Our Record Office has teamed up with Belper Historical Society to launch the crowdfunding campaign, called 'Our Missing Nightwatchmen', with the aim of raising £3,000 to buy the book and ensuring it is available for all to see.
The book is currently privately owned and has been lost to the public for decades, but after being re-discovered by its owners and put up for sale, the Record Office team and the Belper Historical Society are keen it isn’t lost to the public again.
The history behind the logbook started with the cotton spinning company WG & J Strutt which by 1833 employed 2,000 people in its Belper mills. With so much invested in the town, the company also ran its own mini police force in the shape of half a dozen nightwatchmen.
As well as checking the water levels and the gas lighting, the nightwatchmen also patrolled the town to apprehend any 'ne’er-do-wells', and the original book of weekly nightwatchmen reports from 1833-1836 gives a glimpse into what went on in Belper after dark.
Council Leader and Cabinet Member for Strategic Leadership, Culture, Tourism and Climate Change Councillor Barry Lewis said:
“This is an excellent example of our enterprising council supporting the local community and all of us working together to safeguard Derbyshire’s rich history.
“If we get opportunities to bring fascinating works which give us an insight into the social history of the time back into the public domain then we should try to take them. We’re hoping the crowdfunding campaign will help us to bring back our missing nightwatchmen.”
Belper historian Adrian Farmer said:
“This is such an exciting find. Studying the reports provides a taste of what was happening outside the hours of the working day, and how these brave men tackled many a confrontation armed with just a trusty truncheon.”
The crowdfunding campaign is launched today (Thursday 1 July 2021) and will run all month, with the aim of 'bringing the nightwatchmen home'.
If successfully purchased, the book will be kept at the Derbyshire Record Office, in New Street, Matlock, where it will be freely available for everyone to look at.
Rewards are up for grabs for anyone who contributes to the crowdfunding, including exclusive access to Adrian Farmer’s online talk telling the stories of the nightwatchmen and the people they apprehended, and guided tours of Belper, walking in the footsteps of the nightwatchmen.
Donate to the crowdfunder and choose a reward.
The record office will be tweeting snippets from the book as well as updates about the project on The Record Office Twitter account.