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Mr Joseph Dickinson Newcastle 24th Decr. 1794 I have received a letter signed by upwards of 100 of the Miners of Coalcleugh, Allanheads & Allandale, complaining of the high price of Corn. I desire that you will make it known to them that I am very sensible of the difficulties which they and their families are likely to labour under on that account if some method is not taken to give them relief which it shall be my endeavour to do, and for that purpose I shall lay their Grievance before Colonel & Mrs Beaumont who I am confident will <be> compassionate to their case. But that nothing may be lost in procuring for them a sufficient Supply of Rye at a more reasonable rate I have already contracted for a Quantity from the South, which on its arrival shall be sent up to the Mines. I have likewise wrote to Hamburgh to purchase a large quantity of Foreign Rye but it is probable that may not arrive before the middle or end of February next & I have no doubt that Col. & Mrs Beaumont will approve of the Measure. It becomes very necessary that the Miners should be undeceived respecting the present scarcity & consequent high price of Rye, an Error they have been led into by some ill disposed Persons. No Ships with Corn have during the course of this year been refused to enter & land their loadings at the Port of Newcastle. So far from this being the case a number of Ships of this Port could not procure a loading of Corn at any rate owing to a Prohibition which had taken place at Dantzick & at her Ports in the East; The Great Importation of Rye at this Port in 1790 & 1791 reduced the Price so low as to discourage the growth of that article not only in this Country but in the Southern Countries, where instead of Growing Rye as formerly they now grow Turnips. The War in Poland has been a great impediment to the growth of Corn in that Country & the King of Prussia’s Prohibition has put a total stop to the Exportation of all kinds of Grain from their Ports in his Dominions. These have been the sole causes which occasions the present scarcity & high Price of Rye. The Complaint of the Miners respecting the Measure is greatly ill founded. The Winchester Bushel it is well known is the legal standard Measure, & what is termed the Hexham <Bushel> altho long in use is not so. But the Farmers or other dealers in Corn regulate their price according to the Measure by which they sell. The Court Baron of the Manor of Hexham nor a Corn jury appointed by that Court have no Power to regulate the price of Corn in that Market. In Case any Impositions have arose by the Dealers in Corn not giving the Miners the lawful Measure they are intitled to, that matter shall be inquired into, & they shall be redressed: but The Rye is Purchased by the Winchester Bushel & must be sold by the like Measure, & any Persons selling Corn within the Manor of Hexham by any other Measure are punishable for the same. On your receipt of the Rye I desire that it may be delivered out the Workmen according to your Discretion in proportion to the Numbers of their respective Families taking care that they have the legal Measure & are not imposed on by the Millers; I would recommend to them that they make use of a mixture of Potatoes with the Rye Flour agreeable to the enclosed Receipt, which makes wholesome good Bread. You will communicate this to the Agents at the other Mines as well as to the Workmen at Coalcleugh. I am Sir Your Humbl. Servt. John E Blackett I engaged for a Quantity of Rye from the South before the receipt of the letter from the Workmen or any other Intimation. [Annotated:] Copy of Letter to Jos. Dickinson Ld. Agent 24th Dec r. 1794
Grain shortages inflated the price of corn for miners and their families at Coalcleugh, Allenheads and Allendale causing significant disquiet. In this letter JEB outlines the measures he is taking to relieve the situation, describes the causes of the shortages and instructs his agent on how to deal with the situation locally.