He would cut out the letters of his articles and poems from old papers and place them on a sheet where they would then be printed.

Cut and Paste

These ‘broadsheets’ were sold for a penny to supplement his income, until he tragically died in a fire in his almshouse, in 1902.  This was apparently reported in a local Bakewell newspaper. His story is so unbelievable even a film or book about it probably couldn’t do it justice! This is a letter from a lady who bought one of his broadsheets:

A Letter

Having reached this point I decided to see what would happen if I searched for Joseph on the internet.  This turned up a published document (I am unable to provide a link but the search terms I used were “Joseph Waterfall Bakewell”) that a Mr David Trutt, from Los Angeles, California had written, called ‘Joseph Waterfall Poems: The Poet of the Peak.’ It appears he had been inspired by the author during a visit to the Local Studies library in Matlock in 2007, while researching Haddon Hall poetry. His interest was such that it prompted him to look at census records, parish registers and newspapers about Joseph. He obviously spent a great deal of time looking for information about him, and it’s extremely fortunate that he published this research. In Mr Trutt’s words:

“The poems and unusual life story of Joseph Waterfall were found by chance.

The editor has found no reference to Joseph Waterfall in books about Bakewell or

Derbyshire; and is loath to allow this information, which surfaced by chance, to

once again disappear.”

Having done a quick search of the Record Office online catalogue it appears that there is a little bit more information about him (which I will definitely be pursuing, along with the newspaper report!)

In the meantime here are some of his articles and poems.  If anyone has any further information about this incredible story please get in touch!

Remarkable Places and EventsQueen VictoriaDorothy's FlightChristmas

Oh, by the way, after realising I had been (gladly) waylaid by his story, yes, there was a poem in there about cycling that he wrote, which I hope will be appearing in our forthcoming exhibition!

A Sense of Place in Young People’s Poetry

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As I was re-shelving some books in Local Studies, a front cover caught my eye, due to its colourful artwork and images.  Well, I couldn’t help myself, and once I had opened the first few pages, I couldn’t stop reading (even though it was well past closing time!) The images belong to a book titled ‘Common Ground.’ It is a collection of poetry and artwork written by students from Shirebrook Academy and Clowne Heritage High School, as part of a Junction Arts project.

It’s a great example of young people coming together from different schools and celebrating (and also not being so celebratory of!) the areas they have grown up and lived in. Each page of poems is accompanied by eye-catching and colourful artwork, based on the natural environment.

The poems themselves are powerful, emotional and written with amazing creativity. I must admit to raising an eyebrow, when I saw that they were written by Year 8 students, such is the maturity in them. I would recommend the book to anyone working with young people, who has a passion for poetry, is working in a school, running creative projects or simply interested in the perspective of young people living in and around Shirebrook and Clowne.

The book is available to look at in the Local Studies part of the Record Office from our ‘Local Authors’ section, reference 828.9208, title ‘Common Ground’.

Treasure 11: An Exact Mapp of Risley and Breaston

This wonderful map was purchased by Derbyshire County Council in 1966 for £20.  It was surveyed by Matts [Matthias] Aston, in 1722, and the man standing beside the scale on the map is presumably Matts Aston himself.  The scale is 20 perches:1 inch; a perch was an old form of measurement (also called a rod or pole) equal to 5 1/2 yards.

D393 1 resized photomerge

In the top left corner is the coat of arms of the baronets of Aston in Cheshire, so this map must have been made for the 3rd baronet, Sir Thomas Aston (1666-1725).  It measures 60 x 30 inches (about 150cm x 75cm) and is made of parchment which has been backed with linen.  These are two very long-lasting materials, which explains why the map is still in such good condition.

Paula Moss, our Artist in Residence between 2011 and 2013 chose the map for our 50 treasures.  She says:  “I love the fact that as well as being a beautiful map, it’s also bursting with visual and poetic narrative.  Small details such as a ladder propped up against the tree and the game keeper and their dog are exquisite – it’s a piece that I keep on coming back to.”

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Nearly 300 years after its creation, the details in this map are a constant source of inspiration.  The fruit tree with it’s ladder inspired the poem which is on the wall in our customer break room: ‘Somewhere in this Building’ by Matt Black, Derbyshire Poet Laureate 2011-2013.  Matthias Aston also features on a mug, designed by Paula, which you can buy here at the Record Office.  And you might recognise the compass rose, which has been reworked to create the ‘Made in Derbyshire 2015’ logo.