Letters from the past

County archivist Mark Smith with one of the historical letters.
County archivist Mark Smith with one of the historical letters.

NOWADAYS, with the advent of email and social networking websites, letter writing is a dying art...

But the once-popular pastime was remembered and celebrated during a special event at Derbyshire Record Office, in Matlock, when members of the public had the chance to read dozens of attention-grabbing missives penned between 1394 and 1973.

The two-hour exhibition displayed humorous tales of schoolboy antics, dramatic accounts about war and heart-warming declarations of love – all pulled from the archive at Derbyshire Record Office.

Archivist Mark Smith said: “There was a wonderful selection of letters; some funny, some moving, some romantic and all evocative of times gone by.”

One set shows an exchange between two lovers, Derbyshire RAF man Harry Dance and Monica Soppitt, both separated as a result of the Second World War. “I feel sorry for all those girls who haven’t got a sweetheart like mine,” wrote a loved-up Monica. “Bless you darling.

Also on display were missives from well-known names including George Bernard Shaw, Lord Byron and Florence Nightingale.

According to a poll, letter writing is a dying art among techno-savvy youngsters.

But Mr Smith was keen to reinforce the benefits of putting pen to paper: “If you get a handwritten letter, you know it’s been penned by someone who cares. It’s a very personal form of communication.”

l Do you have any old letters you’d like to share with our readers? What do they say? Email comment@derbyshiretimes.co.uk.

michael.broomhead

@derbyshiretimes.co.uk