As the project’s volunteers examined documentary records, it became clear that a very large majority of the people in the Allen Valleys and Hexhamshire depended in some way on the lead industry for a living.
They weren’t all miners or smelters. Carriers transported lead ore over the moors to Dukesfield mill and smelted lead to Blaydon staiths, with trains of packhorses. Blacksmiths were needed to shoe horses and sharpen tools, and woodmen provided pit props from the woodlands in Hexhamshire. Others brewed beer along the Carrers’ ways (it was thirsty work).
When lead mining in the area ended, what happened to the people who depended on it? This was the question that our version of ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’ set out to answer.
We know from the census that the population in the valleys dropped steeply as the mines closed. Some miners and smelters would have taken their skills to the rapidly expanding Northern coalfield, or to mines in America or Australia. Others remained as farmers, and weathered the loss of earnings from mining or carrying ore.
At some of our early events and exhibitions, we asked people to come forward if they had already embarked on researching their own family history and had discovered that their ancestors were involved in the lead industry. From the group who responded, there came the descendants of carriers, woodmen, miners and mine agents.
By relating these family histories to our documentary records, we are able to illustrate how working lives have been affected through the centuries. Click on the ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’ link below to read some of the stories researched by our volunteers. This and the ‘people database’ made available here will, we hope, inspire others to trace their family roots in the lead industry.
This is a single file containing over 1,500 references to people in the Hexhamshire/ Slaley/ Dukesfield area drawn from a variety of sources including parish registers, rentals, wills & inventories, and paybills. It is available as a spreadsheet so that you can sort it as you wish. See the first tab of the file for further details of content coverage. As time permits it might be extended in the future.