The Countdown has begun...
In 2018 major building works, taking approximately 18 months, will begin at Derby's Silk Mill. This will be a complete refurbishment of the fabric of the World Heritage Site, repairing many years of enforced neglect, removing asbestos, installing new floors & environmental controls and generally making the building fit to house a 21st century museum. Before this work begins the building has to be emptied. Completely. Everything from the model railway, the huge Buckton crane, the RB211 jet engine and the entirety of Derby Museum's extensive collections. And us. All will be temporarily rehoused.
While we are in our temporary home we will have access to all our documents and so will be able to offer a service of some form. The exact details of this are still being worked out. However, during the period of “the Decant” from the Silk Mill, everything will be in packing cases and completely inaccessible.
The implication of this is such that from late September 2017, for up to six months, the Midland Railway Study Centre will be completely closed — both to visitors and, for all practical purposes, to on-line enquiries. In the latter case we will continue to do what we can, utilising resources which are already digitised, but this will be only a small amount of what is normally available to us.
If you are considering any Midland Railway related research in the coming months or into 2018, now is the time to do it!
To facilitate this we are making study appointments available every Wednesday up to the point we have to close. The exact closure date is still uncertain, but is likely to be late September. As usual we have to insist on prior appointments for visiting to ensure we have volunteers available to help you — please don't just turn up. Contact details are at the bottom of each page on this site.
The logistics of the Decant will undoubtedly be very labour intensive. If you fancy helping out, either in the short term for us in the Midland Railway Study Centre or, even better, throughout the process of emptying the whole of the building, please get in touch. You will be made very, very welcome!
An update on the Silk Mill “Decant”
Following the successful bid for funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund in 2015, work in planning the “Derby Silk Mill Museum of Making” is getting into full swing. Bauman Lyons Architects of Leeds have been appointed to develop the design for the building and see the project through. Meanwhile, specialists in developing inspirational visitor environments, Leach Studio of Huddersfield, have been appointed to help “develop the look and feel of the exhibition and learning spaces”.
One of the most significant steps toward that objective is extensive work required on the fabric of the building itself. Having watched the building almost completely burn to the ground in 1910, our Edwardian forebears were determined to ensure that it wouldn't happen again. So, as it was rebuilt, they used a lot of asbestos to make it fireproof. That has all got to come out, and only then can the work of carrying out vital repairs to the structure itself be completed. Throughout all that the building has to be completely empty, meaning that 55,000 objects and documents from our part of the building alone will need “decanting” to temporary storage for the duration.
At this point we are expecting this task to begin in earnest in September 2017, though as will be imagined, preparations are already underway. Whilst it is inevitable that all our collection will be inaccessible during the decant, probably for the rest of 2017, we are optimistic that we will be able to make most of our documents available to researchers while in temporary storage. Even so, if you have a Midland Railway related research project “bubbling under” now, and into early 2017, is really the time to get stuck into it if you're going to want the help of our collections.
The logistics of the Decant are now being planned. One thing we are sure we will never have enough of is volunteers to get stuck in to the packing, lifting and shifting. If you're local to Derby, are in reasonably fit condition and want a worthwhile outlet for all those spare hours you have each week, we would be delighted to hear from you!
As for our place in the revamped Silk Mill ... The Derby Silk Mill Museum of Making ... the exact details have yet to be worked out, though we are certainly going to be in a different part of the building when we return in late 2019.
Exciting and busy times ahead.
The Midland Railway Society
and the Roy F. Burrows Collection Trust
have merged into a single organisation
Following the approval of the Midland Railway Society membership and the Charity Commission, the two registered charities have become a single entity operating under the name and charitable registration of the Midland Railway Society.
A new constitution for the Midland Railway Society has taken effect and the governance of the Midland Railway Study Centre becomes the responsibility of a new Collection Committee. An extremely helpful benefit of the merger has been the agreement of Derby Museums to provide a representative to sit on the MRS Collection Committee, thereby cementing the link that the Midland Railway Study Centre depends on.
Settle Grass Rights
As part of our ongoing project to transcribe handwritten documents into a searchable format, and thanks to the work of Peter Berry, we have added a short document which details the people who lived in the Settle area of Yorkshire to whom the Midland Railway had sold the rights to harvest grass on the railway embankments in 1903. A small but fascinating insight to an activity incidental to the Company's activities of running trains.
The Derby Museum Model Railway
Although the Midland Railway Study Centre has no direct connection with the model railway with which we share the first floor of the Silk Mill, we are often asked about it. Work on the model is continuing slowly but very surely by a small band of volunteers. To help highlight their work and showcase the model railway we are delighted to provide a small corner of this web site dedicated to the “Kirtley” model railway.
Tales from the Ben Taylor Collection
A recent addition to the Midland Railway Study Centre collection is a batch of 136 staff record sheets relating to Derby's "No.4 Shed" that span much of the mid-20th Century — including many former Midland men. These have now been transcribed and added to our Staff Records Database. While all the records are fascinating, some contain particularly notable details and interesting stories. The "Ben Taylor Tales" provide a tantalising glimpse into the life & times of Derby Four Shed as the Midland Railway gave way to the LMS and early British Railways period.
Multi-Million Pound Grant for Derby Museums
On 20th May, Derby Museums announced that their bid for funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund had been successful. This prompted significant publicity, both for Derby and a similar successful bid by the Great Central Railway for a museum project in conjunction with the NRM. Inevitably the question has been asked how Derby Museums’ success will affect the Midland Railway Study Centre: The answer is that it is of course incredibly good news.
The bid that Derby Museums made to the HLF is in support of a plan to relaunch the Silk Mill as The Museum of Making. In this sense, by "making" they mean both "manufacturing" (past, present and future) as well as how Derby was "made". By that definition, railways in general, and the Midland Railway specifically, are central to the story they want to tell.
The cost of the project, including the building works badly needed to get the Silk Mill back in good shape, the cost of moving everything out while the building work is being done, and then setting up the new Museum of Making, is estimated as £16.4M. The HLF earmarked grant is £9.4M. Derby City Council have earmarked £4M and the rest is to be raised from various smaller grants and donations.
The Museum has been given £817,300 up-front to fund the detailed development of the plans. They then need to go back to HLF for approval of those plans for the full £9.4M to be released for the redevelopment to commence.
The original plan was for everything to be done and the Silk Mill fully reopened by 2020. However, June 2019 sees the centenary of Alcock & Brown’s historic first trans-Atlantic flight -- an event of global significance. As one of the Derby-made Rolls Royce Eagle engines from that flight is held in the Museum they want to celebrate the centenary, and that will now shape the timetable for reopening.
Although only a very broad concept at this stage, the Museum of Making has been described to us along these lines: The ground floor will, as now, be an exhibition and meeting space, with workshops and cafe. The location of the Midland Railway Study Centre in the revamped building isn't decided yet but it is likely it will remain on the first floor. The model railway, also on the first floor, has a much more certain future now -- what better medium can there be to convey the idea of "making"? The top floor, we are told, will be an "open store". The Museum have set an ambitious target of having all of their collections immediately available to visitors, either on show or digitally. This will also provide an opportunity to display the RFBMCT/MRS collections in a way that has hitherto eluded us. Think of it as something like the Warehouse at the NRM - but given the amount of Midland Railway material it will contain (and with respect to our "Partner in Excellence") we beleive it will be much better!
The downside to all this is that it is inevitable that the Study Centre and its contents will be completely inaccessible for an extended period while building work is carried out. Though far from set-in-stone, this is likely to take place in 2018-2019.
Obviously much more public consultation and the detailed planing for the project will now get underway.