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

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.”

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.

 

Derbyshire Record Office re-opens: a report from Chaddesden Historical Group

We had our official re-opening on the 19th of March.  Here is a report on the occasion by one of our guests, Andrew Bailey, who is chairman of the Chaddesden Historical Group.  For more about the group, see www.chaddesdenhistoricalgroup.co.uk.

On Tuesday 19th March 2013 three members of The Chaddesden Historical Group had the pleasure of attending the opening ceremony of the recently completed Derbyshire Record Office.  This excellent facility now combines art storage space alongside the County Local Studies Library as well as a comprehensive Record Office.

The opening of this £4 million facility was performed by John Beckett, Professor of English Regional History at Nottingham University accompanied by Councillor Andrew Lewer, Leader of Derbyshire County Council which funded the project.

During the afternoon we were given the opportunity to see the much improved visitor facilities including a sandwich and coffee room and some of the more interesting treasures in the collection which included a map of Breaston dating from 1722 and a rather gruesome medical tome guaranteed to put you off the excellent buffet.

Opening Day

The most memorable contribution undoubtedly came from the Derbyshire Poet Laureate Matt Black who read his new poem entitled, ‘Somewhere in this building’ to a most appreciative audience.  Matt was kind enough to give me permission to reproduce this poem here which was inspired by a rather difficult to spot feature on the 1722 Breaston map, a ladder propped up against an apple tree.  

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

This poem encompasses everything that the DRO stands for and along with Rita and Mary I enjoyed a memorable afternoon that also gave us all the opportunity to say hello to some old friends.

Derbyshire Literature Festival May 2012

May was a busy month for our outreach team as this was the first year that the Record Office took part in the Derbyshire Literature Festival. This was the 7th Derbyshire Literature festival organised by Derbyshire County Council which takes place every two years, and this year’s programme was exciting as ever, with more than 65 events happening in libraries and other venues across the county.

The Record Office contributed 3 events to the programme:

                                   ‘Ask the Archivist’

Glapwell Deed from 13th Century

An open day for those interested in historical research, whether it was advice on how to get started or how to get to the next step.  We had a great display of original material from our collections for visitors to read and we were very keen, as in all our events, to give people the opportunity to get hands on with the documents.  In this display we included material showing the range of material we hold, from prisoner records to a letter from Florence Nightingale, and our oldest records (we think!) a deed dating c. 1115.

‘Melbourne in the Archives’

Reading a 19th century Phrenology report out aloud from the original manuscript

An exhibition of historical records from the John Joseph Briggs collection (an author, poet, naturalist & historian from Melbourne) with the chance to read aloud from a selection of material from the exhibition and discuss and talk about the material. 

The exhibition featured letters, extracts, books, poems & illustrations concerning Melbourne local history.  The originals were on display and used during the read aloud session, which was enjoyed by all, and led to a relaxed and interesting group discussion.

Illustrations from a scrapbook found in the Briggs collection

 

 We received some lovely comments:

‘The event was excellent.  The staff were warm & friendly & knowledgeable; it was a privilege to see original documents; the readings were a special treat as was meeting local people’

 

 

 

‘Reading and Writing from the Archives with Sara Sheridan’

Looking at a late 19th century Asylum record to inspire creative writing or historical fiction

This session focused on how writers might use archive material as inspiration for creative writing and comprised of a full day of workshops, talks and activities.  We took along a large amount of original material, which provided examples of how you might use archives for writing, whether that was for characters or events, for accuracy, or what was like to live at that time – archives enabling writers to be authentic and true to the period. 

Participants were encouraged to use the documents to answer questions on how they might use the material and how to interpret them. We also had activities including guessing a mystery document, and using images from Picture the Past to inspire ideas for stories or poems. 

Following the Record Office session we had a workshop by the author Sara Sheridan who had come down from Edinburgh for the event.  Sara gave an extremely engaging talk on how she used archive material in her writing, and gave advice to the participants (most of whom were writing their own works) about how to write effectively for publication.

More information about Sara’s writing can be found on her website: http://www.sarasheridan.com/

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Byron embraces Gally Knight, rejects fame

D239 M/F 16302: April 4th 1815

Dear Knight

I have read “Alashtar” with attention and great pleasure. It appears to me preferable to the Yaniote but that may be owing to the measure which is a favourite of mine. Continue reading