The Gell family archive contains letters, diaries and other material relating to the polar explorer Sir John Franklin, his wife Jane, and his daughter Eleanor, who married into the Gell family. Within the archive is a small collection of objects and family mementos from around the world.
Gell family of Hopton Hall objects (-2000/1884) by Gell family of Hopton HallDerbyshire Record Office
In 2019, a crowdfunding campaign, 'Lady Jane's Museum', enabled Derbyshire Record Office to catalogue, package and photograph the objects in the Gell collection.
Lady Jane Franklin
Born Jane Griffin, Lady Franklin (1791-1875) was the second wife of Captain Sir John Franklin, who gained fame as a polar explorer. She was a keen traveller and visited every continent except Antarctica, bringing back many souvenirs from her trips.
Two pieces of mummy cloth mounted on card (-2000/0350) by UnknownDerbyshire Record Office
In 1835, whilst her husband was in command of HMS Rainbow in the Mediterranean, Jane Franklin visited Turkey, Palestine, Syria and Egypt. This mummy cloth likely came from her Egyptian travels.
Nuts and acorns mounted on cards (1840/1848) by Lady Jane FranklinDerbyshire Record Office
In Egypt she brought back these nuts from Mount Sinai. The Tasmanian acorns came from trees which she had planted whilst her husband was Lieutenant Governor of Van Diemen's Land (now Tasmania) 1837-1843.
Scapulary worn by a Tasmanian prisoner's boy (1837/1843) by UnknownDerbyshire Record Office
Van Diemen's Land was a penal colony and Lady Franklin made efforts to improve the lot of female prisoners there. This token of love, given by a prisoner to her child, is likely a memento of Lady Franklin's work with prisoners.
Pincushion made by Mathinna (1840/1843) by MathinnaDerbyshire Record Office
Whilst in Tasmania the Franklins adopted an indigenous Australian girl called Mathinna (sometimes spelled Methinna). She was educated by Lady Franklin's 16 year old step-daughter, Eleanor, and made this pincushion.
Pincushion (1830/1850) by UnknownDerbyshire Record Office
There is a second pincushion in the collection, which is similar in style. Perhaps this was made by Eleanor.
Black doll, possibly owned by Mathinna (1840/1843) by UnknownDerbyshire Record Office
This doll is dressed in the style of the early 1840s. We know from Eleanor's diary that Mathinna was given a doll. Might this have been Mathinna's?
Invitation card to a ball on HMS Erebus and HMS Terror (1841) by Sir James Clark Ross and Francis CrozierDerbyshire Record Office
In 1841 HMS Erebus and HMS Terror wintered in Tasmania on their three year exploration of Antarctica. Whilst there, they held a ball on the ships, to which Eleanor was invited.
Bone hair pins (1800/1899) by UnknownDerbyshire Record Office
Lady Franklin visited India, China, Japan and Malaysia. Maybe she picked up these Indonesian bone hairpins whilst in the region.
Letters, writing and drawings by Erasmus Augustine Kallihirua (1853/1855) by Erasmus Augustine Kallihirua (Qalasirssuaq)Derbyshire Record Office
In 1845, Sir John Franklin led an expedition to discover the North West Passage. 'Kalli', an Inuit who helped search for Sir John, came to England and was befriended by Eleanor Franklin who kept his letters and drawings after his death.
Drawing of a sail ship (1853) by Erasmus Augustine Kallihirua (Qalasirssuaq)Derbyshire Record Office
Drawing of a ship with its anchor (1853) by Erasmus Augustine Kallihirua (Qalasirssuaq)Derbyshire Record Office
Drawing of polar bears walking in water in summer (1853) by Erasmus Augustine Kallihirua (Qalasirssuaq)Derbyshire Record Office
Souvenir scroll containing verses 1-14 of the Gospel of St John (1800/1899) by UnknownDerbyshire Record Office
A tiny decorated scroll of the first fourteen chapters of the Gospel of Saint John, this may have been a souvenir picked up by Lady Franklin on her travels, or it may have belonged to one of the Gell family.
Coronation medal of William IV in case (1831) by William WyonDerbyshire Record Office
This medal, in its original case, commemorates the coronation of King William IV in 1831.
Piece of hangings of the Princess of Wales' boudoir, St George Chapel (1863) by UnknownDerbyshire Record Office
This lace came from the Boudoir of Princess Alexandra on her wedding day with the Prince of Wales in 1863. Did Lady Franklin attend the wedding?
Two samples of cloth made from cotton grown by "Free Labor" (1830/1865) by UnknownDerbyshire Record Office
Lady Franklin visited America in 1860, just before the outbreak of the civil war. Possibly, these samples of cotton made without slave labor were acquired by her, or they may have belonged to John Philip Gell.
Gift label for Rev John Philip Gell from his children (1860/1898) by Eleanor Gell, John Franklin Gell, Philip Lyttelton Gell, Henry Willingham Gell, and Mary Frances GellDerbyshire Record Office
This label to Rev John Philip Gell on his birthday seems to have been pinned to the "Free Labor" cotton samples. Perhaps the samples were a birthday present.
The Gell family
Lady Franklin's step-daughter, Eleanor Franklin, married the Reverend John Philip Gell. The remaining objects in the collection relate to the Gell family who originated from Hopton Hall near Wirksworth in Derbyshire.
Horn book belonging to Honor Borrow (1715/1725) by UnknownDerbyshire Record Office
A horn book was a primer for small children. This early 18th century horn book belonged to Honor Borrow, John Philip Gell's great-grandmother.
Painted pleated fan with tortoiseshell sticks (front) (1600/1699) by UnknownDerbyshire Record Office
This 17th century fan was labelled 'Fan from Wirksworth', and likely belonged to one of the Gells of Hopton Hall.
Painted pleated fan with carved ivory sticks (front) (1700/1725) by UnknownDerbyshire Record Office
This early 18th century fan with carved ivory sticks may have been a mourning fan. The painting on the fan leaf is rather gloomy, in shades of black and grey.
Ivory brise fan (1805/1810) by UnknownDerbyshire Record Office
This beautiful pierced ivory brise fan dates to about 1805-1810.
Brass spurs worn by Thomas Gell at the Battle of Albuera (1800/1811) by UnknownDerbyshire Record Office
Major Thomas Gell was John Philip Gell's uncle. He wore these spurs at the Battle of Albuera in 1811.
Pill box made from painted card (1800/1899) by UnknownDerbyshire Record Office
Was this small pill box a craft project by Eleanor or one of the Gells, or did Lady Franklin bring it back from her travels?
Commemorative world's fair medallions (1862/1882) by UnknownDerbyshire Record Office
These medallions commemorate two world fairs, one in 1862 and the other in 1882.
Palm leaf manuscript (1871) by UnknownDerbyshire Record Office
Labelled 'Native copy book from Madras 1871' this is a palm leaf page which probably came from a religious text. It may have belonged to John and Eleanor's daughter, Mary.
Seal of the Universities Settlement in East London (1884) by Philip Lyttelton GellDerbyshire Record Office
John and Eleanor's son, Philip Lyttelton Gell designed this seal for Toynbee Hall, a centre designed to effect social change in the deprived East End of London. Philip was the first Chairman of Trustees.
'Lady Jane's Museum' in its new packaging (2019-09-19) by Derbyshire Record OfficeDerbyshire Record Office
Thanks to the generosity of our crowdfunding donors, the objects are now properly packaged so that they can be preserved for future generations.
With thanks to everyone who helped to fund the repackaging and photography of these objects, including:
William E. Altizer
Photography: Nick Lockett