Discovering Franklin catalogue online

Derbyshire Record Office

Three cheers!  The brand new catalogue of our material relating to Sir John Franklin, his family and friends, can now be viewed on our online catalogue in collection D8760.

discovering franklin

Archives Revealed funding and the help of volunteers has enabled us to catalogue in much greater detail than we normally would.  This means there are now four times more catalogue entries than there were before!    That’s a lot to browse through, so if you’d like to search the Franklin material instead, click on ‘Search our catalogue’, put ‘D8760*’ (don’t forget the asterisk at the end) into the ‘Reference number’ box, and then add your keywords into the ‘Any Text’ box at the top.  You can also add a date range to narrow down your search.

Over 1000 letters have also been exported into a spreadsheet.  If you are interested in Franklin, or just 19th century letters in general, the spreadsheet enables you to keyword…

View original post 132 more words

Limescape – The Shrouded Aesthetic

Museum Attendant Nikki Anderson probes deeper into a current exhibition at Buxton Museum and Art Gallery:

Within the 11 months that I have been working at The Buxton Museum and Art Gallery this has probably been the most interesting and thought-provoking art exhibition I have seen here at the museum. In my opinion Steve Gresty’s photography exhibition captures the beauty of the landscape in and around Tunstead Quarry near Buxton.

Buxton Museum application-3.jpg
copyright Steve Gresty

I was lucky enough to chat to Steve about his work and ask him a few questions about how he became interested in Limestone quarrying as a subject matter for his photography.

Steve first became interested in Limestone quarrying whilst studying for an MA in Film and Photography at Derby University. Influenced by his passion for the American road photography of the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s, He had been engaged in a photography project  focusing on the landscape and topography of major roads and the traffic that travels those routes. He tells me that whilst photographing A6 road through the Derbyshire he became curious about the high number of aggregate lorries and carbonate tankers toing and froing along this stretch of road. He investigated the source of this specialist heavy traffic and unveiled an industrial site on another level! Tunstead Quarry is the largest producer of high purity industrial limestone in Europe with 5.5 milllion tonnes extracted each year.

Buxton Museum application-5.jpg
copyright Steve Gresty

Steve tells me how he quickly became fascinated in the huge scale of limestone quarrying and how the process unveiled various shrouds of hidden beauty within the man-altered landscape. A reoccurring question that Steve kept asking himself was “why is it that limestone is extracted in such massive quantities?!!!! Within the exhibition, Steve explains this by highlighting our incessant desires for consumer items and conveniences such as building material, glass and food stuffs such as fortified bread and cereal – all products that either contain or utilise pure limestone products within their production. Steve tells me that the reason for using polaroid imagery was that he wanted to reference the throw-away culture we are now accustomed to in this modern age.

Alongside Steve’s polaroid photographs are an amazing collection of stand out photographic works that capture the emotive feelings about this particular subject matter. The journey of the limestone from land to consumer product is well-documented through his photography and demonstrates the four shrouds that the project revealed, from the initial shroud of beauty of the rock itself, the shrouds of human intervention and technology, through to shroud of ‘mother nature’ returning the quiet and peaceful landscape where nature’s colours re-emerge.

Buxton Museum application-6
copyright Steve Gresty

I asked Steve “What obstacles did you face whilst photographing in the quarry?”

“Within the processing plants it was extremely dusty and I was in semi-darkness a lot of the time so lighting was tricky. Especially whilst shooting the image ‘Purification’- in that image there was a single fluorescent light in dark area which caused problems with highlights”

“I had to be chaperoned the whole time too due to health and safety because of the large scale explosions and large trucks moving about. Within the processing plants the noise from the large machinery was deafening so we had to wear ear protection. The inherent dust in the atmosphere also caused worrying issues with regard to expensive DSLR cameras”. Steve also talked about the image ‘Conveyance’, which was taken at another quarry. He explains the need to use a fast shutter speed whilst taking this photograph as the rubble was hurtling down the conveyer belt at such speed, it was the only way to capture it so that the moving rock could be seen clearly.

Obstacles aside Steve’s determination and focus enabled him to create this body of work that is both thought-provoking and aesthetically intriguing. ‘Limescape-The Shrouded Aesthetic’, which was captured over a 3 year period, is on display at the Buxton Museum and Art gallery until 16th November. Plan your visit here.


The Chrome Hill Project

Chrome Hill is steeped in history- layers of it.

There are a series of sharp edged limestone ridges on the north side of the upper Dove Valley where, 340 million years ago coral reefs formed the edges of tropical lagoons.

Look east as you travel out of Buxton on the A53 towards Staffordshire. The leaning, sharpened peaks of Parkhouse and Chrome Hill are out of place amongst the softer landscape. And at only 425m you look down on them, a mini Switzerland sunken amongst rolling hills.

Typical of limestone landscapes these hills are riddled with a network of cave systems formed by  swallets and resurgence waters which in later and colder times became places of hibernation, shelter and burial. There are notable caves; Dowel Cave was a burial place 6,000 years ago, the skulls and skeletons of ten people were found here but charcoal fragments reveal its use as far back as 11,000 years. Nearby Fox Hole cave on the pyramid shaped High Wheeldon had human bone, pottery, an axe and sharpened antler points that date the occupation of the cave at 15,000 years ago and excavations at Hitter Hill uncovered two cists  and four rock cut graves. The finds are in Buxton Museum. Then there is the potholers’ favourite, the huge but hidden Owl Hole and the mysteriously deep and lesser known Etches cave, named after the family who farm the land.

The view from Hitter Hill is stunning and can easily be accessed from a footpath running behind The Quiet Woman pub at Earl Sterndale. It is this same view that features in Buxton Museum’s Wonder of the Peak gallery. From here the ridge of Parkhouse looms tall and imposing and the ‘spine’ of Chrome Hill clearly articulated giving rise to its local name ‘The Dragons Back’. Sharp sunlight adds vividity to this view when both crags cast their dense shadows into the valley accentuating the amphitheatre they create around Glutton and Dowel Dale.

Take a walk here and you will sense this area is indeed unique giving the impression that you are simultaneously in expansive space and yet closed in on all sides.

It is here in the valley of Dowel Dale that two artists, Tony Wild and Brian Holdcroft decided to plot their materials and their ideas to take their work on a journey for twelve months.

Both artists originally hail from the Potteries. Tony having worked in the arts ever since studying at Burslem School of Art in the late 1950’s, and Brian developing his art form in more or less isolation from other artists until meeting Tony over twenty years ago. Over the years their work has diverged and returned to the landscape many times.


T and B at Chrome Hill
Brian Holdcroft and Tony Wild at the barn at Chrome Hill.

This exhibition is a culmination of work they created throughout the year from spring 2018 to spring 2019.

Most months are inclement here in the Peaks, they needed shelter. And so they hired a barn from farmer Mr Etches to store their materials, keep a stove and when needed take refuge.

Throughout the twelve months they drew, explored, walked and photographed. Their work shows the industry of their origins both in its output and how it now appears in series and variations.

Tony’s work falls into set of images. Chrome Hill and groups of trees appear as a repeated motif in small heavily textured and expressive paintings, their energy punching out from their size. Butterflies are lost in the textures of limestone and the microscopic world of lichens are honed in and magnified into much larger paintings. And there is colour, lots of it.

Trees at Parkhouse Hill – Tony Wild

He has two folders of work on display. One has sets of ink drawings created on the spot reminiscent of Japanese Sumi-e painting. The other, a series of photo montages cut from striking images of the hills, close-ups of tracks and the limestone’s lichen, again with a repeat motif. There seems to be four or more threads to Tony’s work, each with the potential to go on a journey of their own from this same central point.

Bird and Bark – Tony Wild

Brian’s work evolves into series; growth, erosion and mapping, as he considers the layered histories of the area and the interactions between its geology, materials, animal and human activity. He uses beeswax, pigment, ink and earth in his paintings. All were created outside at Chrome Hill.

Mapping Series: In and Around Chrome Hill – Brian Holdcroft

Also on display are Brian’s lead bowls- lead runs through the veins of the hills here- and note books he buried behind the barn they hired. Later exhumed they become objects in themselves that have withstood compression and change – albeit for a short period- as did the giant brachiopod fossils abundant at Chrome Hill. What do they contain?

buried book
Buried Book- Brian Holdcroft

Many would describe both artists’ work as abstract or expressive. Brian’s more so but the colours are naturalistic- and having experienced this area first hand- particular and precise. The work of both artist is lively and not always recognisable or descriptive, preferring to reveal its imagery and topography slowly as you immerse yourself into it, walk along with it, much as a landscape or a view unravels itself on a journey or by simply observing it quietly, in increments. In essence it’s all here.


The exhibition continues at Buxton Museum and Art Gallery until Saturday 23rd November 2019

More information on the artists can be found here:

Brian Holdcroft:

Tony Wild:

Gallery – Wild About Colour





The Chatsworth Serpent Pram

Archivist Ian Gregory examines an image of what has to be one of the most peculiar parenting aids ever imagined:

One of the many photographs in Buxton Museum & Art Gallery shows a rather unusual pram. It comes from Chatsworth and was made for the Dukes of Devonshire. Our photo was taken in 1930, but the pram looks older still. It was designed by William Kent in 1733. The pram is decorated with two snakes that writhe down from its hood to its wheels. The first impression is that it must’ve triggered nightmares in any babies travelling in it.

DERSB 56665

The reason for this decoration is that a snake is part of the Devonshire family crest. First impressions can mislead; when the pram was in use, those snakes didn’t stand over its little occupant. They would’ve stretched out in front and acted as a harness for a goat, dog or miniature horse that pulled the pram (or stroller, as it has been referred to). This would’ve been less oppressive for any child inside.

Why was there a snake on the family crest? Today the creatures are objects of revulsion for many people. “You snake in the grass” is an insult implying treachery. Snakebites are a frequent cause of death in the tropics. According to the Old Testament it was a snake that tempted Eve in the Garden of Eden.

There is another side to representation of snakes. As they grow, they shed a layer of old skin to reveal a new one underneath. This ability resulted in snakes becoming, at least in some cultures, symbols of renewal or immortality. Apex predators can become symbols of strength and courage as well as causes of terror; the lion is one obvious example. In Greek mythology, Asclepius the god of medicine, carried a staff with a snake entwined around it. Hermes, messenger of the gods, owned a staff with two serpents entwined on it.

Renaissance Baroque aristocrats were familiar with Classical history and mythology. They embarked on the Grand Tour to Italy and Greece They had country houses built in the Classical style, then filled them with ancient sculptures. Bearing this in mind, perhaps it isn’t so odd that they worked a serpent into the emblem of one of their greatest families.