Bolsover railway flood and Hathersage hermit cave snapshots among 5,500 historic Derbyshire postcards up for auction

Old postcards charting the social history of Derbyshire are anticipated to raise around £10,000 when they go under the auctioneer’s hammer.

By Gay Bolton
Friday, 9th April 2021, 8:53 pm
Updated Friday, 9th April 2021, 8:54 pm
Floodwater gushing down onto the railway track at Bolsover didn't stop these men from having their photo taken before the First World War.
Floodwater gushing down onto the railway track at Bolsover didn't stop these men from having their photo taken before the First World War.

Avid collector Tim Hale has spent half a century buying 5,500 cards from specialist fairs and private sources. He said: "I have always been interested in photography and local history, so the combination naturally led to postcards.

"Postcards that I bought for 50p or a couple of pounds 20 years ago are now fetching £10 or more.”

Among his Edwardian era collection is a postcard of Hermit’s Cave at Hathersage where a 17-year-old boy made his home in 1910 after finding a hollow in a hillside, covering it in turf and tree branches and making a fireplace out of flat stones. The teenager survived on provisions allegedly stolen from a grocery shop in the village and later appeared in court charged with breaking and entering.

Postcard depicting the Hermit's Cave at Hathersage which was inhabited by a 17-year-old boy.

Another interesting postcard shows a pageant of Youlgreave’s Ancient Order of Foresters, the only clue to its date is the picture on the front which has a banner imprinted with 1914.

Tim, who lives in Fulwood, Sheffield, said: “It is impossible to choose a favourite, there are so many great photos among the collection.

"There are some amazing cards of Derwent and Ashopton, now flooded under the dams.”

When Tim began collecting postcards, his main focus was on Sheffield. He said: “Several villages were part of Derbyshire so it seemed a natural extension.”

Opening ceremony at Derwent Valley Waterworks in 1912 but the message on the back of the postcard shared news of a tragedy.

Parkinsons Disease makes it difficult for Tim, 68, to handle the postcards which is why he is selling them. He said: “I plan to make a donation to the Parkinson’s society, but the rest will go to my daughters, who are in the process of moving house and need every penny they can scrape together.”

Two years ago Tim put his prized collection of 10,000 postcards of Sheffield up for auction and they raised more than £20,000.

His treasure trove of Derbyshire postcards, which range from post 1880 to the early part of the 20th century, are the largest collection of county-themed postcards that Sheffield Auction Gallery has handled.

Auctioneer John Morgan said: “One of the most emotional is a 1912 postcard of Derwent Valley Dams which later became known as Ladybower. That particular postcard has a story of a lady telling her friend that the 18-year-old son of one of her friends had been killed that morning by having his legs chopped off by a train while trying to post the mail.

Youlgreave's Ancient Order of Foresters pageant on a postcard, date unknown.

"I often refer to postcards as stories of two sides, most people collect them for the pictures but what is written on the back is very insightful.

A pre-First World War postcard shows a group of men in Bolsover trying to protect the railway line from flooding. John said: “They’ve all stopped work and are stood on the railway line with the flood water in the background! Most of the railway was washed away and the line was closed for some time after.” The postcard was sent to Mrs Crisp in Birmingham but makes no mention of the flooding.

John said: "Postcards are a snapshot in time, giving a sense of social history both through the pictures and the words and the messages people sent. It gives you a window into what life was like in a different time that perhaps we can’t relate to.”

The postcards will be auctioned this month and John said he wouldn’t be surprised if they raised £10,000. “There are postcards in there that collectors will never find again. People tend to bid on a particular lot for one or two cards that they don’t have and will be going after some of the rarer, unusual cards. We often find that postcards stay local, people who collect Derbyshire postcards are often living in the county.”

Edale gunner's funeral in the early 1900s.

Postcards first appeared in the late Victorian era. John said: “At that time postcards weren’t the commercial thing that they were when we were growing up. It was a way of family and friends keeping in touch, often very local people. They would be posted and delivered on the same day, saying things like ‘I’ll be there for tea.’ Travelling salesmen would take a picture of an event, print a dozen or two dozen photographs, sell them immediately and move on. They weren’t really produced in the commercial way that people often think of postcards; although in time a lot of those postcards did become commercial because companies in the later part of the 20th century would reprint them.”

Collecting postcards has seen a surge of interest in recent years. John said: “People are fascinated by where they live and what it may have looked like at another time. There is a growing interest in all collectables that are small because people no longer live in big spaces and postcards fit that bill.”

Tim Hale added: “Nostalgia is still popular as we all age. Nowadays, 1960s and 70s cards are becoming more sought after.”

His collection of Derbyshire postcards will go under the hammer at Sheffield Auction Gallery in Heeley on April 22 at 10am. For further details, go to or call 0114 2816161.

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Tim Hale.

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Tim Hale with a collection of postcards. Photo by Yorkshire Post