Christopher Blackett (1751-1829)

Blackett spent just two and a half years as Chief Steward to Colonel and Mrs Beaumont, between early 1805 and the summer of 1807 but had a long association with the business through his role as one of the Newcastle lead merchants through whom the Blacketts and Beaumonts lead was sold from the 1780s. He and the then steward John Erasmus Blackett, a distant cousin, did not have a good relationship to start with, but the correspondence appears to show that they managed to do business together constructively for more than twenty years thereafter. JEB was succeeded by the younger man in 1805. The energetic and innovative Blackett had established white and red lead works at the Gallowgate in Newcastle in 1798 in partnership with John Locke of London, paying wages high enough to attract skilled workers from the rival Walker Fishwick works in Elswick.

Christopher Blackett was descended from an elder brother of the first Sir William Blackett, also Christopher, who established a branch of the family at Wylam in the Tyne Valley, bringing with it rich veins of coal. By the 1740s the then head of the family John Blackett had established a wagonway from Wylam to Lemington staiths for coal transport. Christopher inherited the estate in 1800. Following his departure as chief steward to the Beaumonts he arguably played a crucial role in the development of the steam locomotive railway through his estate investment, and encouragement and support of his mine manager and assistant Willam Hedley and Timothy Hackworth in experimenting with steel rails and mobile engines in the 1810s, leading to the construction and successful operation of the ‘Puffing Billy’ and ‘Wylam Dilly’ on Blackett’s erstwhile wagonway to Lemington.

Greg Finch


See also:

Brooks, P.R.B., Wylam and its Railway Pioneers, (1975)
D.J.Rowe, Lead Manufacturing in Britain, a History (1983)
NRO Letter books of Christopher Blackett ZBK/C/2/1 1780-1812

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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