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Born in 1855, Robert Hamnett is best known for his work as a local historian but despite all the information he left behind we know little of his own origins. The surname Hamnett does not appear in the 1851 Census for Glossop or in the Index of probate for the Ancient Parish of Glossop before 1860.
It is far from clear what Robert Hamnett did for a living and where he obtained the information which formed the basis for his articles and lectures. In 1904 with his son James' business partner, J. Jenkinson, Hamnett published a booklet entitled ôGlossop a Sketch from the Earliest Periodö. At this date their printing business was located at 55 High Street West. Previously this business was run by W. H. Irlam who were still there in 1895.
During the last decade of the 19th Century and continuing almost up to the outbreak of the Great War he gave lectures to various bodies, particularly Working Men's Clubs; the lectures being prepared for the locality. Fortunately these lectures were printed in the Glossop local newspaper and have been preserved. They are the basis of the histories of the town that have been written.
He was a keen member of the Glossop Rifle Volunteers, holding the rank of Colour Sergeant, and has left a description of their formation and activities until they became part of the Territorial Army. He was especially interested in the improvement of marksmanship.
He was also a member of the congregation at St. James, Whitfield and connected as a Sunday School teacher with the George Street Mission which was opened in 1906. He gave historical lectures in 1901 at the Whitfield Church Bazaar.
What is far from clear is where he obtained his wealth of information. He must have had access to the Glossop Estate records, the Parish records in order to have been able to accurately state the number of spindles in mills, rateable values, the names of local people employed on activities such as building the Glossop railway branch line, or Surveyors of Roads, or Constables.
One thing is certain, his collection of notes was so extensive that he could prepare a lecture to suit a specific group at short notice. The tragedy is that his notes are lost to us.
Robert Hamnett died in December 1914 and is buried in the New Burial Ground at St. James. Even the details of his death are obscure. The corner of the newspaper recording it has been torn off and when the Derbyshire Family History Society catalogued the graves at Whitfield they failed to find his headstone.
Neville T. Sharpe