Lost explorer's archive to be revealed

The archive of a fabled arctic explorer from the East Midlands who disappeared 170 years ago is to be rediscovered thanks to our £25,000 grant.

Important papers relating to Sir John Franklin, who led the ships HMS Erebus and HMS Terror to discover the Northwest Passage are to be brought to life by our Record Office in Matlock following the grant from Archives Revealed.

Franklin’s ships set off in 1845 with 129 men on board.  After two years of no contact, many expeditions were sent out to find them.

None of the crew were found alive and the exact reasons for their deaths is still a mystery. The fate of the ships themselves was not discovered until Canadian archaeologists finally found the wrecks in 2014 and 2016.

The story of the flagship, HMS Erebus, is told in a new book by Michael Palin, released earlier this month.

Although Franklin spent much of his life in distant lands, he is firmly rooted in the East Midlands.

He was born in Spilsby, Lincolnshire, and his only daughter Eleanor married into the Gell family of Hopton Hall in Derbyshire.

Derbyshire County Council Leader and Cabinet Member for Strategic Leadership, Culture and Tourism, Councillor Barry Lewis, said:

“The fate of the Franklin Expedition has inspired countless books, songs, films and TV programmes.

“This archive tells an amazing story and we’re grateful to Archives Revealed for its grant which will enable us to share it with the world.”

The archive includes letters, diaries, pictures, books and objects, including one of Franklin’s last letters sent from Greenland just before the expedition was lost. There are also hundreds of letters relating to his two wives and daughter.

As part of the project the Derbyshire Record Office will be welcoming and training new volunteers to read the letters and bring their contents to light.

To keep up with progress on the project people can follow the Franklin Archive on Twitter, or the Record Office’s blog.

For more information about volunteering on the project people should email: record.office@derbyshire.gov.uk.

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