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A unique archive of a Derbyshire carriage maker with links to Rolls-Royce is now in the care of Derbyshire Record Office

The archive of Holmes & Co of Derby, carriage makers, was acquired for the county with generous grant funding from the Friends of the National Libraries and the Arts Council England/V&A Purchase Grant Fund.

As a result, the future of the archive has now been permanently secured at Derbyshire County Council’s record office in New Street, Matlock, and it will be catalogued and digitised so it can be made accessible to anyone who would like to use it.

The documents in the archive include beautiful pen-and-ink, watercolour and gouache drawings of carriage designs from the 1800s, a bound ledger detailing work commissioned by Queen Victoria from 1849-1861, photos of a landau (a four-wheeled enclosed carriage) that the Prince of Wales – later Edward VII – used during his tour of India in 1875-6 and the Maharajah of Kutch’s barouche (a four-wheeled carriage with collapsible hood).

In the age of the motor car the firm became Sanderson & Holmes, building car bodies for Rolls-Royce, and there are also photographs and drawings of early Rolls-Royce cars.

Derbyshire County Council Leader Councillor Barry Lewis, who is Cabinet Member for Strategic Leadership, Culture, Tourism and Climate Change, said: “This is a very exciting and valuable acquisition for Derbyshire Record Office. I’m delighted we have been able to secure it for the people of Derbyshire thanks to the funding we have received. What a story it can tell about how we used to travel in the 19th Century.”

Holmes & Co was founded in Lichfield in the 1760s and opened in Derby in the 1820s. The business created high-class carriages and had its works in London Road, Derby. The business wasn’t limited to Derby, however, and had a London showroom through which it reached a wider range of wealthy customers.

The archive is considered by The Carriage Foundation to be the largest amount of material connected to any one British coach maker to surface to date. Nothing on this scale, that can tell the entire story of one firm and allow researchers to make connections between people and their mode of transport, is known to exist.

The archive came up for auction in January this year, and The Carriage Foundation was able to secure temporary funds of £32,200 to buy it at auction to make sure it didn’t go out of the county and into private hands.

This gave Derbyshire Record Office time to apply for grants to buy the archive for the people of Derbyshire.

The Carriage Foundation was founded in Darley Dale, Matlock, and now works with museums and individuals across the globe.


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