Potter and Co Collection

My name is Elissa Rowe and I am currently doing a masters in Archives and Records Management at the University of Dundee, and I have been volunteering at the Derbyshire Record Office for 3 years.

I have been working on the Potter & Co collection from the beginning when it came out of the strongrooms after 40 years of being deposited. As an archivist in training this has been a great opportunity for me to practice the skills that I have been reading about, therefore I thank the amazing archivists at the DRO .

Calico Printing Library of Alderman J G Hurst of Glossop, including records of Edmund Potter & Company Ltd, calico printers, Dinting Vale, Glossop. This collection includes printed books, pattern books, photographs of works and workmen, reference books and other papers.

What I have done so far

I went through the 21 boxes with about 200 items and listed every item onto CALM (which was particularly difficult when some of the books are in French, German and Russian (thank goodness for Google!)) Once this was completed, the items were arranged into series meaning that items are grouped together with similar documents such as printed books.

I now have the fun job of numbering each item and reboxing the items ready for users. I will continue to write about my experiences on this project as a trainee archivist.

I hope you enjoy using this collection as much as I enjoy working preparing it for use.

21 boxes, 200 items

21 boxes, 200 items

Derbyshire’s Beatrix Potter connection

Recently we were visited by two ladies who were researching Edmund Potter & Co Calico Printers of Dinting Vale, Glossop.  Edmund Potter & Co was once possibly the largest calico printworks in the world, and on checking our catalogues we discovered that we had an uncatalogued collection which no-one had been particularly aware of.

The collection (D1589) was bequeathed to us by Alderman J G Hurst of Glossop, who wrote a biography of Edmund Potter and collected books and archives about calico printing.  The collection contains a lot of printed books, which we didn’t usually collect (possibly explaining why it wasn’t catalogued at the time) – although of course now we also house local studies, that’s changed.  Delving into the boxes, however, revealed some beautiful original Potter & Co pattern books dating back to the 1850s containing swatches of fabrics in stunningly fresh colours.

D1589 printing samples (8) D1589 printing samples (12) D1589 printing samples (13)

An even more unexpected find was a man’s shirt printed with tiny images, possibly from children’s illustrations.  We don’t recognise the pictures and although one of them shows a Manchester postmark.  If the date on that postmark is anything to go by, the shirt would date to around 1883.

D1589 Shirt (2)

D1589 Shirt (12)D1589 Shirt (8)

So what’s the Beatrix Potter connection?  Well, Edmund Potter was Beatrix’s grandfather and according to one of the ladies who came to look at the collection (she is an expert on Beatrix Potter) he used to send the young Beatrix fabric samples which she would use to make up little outfits for her toys.  She would then make paintings of those dressed up characters… and of  course these ultimately developed into her famous books.  She also used the fabric to bind her own books and folders of her paintings.

Now that we’ve rediscovered this wonderful material, we’re cataloguing it so that more people will be aware that it’s here.  But isn’t it nice to think that Mrs Tiggy-Winkle and other beloved Beatrix Potter characters may have been clothed in some of the fabrics tucked within our pattern books?  Oh, and if you recognise any of the characters printed on the shirt, please tell us, as they’re a complete mystery!