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Horrobyn Histories – Leila’s Story

Leila, in collaboration with Harry, is here to give us the 6th instalment of our historical research updates…


Leila, Elspeth, Hilary and Kay hard at work researching history!


My recent visits to the Record Offices in Matlock and Lichfield have proved enjoyable and very interesting. With expert help and guidance from our historian Dr Simon Harris we have gained valuable experience in researching old manuscripts (which are handwritten on parchment, vellum or old handwritten paper), some dating back as far back as the 1600’s. The old written styles and wording from this period could sometimes prove a bit of a task to decipher though !

At Matlock, we traced the tenancies of the Horrobins and several other local families as far back as we could, through the old rent rolls of Sir John Harpur’s estate. At Lichfield, we looked at the baptism, marriage and burial records for these same family names.

Sad to see were frequent burials at a young age or multiple members of the same family dying within a short space of time, even a baby baptised one day and buried the next.

Also interesting to note in these records are the number of babies born to servant girls – with no father named !

An interesting additional ” note to the ledger ” dated 25th May 1771: “Joseph Baker came to apply at Longnor and offered to pay 2/6 (2shillings and 6 pence ) per annum for a cottage in Heathilea called Baker’s Folly , from Lady Day 1770. He is a poor old man and intends to set it out to an under tenant. It has been enclosed from the common about 14 years, during which time has never paid any rent or acknowledgement .”

Whilst looking at some of the documents at Matlock Record Office , Harry and I were discussing the difference between the ” vellum ” and “parchment “, on which some of the manuscripts were written.

VELLUM is made from calfskin (the name is derived from the Latin word ” vitulinum”, meaning “made from calf” ). It is smooth and durable and of a finer quality than parchment.

PARCHMENT was generally made from the skin of a sheep or goat and is slightly thinner than vellum, though it can still be of good quality. Holes which are occasionally found in pieces of parchment can be due to the animal having had a parasitic blow- fly infestation (the larvae of which , if they get too numerous , can attack the living tissue of the animal ,sometimes resulting in a quick and agonising death).

Today one manuscript quality A4 parchment sheet costs around £26.00, and an A4 vellum sheet  £41.00 .

Leila and Harry.

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