Letter – Nicholas Walton to John Ibbetson – 24 Feb 1775

Document Type: Letter
Date: 24 Feb 1775
Correspondent: Nicholas Walton
Recipient: John Ibbetson
Archive Source: TNA ADM 66 96
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John Ibbetson Esq.                   			Farnacres 24th February 1775


       In my Letters of the 20th instant I acquainted you with the damage that had been done to Langley Lead Mill and what steps I had taken previous to my setting out from Newcastle.  On Tuesday Morning I went to the Mill and the following particulars contain a full state of this matter.

       On Saturday last about half last Six in the Evening Mr Mulcaster the Hospital Agent at the Mill after having weighed over the Lead made by the Workmen that Week, as usual, saw the Mill Refining House and other Buildings all shut up and Locked and left every thing in good order.  The next day about one o' Clock as two Girls (one a Servant of Mr Mulcaster and the other a Servant of his Nephew John Mulcaster one of our Refiners) were coming from Church by the Mill, they observed more Water than usual to be running from the Dam and immediately on getting home acquainted John Mulcaster with this circumstance (Mr Mulcaster being gone to Church to Allendale where he dined).  John Mulcaster instantly ran down to the Mill and put down the Sluice to prevent the Water running along the Troughs and then went to examine the state of the Mill, Refinery etc.  He soon found that the Bellows House of the Smelting Mill had been broken into by forcing upon one of the Windows which was bolted on the inside and the Bellows every one of them cut, he then proceeded to the Refinery House to which no damage has been done except by the Water being set off in greater quantity than the Troughs could contain and running over within the House upon one of the Furnaces and washing the Bone Ashes out of the Test as mentioned in my Letter of the 20th inst. but the Furnace is little or nothing worse.  No further damage had yet appeared.

       After John Mulcaster had examined the Mill and Buildings belonging to it a Message was sent to Mr Mulcaster acquainting him with what had happened and he came home at half past four o' Clock and as soon afterwards as he could set out for this place where he arrived on Monday Morning as I before acquainted you.

       There are Twenty one pieces cut out of, and seven Slits made in, the Leather of the four pairs of Bellows and two of the pieces of Leather the one 5feet 2 inches long by about 3 1/4 Inches mean breadth and the other 4feet 7 Inches long by about 2 3/4 Ins mean breadth, cannot be found, and therefore it is supposed that those two pieces  may have been taken away by the Person or Persons who did the Damage but we have as yet come at no circumstances to satisfy a Warrant for searching. The Leather from whence these two pieces were cut are ordered to be taken great care of as Tallys in case of the pieces being found in any Persons custody.

       It seems probable that some Person well acquainted with the Mill has been the perpetrator of this malicious act, and it is not unlikely but the mischief has been done by some of the Workmen who have been discharged from the Hospitals Service on account of their ill behaviour or want of abilities; and this supposition is the more confirmed as one of the Workmen whose name is Marmaduke Forrest was discharged on the Thursday preceding the Bellows being cut on account of his ill behaviour and for some time past making an exceeding bad produce of Lead, but tho' a suspicion falls upon those , yet nothing can be done without circumstances which apply themselves immediately to the fact of committing the damage we are therefore, in the carefullest manner we can, endeavouring to find out where the Persons suspected were, at the time of the damage being done, and if any Informations can be come at to lead a discovery, they shall be duly attended to.

       When the Housing for the Mill Agent, and the Cottages for the Workmen at Langley Mill, were built, it was thought necessary to situate them at a distance from the Mill to prevent the poisonous quality of the Smoke hurting the Inhabitants, so that they are about 350 yards from the Mill and consequently it is not possible that any noise made in breaking into the Mill could be heard as it was very Windy all the Night between Saturday and Sunday and indeed the distance is so considerable as to make it very unlikely that any thing could have been heard if it had been a calm Night.   This has led us to consider of building two Cottages at the Mill, the one at the West End and the other at the East End.  The situations will undoubtedly be extremely unwholesome but by Letting the Occupiers have them Rent Free, and allowing them Coals and Peats for their Fires, it is hoped that some of the Workmen may be induced to inhabit them, and then there will be somebody instantly upon the spot.  It is very disagreable to have occasion to make those erections when it is known that the Health of the Inhabitants of them must be greatly hurt; but the necessity arising from this atrocious act of damaging the Mill in a secret manner, and an expectation of further attacks, certainly justifies their being made and it is therefore recommended to the Board, to have them compleated without loss of time.  It is computed that those Buildings will cost Fifty Pounds or thereabouts but I hope they will be done for less, and the damage to the Mill will,  I dare venture to say, if nothing further appears, be made good for Thirty or Thirty five Pounds at most.

       Mr Fawcett not having been able to find any Act of Parliament which hath inflicted any particular Punishment upon the Offender in Cases of the Nature of the Offence committed at Langley Mill, conceives that it is on conviction only punishable by Fine and Imprisonment or only the Action for the Trespass; if so, with the greatest deference I submit it to the consideration of the Directors, whether it may not be proper to apply to Parliament to make such kind of Offences, as that committed at Langley Mill, Capital in future.

       I do not know, yet I apprehend, if two Cottages were built at the East and West Ends of the Lead Mill, that afterwards the Mill and Buildings connected therewith, would be considered as under the protection of the Inhabitants of those Cottages and as such, any Person entering into and doing damage, in any part of the Premises, would be subject to the same Punishment as a Person guilty of Burglary; and this I beg leave to offer as a matter for the Board to be advised upon: if it should be so, it will operate strongly as an additional inducement to Build the Cottages but at all events it seems necessary that they shd be built.

       I am for Mr Smeaton & Self Sir your most ob Ser

       N W Junr PS

I desire you will me to repeat my wish to have a considerable Sum offered as a reward for discovery, and I most earnestly beg your directions the very first opportunity.  Hand Bills have been distributed at the Markett Towns and in the Neighbourhood about the Mill, and a Watch is set every Night to prevent further damage; and every thing is in a way of being reinstated without loss of time.

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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