Report – Edward Hawke Locker – 21 Aug 1823

Document Type: Report
Date: 21 Aug 1823
Correspondent: Edward Hawke Locker
Archive Source: TNA ADM 79 61
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      ALDSTONE MOOR, 21st August 1823


      I HAVE now the honour to acquaint you with my proceedings relative to the Mines of Aldstone Moor, which you have directed to be inspected by Mr. Taylor, in compliance with the proposition which I took the liberty to make to you on the 5th November last, when I presented to you my Report on the state of this part of the Hospital’s property. Having placed that paper In his hands, I also addressed to him a letter (of which a Copy is sent herewith), containing certain Queries, upon such points as appeared to me most important for his consideration; and, as some interval must elapse before he can be prepared with. A detailed statement in reply, I have judged it proper to submit to you a few observations on the subject for your more immediate information.

	The Receivers having joined us here from Newcastle, we accompanied Mr Taylor through several of the principal Mines, as well as in his examination of the Smelting Mills, and we have had frequent conferences with him and with the principal Lessees, as to the general Condition and Management of the Mines.---These Enquiries have led to the following result:

1st. That the Resources of the Mines belonging to Greenwich Hospital, are still very abundant and unfailing;

2nd. That the system hitherto pursued is in the main beneficial to the Hospital---but that;

3rd. Many improvements may be made therein, to the great advantage of the proprietors, as well as their Lessees

1st.  The Mines possessed by the Hospital, yield nearly Six Thousand Tons of Lead per Annum, or above one-sixth of the whole quantity raised in Great Britain. When it is considered that the British Mines produce two-thirds of the whole consumption of Lead in Europe, or probably throughout the World, the importance to the Public (as well as to the Proprietors), that the Mines should be skilfully worked, is sufficiently apparent.     In the last year 34,000 Tons of Lead were raised within the British Dominions; and it is computed by the most intelligent Merchants, that all the known Lead Mines do not produce more than 50,000 Tons. It may be observed in this place, that a very large proportion of the Lead produced in England is absolutely expended, i.e. never returns into use – not less than 5,000 Tons of Lead being manufactured into small shot, and double that amount converted into Pigments, or used in the making of Glass and Pottery. The prodigious quantity of Lead Ore which has been raised in Aldstone Moor, has led many to suppose, that this enormous supply cannot be continued much longer, yet this opinion, as I have shewn in my last Report, was entertained a Century ago, with no better foundation. The continued discovery of new Veins amidst the ancient Workings, and the large extent of Mineral Ground which has not been hitherto explored, afford the strongest presumption that immense resources are still remaining, and will long contribute to the prosperity of the Hospital’s Revenues. The rich Vein of Hudgill Burn, is still yielding as large a quantity of Ore as in the last year, and Rampgill Mine, which is second only to that of Hudgill, has been worked for Centuries, and has produced more Lead than any other Mine within the Moor.

2nd.  It has afforded me much pleasure to find, that Mr Taylor entirely approves of the principle of letting the Mines on Lease, instead of working them by your own Labourers; but he thinks some change in the Terms of the Leases may be made with advantage to both parties, which would go far to prevent the neglect of any Vein or Beds of Ore which may not be duly explored at present, though he has satisfied me that the quantity now neglected is far less than in former Years. The occupation of the Mines under Lease, by Persons who can command a considerable Capital, is highly important, and has derived from the London Lead Company, who have been its Lessees for seventy-eight years. During this period, that very respectable Body has enjoyed very large profits from the Concern; and in these the Hospital has liberally participated, without any risk whatever. Most of the important improvements in Mining have been introduced by them. Their Levels at Nenthead extend nearly twenty miles underground, and are still carrying on with great spirit, although for some years past they have been greatly surpassed in profit by others of your Lessees, who have not made equal exertions. I learn from good authority, that their Expenses last year, considerably exceeded their Receipts, and that on an average of the last twenty years, their Profits from the whole of our Mines, have borne no proportion to the very large Capital they have expended; but their important gains upon Mines in other Districts, have enabled them to prosecute a speculation so little profitable to themselves, and so advantageous to the Hospital. To this Company, therefore, it is both just as well as politic to afford every encouragement, without which it cannot be expected they should continue these great exertions. Mining property is an adventure subject to very great fluctuations; and in times of difficulty, it is only by mean of Capital, that the Mines can be kept open, and the Income of the Hospital preserved. Not many years have elapsed, since this was strikingly exemplified in Aldstone Moor. The price of Lead, towards the close of the War, fell rapidly from £40 to £16 per Ton.

      In consequence of this failure of the Market, the humbler adventurers here, threw up their Mines, and a great number of the workmen fell upon the Parish.   Many emigrated, and those who remained were involved in the deepest distress.   In this emergency the London Lead Company steadily continued the working of their Mines at a heavy loss ---and but for this, the Parish of Aldstone must have been involved in one common ruin, being utterly incapable of supporting any further burthen.    The Company has pursued the same uniform course --- while they have very judiciously discouraged high wages in times of prosperity, they have proved the great support of the labouring people in the period of difficulty, not proportioning the rate of wages to their Miners, by the standard of the Lead Market, but by the price of provisions.

	The Board had now under consideration an application from this Company for a General Grant of the Mines which they ay present hold under separate Leases from the Hospital. They desire to be freed from many of the present restrictions, as to the employment of their men, and the prosecution of improvements, and I strongly recommend that their request may be granted, because it is only by such means that Mines can be worked upon an extensive scale. There will still be a reserve of Mineral Ground for the humbler adventurers within the Moor, who though incapable of expending any considerable sums in their researches, have discovered several valuable Veins which have since yielded large profits to the Hospital.

	The expediency of carrying on Nent Force Level has been much discussed since we have been at Aldstone. This great work (com-menced by Mr Smeaton under sanguine expectations of success) has certainly disappointed the anticipations of its distinguished projector, for it has led to no important discoveries, yet I am unwilling to believe that if prosecuted it may not still produce some return for the great Expenditure which has been incurred.  The sinking of the Shaft at Nentsberry Hags in 1818, and the carrying forward the higher level from thence towards Nenthead, was undoubtedly a judicious measure, and the Board probably will consider it advisable to sink another Shaft nearer to Nenthead in order to accelerate the completion of the under-taking so soon as the two foreheads are brought into one, next spring. The Mineral Ground about Nenthead is known to be the most pro-ductive, for the great Lime-Stone in that District has produced four fifths of all the Lead Ore which has been raised within Aldstone Moor.

      I was once of opinion that Veins intersected by this Level, might be let at an increased Duty, as they are discovered at the sole expense of the Hospital; but as the Ore produced from such Veins cannot be carried out by the Level, they must be worked by a shaft, at great expense, and as the existing duty is already very high in proportion to other Mining property, I am convinced by the better information I have now obtained, that it would be impolitic to make any increased demand for the Lease of such Veins.  Mr Taylor expressed some surprise (until the circumstances were explained), that the Hospital should have maintained so high a duty as one-fifth,  being more than is usually obtained by other Proprietors, and considers it advisable to afford the Lessees every facility and encouragement,  in order to preserve this superior advantage.  The London Company is now expending not less than six or seven thousand a year in making Trials, and therefore cannot be expected to bear any part of the expense of Nent Force Level, and I am inclined to think that all who propose to take Leases of Veins so intersected, should be allowed to work them at the usual rate of duty.

      The London Company’s Establishment shews a superiority in managing their Mines, above that of other Lessees; but still, many Improvements are wanting which have been made in other Districts, especially in the method of washing the Ore, which would greatly benefit the Lessees. It is extremely desirable that your Managers should possess the best intelligence. The present Moor Master, who has served the Hospital with great fidelity for Thirty-three Years, is too far advanced in years to acquire this knowledge; but as his Son has been recommended to succeed him, I propose that he should next Spring, be directed to visits those Mines of Cornwall and other parts of England, which are managed with the greatest skill, in order that the best modern practice, may be transferred to Aldstone Moor. Mr Taylor considers that in this respect, much improvement may be made in the present system. There is considerable deficiency in the underground management, and on enquiry I was particularly struck with the want of regular plans of the workings, in the Moor Master’s Office. In this particular, the London Company’s example may be followed with advantage, for in their office at Nenthead, they have complete plans and sections of all their Mines, and the progressive workings in each are added as they advance, so that at one view, the relative bearings may be seen, and all confusion prevented. I recommend that all the Lessees be required to keep accurate surveys of their Mines, and that these be copied and deposited in the Moor Master’s Office, as a record for general information, and to prevent disputes.

	Another important improvement in the system would be the appointment of an Assay Master, (who might unite other duties with that department), to ascertain the value of all the Ores delivered from the different Mines, and act as a checque upon the Smelting Mills: at present there is no such security, and though there is no reason to mistrust the care of our Agent at Langley, it is quite necessary that every precaution should be employed. It is stated, indeed, that he annually estimates, by actual experiment, the value of al the purchased Ores so received, for the purpose of guiding the Receivers in their prices; but the quantity of Lead and Silver to be produced from all the Ore received at the Mills, is left entirely to him-self, and in the Silver, especially, there is danger of abuse on the part of the Workmen; the sole checque at present being the vigilance, discretion, and integrity of the Smelting Agent. Considerable doubt is entertained, whether the Ore in general is made to yield so large a proportion of Metal, as it is capable of producing in the furnace. It is believed that more is obtained in some other Smelting Establishments, and perhaps a more economical process may be introduced with better intelligence. The care and caution used in the Assay of Copper, in the Cornish Mines, may be applied to the analysis of Lead Ore, though I understand it is not so capable of an exact Assay.

      I shall not further trespass on your attention at present, or anticipate the Report which I am to receive from Mr Taylor; but I cannot conclude without recommending to you the advantage of his making a periodical visitation to the Mines, as the best security for the improvement of the System, and to prevent them from falling into neglect. The Receivers who came to Aldstone, for the purpose of accompanying us through the Mines, and assisting us with their valuable advice and information, entirely concur in the suggestion which I have thus offered to your consideration. In discussing the variety of details which engaged our attention we were fully convinced of the soundness of Mr Taylor’s opinions, as to the future management of this important part of your property. His extensive practical experience in Mining, added to his intimate knowledge of mineralogy as a Science, will prove of the greatest value to the Hospital’s interests.

      I have the honor to be, My Lords and Gentlemen	

      Your most obedient humble Servant,


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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