COLUMN: Village was famous for weather essentials

Alfreton cc v Denby cc. Hardy cricket fans at alfreton.
Alfreton cc v Denby cc. Hardy cricket fans at alfreton.

With all the changeable weather we’re having it’s hard to know what to wear – even over your head.

A hat for sun? An umbrella for rain? Well one Derbyshire village – Bradwell or ‘Bradder’ – was once famous for both these items.

At one time the village was one of the most important lead mining settlements in the area. Mining was the trade of many men there.

When going underground, the miners needed light of course, but there were no battery head torches then. Instead they used candles, which they fixed on to the brim or top of their hats.

The hats they wore were similar in shape to the tin hats familiar to us from WW1 soldiers, or WW2 ARP wardens and indeed the shape of this local headgear is said to be the prototype of these later hats. The miners nicknamed the hats ‘Bradder Beavers’, and they were made from hardened felt.

An example of one of these hats can be seen on display at the Peak District Mining Museum at Matlock Bath.

As for umbrellas, Bradwell was also home to a man named Samuel Fox, who was born there in 1815.

Fox was the son of a shuttle maker – other trades in Bradwell included weaving and spinning.

He was a master wire drawer and, in the late 1800’s, poioneered and popularised steel umbrella frame ribs. From 1855 a similar product was also used to make Crinoline frames.

Until this time umbrella ribs had mainly been made of whale bone, for the more expensive ones and split cane for the cheaper ones, meaning they were quite heavy.

The new steel frames made the umbrellas a lot lighter. Samuel Fox standardised the sizes of the frames used so production was easier and also came up with the idea of a folding umbrella. When his son William Henry Fox joined the company around 1913 they adopted the trademark ‘Paragon’.

Samuel Fox also founded the Stocksbridge steelworks near Sheffield.

And seeing how an umbrella seems to be as much an accessory as a sun hat this summer so far, it’s nice to know Samuel made them a little more lightweight for us.