Reproduced by permission of the National Trust
Michael Blackett was the 6th child and 3rd son of Sir William Blackett and his first wife Elizabeth Kirkley, born on 5th August 1652 and died at the age of 30 on 26th April 1683. He was buried in St Nicholas Cathederal in Newcastle upon Tyne. He married Dorothy Barnes on the 16th September 1674. They had only one child, a daughter named Elizabeth who was born in 1677 and presumably named after his mother who had died 3 years earlier. The daughter died young, in 1678. It is not yet clear where Michael and his family lived, although most of his letters are written from Newcastle, and he was Sheriff of the town in 1676.
From his letterbooks, which provide a fascinating insight into the commercial life of Newcastle in the late 17th century, it seems that Michael was an general merchant, independent from his father and siblings, and trading in a variety of goods (and bills of exchange) in a number of mostly European countries: France (Oleron, Ostend, Rouen), Sweden (Stockholm), Germany (Hamburgh), Holland (Rotterdam, Amsterdam). Goods bought/sold included: salt, beans, grain, lead, grindstones, wine, tart, timber, lead, pitch, coal, silver goods, stockings, gowns, petty-coats, tow, sail cloth (docke), pistols, potter’s ore, cotton, paper, hats, bottles of oil, glass bottles, cheshire cheese.
He seems also to have had businesses in Darlington, including as the landlord of premises there (dealt with by his agent Matthew Lamb). Michael traded lead in his own right; some of his letters to merchants refer to the selling of “his” lead rather than that of his father. However, he remained involved in his father’s lead business. Some months he visited the mines and smelt mills in Northumberland, particularly when the pay was being handled, and he reported to his father on their state. There are significant gaps in that schedule, possibly filled by similar reports from his younger brother William, hinted at in some of Michael’s letters. It does appear that the William was the son favoured by his father, perhaps more astute than Michael, whose independent ventures do not appear from his letters to have been covered in glory. In one aggrieved letter Michael reported hearing that merchants in London had referred to him as ‘Michael Blockhead’.
• Father: Sir William Blackett (1621 – 1680)
• Mother: Elizabeth Kirkley (1617 – 1674)
• Step Mother: Margaret Cock (married WB in 1675)
• Brothers and Sisters:
Sister: Elizabeth Blackett 1646 – 1694.
Brother: William Blackett 1647 – 1654
Sister: Isabella Blackett 1648 – ??
Brother: Sir Edward Blackett 1649 -1718
Sister: Christian (Christiana) Blackett 1651 – 1716
Brother: John Blackett 1653/4 – 1654
Brother: Sir William Blackett 1657 – 1705
Brother: Christopher Blackett 1659 – 1678
• Wife: Married Dorothy Barnes 16 September 1674 (age 22).
• Daughter: Elizabeth (1677 – 1678) only issue.
Cambridge University Library MsAdd91, Dd.7.26, Michael Blackett letter books, 1675-83, transcribed within this collection. Portrait is at Wallington Hall