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. 

Over 2.8 million words and 12,000 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

James                                                					May 19 1709

      I perceive by yours of the 14th that you have been up the West Water but to very little purpose. I ordered you to stay there till you had left all things Streight, both with Barrow and Dodd & the rest of them, I wonder to what purpose you Employed an Attourney, I expected you would have gott the Debt or their Goods long before this, I writ you plainly to order an attourney to go to him that bought Reay’s Land and Acqt. him that he had orders to Enter upon the Ground in case he did not give a note under his hand to pay my Debt, and upon Rect. of this Write to an Attourny in Hexham to go to him and Acqt. him with it, as also to give Mr Barrow & Dodd Notice they must Either pay their Moneys or go to gaol .  I hope you took Security from them both and had them arrested upon their Security, So the Bailiff is <lyable> to make both these Debts good  You write me that none of the Arrears can be gott till the tenants gett their Corn off the Ground and that it is a better way to Seize & Sell their Goods than to mark them, So upon Rect. thereof go to <Burne>, Shotton, Allen, Moor and Smith and if they do not give you Good Security to pay immediately their Rents & Arrears, distrain all their goods & Sell them, for I had rather have no Tenants than Such as they are.  the May day Rents are likewise due, I wonder you would suffer them to Run one Rent into another, I have oftentimes Charged you to the contrary and unless they pay you all but the May day Rents be Sure you observe my Directions, I doubt it is your fault  in not Receiving of Them, To my knowledge Mr Slater is able to pay you his Rent tho it were fore times as much so by his Arrears I must Judge that you must be very careless in not demanding the Rents, You must make Example of Some of them, otherwise you will never have the Rents better paid, I wish you could give me a bill for fifty pounds of Mr Featherstone & Reay at 15 or 30 days & inclose one of Saturday night post, you know I <let> Several <hundred pounds> lye in their hands a long time So you may pay <them> as soon as you Receive it of the Tenants, wch I am Sure they will not refuse you, you may dispose of the Oates as soon as conveniently you can but be Sure you keep <the> Wheat, and not thrash any of it till the middle of July, it goes here last Markett day <8s.6d> per bush. new Wheat and tis thought will be much Dearer before Harvest, for we shall have a backwardly one, lett me know per next what Quantity of Oates you may have to dispose of, they give here two & twenty shillings per Quart but tis thought they will be cheaper, be Sure you always remember never let one halfe Years Rent run into another hereafter come what will of the Tenants,     

                                                                                   I am your Assured friend

Mr James Mewburne
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