Who owned my car?

This is a pretty common question for us at the record office.

Did you know? Vehicle registration was introduced in 1903 under the responsibility of the Borough and County Councils.

Although in other parts of the country many vehicle licensing records do survive, unfortunately, this is not the case for Derbyshire, so enquirers may be left disappointed with our answer.

The few records that do survive for Derbyshire are registers of fees for local taxation licences 1909-1910 and local taxation police reports and ‘failure to licence’ reports 1910-1911 (ref: DCC/UL).  There are more records surviving for Derby Borough including Registers of motor cars and motor cycles, plus some other vehicles between 1903 and 1947 (registration numbers CH were used up to 1933 and RC thereafter) – see D1890 for a full catalogue list.

A central system for was established in 1965 under the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Centre (DVLC), now DVLA.

For records after 1974, contact the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency.   We do know that some people have been successful in obtaining information from the Kithead Trust relating to vehicles registered in Derbyshire before 1945.

Occasionally, you might also find records in other collections.  In particular, the archive of Kennings Ltd of Clay Cross (D4547) includes new and second hand car registers, 1949-1974 and licence registers 1954-1969.  If the vehicle you are interested is was purchased by a business (particularly a transport business such as a bus company), search the catalogue for records of that company.

If you want to find out more, try Philip Riden’s How to Trace the History of Your Car (1998).

Here is an absolutely fascinating story from Mike, a recent enquirer who was trying to find out more about his vintage car…

A History of Sunbeam 14/40 Registration number NU2525 – by Mike (current owner)

Mike’s Sunbeam at home…

This Sunbeam 14/40 open tourer was purchased by Mrs Grimshaw-Taylor on 28 February 1924 for her son Sydney (Sidney). He kept and used the car for many years, until in 1939 he stored it on a farm in Ockbrook. The story as told by the owners of the farm was that a gentleman, who had gone abroad during the Second World War, had left the car on their farm with the intention of collecting it upon his return from the conflict. However, he had not showed up and they had assumed that he had been ‘lost in action’.

In 1957, the car was purchased for £12 by Bryan Barton of Chilwell on behalf of Ken Wilson who had previously restored Bull Nose Morris, and was keen to purchase the Sunbeam, but did not have the necessary funds. Ken would repay Bryan by doing work for him until the debt was repaid, rectifying a TR2. The Sunbeam was registered to Bryan on a continuation log book, dated 30 October 1957, and later re-registered to Ken on his birthday, 27 August 1971.

One evening, possibly in the 1960’s or 1970’s, when visiting Eric O’Dell in Kidderminster, Ken was presented with “some old books on cars” and on top of the pile was a Sunbeam handbook. Ken immediately opened it, and just as quickly put down. “That is the chassis number, and that is the engine number of my Sunbeam”. At the end of the war, Lieutenant Eric O’Dell, ex Royal Engineers, had returned from Italy by train with his commanding officer, Captain Sydney Grimshaw-Taylor: “What are you going to do when you get home Eric?” “Well the first thing that I am going to do is to buy a car”. “You can have mine. I will send you the books”. Eric received the books but never collected the car.

Ken was given the books relating to the Sunbeam, now realising that he was the second owner. Sometime later, Ken discovered in a local newspaper the obituary of a prominent local solicitor and ‘war hero’, Mr Sydney Grimshaw-Taylor.

After 36 years of ownership, Ken decided that it was time for a younger fellow to look after his pride and joy. Initially, when I first saw the Sunbeam I was not taken, mainly due to it not having a driver’s door, which is impractical in my small garage. We went for a drive in the car to view the spares that would be sold with the car, and I drove it back. We said our goodbyes with a promise that we would be in touch, knowing full well that that was not going to happen due to the impracticality of having only three doors. But for the next 2 or 3 days I could not get the car off my mind.

…and in France, with Mike

As a result we returned to Nottingham and have now celebrated 27 years as the custodians of the Sunbeam, registration number NU 2525.

 

 

With thanks to Mike for sharing his story and his photographs.

Survival Of Archives; Archives Of Survival

In a previous job, I glimpsed the Laycock military papers, among them documents created by Capt. Evelyn Waugh somewhere in the Mediterranean during the Second World War. There was no time to pore over them, as I was just processing a copy order – but it struck me that their survival (complete with scorch marks and water damage) was miraculous, and that so was their creation. In the melee of conflict, there was Waugh armed with a typewriter, setting down the information that others would need.

Whether it’s a literal battle or the current battle against coronavirus, there’s nothing like crisis for putting pressure on those charged with setting down information.  A crisis also reveals starkly how important a resource information is, and how much we rely on its being accurate and available.

One criterion that defines an archive is authenticity. A document in an archive collection was created for reasons that had everything to do with the situation at the time and nothing much to do with us. We are not the intended audience. The primary reader is the writer’s contemporary – a busy person who needs evidence of what has been done and what remains to be done; what has been agreed and what is still up in the air. Succeeding generations may be able to peer over the shoulder of their ancestors, like a rail passenger reading their neighbour’s paper, but this is a happy accident.

It’s an accident so happy, in fact, that we need to make it happen. At Derbyshire Record Office, we try to make it happen by committing ourselves to a management policy which says: “We will respond positively to opportunities for expanding the scope of our collections, to make them more representative of the diverse range of human activity in our county’s history”. There’s quite a range of human activity just now, even in the midst of forced inactivity.

An acquisition strategy is not a new idea. Just look at this 1918 advertisement printed on a ration book in the Ogden Family papers.

D331 1 49_0003

Please note: it’s 1918 and this is on a ration book – the appeal to preserve evidence of the Great War had started, even as war still raged.

Information grows in importance during a crisis, and so does community – even a socially distanced one. Again, this is nothing new. Another episode in Archives I Have Glimpsed While Doing Copying Orders: papers reflecting the efforts of Women’s Institutes to find billets for evacuees during Operation Pied Piper, because there was no government presence large enough or connected enough to do it.

Novels will be written by people quarantined by this outbreak, some of them good.  There will be poems and sculptures and great works of art. Whether good, bad or indifferent, these will be part of an archive of human survival, and we will have to find ways to preserve it. Will there be an archive of the spontaneously-generated COVID-19 community support groups, whose members bring essential supplies to people with a duty to self-isolate? How will we preserve the activities of a neighbourhood interacting over social media? Two key words for a future post: Digital Preservation.

The evidence we leave behind will be the product of people acting under pressure in a rush, like Waugh at his typewriter. But it won’t be structured in the same way as a military archive, or a company archive, or a local authority archive. And we can’t save it all. Some history, perhaps the overwhelming majority of it, will slip through our fingers.

This will be ameliorated by forward-thinking people setting out to document today for the readers of tomorrow – not a happy accident of authenticity, but an act of conscious creation, authentic in its own way. Two examples:

Earlier this month our Local Studies Librarian, Lisa, gave a talk delving into Derbyshire’s past by peering over the shoulder of long-departed residents and visitors, and into their personal diaries. Last week we were contacted by a member of the audience who has been inspired by diaries kept during the war to record her own experience of the current coronavirus situation. Mass Observation, as it is known, was first developed in 1937 and ran until the 1950s and it was restarted in 1981 – the Archive is held at The Keep at the University of Sussex. If you would like to take part in Mass Observation and contribute to the archive, whether in relation to coronavirus or in the future, find out how to Become a Mass Observer online.

An idea that began in Arizona but is going global – a web resource called Journal Of A Plague Year: An Archive of COVID-19. The title, as you spotted, is a nod to Daniel Defoe. Here we find stories, photographs, video files, sound files and, yes, Facebook and Snapchat memes, all selected to help preserve a collective memory. Take, just as a for instance, the snapshot of a New Orleans pizzeria which has hurriedly altered its business model so that boxed food may be passed through an improvised service hatch.  At the time of writing, there are 323 items in the archive, which can be browsed, searched, or picked from a map.  And the map tells me there are no UK contributions yet. How long until that changes, I wonder? Yes, you may take that as a challenge.

Wishing you all good health.

Aliens! Internees during the Second World War

Curious people that we are, we do like to receive enquiries that test our research skills. We recently received another interesting research enquiry, on the subject of internship during the Second World War.

The enquiry we had was regarding an employee of the John Smedley company based in Lea, near Cromford, originally from Vienna. We were asked whether we could add any information regarding her life, as a potential internee as an ‘enemy alien’ during the Second World War.

Via this enquiry we came across the National Archives Internees Records which can be viewed online and downloaded. Having looked through some of the images, they provide a fascinating and often sad insight into the backgrounds of many of who had escaped the Nazis and come to the UK to find work. Many were overqualified for the work they were doing and had often left other members of their families behind.

It’s also an interesting insight into the use of language during the prevailing political and social climate of the late 1930s and 1940s. Here are some examples of the information in these records, all of whom were exempted from internship (thanks to the National Archives who granted permission to use the images) :

internshipinterns

Internee 5Internne2Internee 3Internee 2

intern#

We would really like to hear of any memories or stories you have relating to this subject in Derbyshire.

Imagine having to fill this form in…

One of our listing volunteers, Roger, has been working through some unlisted family/estate papers this morning, and came across this:

Home Guard form

Most readers will recognise LDV as standing form Local Defence Volunteers, usually known as the Home Guard.  In fact, this blank form was not saved because of its Home Guard connection, but because it bears some hurried notes on the reverse about a land transaction.  As you will see, the form was designed for use as a speedy means of reporting the observation of enemy landings to the police and military.

If your research interests include the Home Guard, the very best place to start would be The National Archives’ research guide.  However, there are a few references to Home Guard documents on our catalogue, too.  These include:

  • (D799/10/2) a Home Guard signalling manual, 1942
    (D1467/1) The roll of the 15th (The Peak) Battalion, Derbyshire Home Guard, 1944
    (D2321/1) Home Guard Derby Works Battalion C: Company register of platoons, covering (Platoon 1) Trent Motor, (Platoon 2) DCS, (Platoon 3) Cold Stores, (Platoon 4) Coles and Rolls Royce, (Platoon 5) County Air Raid Protection, (Platoon 6) Borough Air Raid Protection
  • (D7686/BOX/25) The script of “According To Plan” by Lawrence du Gard Peach, described as “a Comedy of the Home Guard in Three Acts”, 1943

We have to be particularly careful about aspects of some of these documents.  For instance, the register of platoons gives each person’s enrolment number, name, address, date of birth and next of kin.  It also gives remarks such as each person’s rank and when they resigned.  None of this is earth-shatteringly sensitive, but it still qualifies as personal data, which is protected by UK data protection legislation – so if you have a need for such material you will need to contact us about it, and we will work out whether there is a legal way of letting you access it.

 

Discovering Ilkeston

Yesterday morning I visited Ilkeston Library to deliver a new workshop  introducing people to the various sources available for researching the history a Derbyshire building. It was a quiet session, with only two in attendance – though one had travelled all the way from Aston on Trent which took me quite by surprise!

With the opportunity to handle examples of all the original sources we talked about, learning how to use the record office catalogue and discussing more specific aspects of the research each was undertaking (one doing a history of their own house, the other looking more generally at their street and surrounding area, including a former laundry and former chapel), it was a very interesting and enjoyable session all round.

So what did we look at? There are a number of key sources we would always recommend consulting whichever part of Derbyshire you are researching – not all of these sources exist for all parts, though these are the ones you are most likely to come across either at the record office, your local library or elsewhere. There is one very useful source not mentioned below, and this is the tithe map and award as there was never one created for Ilkeston                                                                                                                         title deeds … enclosure map and award … land values map and domesday book c1910 … photographs … electoral registers … sale catalogues … building plans … local publications … official town guides … rate books … local authority records … (click an image for more information)

We also looked at the census – available to access for free at your local Derbyshire library – and talked about newspapers available across the county.

Many of the sources we used during the session were picked somewhat at random purely as an example of what was available, but the stories we found we really quite fascinating – I can’t go into details now, though I do hope to be able to do so very soon.

If you want to find out more about doing a building history, we will soon be publishing a series of new research guides on our website, including three guides relating to building history. We will also be re-running this introduction to sources for building history in the coming months so keep an eye out for more information in the next Events brochure. In the meantime, do contact us for more advice if you want to get started now.

 

 

Advent Calendar – Day 24

Almost there…

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Christmas card painted by John Chaplin, with Edgar Osborne, sent from Palestine in 1917, during World War One (Ref: D5063/3/3)

image

 

 

Inside the card reads:
Palestine 1917
Christmas 1917
Two campaigners send you Greetings, dear Lill
Edgar
John Chaplin

 

 

 

 

Born in Bournemouth in 1890, Edgar Osborne was County Librarian for Derbyshire for 31 years (1923-1954). During World War One Edgar served on the Bulgarian Front and in Palestine, from where he sent this card to Lill, possibly his future wife Mabel Jacobson, whom he married in 1918, not long before the end of the war. Other papers of Edgar’s from this time are available to view online via our catalogue, as part of our WW1 digitisation project. Although not available to read online, this series of papers contains a very moving story about Edgar’s experience in Palestine, including how he spent Christmas Day 1917 (ref: D5063/3/2).

After the war, Edgar resumed his career in librarianship, becoming County Librarian of Derbyshire at the age of just 33. During this time, he introduced new services, such as mobile libraries, and developed his own interests in literature, especially in children’s books – an interest featuring heavily in his archive collection, which also includes Edgar’s diaries written during World War Two and papers relating to his retirement in 1954.

Advent Calendar – Day 4

Only 21 more sleeps to go… and what is behind door number 4?

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Front page of The Daily Telegraph on 8 May 1945 announcing ‘GERMANY CAPITULATES’ ‘Today is VE Day: “Complete and Crushing Victory”‘ – visit us to see a full copy of this and other newspapers from the day in our Local Studies collection.

Seen anything you especially like yet? Let us know if you want to nominate it for our 50 Treasures?

Lost, found, returned: the wedding ring of Flt Sgt John Thompson of Matlock

We don’t usually share links to news stories unless they have a direct connection to our archives and local studies holdings – but this is an exception, because of the obvious local and historical interest.  John Thompson was a pilot, from Matlock, who lost his life on a secret mission to Albania during World War II.  After seventy years, his wedding ring has been returned to his surviving family.  Read all about this engaging story on the BBC news website.

New Digitisation Project – School Records

We are very pleased to be able to soon be having our school admission registers and log books digitised as part in a national project which will ultimately make the digital versions available via the Find My Past website.

D5545 3 1 p1

Cresswell Log Book, D5545/3/1

The project, organised by the Archives and Records Association on behalf of archive and record offices across the country, is specifically looking at school records from 1914 and earlier, and will continue over a ten-year period. We are quite fortunate that the school records here at Derbyshire will be amongst the first to be digitised. Continue reading

New Exhibition: Harvesting Histories

An exhibition to discover the history of Derbyshire farms and farming, exploring the lives of local farmers from the manor to the Second World War – Harvesting Histories

The specific inspiration for this exhibition stems from a series of workshops delivered by the Record Office in June to accompany the BBC’s “Great British Story: A People’s History’, presented by Michael Wood. The workshops encouraged participants to discover the archival resources available for researching the history of farming and agriculture in their local area.

However, the inspiration for farming theme of the workshops actually stemmed from a project run by Junction Arts, Combine: Farming Heritage | East Midlands, involving young people, farmers and local communities working with museums and archives to research the history of farming in each county. Derbyshire Record Office hosted the Derbyshire group of young people in February and March 2012 and had a fantastic time working with the young people and their teachers to discover the history of Derbyshire agriculture, particularly in the Dethick area. More information about the project, which is shortly due to move in to Phase Two consisting of an extensive touring programme for displaying the work created in Phase 1, can be found at www.combinefarmingheritage.org

If you want to see any of the original material in the exhibition or other related material, it can be consulted free of charge in our search room in Matlock. Please contact us for more information on 01629 538347.

A guide to the archival resources available for researching Derbyshire agicultural history can be downloaded from our website at http://www.derbyshire.gov.uk/leisure/record_office/education/exhibition/default.asp