Dukesfield Documents

A North-eastern history research archive centred on the Blackett and Beaumont lead business records – and much more besides- between the mid 17th and mid 19th centuries.


Volunteers have transcribed thousands of letters and other documents to create a free, fully searchable, online collection of material. This began as part of the ‘Dukesfield Smelters and Carriers Project’ between 2012 and 2015.

This site brings together digital versions of manuscripts held in local archives alongside much more obscure material in distant collections and recently discovered documents in private hands. Full transcripts of each source document, most comprising many individual letters or other items, can be downloaded, and each item is also held separately within the searchable online database.This structure and search capability means, for example, that correspondence long separated between different physical archival locations can now be reunited.

‘Dukesfield Documents’ is provided to help stimulate and support future research into varied aspects of social, economic, political and family history of the North East of England and beyond, between the 17th and 19th centuries.

Keep coming back – documents still being added. 

3.1 million words and 13,000 documents have been transcribed and made available so far by around 30 volunteers over the course of nine years. A standard approach to editing and presentation has been followed and applied wherever possible. Please note that the vast amount of material means that it has not always been possible for the volunteers to check and double-check the accuracy to the levels normally found in published and annotated editions of primary source material. The editing conventions indicate words or phrases that are unclear to the transcriber, but we cannot discount the possibility that other occasional mistakes have been made, or editing or presentational inconsistencies introduced.

Hopefully this is far outweighed by the value of digitising and integrating such a wide range of material from disparate sources to provide a highly accessible research resource. Clear references to the original source documents are always provided so that they may be consulted by researchers who wish to go further. If you can use the contents in your own research we will have achieved one of our main aims. We ask only that you acknowledge ‘Dukesfield Documents’ and the web address www.dukesfield.org.uk/documents in any published work.

The search facilities and downloads are supported with background information on the principal correspondents, brief descriptions on the archival collections from which the contents are drawn, a glossary, guides to further reading and support, editing conventions, and the project story. There are occasional notes to accompany a few of the items, but otherwise the collection is simply a digitised version of the primary material. Explore the options given in the navigation. A long series of 18th century lead production figures compiled from financial accounts are available here in spreadsheet form.

Please give us your feedback. If you have a general comment about this archive please use the ‘Contact us’ link at the foot of this page. We welcome further information or corrections on topics and incidents mentioned in individual letters, which we will seek to add to the published material. Please use the ‘Comment’ option on individual items to do this. Please be patient, as it might take a while for our volunteers to check your comments for adding to public view within the website. Please note that we cannot undertake further research in response to questions.

While you’re here explore the rest of the Dukesfield Smelters and Carriers website by clicking on the project logo at the top left.

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Document of the Day

Mr Mulcaster 							Farnacres 9th September 1771

      Your Letters of 7th August and 2d & 5th instant are now before me and I wish much to have a Tryal made of Mr Tweddells sort of Coals you mention in the former of those Letters and that as soon as your convenience can admit of it.

      I am glad to find your produce so good last Operation and hope it will continue to be as good in future, and have no doubt of your best endeavours to that end, though we cannot always expect it I see.

      I have made a Computation whether it is proper to continue Refining Mr Wilkinsons Lead or not considering Lead at £17 P Fodder GHO which is the present price and I find there is a Balance against Refining on 60 Fodders of £1.13.6 1/2 but there is to make up that deficiency the Value of the Litharge which will be saved out of 60 Fodders for Refining over again & also the Value of the Test Bottoms and Litharge Slags, which I sh. suppose must be more in Value than £1.13.6 1/2 after deducing the Charges of bringing them all into Lead, but that you'll consider and let me have your Opinion. A all events it seems proper to keep such of Mr Wilkinsons Lead as you now have or may make entirely from his Ore til you have as much as the above mentioned Quantity, and then take a Chip off each Pig to try by Assays whether it will bear refining or not for you see the calculation seems very near run as Lead now Sells so that if there should be the least falling short of Produce in Silver it would certainly be right to Sell the Lead as Common rather than Refined. In the calculation I have made I reckon upon losing an Eleventh part in Refining and Reducing so that if we dont lose so much the difference saved will be to be added to the Value of the Litharge saved and Slag & Test bottoms. I think we can scarce lose by continuing to Refine this Lead but it is right for us to be as careful as possible.

      You say in your Letter of the 2d Septemr. inst. that the Cake of Bullion weighs 217 1/8 Ounces but I make 717 1/2 and I believe it to be quite fine notwithstanding the edges are a little dirtied. The Assays differ a good deal in weight, by one the Cake shd have been 652 Ozs 2 dwt 13 8/10 Gs, by the other 755 Ozs 12 Dwt 19 8/10 G  the mean of which is 703.17.16 8/10. The sooner you get the Furnaces rebuilt I think the better.

      I am not pleased to hear the Company intend raising their Smelters Wages and indeed I am of opinion they had better attend more to the Washing which it is probable might prevent any occasion of advance however if they do advance I see we must follow or they may perhaps get our best Workmen from us.

      I cannot yet attend to business so much as to examine your last Operations when I can I will let you know how I find they answer til then I shall think you are right in your report about the Ore brought from the Mines.

      Would it not have been proper to have Washed both Carrs and Middle Cleugh Ores at the Mill when you observed they were neither of them so good as you had them before when tryed together. I only offer this for your consideration when anything of the same kind comes before you again.

      The Pay Acc must close with the end of this Month that is taking in the 28th but I am rather at a loss to judge whether the Ore Carriers shd be paid at the Lead Mill Pay as I fear they will not have compleated the Carriage by the time we shall make the Pay which to be sure will be about the latter end of October or beginning of November so you and Joe Hilton will judge of that best when you see each other.

      So farr from thinking you meddle with business you ought not to trouble yourself about when you give me the hint in your Letter of the 5th inst I look upon it Mr Smeaton & I are obliged to you and you certainly did very properly to acquaint Mr Bell who I will doubt not take the necessary steps. I am

      Your Hble Servt

      N W Junr
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