World Heritage Site Discovery Days 2012

Matt Edwards is giving a talk about the Enlightenment! project on Friday 2nd November, 1pm – 2pm at Derby Museum and Art Gallery.

There will be a chance to see some of Derby Museums’ purchases up close and personal at the end of the talk.  It is FREE but places are limited so please call Gwen Wilson , Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site Administrator, during office hours on 01629 536831.

The talk is part of the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site Discovery Days.  The festival is in its eighth year and there are over 160 events happening up and down the Valley between 27th October and 4th November.  You can see the full programme here.

I’ll just flag up a few events that might be of particular interest:

Joseph Wright’s Derby

Saturday 27th October

11.00am -12.30pm, starting from the Joseph Wright Gallery at Derby Museum and Art Gallery. FREE. Suitable for adults. Booking is essential on 01629 536831 (office hours only).

Internationally respected 18th century artist, Joseph Wright, had a strong connection to Derby – the place he lived, worked and died. Join the Assistant Head of Museums, Jonathan Wallis, for this fascinating walk around Joseph Wright’s Derby.


Joseph Wright’s Life and Work

Thursday 1st Nov

1.00pm – 2.00pm, Derby Museum and Art Gallery. FREE. Suitable for adults. Booking is essential on 01629 536831 (office hours only).

Join the Assistant Head of Museums, Jonathan Wallis, for his ever-popular talk on the life and work of the internationally renowned 18th century artist, Joseph Wright.


John Smedley’s Mill – 228 Years of Production at Lea Bridge

Saturday 3rd Nov

7.30pm at the Gothic Warehouse, Cromford Wharf. FREE. Pre-booking recommended on 01629 536831 (office hours only).

Illustrated talk by Jane Middleton-Smith, to include the history of the mill, the Smedley family and the project to catalogue the company’s unique heritage.

Arkwright Housing – From Cottages to Grand Houses

Sunday 4th Nov

2.00pm – 3.30pm, from outside the Greyhound Inn, Cromford Market Place. FREE. Pre-booking recommended on 01629 536831 (office hours only).

Barry Joyce reveals recent research on Alison House, one of the lesser known Arkwright Houses, on a walk from Cromford Village, past the housing built for the mill-workers on North Street.

‘Revealing the World’ exhibition at Buxton Museum and Art Gallery

Last week we opened our latest exhibition at Buxton Museum and Art Gallery, ‘Revealing the World’. The exhibition looks at the curios and artefacts brought back by travellers, scientists and explorers who travelled the world. The exhibition includes loans from the British Museum, Derby Museum Service and Bakewell Old House Museum, and includes some of our Enlightenment! purchases. Other items were donated by Enlightenment figures with Derbyshire links such as Joseph Banks and Thomas Bateman.

On display there is an oil painting called ‘Near Tokyo’ by Frank Beresford that Derby Museum and Art Gallery bought from Ebay earlier this year. Frank Beresford was born in Derby in 1881 and trained at the Derby School of Art. In 1908 – 1909 he went to Japan on a painting tour, you can find out more about the artist and his visit to Japan here.

The other two loans from Derby Museum Service look at how far-away places influenced fashions and designs back home. On display are the two Derby Porcelain plates that the project bought in 2009. The plates painted by John Brewer show Arctic scenes including a Newfoundland dog rescuing a sailor and a rather docile looking Polar Bear. Their production shows the level of interest in the Arctic explorations that were happening at the time.

Another loan from Derby is a mettzotint of Joseph Wright’s painting ‘The Widow of an Indian Chief Watching the Arms of her deceased husband’ – showing the fascination there was for the image of the ‘Nobile Savage’ in late 18th century Britain.

Other loans include a pyramidion collected and donated to the British Museum by Sir John Wilkinson Gardner, an Aleut Indian canoe donated by Joseph Banks and three Peruvian figures collected by Thomas Bateman.

The exhibition is free and runs until the 24th November.

Derby Mechanics Institute, Cromford Bridge & Smedley’s Hydro

We have recently bought four items from Grosvenor Prints in London. Derby Museum and Art Gallery have added a trade card and memorial poster to their collection and Buxton Museum have an engraving and piece of headed stationary.

Exhibition memorial

The memorial is to the ‘splendid exhibition of works of art and productions of nature in the Animal Vegetable and Mineral Kingdoms’ which was opened in the Mechanics’ Institution in Derby on May 13, 1839.

‘This truly splendid Exhibition by bringing together into one focus such a vast assemblage of wonderful and interesting objects, it affords to thousands an opportunity of viewing and examining…’

‘The Derby Mechanics’ Institution was established April, 1825, under the auspices of Joseph Strutt, Esq, the president, the late William Strutt, Esq, and several patrons of education in the town and neighbourhood, who liberally entered their names as donors and annual subscribers to the Institution’.

This broadside poster was printed by J Chadfield at the institution during the exhibition. The image of the printing press toward the bottom of the page is a Columbian ‘Eagle’ Press with its trademark Eagle counterweight. Broadsides throughout history have been one of the most popular printed formats. Printed on single sheets of paper and printed on one side only; broadsides were used to inform the public about current news and events.

This purchase nicely compliments an engraving of the Mechanics’ Institution by Samuel Rayner, 1839 that Derby Museum already has. Some of the objects in the picture are still in the museum’s collection today namely ‘Romeo and Juliet’ by Joseph Wright which can be seen on the far wall on the left.

Trade card

Inscribed ‘O. Jewitt, Engraver on Wood, Duffield, Near Derby’. The scenes depicts Orlando Jewitt’s house in a border of flowers. He was born in Buxton in 1799.





Headed stationary, 1860

Headed stationary from Smedley’s Hydro Establishment, Matlock. There is a hand written note on the reverse relating to the transfer of £1000.



Cromford Bridge at the entrance to Matlock Vale, 1830.

Derby Porcelain & John Boydell

A Derby porcelain lozenge shaped dessert dish, c.1790

This dish has a white ground with a cobalt blue border and is gilded with eight small reserves containing a rose. The oval central reserve is bordered by a fine blue overgilded line and contains a landscape showing a river scene with a bridge, windmill, castle, house and three figures.

The roses on the border were probably painted by Derby porcelain artist William Billingsley (1758–1828) and the central reserve painted by Zachariah Boreman (1736 – 1810). The dish dates from the Duesbury period, circa 1790. It is marked with the numeral 1 for the gilder Thomas Soar.



A Derby porcelain oval shaped dessert dish, c.1820

This dish has a cobalt blue ground, a gilded arrowhead border and a gadrooned rim.  The large central reserve contains a townscape of Derby viewed from the weir on the River Derwent.  It depicts St. Marys Church and the Shot Tower and was possibly painted by Daniel Lucas.

It dates from the Bloor period, circa 1820 and is marked ‘Bloor Derby’ enclosing crown in red printed circular mark.




Portrait of John Boydell (1720-1804)

Mezzotint published 1772                                 
Valentine Green after Josiah Boydell

John Boydell was one of the richest and most powerful print publishers of the late 18th century. He started his career as an engraver and eventually saved enough money to establish his own print publishing business.  He acquired the license to reproduce paintings by Thomas Smith of Derby.  His print shop in Londonwas well patronised by travellers and people wanting to look fashionable and knowledgeable.

Valentine Green is considered to be one of the greatest mezzotint engravers of the 18th century.  Green produced affordable mezzotints after the paintings of the most leading and contemporary artists of his day, including Joseph Wright.


What is mezzotint?

The mezzotint is a form of engraving, or intaglio printmaking. Unlike linear engraving methods, in which the desired image is incised and ‘scooped’ out of a metal plate creating a sharply defined line, mezzotint involves the roughening of a metal surface (the resulting texture is called the ‘burr’), which enables the achievement of smooth gradations of tone. The result is an impression that appears velvety and painterly. Due to the finely worked surface of mezzotint plates, the lines of the engraving were easily worn away by the production of repeat impressions, so the first and darkest impressions were considered the most valuable and of the highest quality.

The Chatsworth Attic Sale

At the beginning of October Chatsworth House held a three day auction of furniture and personal artefacts belonging to the Devonshire family.  With over 20,000 objects for sale we felt sure that there would be some interesting and Enlightenment related lots.  The catalogue was excitedly passed around and Ros Westwood, Derbyshire Museums Manager went to have a look at some of the objects in person.

We decided to bid on lot 279, lot 423 and lot 453.  Things started off well as we successfully secured lot 279 – the lot we were most interested in.  We are now the proud owners of six John Bluck early 19th century prints of Derbyshire that show scenes of popular places such as Dovedale and Matlock Bath. 

Things didn’t go as smoothly on the other two lots as the hammer fell way above their estimated price (and our bid!).  The first was an Ashford Black Marble table that went for a whopping £19,000 which was four times its estimate.  The table was unusual as it featured a dragonfly and a large band of Duke’s Red marble.  The second item was a patch box –  a souvenir of Buxton – that also soared past its £150 – £200 estimate and realised £1000. 

These two lots weren’t in anyway unusual in smashing their estimates; it was a general theme of the auction.  It seemed that the allure of owning something linked to the great house and the Devonshire family put an understandable premium on everything.  Perhaps the most extreme example is of a brooch that went for 106 times its estimate.  The brooch belonged to the Dowager Duchess of Devonshire and was estimated at £80 – £100, the hammer fell at £8,500.   The total auction raised nearly £6.5 million, which was £4 million more than expected. 

The six prints that Enlightenment! bought will be undergoing some conservation work and should hopefully go on display at Buxton Museum and Art Gallery next year.

The changing face of Matlock Bath

Matlock Bath 1870This engraving, also purchased from the antiques fair at Buxton in May shows Matlock Bath in in 1840. If you travel along the A6 today, you can still see the obelisk on the corner of Temple Road

Coming of the railway age

Buxton and Matlock Railway 1863These These engravings are from The illustrated London News and show scenes of the newly completed railway line from Buxton to Matlock in 1863. They were purchased from an antiques fair in Buxton in May 2009.