Our Missing Nightwatchmen

by Derbyshire Record Office in Matlock, England, United Kingdom

We did it
On 6th July 2021 we successfully raised £3,520 with 132 supporters in 7 days

We want to buy this Nightwatchmen's report book from the 1830s, so it can be kept in Derbyshire and made freely available for all to see

by Derbyshire Record Office in Matlock, England, United Kingdom

 The Nightwatchmen

By 1833, the cotton spinning company o1624617165_nightwatchman_detail.jpgf W G & J Strutt employed 2,000 people in its Belper mills. With so much invested in the town, it also ran its own mini police force in the shape of half a dozen nightwatchmen. As well as checking the water levels and the new-fangled gas lighting, the nightwatchmen also silently patrolled the town to apprehend any ne’er-do-wells.  Saturday nights were a particularly busy time for the watchmen as the people of Belper let off steam after a week of hard work.  

The Nightwatchmen’s reports

1624617328_book_008.jpgThe nightwatchmen recorded Belper's nightly disturbances in their notebooks. These were then handed in to the Head Clerk in Strutt's Counting House who put all the information into this book of weekly reports. The book now give us a unique insight in the daily lives of the ordinary people who lived there.  In the small town of Belper, the nightwatchmen were friends and neighbours of the people they encountered on their patrols, which means they recorded their names and where they lived in their reports.

For instance, on 28 June 1835 nightwatchman Samuel Taylor reported “at 10 a disturbance at Long Row with John Bridges (Tailor), Thomas Whittingham, John Greaterick and John Aulton (from Cow Hill) all fighting together. Occasioned by Bridges going after Whittingham's daughter of which her Father did not approve. The Mother of Bridges received a very severe blow from Whittingham by which her eyes were blackened.”


 Bringing the Nightwatchmen home

1624617400_lien_holding_book_004.jpgThis book of reports from 1833 to 1836 has been missing for decades, but has now resurfaced and is up for sale for £3000. We want to buy it and bring it back to Derbyshire, where it can be well looked after and made freely available for everyone to look at and enjoy at Derbyshire Record Office.  There will be so much more to discover, once the watchmen's reports are where they belong.

It would be a tragedy if this unique insight in Derbyshire history disappeared into private hands again, so donate now to bring the nightwatchmen home.


This project offers rewards in return for your donation.

£25 or more

Exclusive online talk

Belper Historical Society's Adrian Farmer will give an exclusive online talk about the report book and its place in the history of Belper. You'll be sent a link to join him live on Thursday 28 October at 7.00pm or to watch the recording afterwards.

£5 or more

Thank you certificate

Receive an e-certificate featuring images of the book, thanking you for contributing to the project.

£15 or more

Adopt the Nightwatchmen

Receive a personalised adoption e-certificate for the book.

£40 or more

11 of 20 claimed

Unique guided tour of Belper

Adrian Farmer will be your guide for a unique walk around Belper, following into the footsteps of our Nightwatchmen and the people they observed. Three walks will be organised in the spring of 2022, so you will have a choice of which one to attend, and you can even bring a friend as this reward entitles you two places on the walk. You will also receive a link to Adrian's online talk.

£50 or more

Join the Nightwatchmen

Have your name linked to the Nightwatchmen forever as it gets included in the Record Office's online catalogue, thereby showing all future generations how you helped bring the Nightwatchmen home. You will also be able to join one of Adrian Farmer's guided tours and attend his online talk.

£100 or more

2 of 10 claimed

Private tour of Belper

Arrange your own private tour of Belper with Adrian Farmer for up to six people. Follow in the Nightwatchmen's footsteps on a mutually convenient day in the spring of 2022. Your name will be included in the Record Office's online catalogue and you will also be able to attend Adrian's online talk.

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