Report – James Stuart – 17 Aug 1774

Document Type: Report
Date: 17 Aug 1774
Correspondent: James Stuart
Archive Source: TNA ADM 79 57
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Wednesday 17th August.

This being a wet day and unfit for the prosecution of our Business in the Fields, we made up the opportunity to revisit

      Langley Lead Mill & c and accordingly went over that place. This mill with the several conveniences and machinery belonging to it was finished about seven years ago, under the directions of the present receivers upon an excellent plan, as it appears to us, and in a handsome substantial manner. The smelting house contains four hearths, three for ore and one for slags. The refinery which is a building detached at a small distance, contains a refining and reducing furnace. Besides which there is an office for the Mill Agent, a smith's shop, and ample provisions of peat houses, Bing steads for holding the various ores etc.

      The principal supply of water for the use of this Mill is from the level of Gregshield colliery, about 1/4 of a mile off - which has as we have been informed this advantage that it has not yet been known to freeze (even in the hardest of frosts) before it gets to the mill or even for, some space afterwards; whereas the contrary happens at other lead mills in this part of the country which are frequently stopped working in the winter for a considerable time on that account. 

      We saw the different operations of smelting both the ore and the slag, refining and reducing the litharge into lead again, and making what they call the test, which is an oblong shallow vessel, composed of a certain proportion of bone and fern ashes in which the lead is run in order to its being refined. Ashes are used on account of their unvitrificable quality resisting in a wonderful manner the extreme heat of the reverberatory furnace.

      A cake of pure silver was taken off whilst we were present, weighing more than 1,300 ounces, being the largest by upwards of one sixth part of any that had been produced at this mill before. It was the produce of 2,667 pigs of lead, whose weight was 2,671 cwt. 2 grs. 15 lbs.

These pigs had by a previous operation of the same kind been so far refined as to be brought down to 22 pigs only. The produce of silver upon this occasion was about 11 ozs. for every fodder of lead, the loss of which latter by refining and reducing is reckoned upon an average about one fifth part.

      The workmen who are employed in smelting etc. are paid by weight

as under: - 

                                £. s. d.

Smelters of refinable ore          6. 0 per fodder

Smelters of slags                 12. 0 per fodder

Smelters of litharge, black

  slags, and test bottom lead   1. 8. 0 per fodder

Persons for stamping and

  washing black slags           7. 0. 0 per fodder

Persons smelting lead from

  black slags                      3. 0 per fodder

Refiners                           2.10

Reducers                           1. 6

Reducers for weighing                 2

      Two smelters at the one hearth will smelt about 17 pigs of 1 cwt. each and sometimes more if the ore is free, in; about 12 hours. Three refiners can refine about three fodders, which is as much as one test can conveniently hold, in about 22 hours; but then nearly one third part of that time is taken up to prepare for working by heating the furnace and gently drying the test. Three reducers can reduce about two and one third fodders in twelve hours. As to what may be earned at the slag hearth, by stamping and washing the black slags, smelting litharge slags, etc., we were not able to learn with any precision, 'but as the prices allowed per fodder are so much more than the others it must necessarily follow that the operations of producing the same quantity of lead must be proportionably more tedious.

      The Mill Agents’ house & the four others for the workmen which adjoin to it are in very good condition being all built of stone & covered with heath. Some land, containing 60a 3r 17p has been taken off from that part of Langley Castle farm, which is in the occupation of Thomas Brown, for the use of the above agent & workmen besides 21a 2r 31p more spoiled by the smoke form the Mil & Refinery & taken up with the buildings & necessary works. Brown is allowed £26 p. Ann for the whole – which is made up in the following manner

£ s d

  Paid by the Hospital p. ann  7. 0. 0

              Agent            6. 2. 6

              Workmen         13. 7. 0

                              26. 9. 6


      The surplus of 9s6d is applied towards paying 5 p cent upon the money expended in making fences &c

      The above mentioned 60a 3r 17p are divided into small Farms which are improving and the young quick fences are in a thriving condition.
This is an extract from the general visitation of the Greenwich Hospital’s northern estate in 1774, undertaken by James Stuart and Thomas Hicks, directors of the Hospital

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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