Programme of Historical Talks
We currently offer ten illustrated talks relating to local history (listed below) which we are able to deliver to local community groups/interested parties. Each talk is delivered by an experienced local history speaker and takes the form of an illustrated ‘PowerPoint’ presentation and lasts around 45 minutes to one hour. For each talk, we usually ask for a £50 donation to our heritage organisation (all proceeds raised through talks help to cover costs of our continued community engagement activities and ongoing website maintenance and development). For further information, or to book a talk, please contact us (email: email@example.com).
1. 'Peak in the Past’ - The creation of an innovative historical documentary tv series exploring some of the darkest and most dramatic episodes of Peak District history
An overview of how a small Derbyshire heritage group embarked on a pioneering community-led online historical documentary tv series project. Supported by funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the project aims to showcase the beauty of the Peak District landscape whilst revealing intriguing aspects of history which lurk underneath and contribute to its enduring appeal. The project has involved a range of local people (from schoolchildren through to elderly residents in care homes) in its various community engagement activities.
2. 'The Peak District in the Mid 1900s’ - Life, leisure, school, work and play in the Peak District in the 1930s/1940s/1950s
Journey deep into the Peak District, and back in time to the mid-20th-century, as we take a nostalgic trip down memory lane. Illustrated by photographs, newspaper articles and other archive sources from the period, as well as recently-captured reminiscences from older people whose memories stretch back to the 1930s, this talk aims to evoke a sense of what life was like for people living in the Peak District through the Second World War years (and the decades either side) and reflects on just how times have changed from then to now!
3. ‘The Peak District’s Pauper Past’ - A powerful portrait of the lives of paupers in the Peak District from the 17th-19th centuries, as revealed through historical ‘parish chest’ and workhouse records
Discover the fascinating lives of paupers of the Peak District's past, as we lift the lid on the old church ‘parish chest’ and reveal a wealth of under-used ‘settlement and removal’ records, created following the ‘Old Poor Law’ Act of 1601. We also look at surviving workhouse records, created by the ‘New Poor Law’ of 1834, which led to establishment of the dreaded ‘Union Workhouse’ system. We show how examining such sources can give a powerful sense of the past lives and hardships of some of the poorest people in society, as they struggled to eke out an existence in a remote and inhospitable landscape, and whose voices ordinarily would not survive from their time.
4. 'In Pursuit of a Peak District Pensioner Criminal’ - The Life and Crimes of Annie Burke (born c. 1843, date of death unknown)
The remarkable tale of one of the most prolific and ‘incorrigible’ offenders ever to leave their mark in Derbyshire Police records. Blazing a trail of petty crime across Derbyshire, Staffordshire, Nottinghamshire and Yorkshire, from the 1870s to at least 1916, Annie Burke’s life is both well chronicled (with her multiple offences documented in a range of police, court and newspaper records) but also shrouded in mystery (due to her itinerant lifestyle, her use of multiple aliases and habitual deceit and lies!). This is a gripping story of how one extraordinary woman sought to continually evade the long-arm of the law over many decades and across county boundaries at a time when police were increasingly armed with improved crime-detecting methods (e.g. greater information sharing across forces, developments in photography and new finger-printing technology). Did Annie succeed in her boldly-stated aim of wanting to rack up a century of separate criminal convictions? It is also a moving human story of hardship, resilience and sheer defiance in the face of poverty, suffering and persistent and painful punishment. Discover also how to use local historical sources to try to 'catch your own criminal' from the past!
5. ‘Dictator in a Democracy’ - Dr Du Guard Peach and the Legendary Great Hucklow Village Players 1927-1971
The incredible story of how a tiny, remote Peakland village produced one of the most celebrated amateur theatre groups in the country, achieving international fame and attracting audience-members from far-flung corners of the world. Drawing on the memoirs of the group’s charismatic founder Dr Lawrence Du Guard Peach, archival research and photographs of the group’s key personalities and most iconic productions, alongside recently-captured reminiscences of one of the last surviving trustees of the group (which was wound up in 1971 after 44 years of play producing), we enable the Great Hucklow Village Players to take centre stage once again, and bring their dramatic story to life.
6. ‘The Guests and Ghosts of Lady Bower House’ - A look inside the guest book and peek behind the doors of Lady Bower House to reveal the remarkable personalities who once wined and dined within its walls, 1895-1916
Nestled in woodland overlooking Ladybower Reservoir looms an imposing Victorian home, Lady Bower House, once the country residence of Arthur Wightman (1842-1924) JP, a hugely respected (and well-connected) Sheffield lawyer who also played a prominent role in public life. Wightman entertained some of the leading lights of Sheffield’s high society at the turn of the 20th century in this house. It was a place where fine wine and sparkling conversation flowed, where business deals were done and romantic liaisons forged. We throw open the guestbook of Lady Bower house, alongside a wonderful accompanying series of photographs, to reveal the colourful cast of people who graced its walls in the late Victorian / Edwardian period - some of the most influential local people of their day!
7. ‘Faithful in Difficulties’ - The Lives of the “Leadswingers”, creators of the First World War trench magazine of the 3rd West Riding Field Ambulance Service, 1915-1919
‘Faithful in Difficulties’ (In Arduis Fidelis) was their regimental motto. In between saving lives on the First World War battlefields of Flanders, including at the bloody battles of the Somme and Passchendaele, a small band of young Royal Army Medical Corps servicemen from Sheffield, with shared artistic and literary interests, came together to produce a trench magazine chronicling “the lighter side of war”. Delightfully illustrated, ‘The Leadswinger’ was packed with humorous articles, witty cartoons, imaginative short stories and poems but the contributors hid behind pen names, concealing their true identities. We unmask the men behind the magazine and reveal the remarkable characters at its heart, including the dashing doctor and VC hero whose post-war life would later be blighted by opium addiction, and the eccentric violinist turned cartoonist who would go on to inspire and mentor a young Quentin Blake and help change the face of illustration as we know it.
8. ‘Peak District Centenarians’ - The extraordinary long lives of some of the Peak District’s oldest ever residents
Nowadays, it is not uncommon for people to live into their 100s. But, in previous centuries, attaining the age of 100 was an unusual and much celebrated feat and the Peak District has boasted more than its fair share of centenarians. “Peaklanders”, as the early 20th-century local historian Seth Evans observed, “are noted for their longevity”. We examine the fascinating lives of some of the Peak District’s oldest ever residents from past centuries, unearthing remarkable personal stories as well as notable historical events the centenarians have lived through (including the experiences of a former maid at Windsor Castle and a veteran of the American War of Independence). From darning socks to downing a daily glass of beer…we also reveal some of the secrets credited for their extraordinarily long and fulfilling lives!
9. 'From Historic Halls to Hikers’ Hostels' - The establishment of the early Youth Hostels in the Peak District, 1931-1939
An exploration of the Peak District’s pioneering part in the UK’s nascent Youth Hostel movement where a chain of “Mansion Hostels” were established across the region in the 1930s, widely acknowledged at the time to be the finest in the country. The decade saw former grand private country residences (home for generations to wealthy, elite members of local aristocracy) such as Derwent Hall, Hartington Hall, Ilam Hall, Ravenstor, Overton Hall, Bennetston Hall, Tor Dale and Leam Hall, taken over and repurposed as state-of-the-art Youth Hostels, and thrown open to the masses. These once exclusive settings were suddenly host to ramblers, cyclists and young people of very modest means, who were now able to enjoy affordable Peak District stays in salubrious settings for a mere “shilling a night”. The Peak District Youth Hostels in the 1930s accommodated visitors from as far afield as India, USA and Germany, including (somewhat ignominiously) members of the Hitler Youth, before going on to offer sanctuary to Czech refugees fleeing Nazi persecution at the end of the decade. We highlight the important role these trailblazing Peak District Youth Hostels had in helping to open up and democratise the local landscape for the wider public, instilling and inspiring a love of the outdoors and appreciation of the environment in the young, and helping to preserve and safeguard the natural beauty of the region.
10. 'Caribbean Cricket Pioneer in the Peaks' - The story of trailblazing cricketer Charles Augustus Ollivierre (1876-1949) and his mark on the Peak District
Join us on a remarkable journey from the south Caribbean island of St Vincent to the High Peak in Derbyshire in the Summer of 1900 as we explore the Peak District connections of pioneering cricketer Charles Augustus Ollivierre (1876-1949), the first black West Indian to play county cricket in England. From 1900 - 1910, we follow in Ollivierre's footsteps as he travelled extensively through the Peak District and surrounding area and encounter some of the intriguing cricketing characters he met along the way. Ollivierre’s Peak District ventures came through playing county cricket for Derbyshire, as well as the club sides of Glossop and Darley Dale he represented, and also regular outings for a mysterious local touring side - the evocatively-named Wye Valley Wanderers. This "cricketing adventure story" highlights how, throughout the Peak District and beyond in the early 1900s, Ollivierre enthralled the crowds, won many friends and admirers, challenged racial prejudices and misconceptions about people of African-Caribbean heritage of the time, and helped encourage and inspire a new generation of cricket lovers in the region.