The Bolsover Spitfires: 80th Anniversary of the Battle of Britain

You may think that crowdfunding is a relatively new thing but actually it isn’t. During both the World Wars, war bonds, or the National Savings Movement as it was known during the Second World War, were often used to raise money by advertising directly to the public. However, Lord Beaverbrook, the Minister of Aircraft Production, came up with a new public funding campaign to help build spitfires to defend the nation. This is part of the reason why the Spitfire still remains at the heart of the nation and our collective memory of World War Two.

Bolsover Colliery answered this call eagerly. The men who worked there and their families in the surrounding community managed to raise enough money to supply the RAF with not one, but two Spitfires! Yet at Chesterfield, the town were unable to raise enough money for one of the aircraft. The miners were able to raise so much money as they promised to give a penny for every 10 shillings they earned to another local fundraiser, Mrs Shepley of Holmesfield, as well as donating to their own Spitfire fund. The Spitfire built with the money raised from Holmesfield was named Shepley to honour the men who had died from that family.

Both of the Spitfires built from the Bolsover mining communities fundraising efforts were first flown in March 1940 and both were fitted with Rolls Royce engines manufactured in Derby. So in many ways, these planes felt very local, even though they were to fly over the Channel and fight over to the continent. The amount raised for each plane was £5,700, or £224,274 in today’s money. No one could accuse these miners of not being generous!

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Photograph of Spitfire given by the Bolsover Colliery Company, D4774/13/12

The miners at Bolsover were not the only miners who appeared to be good at fundraising. Miners in Durham also managed to raise enough money for two Spitfires. The estimated amount of money raised by the public across Britain and the Commonwealth for Spitfires by August 1940 was £3,050,000. From that figure it is clear to see just how much Bolsover had raised. The final total was round £13 million given by around 1400 funds to build 2,600 Spitfires. Most of these fought during the Battle of Britain.

So what actually happened to the Spitfires Bolsover Colliery paid to build? Only one of the planes survived the war. One of them was shot down by the Luftwaffe near Dungeness in September 1941, sadly killing its pilot. The surviving one had had two accidents during its time in service. One of these involved hitting overhead cables, another where it was tipped on its nose whilst taxiing. Unfortunately, it is not known what happened to this aircraft following it’s removal from service in 1947.

Bibliography:

‘Bolsover Colliery of the Bolsover Colliery Company’, http://www.oldminer.co.uk/bolsover.html

Bridgewater, A. N., North Derbyshire Collieries (2009) https://www.aditnow.co.uk/documents/Doe-Lea-Coal-Mine/North20Derbyshire20Collieries20Small20Update.pdf

Ferguson, N., The Battle of Britain: A Miscellany (Chichester: Summerdale Publishers, 2015)

Letter from the Royal Air Force Staff College to the manager at Bolsover Colliery detailing the Spitfires paid for by the colliery in the Second World War, November 1987, N42/1/5/10

Tebbs, A., Stories from Carr Vale and New Bolsover, Commissioned by Bolsover District Council (2014)

Watson, G., ‘Spitfire Fund: The ‘whip-round’ that won the war?’, BBC News, 12 March 2016, https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-35697546

Mining the Seams is a Wellcome Trust funded project aiming to catalogue coal mining documents, originally held by the National Coal Board, so they can eventually be viewed by the public. Alongside the Warwickshire County Record Office, the project aims to focus on the welfare and health services provided to miners. 

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Building History – Next Steps

A guide to other detailed records and tips for specific types of building.

If you are new to researching the history of a building try our getting started guide first.  There are also more complex records available for discovering the history of property and land, including:

  • Estate records: including rentals and terriers which can be used to identify tenants
  • Manorial records: primarily court rolls/books containing information about land tenure and changes in ownership and occupation.
Sources for standards of living, i.e. wealth of owners/occupiers
  • Wills and probate inventories listing goods and chattels in the house
  • Medieval and early modern Inquisitions Post Mortem are held at The National Archives and provide evidence of land ownership, inheritance and transfer
  • Tax returns, including land tax assessments for 1780-1832 (available on microfilm in Local Studies) and The Derbyshire Hearth tax returns (published 1982).
Farms 
  • For some farms business records may have been deposited, check the online catalogue to see what is available.
  • Surveys of farms were undertaken during both World Wars. The records of the WW2 National Farm Survey are held at The National Archives.  During WW1 surveys were undertaken by local War Agricultural Committees, and only a small number of records survive, including for the Ilkeston (reference D331/1/21).
Churches

For all churches the first place to check is the archive of the parish or church in question.

For Anglican parishes, glebe terriers provide a written survey or inventory of the church’s property in the parish, e.g. the rectory or vicarage, fields and the church itself. They may contain the names of tenants and the holders of adjoining lands, information on cultivated land, or how the income from tithes was calculated and collected.  Most terriers are held under reference D2360/1, but some are in parish or estate collections – search the online catalogue for the place name and the word glebe.

Some Diocese of Derby archive collections will also include information about church property, for example the Diocesan Registers (reference D4633/2) give details of consecrations, mortgages, sequestrations and licences.  Records of Queen Anne’s bounty at The National Archives may also include useful information about Anglican churches and parish property.

Under the Toleration Act of 1688 dissenting congregations were obliged to register their places of worship with the bishop, archdeacon or justices of the peace.  From 1812, registrations were retained by both authorities.  The returns to the justices are held under reference Q/RR/12 and Q/RR/13.

Schools

Search the online catalogue for records relating to a particular school – we recommend searching the Title field using the name of the school – if you’re not sure about the school name or if it might have changed, try searching just for the word school and the town/village name:

For most school buildings it is also worth checking the records of the relevant School Board.  There are also architects plans for many schools that were built in the 19th and 20th century, click here for a full list from the county and borough architects.  

Public Houses

Licensing registers between 1753 and 1827 can be found under Q/RA/1.  There are no registers available between 1827 and about 1870.  Thereafter, the registers were maintained by the local magistrates at the Petty Sessions courts to 1974. Click here for a full list of the Petty Sessions archive collections.

The National Brewery Centre Archive at Burton on Trent launched it’s new catalogue in July 2020, including collections of various brewery companies, and many references to Derbyshire.

Shops/Trades buildings

Goad maps are detailed rolled street maps showing individual buildings with their uses, for example shop names.  Available in the Local Studies Library for Alfreton, Ashbourne, Bakewell, Belper, Buxton, Chesterfield, Derby, Glossop, Heanor, Ilkeston, Long Eaton, Matlock, Ripley, and Swadlincote.

Trade (and later telephone) directories survive from the mid-19th century, usually listing prominent landowners, officials and residents, with a commercial section arranged by surname and by trade, although not everyone is included.  Original and microfiche copies of Derbyshire directories are available in the Local Studies Library, as are published town guides for the 19th and 20th centuries.

See the Looking for Organisations guidance for tips on searching for archives relating to specific businesses and industries.

Public works/buildings

For County Council buildings contact County Property.  Check the online catalogue for records relating to the authority that owns/owned the building in question – see also Looking for Organisations guidance.

For buildings associated with late 18th to early 20th century public works such as canals, railways, roads, gas and waterworks see deposited maps and plans under reference Q/RP.

Listed Buildings

The Department of Environment Lists of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest can be consulted in the Local Studies Library or online via the National Heritage List for England.  Each listing gives a precise location, historical information and full architectural details of the site.

Also available in Local Studies are Derbyshire County Council Planning Department’s Listed Buildings record cards which often include a photograph.

Further Reading

Always search the online catalogue and the onsite indexes for other sources.  The following publications (and many more) are available in the Local Studies Library

  • Nick Barratt (2006) Tracing the History of your House
  • Anthony Adolph (2006) Collins Tracing your Home’s History
  • Pamela Cunnington (1980) How old is your house?
  • Colin and O-Ian Style (2006) House Histories for Beginners

Bomb nearly takes out the Blue Bell Inn at Melbourne

A post from Bernadette currently on a work placement at the Record Office

As part of my work placement at the Record Office, I currently working on a transcript of information gathered from the Derbyshire County Council Air Raid Precaution’s Register of Occurrence’s (Ref: D4710/1).On the first page of the register I came across the occurrence at Melbourne, which lead me to do further researching.

On 11th July 1940 at the Blue Bell Inn, 53 Church Street, Melbourne, Derbyshire, bomb damage and deaths occurred at around 8.10 a.m. 9 people were killed and 15 were wounded. Two buildings at the rear of the Blue Bell Inn and part of the boot factory near the grange were also damaged.

There must have been a lot of chaos, due it being the time of day when folk are getting up for the day ahead, it would have woken folk in the area from their beds. It was good job that the incident didn’t happen when the inn was open at the time and when the boot factory was open for business, otherwise the casualties could have been a lot higher.

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Ordnance Survey Map showing the location of the Blue Bell Inn Melbourne.

 

From the Melbourne Church of England Junior Boys School Log Book, 1933 – 1942 (Ref: D3575/1/5) on 11th July 1940 it was noted that there was considerable damage in the town. You would think people would have stayed away, but in fact only 5 boys and 2 members of staff didn’t turned up for school that day, one had her house badly damaged.

Yet, the Head Master at the Senior School called the Director of Education, it was agreed by the Director that the school be closed for the day. If I was in their shoes I would have been traumatised by the incident, especially being a child. School did open the following morning, with 33 of the pupil’s being absent in the morning and 35 in the afternoon and this isn’t surprising with the upheaval caused by the incident. It must have taken weeks for normality to come back to the surrounding area.

WATCH THIS SPACE… the completed transcript will be accessible via the online catalogue in the near future – we will let you know when it is