Report – John Mulcaster to Martin Morrison – 13 May 1808

Document Type: Report
Date: 13 May 1808
Correspondent: John Mulcaster
Recipient: Martin Morrison
Archive Source: NRO 672 E IF 1
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Blaydon Refinery, 13 May 1808.

Mr Morrison,

      Conformable to your directions I herewith send you a Report of Colonel & Mrs. Beaumont’s Smelt Mills & Refinerys with other occurrences relating thereto and am Sir &c, Jno Mulcaster.

Dukesfield Mill.

      As considerable Sales of Lead have lately taken place and the demand for some time being principally for Refined lead we have only a small stock of that kind in hand not sufficient to complete the present Sales - and as a large quantity of common Lead is still remaining unsold, it will be necessary to have also ready a proportion of Refined for any future Sale that may be made.  As Mr Morrison was desirous that we should have as much Refined Lead made as soon as possible, and a considerable quantity of refinable lead was laying at this Mill I thought it best to commence the Refinery again, which had been discontinued some time ago on account of their making a bad produce, or over great waste of the Lead in the operation of Refining and Reducing.  The Reducing Furnace being very much out of repair and not of a good construction, I desired Mr Westgarth to take it quite down and I sent up one of the Masons we employ to build our Reducing Furnace at Blaydon to superintend the rebuilding of theirs which he has now completed very much to my satisfaction and have little doubt with good reducers of it answering a good purpose - the Refining Furnaces have also undergone the necessary Repairs and expect in a week or two the will be ready to begin Refining.

      As Mr. Dixon’s Reducers are at present off work at Allen Mill I have desired him to send them over to Dukesfield and stay there a week or fortnight and instruct the Reducers that are intended to remain there, and as one of our Reducers at Blaydon has been obliged to leave off his work on account of ill health, I have taken in his place a young man from Dukesfield who I intend to keep at Blaydon until he is properly instructed in the business after which I will send him back to Dukesfield to remain there as a Reducer.

      There is now at this Mill a very large quantity of Lead which the Carriagemen take away very slowly and I am rather doubtful before we can get the whole delivered will be under the necessity of advancing the price of the Carriage, but as the weather has been very unfavourable and as we have not an immediate occasion for the lead, with the approbation of Mr. Morrison, I have resolved to wait a little longer before an advance is offered them.

      The South Turnpike road upon which a great part of the Dukesfield and Rookhope Lead is brought to Blaydon is in a very bad Condition especially a branch to Bank Foot, upon which a Tollgate is erected, is almost impassable - Upon representing it to Mr. Morrison he desired me to call upon Mr. Gibson Clerk to the Commissioners, and inform him that unless they would repair the Road immediately, Coll. Beaumont would be under the necessity of enditing it, Mr. Gibson said he doubted they would not be able to do anything more than they have generally done as the Tolls collected were not sufficient to keep the Roads in repair, I told him that in that case there was not any alternative, therefore the road must certainly be endited, & then either the Commissrs. or the Parish would be obliged to make it good, as there was little doubt of getting the enditement passed, which he admitted & promised to speak to the Commissrs. on the subject and inform me of their determination.  Unless the do make very considerable repairs it is my opinion that no time should be lost in enditing the road, which will be a great benefit to the Country as well as to Coll. Beaumont and may be the means of making the Surveyors of the other Roads upon which our Carriers travel be more attentive in repairing them in their respective districts, I am certain that in the present condition of the Turnpike we will not get the Lead at present laying at Dukesfield brought in especially at the latter end of the Year without encreasing the price of Carriage and perhaps not even then without the Road is in a better condition than it was last winter.

      The price of Ore Carriage to this Mill not being upon an equality Mr. Westgarth & I have agreed to reduce the price from Breckonsike 6d/Bing, and to advance the price from Coalcleugh and Allenheads 5d/Bing which will be saving on the whole as the quantity from Breckonsike will exceed that from Allenheads & Coalcleugh.

Rookhope Mill.

      The Carriage of coals to this Mill having for some time past been conducted in a very irregular manner it was the intention of my Father if he had lived to adopt some new regulations this year to endeavour to remedy that inconvenience.  

      Many of the Carriagemen took Coals from the Pitt in Cart Loads and laid them down at their own Houses after which they filled them into Sacks of very different sizes, some making the Fother into 10, others into 12 Sacks, and sometimes a greater number just as their sacks were of size, the price of the coals, and for the carriage being charged at the Mill by the Sack or Load, they were in many instances paid for Coals that were never delivered.  Upon consulting with Mr. Morrison at the Blanchland Pay it was his opinion that I had better fix a day to meet Mr. Smith the Agent at Rookhope Mill and the Carriagemen at Medomsley, and there state to them such regulations as I thought necessary and endeavour to make a Bargain for the ensuing year.  Accordingly Mr. Smith and I met at Medomsley and went both to Mr. Hunter’s and Mr. Surtees’s Pitts where we saw the Banksmen.  I told them that as we had before, the Coals delivered at the Mill in Sacks of very different sizes, we intended for the future to keep a measure of 3 Winchester Bushels which we expected the Carriagemen to carry as a load, but as their future fother was 16 Bolls we would proportion the fothers by that Quantity, for which they would be paid 2s/6d the same as they were charging Country People and not 3s. pr. Load as formerly had been done, which made the fother amount to 2s/8d after some hesitation they agreed to our proposal by which 2d pr. fo. will be saved to Col. & Mrs. Beaumont.

      Mr. Smith and myself being of opinion that the price paid for the Carriage of Coal & Cinders was over much We informed the Carriagemen that instead of 1s/3d pr. load for Coals and 10d for Cinders we intended for this year to give only 1s for Coals & 8d for Cinders and that a measure of 3 Winchester bushels would be kept at the Mill for the purpose of measuring the Coals delivered there & any Carriagemen bringing Sacks short of that measure would forfeit the pay for the Carriage of such Coal and Cinders.  They all agreed to the regulations but would not accept the price, so we left them, at the same time informing them, that we had other means of furnishing the Mill at a lower price.

      As soon as I came home I immediately applied to Mr. Geo. Todd who has taken the Grey-mare Colliery one third nearer to Rookhope Mill than Medomsley and agreed with him, that for the Coals we should want this year either at Dukesfield or Allenheads (which are principally supplied from thence) or Rookhope Mill we were to pay 2s/9d pr. For. of 16 Bolls instead of 3s/ pr. For. of 15 Bolls the price formerly paid, he also offered to make a further reduction, Provided he could have his payments every 6 Months but as I could not say whether that wd. be Convenient I told him I would <name> his proposal - the allowance [I] believe would be 3d. pr. for.

      There has very few coals been sent from this Pit to Rookhope as Mr. Smith does not approve so much of them, as the Medomsley Coals although Mr. Westgarth at Dukesfield gives them the preference for Smelting in the latter opinion I know my Father coincided, I should rather incline to Mr. Westgarths opinion, as they always make a better produce at Dukesfield than at Rookhope , the Medomsley Coals are much better than the Greymare Pit Coals and probably Mr. Smith’s Smelters may prefer them as they are enabled to finish their work sooner perhaps at the expence of their employers; I therefore intend to have a Trial made at both places to determine which are the best.

      As soon as the Medomsley Carriers understood I was treating for Coals from the Greymare Pit a deputation of them came down to Blaydon and agreed to the terms I had offered them at Medomsley.  I accordingly drew up an Agreement to that effect which they signed.  The price paid for the Carriage from the Greymare Pitt to Rookhope was 1s/3d pr. sack the same as from Medomsley but I think that 9d. is insufficient for the distance the Carriagemen have to carry them, they have offered to take them at 10d. which if agreed to will make them come considerably lower than the Medomsley Coals.

      The following is a statement of the old & new prices from both Medomsley and the Greymare Pit.

Medomsley Coals

Old price 

   1 Fothr. or 16 Bolls at the Pit           2- 8

   Carrge. of do. 1/3 p Sack or 10d. p Boll 13- 4  £- 16- 0

New price 

   1 For. or 16 Bolls will cost              2- 6

   Carrge. of do. 1/ p Sack or 8d. p Boll   10- 8	   - 13- 2

            Leaves a saving of p Fo[ther]              2-10

Greymare Coals

Old price 

   1 For. or 16 Bolls at the Pit             3- 2

   Carrge. of do. 1/3 p Sack or 10d. p Bol  13- 4   - 16- 6

New price

   1 For. or 16 Bolls at the Pit             2- 9

   Carrge. of do. 10d or 6 2/3 d. p Boll     8-11   - 11- 8

             Leaves a saving [per For.] of             4-10

      By the above alteration on the quantity of Coals consumed at Rookhope Mill if taken from Medomsley, the saving will be upwards of £100 pr. year and near double that if taken from the Grey-mare Pit provided they answer equally well for Smelting.

      As it was Mrs. Beaumont’s wish that as many Coals as possible should be taken from Mr. Hunter’s Pit the Carriagemen the latter end of the last Year were ordered to load here, and am sorry to find it represented by Mr. Smith that they are very inferior to the Coals they have had from Mr. Surtees, to prove which he pointed out the operation of 2 Months, where each was used 1 Month in Smelting the same kind of Ore, which if the Trial was accurately made, was very much in favour of Mr. Surtees Coals, more than the value of them, but as they will answer well enough for the Roasting Furnace I have ordered the Carriagemen  to take a part from each and told the Banksmen, that who furnished the best Coals would have the preference, as I think a little competition may make them both more careful.

      I have for some time observed with regret that the Ore delivered here was not properly separated, the Ore of several Mines being put promiscuously with into one Bingstead, and in the monthly operation classed all under one head, which is attended with many inconveniences, first it prevents a comparative view of the produce made at different Mills of the same kind of Ore, it also prevents the selecting that part for Refining which will best bear or repay the necessary expences of the refining operation, as the generality of Col. Beaumont’s Lead ore is very poor of Silver and the demands for Refined Lead being almost constant to supply that kind to the market to the best advantage in a concern of such magnitude as Coll. Beaumont’s is certainly of the utmost importance & the price of Lead lately having been so very fluctuating it becomes the more necessary as what Lead at one time may be refined to advantage will at another time be attended with considerable loss but if the Ore be smelted separate and the necessary Assays made it then becomes very easy for the Refining Agent to select such Lead as will best suit that purpose, and at all times to take that which will be attended with least loss in order that a quantity of refined Lead may be ready to facilitate the sale of the common [un-refined lead] which can seldom be sold separate.  As I was fully convinced of the propriety of keeping the Ore separate I have marked out such situations most convenient to the Mill for erecting an additional number of Bingsteads which will soon be prepared, and have desired Mr. Smith to be careful for the future in keeping the Ore from each Mine separate which I expect he will attend to, and altho’ the building the Bingsteads will incur some expence, I make no doubt that the erecting them will be a considerable advantage.

Allen Mill.

      The Refining at this Mill is for the present laid off as the old wheel which carried the Bellows is now taken out to make room for the new machinery which is in a great state of forwardness and expect in a very short time the whole will be completed, the 2 new hearths in the new Mill are quite finished, and are now working with the new wheel.

      When the Refinery was laid off the old Chimney being in a bad state and not large enough to admit the flue of another furnace it was tho’t best to take it down, and a new one is now building which will be finished as soon as the Machinery for the Refining Bellows, and as it is very inconvenient to work a Refinery with only one furnace it is intended to erect another immediately which as the Refining is performed here under Mr. Dixon’s direction as well as any other of Coll Beaumont’s works, it may be found necessary to do more of that kind at this place than has hitherto been done.

      The horizontal Chimneys erected here have answered the utmost expectation, my observation upon them I have sent to Mr Cockshutt, but as the extension of them at the other works will be attended with considerable expence, it must rest with Coll and Mrs. Beaumont to give directions how far they would wish to adopt them.

      A Roasting furnace will be very necessary here, as well as an additional number of Bingsteads as soon as the Masons are at liberty, but expect before that time, Coll & Mrs. Beaumont will be down in this Country.

Allenheads Mill.

      The Old [water] Wheel having been for some time in a very precarious State after having undergone small repairs, at length broke down again, by which the work was entirely laid off, as Mr Morrison was at Allenheads at the time he gave orders to Michael Elliott to repair it again and I think as much has been done as the decayed state of the wheel would allow, which will probably make it serve for 12 months or perhaps more; a new crib has been put on all around on one side of the Arms, and new pieces on several parts of the other side wherever they were needful, with pieces of flat iron to bind the shrouds where they were cracked.

Blaydon Refinery.

      The Slag hearth just built when Mrs. Beaumont and Mr Cockshutt were last here, I am glad to say has as far as its power extends answered very well as it has enabled Us to procure a considerable quantity of Lead which would otherwise have been laying upon the Roads at present, but as it was only fitted up in a very temporary manner, not being certain we could procure a proper flux, and the power of our waterwheel being very limited we can only work the Slag Hearth at the time the Refinery is off work, as we make use of the same Bellows which are also not powerful enough for it, we therefore cannot work above half we would otherwise do, if we had a power sufficient to Carry a proper blast, so we are still unavoidably accumulating a great deal of work until we can either encrease our power or dispose of our extra stock of wastes, which I suppose will be very difficult.

      We have got the Reservoir cleaned out and the communication with the Shaft that supplies the Water from the waste deepened and Mr. Morrison is at present casting the Iron pipes for conveying the water to the Refinery which I expect in a little time will be Completed.

      I made an application to Mr. Townley’s agent for leave to convey a stream of Water through one of his fields which might be done without any other damage than making a close Conduit through it, and offered to be at every expence and make them a yearly acknowledgement for it, and am sorry that I could not for the present obtain his consent, but We can carry in another way thro’ a small piece of common ground cross the Turnpike into Coll Beaumont’s own ground which altho’ it will be attended with a little more expence will save the Rent.

      We have now introduced thro’ the whole of Coll. & Mrs. Beaumont’s works running the Slag from the Slag hearth into water which has entirely supressed the use of Stamp Mills which were attended with considerable expence, another improvement has since been adopted of having the Slag run over a Pott with a moveable partition which does not quite reach the bottom, one Part only of which is kept fetled with ashes as before in which the Lead subsides and rises in the other part of the Pot which at the beginning is empty, out of which the Lead is ladled into the Moulds without the necessity of removing the Ashes out of the Pott as formerly done.

      Since the above alterations have taken place, the Black Slags are rendered so poor that we have been under the necessity of doubling the price paid for the Lead obtained in working them and rather doubt that it will not be found sufficient, as they are paying much higher at Langley Mill.

      I am glad to say that our Lead wharfs here are now in a very different state to what they were when Mrs. Beaumont was last here, We have not now a piece of Lead unsold but are rather in debt to the Mills where we have a large Stock to supply the deficiency and fill up many of the vacancies occasioned by the late extensive sales.

Jno Mulcaster.
John Mulcaster refers to his father. This was Robert, the long standing Blaydon agent, who had died not quite 2 months previously, on 19th March 1808.

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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