Report – Henry Richmond to unknown – 1 Jan 1767

Document Type: Report
Date: 1 Jan 1767
Correspondent: Henry Richmond
Recipient: unknown
Archive Source: NRO 2672 Box C105
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Hon[ou]r[e]d Sir

	You desired me to give you some accot. of the Lead trade, but I find it not easy to do so, there being a difference between principles & habits of action & writing about them.  But such things as occur to me upon the subject I shall put together in the best way I can.

	It appears from Cesar’s Account that this Island was known & frequented by merchants before his Invasion of it, and from Agricola’s & Pliny’s acco[un]t it is plain it was so frequented for the sake of the metals it abounded with.  Agricola says Gold & Silver were found in it.  But Pliny speaks very particularly about the Article of Lead & tells us it was gotten in Britain with more ease & in greater plenty than elsewhere, its Ore lying near surface & the quantity gotten so great that a Law was made to regulate the getting it.  What that quantity was cannot be ascertained but we may be satisfied it could only be triffling in comparison of what is now wrought when we consider that it was only for Rome Carthage Greece Egypt & some other parts of the Mediterranean that this trade was carried on whereas Lead is now exported to the remotest parts of the Globe where the conveniences of life are now as much consulted upon as they were in those antient states & by the invention of new arts a greater consumption of this metal must now be occasioned.  The quantity now wrought at present is computed to be about 20000 Tons annually and the countries to which it is exported are principally the E. Indies Spain & Portugal, Turky, the sevl. states of Italy  & other lesser states in the Mediterranean.  France Germany Flanders the Countries bordering on the Baltic Sea, & to Holland tho what they take is more for trade to other places than for their own consumption.  Besides this exportation a very considerable quantity is used in different parts of the British dominions.

	The uses both at home & abroad in which Lead is employed are chiefly for the coverings of Churches & other religious houses & of palaces & other magnificent buildings & the gutters for smaller buildings & for pipes for conveying water.  These were the uses wch. the Romans had for this metal as Pliny tells us.  Since their time other uses have been invented for wch. it is better adapted than anything else such as the making of glass & earthern wares & for all that and there are still other modern uses wherein nothing can be substituted in its stead such as the manufactures of white & red Lead, the refining of Gold & Silver & precious stones, with many other lesser uses.  In times of peace while convenience & luxury are indulged, while the communication of one country with another is open & easy & commerce uninterrupted Lead will be wanted for the purposes beforementioned & the demand for it will induce men to venture their fortunes freely in the search of it.  But most of these uses if not all can be lessened by the consumers in times of War or when the price of Lead rises very high.  And as to the Mine adventurers the obstruction occasioned by war discourages them on the one hand & on the other hand an extraordinary high price encourages them so much that many Mines are opened & tryed everywhere that during a low one by the hazardousness of them are obliged to lye dormant, till by an increase of the quantity on their side & decrease of the demand on the consumers the price comes down again to a certain level, wch. by the experience of many years has been demonstrated to be somewhere about £13.10s.0d the Newcastle Fother.  At a less price than this I am of opinion very few mines in Britain can be wrought by reason of the great depth of 50, 70 & even 90 fathoms, to which the works are now sunk & the great expence of Labour, Gunpowder & Candles & the Machines to clear them of water & at this price scarce any of the mines in other countries can be wrought.  For there are Leadmines in France & Germany, some few in Ireland & some lately opened in North America.  As to those of France they are numerous as appears by the introduction to Monsr. Hellots translation of Schlutter but the veins are small – are incumberd mostly with water lye remote from navigable rivers & are attended with other unfavourable circumstances that render notwithstanding the encouragement given by the French Governmt. render the working of them disadvantageous while the price of Lead here does not exceed 14 or £15 the Newcastle fother, but when it gets above that we have found they can raise a quantity even for exportation.  With regard to the mines in Germany they also are wrought at a great expence & as the ore abounds with sulphur which prevents its fluxing into Lead they are obliged to evaporate that sulphur by repeated roastings of the ore in furnaces constructed for the purpose before they can proceed to smelt it & after the best they can do it yields very poorly in Lead 

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case nowadays. [drafting note indicates the rest of the para was to be inserted here; given further down page in original:] From the best acco[un]ts I can collect of Lead ores in France yield upon an average about 60 p[oun]ds in a 100 & those in Germany after all their labour not above 50 p[oun]ds in a 100 what the produce of the American ore is I have not heard.  

      The comon method of reckoning the produce of Lead Ore at the mines in the Counties of Durham Northumberland & Cumberland is by the Bing which contains 8 hundred weight avoirdupois consequently the ore of which 5 Bings will make a Newcastle Fother yields at the rate of 52 po[un]ds in 100 po[un]d & that of which 4 Bings will make such a fother yields at the rate of 66 in a 100.  Your ore sometimes comes up to this richness but often falls short of it wch. variation cannot easily be accounted for – probably a greater qty. of sulphur either in the ore itself or in the fuel wherewith it is smelted may occasion it – if it is in the latter there is little help for it there being no great choice of fuel in the neighbourhood of the mines, for pit coal constituting a great part of the fuel if such coal must be used as the country affords, & coal will be found sometimes fuller of sulphur than at others – If variation with the ore itself it must be owing to its being more impregnated with that pernicious mineral at one time than another & then all the remedy is by breaking the ore small & washing it carefully thro iron sieves wch. is the method made use of in the works but this cannot always be done equally well for sometimes the sulphur adheres too closely to the ore for water to separate it.  

      From this view of the Lead trade it does not appear to be for the intrest of this kingdom to tax this article of its produce & yet 20s a Ton is laid upon all Lead exported and there was a design in Mr Pelhams Administration of laying an additional duty of 40s a Ton upon it, wch. was defeated by the representations from the Lead owners of the evil tendency of such a step for besides that it wd. have been giving an invidious preference to Scotland over England in this article of trade since by the Union Lead Mines in that kingdom are exempt from Taxation, this being so with respect to the present duty of 20s a ton is hard enough upon England, but the additional duty would have been intollerable so much for the general intrests of this trade with respect to Britain mentioned before etc.  Besides the several uses wch. the Lead is convertible & wch. give it its value as a Metal there is an additional value that most of it assuages by the silver contained it in & wch. is seperable from it by the art of refining & I believe there is not any Lead but what has moreorless Silver in it, but the expence of money & the waste of Lead attending the extracting it, renders it not worth the operation.  It is generally reckoned that about 5 oz & a half or 6 oz in a fother will balance this expence & waste & that every oz above that is in a fother a clear gain of so much as the Silver will sell for by the ounce, wch. has been in my remembrance from 5s.71/2 d  to 6s.2d p.ounce.  There is scarce any lead in Britain that yields above 20 ounces in a fother.  In France and Germany I believe there are instances of their getting more particularly in the former in the province of Bretany there is a mine whose lead yields 60 oz in a Ton.  But here lead is reckoned very rich if it yields 12 or 14 oz in a fothr, for 7 or 8 oz is comonly the proportion in most of our refineries.  Low CC lead abot. 25 yrs ago yielded 16 the oz for a year or two & then fell to 12.  Weardale Lead yields something less than 8 oz & Allanhds  is not refineable.

[note on cover:] 1767   Minutes relating to the Lead trade            
neither correspondent is named, but handwriting, date and context of this undated draft letter suggest it is from Henry Richmond. Walter Blackett, normally addressed as ‘Honoured Sir’ is a possible recipient. There is no mention of the account in any of Richmond’s copy correspondence to Blackett in 1767

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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