Carry On Mining…Ore

 The characters and stories emerging from research by the project’s ‘Reading the Past’ volunteers suggested a great deal of dramatic potential. In the hands of Hexhamshire farmer David Nixon it was not long before an entertaining script emerged. David has a long track record of writing, directing and acting in plays since his days in the local Young Farmers Club, and then producing pantomimes at Whitley Chapel Parish Hall, on the larger stage of the Queen’s Hall in Hexham, for the Queen’s Hall Theatre Club. In recent years his murder mystery plays have been taken on tour around the village halls of Northumberland and Durham, set and props invariably constructed for easy assembly and transit in the back of a pick-up truck.


The mining tutorial by Bugmug MJE-8

January 2014 saw the first read-through of his script for ‘Carry On Mining…Ore’ in a farmhouse kitchen within sight of the old carriers’ way along the fell, introducing Mrs Weaumont the lead owner, John Erasmus Racket, her agent, Isaac Blunter, the Dukesfield mill agent, and Bugmug the Galloway pony, characters who may just possibly have borne a passing resemblance to real individuals in the late 18th century.

Mrs Weaumont (Lisa Berg) and Erasmus Rackett (David Nixon) MJE-18

The script was refined and a team assembled to help make costumes, and then to form a cast. Several young people from the ‘Shire and Hexham area stepped forward to take the leading roles, and rehearsals got underway in the autumn.
A Creative Arts student from Prudhoe Community High School, David Bell, did a brilliant job filming and editing a promotional video which went down a storm at an open project meeting at Whitley Chapel, setting the stage for the premiere at Slaley in November. This was a sellout, attracting rave reviews from the audience, and was followed by further very well attended performances through the winter by David and his ‘On the Move’ theatre group at Blaydon’s Path Head Water Mill, Bardon Mill, Whitley Chapel, Stocksfield, and Sinderhope in the Allen Valley.


What a great, energetic and entertaining way to bring the hitherto obscure lead trade to life, together with the people who ran it and endured it.


“I learnt so much about the lead industry and laughed as well!”
“Fantastic show, well done!”
“Great show, great acting. Great to see young ones involved.”
“The show was absolutely brilliant, well done to all involved”
“I thought the show was great, how did you pack so much in?”
“Let us know when you are doing another show, we want you back”
The Dukesfield Smelters and Carriers Project aimed to celebrate and discover the heritage of the Dukesfield Arches & lead carriers' routes between Blaydon and the lead mines of Allendale and Weardale. A two year community project, it was led by the Friends of the North Pennines in partnership with Hexhamshire and Slaley Parish Councils and the active support of Allendale Estates. It was funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and the generous support of other sponsors. Friends of the North Pennines: Charity No:1137467