Report – John Mulcaster to Martin Morrison – 28 Oct 1809

Document Type: Report
Date: 28 Oct 1809
Correspondent: John Mulcaster
Recipient: Martin Morrison
Archive Source: NRO 672 E IF 1
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J. Mulcaster’s Report of Smelt Mills, Refineries etc 

Dukesfield Mill.

      The late great Flood having carried away the Mill Dam a little suspension of the works has therefore been occasioned - a temporary Dam has been made in its stead which has enabled the Mill to begin work again, and should there be no great Floods this winter, it may serve untill the spring, when it will be necessary to build a new Dam, which I think will be better placed a little further up the Water where a better foundation may be procured - Owing to the scarcity of Carriers & very wet season there will be a deficiency of Ore here of nearly three Months consumption.  Very little Lead is left on hand except what the Mill is making, which may all be delivered so long as the Weather permits the Carriers to travel - The Roasting Furnace is still continued at work with the same advantage as formerly observed.


Rookhope Mill.

      The foundation for the Horizontal Chimnies is completed & nothing further could be conveniently done without us roofing part of the Mill where the communication arches join which might endanger laying the Works off, should any bad weather happen - I thought it advisable to delay the building until the Spring but the materials necessary for completion of the Work will be got ready this Winter; as the bulk of the building is now finished I expect to have the Horizontals at work early next year.  The Mill has a sufficient Stock of Ore to keep it working untill the Carriage commences next Season, and the Lead I expect will be very near all delivered up to the end of this month. 

Allen Mill.

      The Roasting Furnace & two additional Bingsteads have been finished there & two more in hands will be as many as wanted for the use of the three east Hearths, a Peat, Coal & Cinder House will be wanted for the three Mills which I have marked out & they will be proceded [sic] in soon as the Bingsteads are finished - A very Large Stock of Lead Ore is lying at this Mill which will require additional Ore Hearths to smelt it.  Wood & Stones have been provided for two new Smelting Hearths, but the season being so far advanced, the building them has been postponed untill the Spring - a very considerable quantity of Commn. Bricks will be wanted for the Chimnies which it is desirable to have made near the Mill, on examination two situations appear for that purpose; one where Bricks have formerly been made was awarded to Mr. Ruddock at the late Division the other upon the Comn. at Catton considerably more distant & has no convenience for drying the Bricks, unless leave can be procured from the Proprietor of an adjoining Field.  Mr. Williamson’s Opinion is that Coll. Beaumont has no right to dig Clay in any of the Allotments without the Proprietors permission, it will therefore be necessary to obtain the consent of the Parties, who will expect a consideration for leave and damages - the less eligible situation is preferable to having them brought from Summer Rods Bar near Hexham, where they have lately been supplied from, the expence of Carriage from that place is considerable, on the quantity that will be wanted, would amount to upwards of £100 - Wm. Robson has had another job at the Wheel Axle tree & cured the crackling noise formerly observed, in his & Dixon’s opinion the defect is perfectly cured.  Blowing Machines, as well as the Machinery for working them will be wanted for the two new Hearths.  I will be obliged if Mr. Cockshutt will give his directions soon as convenient how he intends to have it done that we may proceed with them as soon as possible.

Allenheads Mill,

      There being a pair of Double Bellows lying at Rookhope Mill, not used, we have removed them to this Mill and have got them new covered - Mich Elliott is at present fixing them to the No. E Hearth, where there were no Bellows before, this Hearth never having been used since the Arch and Chimney were built.  This Mill being so near to the Mines will not have any want of Ore & I expect all the Lead will be got delivered.

Blaydon Refinery.

      We have worked a tryal of our New Slag Hearth Bellows with the Cast Iron plates instead of Boards and find they answer extremely well.  We have worked up part of the waste washings procured from the Road adjoining the Refinery & have got about 3 [or 5?] Tons of Lead.  I dont fear to procure 15 or 20 Tons more, tis and next year. - A considerable saving might still be adopted here by building Horizontal Chimnies which I wod recommend being built in the Spring, the benefit of them having been sufficiently ascertained.

General Observations.

      The Smelters at Rookhope Mill on the 11 Sept. Left off their Work alledging  as a reason that they could not make sufficient Wages to keep their families, from the Ore being so very bad - and that they would not go to their Work again unless their Wages were advanced to 10s/. pr For. for every kind of Ore. - I wrote to Mr. Smith that I was not sorry his Smelters had left their work as I believed they had some very bad ones amongst them and was glad of an opportunity of selecting the best and supplying the deficiency with better workmen and that none of them should be set to work till I saw him.  I went to Dukesfield & selected 12 of the Smelters there (Dukesfd. Mill being then off Work for want of the Dam) & ordered them to make a tryal of the same Ore the others had left off working to ascertain whether it was the quality of the Ore or want of skill of the Rookhope Smelters that caused the deficiency of their produce and Wages - the difference of Produce was considerably in favour of the Dukesfield Smelters but there certainly was great cause of complaint in the quality of the Ore.  When the Rookhope Smelters found there was some danger of losing their employment, they were desirous of being set to work again, requesting the cause of their complaint might be examined into.

      I find they have earned upon an average this year about 10s/9d. pr. week but being over many men to each Hearth is part of the cause. - The Wages divided among the proper number would be about 14s/6d for each man - there is now the proper Complement of 4 Men to each Hearth.  The Smelters earnings at Dukesfield have been about 9s/8d pr. Week, but there they have also over many.  There the proper number would have earned about 13s/6d each pr. Week.  When Allen Mill is enlarged we will remove part of the superfluous Men from Dukesfield there. - At Allen Mill the Smelters having constant work and not over many men, earn about 14s/6d each pr. week.  At the present price of the necessities of life & considering the Wages paid to common Labourers I think it would be advisable to allow the Smelters a small advance and I wod therefore recommend that they be paid at each Mill 8s/. pr. For. for the Bouse Ore & 9s/4d pr. For. for the Cutting Ore, which will make them earn from 16s to 17s pr. Week allowing not more than 4 men to each Hearth. - As there has been repeated complaints of the Lead Ore not being well dressed, especially that which is made up at this Season after the Carriage ceases & which lays at the Mines over Winter, I took the opportunity to go round the different Mines with the Washing Agents and examined each parcel, and was sorry to find some of them so dirty that I was under the necessity of informing the Washing Agent that unless three parcels were again washed over (which they promised to see done) we could not receive them at the Mill. - From a calculation which I made of the Ore lying at the different Mines and what we have got at the Mills, I find we have a full years consumption of Smelting on hand according to the present power of the Smelt Mills.

Jno Mulcaster

Blaydon Refy. 28 Octo 1809.

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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