27 year old Isaac Hunter was the obvious candidate to replace his father at Dukesfield in June 1764 having already impressed Henry Richmond the chief agent with his negotiations with the carriers for that summer’s ore and lead carriage, no mean feat in a booming lead market. Dukesfield’s silver refinery was constructed the following year, and rebuilding work at the hall –and the construction of the smelt mill arches themselves- share the neo-Gothick style that became popular in the mid 1760s. All perhaps show the mark of an ambitious young man working in tandem was Henry Richmond in Newcastle, also fairly new to his post of chief Agent or Steward to Sir Walter Blackett. If so, it was a busy year that Hunter crowned by marrying Isabella Surtees in October 1765, whose brother Robert was later to marry Isaac’s sister Ann.
Hunter was chief mills agent for 32 years, presiding over a huge expansion in the scale of activity at Dukesfield and the company’s other mills. We might learn much more about this period if his diary –tantalisingly mentioned in passing by George Dickinson in 1903 in his history of Allendale and Whitfield- could ever be found. From his surviving letters to chief agent John Erasmus Blackett it is clear that it was at Hunter’s instigation that the estate purchased Low Staples in Hexhamshire in 1792, allowing the construction of a new dam on the Devil’s Water, upstream from the old one, with the intention of improving the reliability of water supply to Dukesfield mill. At much the same time he purchased Steel Hall -apparently on behalf of the Beaumonts- to secure access to the dam on the southern side. A poorly documented transaction, it caused problems after his death in August 1796 (see biography for Isaac Hunter III). This was reported in the Oracle and Public Advertiser as having happened “very suddenly, while in a meadow with his haymakers” but he had been unwell before then, unable to ride in the autumn of 1794 (NRO 208 25 October 1794 Hunter to J.E.Blackett). He was succeeded at Dukesfield by his eldest surviving son, the third Isaac Hunter.
Yvonne Purdy/ Greg Finch
Various parish registers, & ‘Dukesfield Documents’ letters
G.Dickinson, Allendale and Whitfield (3rd edition 1903) p.46
Oracle and Public Advertiser, August 16 1796