Witness Deposition – John Erasmus Blackett – 26 Mar 1805

Document Type: Witness Deposition
Date: 26 Mar 1805
Correspondent: John Erasmus Blackett
Archive Source: NRO ZBL 213
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[Cover:] JEBlackett’s Answers to the Interrogatories under a Commission for the examination of Witnesses on the 26th March 1805 in Beaumonts Suit with Bp. Durham

To the first Interrogatory – Knowledge of Parties & of Sir Thomas Blackett

      J.E.B. has known the parties Complainants and Defendants a number of Years, the Complainant since the year 1791 when he came into the possession of the See of Durham – the Defendant since the year 1779 – J:E:B: knew the late Sir Tho Blackett of Bretton from the year 1777 untill the time of his Death in the year 1792 –

To the second Interrogy: To prove the knowledge of the Leadmines –

      J:E:B: is not locally acquainted with the several Leadmines in the Parishes of Stanhope and Wolsingham belonging to the Lord Bishop of Durham in the County Palatine of Durham otherwise than by report of the several Lead Stewards, nor does he know, otherwise than by report, that those Mines are in Weardale; which they have always been termed to be, -

J:E:B: at first became acquainted with the business of these Mines by transacting business for his late relation Sir Walter Blackett Bart. until his death in 1777, and that these are the Mines which were leased by Thomas late Lord Bishop of Durham to the late Sir Thomas Blackett by two Leases which to the best of J:E:B:s recollection and belief are dated on or about the 20th October 1790, which said Leases were granted upon the Surrender of two Leases from John Lord Bishop of Durham to the said Sir Thomas Blackett bearing date respectively the 29th: Jany . 1783 – on the death of Sir Walter Blackett the property in the Weardale Mines under Lease from the Lord Bishop of Durham descended to Sir Thomas Wentworth who took the name of Blackett; from which time J:E:B: transacted the business of those Mines on behalf of Sir Thomas Blackett –

To the 3rd: Interrogy: That the Mines have since 1791 become more productive in consequence of new discoveries and great additional expence.

      It appears by the Leadmine Agents Accounts that the Mines in question have been more productive since the year ending the 30th: Sept: 1791 but whether they were so in the Months of June and July in that year J.E.B. cannot set forth. – That in consequence of an Agreement having been entered into by Sir Tho: Blackett with the Complainant for his One Ninth Lot Ore Sir Tho Blackett was encouraged to expend very considerable Sums in carrying forward some expensive Levels, and making other new trials, particularly in the winning of Breckensike Mine, in consequence of which the Mines in question became more productive

To the 4th: Interrogy: To prove that at that time Breckonsike Mine was not thought to be productive but that it has since become more productive

      J:E:B: does not know Breckonsike Mine otherwise than by report of the Leadmine Agents from whose information he believes the said Mine was not in the smallest degree productive in the year 1791 but that in consequence of the large Sum of Money afterwards expended in winning the said Mine it was expected to be productive and actually became so in the Year 1798. That the said Mine was not in the Year 1791 considered very valuable may be inferred from the circumstance of a Moiety of it with four others [inserted here: ‘Lot 5. Viz.  1 Breckonsike Mine 2 Greenfield – do –  3 Broadmear – do – 4 Rogers Well – do- 	5 Greenwell Mine’] having been purchased in the Month of January in that year at a Publick Sale by Sir Thomas Blackett for the sum of £700.

5th Interrogatory - 	Requires no answer from Mr. Blackett

To the 6th Interrogy:

      In the opinion of J:E:B: it would not have been prudent or adviseable in Sir Tho Blackett or the Defendants to have wrought the Mines in the 2nd. Interrog. enquired after in the manner they have done since the year 1791 unless the said Sir Tho. Blackett or these Defendants had obtained encouraging terms for the Lot and Tithe Ore of those Mines: but whether it would have been adviseable for the said Sir Thos. Blackett or these Defendants to have so wrought the Mines unless the Price of Lead exceeded the Sum of £20 p Fother this Deponent cannot set forth – 

      That in case the Bishop had received his Lot Ore in kind J.E.B. conceives it would not have been for the Interest of the late Sir Thos Blackett or of the Defendants since his death to have wrought the Weardale Mines to the extent they have been wrought, and that in case the Bishop had insisted upon his Lot Ore in kind J.E.B. would have recommended them to work only the most profitable Mines and to lay in the others as was the Case in the lifetime of the late Sir Walter Blackett, when on two occasions, when the Lessor endeavoured an advance of the Composition which at those times was no more than £350 p Annum, Sir W. Blackett resisted the demand and in consequence laid off great part of the expensive Workings, and the Dues were for a time taken in kind, but the Lessor being sensible of the disadvantage attending his not compounding for his Dues, soon afterwards accepted of the Former Composition of £350

To the 7th Interrogy. - To prove what passed on the Treaty with the Bishop -

      On the 17th. June 1791 J.E.B. entered into a correspondence with Mr. Rich: Burn Agent to the Bishop of Durham for a renewal of the Agreement with the Bishop for a Composition for his One Ninth or Lot Ore, and some time afterwards in the same year J.E.B. had a meeting with the Lord Bishop of Durham, when the Bishops Secretary Mr: William Emm was present – at which meeting to the best of J.E.B’s recollection he offered the Lord Bishop £900 in lieu of his Lot Ore. The Lord Bishop asked 950£ p Annum – at length it was agreed to split the difference, and the Lord Bishop agreed to accept £925 p Annm. in lieu of his Lot Ore in the several Mines in the Parishes of Stanhope and Wolsingham during the time he continued in possession of the See of Durham

      J:E:B: declares that he did not at that or any other conversation give the Lord Bishop of Durham any assurance that the £925 p Ann: so accepted by him, was the full value of One Ninth part of the Ore which might be wrought out of those Mines – J:E:B: assured the Bishop that circumstanced as Sir Thomas Blackett was in working of those Mines, £925 the Sum he offered, would in his opinion be a fair Composition or annual rent for the Lord Bishop’s One Ninth part of the said Ore. – That the said J:E:B: did not at any interview or conversation with the said Lord Bishop make use of any representation or assurances to induce him to accede to the terms proposed by the said J:E:B otherwise than what is here stated – that what passed as such interviews by letter or in any other conversation is very similar to what took place between the said J.E.B. and the two former Bishops, when agreements were entered into for the Composition for their Lot Ore.

To the 8th Interrogy – To prove that £925. . was in Septr. 1791 a fair Rent

      J:E:B: saith he is of opinion that from the circumstance of the expence of the Mines in Weardale being greater than in Alston Moor and other neighbouring places, from the fluctuation in the Price of Lead, and the necessity of paying the whole Rent for the time of the Bishops possession of the See by quarterly payments, although a part or the whole of the Mines might be unproductive that the said Sum of £925 was in the Month of Septemr. 1791 a fair annual Composition for the Lot Ore so leased to the said Sir Thomas Blackett and the said J:E:B: forms this opinion from his knowledge of the nature of Mining concerns in general, and particularly the Mines in question. – 

[A slip of paper inserted in the document a few pages later appears to be J.E.B’s hand. It seems to refer to the subject of the 8th Interrogatory so is given here:]

      Which is the case at present not only with the Lead Mines worked by the Defendt. In their own Property but as JEB is informed in those Mines worked by the Lead Company in Alston Moor & in case of a like failure in the Mines of the Complaint. the Defendt. Would be subject to the Payment of £925 during the life of the Complt or during his being in Possession of the See of Durham

To the 9th Interrogy. - Requires no answer from Mr: Blackett

To the 10th Interrogy. –To prove the Price paid to the late Bishop -

      On the 26th May 1787 J.E.B. entered into an Agreement with Thomas late Lord Bishop of Durham for the Ninth part of the Lead Ore wrought out of the said Mines from the 18th Jany 1787 during his Lordships enjoyment of the Bishoprick of Durham at the yearly Rent of £850 

To the 11th Interrogatory – To prove what day the Mining Accounts are made up in each Year, and that the quantity of Ore up to the settling days was more in the year 1786 than afterwards 

      Prior to the year 1803 the Leadmine Accounts in the 2nd Interrogy: mentioned were made up from the 30th Septr. in one year to the 30th Septr. in another (except in the Year 1792 when upon the Death of Sir Thomas Blackett the Accounts for that year were made up to the 10th July, being the day of his Death) but without specifying the quantity wrought in each Month or any other given period within the year. – That  the Accounts of such Leadmines made up prior to the Month of May 1787 were the Accounts between the 30th Sept, 1785 and the 30th Sept. 1786 and the Accounts made up previous to the Months of June and August 1791 were the Accounts between the 30th Sept: 1789 and the 30th Sept: 1790 and the quantity of Ore produced in the Mines leased by Sir Thos: Blackett for the years 1786, 1787, 1788, 1789 & 1790 ending on the usual day on which the Accounts were made up, namely the 30th Septr. in each year are as follow, In the Year 1786 – 12,532 Bings of Ore & 4 Tons 16 Cwt. 2Qrs . lb of Lead, also 119 Bings of Ore in the Partnership Mines in that year In the year 1787- 12131 Bings Ore & 6 Tons Lead also 196 Bgs. of Ore in the Ptnrshp Mines in the same year. In 1788 – 11,299. Bings 2h & 65 Tons 17Cwt. .Qr 20lb of Lead also 189Bs. 2h in the Ptnrshp M. In 1789 – 9998 Bings Ore & 118Tons.2Ct 3Q, 5lb of Lead & 120Bs 1h in the Ptnrshp Mines & In 1790 – 12,350.3Bings Ore & 337.Bs. 2h in the ptnshp Mines also 193 – 6 – 1 – 15 Tons of Lead in the same Year –

[This undated loose paper is today filed with the 1807 Lord Chancellor’s Order bit the fugures given appear to link it to the answers to interrogatories given in March 1805, so it is placed here accordingly. It is annotated on reverse:]

Account of ore raised in Weardale from 1786 to 1790

	Bouse Ore raised    Weardale Tontale    Total Ore raised in the 

	in Weardale Mines   Lead Produced       ptnrship Mines in Weard.

	      Bings  Ho.     Tons Cw Qrs lbs       Bings Ho	

In 1786      12,532            4 16 2 ..           119 .

   1787      12,131 1          6 .. . ..           196 .

   1788      11,299 2         65 17 . 20           189 2

   1789       9,998          118  2 3  5           120 1

   1790      12,350 3        193  6 1 15           337 2

In five 

  Years      58,311 2        388 .. 3 12           962 1

Average      11,662 1         77 12 3  2           192 1 1/2

Supp[ose] The Tontale Lead to have required 4 Bings Ore for each Ton of Lead produced, the Average for the above five Years will then be


  Weardale Bouse Ore  11662 1

  Do Tontale do.        310 .						

Partnership Mines do    192 1 1/2

                     12,164 2 1/2

Ore produced in the partnership Mines from Sept. 30: 1789 to Jany. -1791 as above  337.	2

Deduct 1/5 for the quantity raised from Sept.30 1790 to Jany. 1791                                 67.	2

Leaves for the Produce in the year endg. Sept: 30; 1791                                                    270.	

To the 12th Interrogy – To prove price of Lead at different periods particularly mentioned in the Bill -

      On the 14th day of May 1787 and on the 30th of the same Month Sir Thos Blacketts Agents sold 200 pieces Refd. Lead @ £20 p Fdr. of 21 Cwts.  and on the 31st day of the said Month of May they sold 150 pieces Refin’d Lead at £20 p Fother and 210 pieces Common Lead at 19£ - 15s p Fother – On the 14th May 1791 Sir Thos Blacketts Agents sold 240 pieces of Refined Lead at 19£ p Fdr. on the 17th of the same month 20 pieces of Refd. Lead @ 19£ p Fdr. on the 21st of the said Month of May 120 pieces Common Lead at 18£ - 15s - ,, d p Fdr. and on the 25th of the said Month 15 pieces Refind Lead at 19£ p Fother – In the Month of June 1791 not any sale of Lead was made by Sir Thomas Blackett or his Agents but on the 13th and on the 30th days of that Month they sold 132 Casks of Litharge at 19£ - 10s - ,,p  p Ton of 20 Cwts. – On the 5th 26th and 28th days of July 1791 Sir Thos. Blacketts Agents sold 89 pieces of Refin’d Lead at 19£ p Fother.

To the 13th Interrogatory – To prove the great fluctuation in the Price of Lead Ore

      The Price of Lead and Lead Ore is subject to great variation depending upon the quantities wrought as well as to the quality and demand – the Price of Lead has varied very much between the year 1788 and the year 1801 – not any Lead Ore has been ever purchased or sold by Bing by Sir Thos. Blackett or the Defendants J:E:B: therefore does not know its price. – The highest price of Lead sold by J.E.B. between the year 1788 and 1801 was 25£ - 5s – p Fother, the lowest price of Lead sold in the like Period was 14£ p Fdr.

      The highest price of Lead sold by J.E.B. in the year 1790 was 17£ p Fdr. and the lowest Price in that year was 16 - 5 - ,, p Fdr. – The highest price of Lead sold by J:E:B: in 1791 was 20£ p Fdr. and the lowest price in that year was 16£ - 15s - ,, p Fdr. – The highest price of Lead sold by J.E.B. in 1794 was 16£ . 0s . 0 p Fdr. and the lowest price in that year was 14£ p Fdr. and the highest price of Lead sold by J:E:B: in 1795 was 18£ p Fdr. and the lowest price in that year was 14£ p Fother – 

The 14th & 15th Interrogy: Require no answer from Mr. Blackett.

To the 16th Interrogy: To prove handwriting

      Upon looking at the Paper Writings now shewn J:E:B: marked respectively with the letters ‘A’ and ‘B’ J:E:B: says he is acquainted with the handwriting thereof and that same is in the handwriting of Joshua Straker the late Clerk to Sir T: Blackett and after his Death to the Defendants, and that the name or characters J:E:B: and J:E: Blackett subscribed at the bottom of the said Paper writings and the direction or superscription thereof are also of the handwriting of the said Joshua Straker, who J.E.B. hath very frequently seen write – that the said Joshua Straker died in the Month of August 1798. –

To the 17th Interrog.	See sheet annexed for answer

[Annexed sheet, marked ‘(Page 15)’:]

      JEB. Saith that the Terms and Conditions in which the Leadmines in the 2d. Interrogy: mentioned, belonging to the said Complainant are held by the Defts. in the cause, are as follows – Upon two several Leases for 3 Lives bearing date respectively the 20th day of Octr. 1790 the one being a Lease from [the] late Bishop of Durham to the late Sir T: Blackett Bt. of the Office of Moor Master in Weardale [in] the County of Durham under the yearly rent of £150 and One Ninth part of the Ore gotten in the unenclosed Grounds, called Lot Ore, & also another Lease of the same date, from the said Bishop to the said Sir Thomas Blackett also for 3 Lives of the Mines under the enclosed Grounds, upon the payment of 1/9th part of the Ore gotten therein, called Lot Ore – the whole of which Mines are liable to pay to the Rectors of Stanhope & Wolsingham One Tenth part of the Ore gotten in Lands within their respective parishes for Tithe; but by an Agreement entered into with the Rector of Stanhope the Defendants agree to pay him 1500£ p Ann: in lieu of his Tithe Ore during his incumbency and by an Agreement entered into by the Compt and the late Sir Thos Blackett it was agreed to pay him £925 p Ann. for his Ninth Lot Ore – 

      JEB. does not of his own knowledge know [inserted here in another hand: ‘accurately’] upon what Terms and conditions the adjoining Leadmines belonging to the Commissioners and Governors of Greenwich Hospital or any other of the adjoining Lead Mines in the County of Durham are held by the lessees thereof, and therefore cannot set forth [struck out: ‘whether’ then inserted in a different hand: ‘how far’] the Leadmines held by the Defendants are on [struck out: ‘more or’] less favourable terms than such other Mines are held. – 

To the last Interrogy.

      J.E.B: saith that he never in any conversation with this Complainant or any of his Agents said any thing with an intention to deceive them, but on the contrary fairly and candidly answered such questions as were put to him, and was ready to have given further information concerning the Working the said Mines had he been requested so to do, and that what passed between JEB and the Complainant in the Treaty of the Agreement entered into between him and Sir Thomas Blackett in the year 1791 was very similar to what passed between JEB. and the two former Bishops when Agreements were entered into for the compensation of their Lot Ore that the exhibits marked with the letters ‘A’ & ‘B’ J.E.B. believes to be Copies of Letters wrote by him to George Brooks Esq. Secretary to the late Bishop Egerton on the treaty of an agreement between Sir Thos.:  Blackett and the said Bishop for his Lot Ore and which said Copies are in the following words, Namely,

Geo: Brooks Esq – under cover To Richd: Master Esq. Banker M.P. Chancery Lane London

      Newcastle March 21: 1787 


	I am favoured with your letter of the 19th Inst. and observe that you have laid my letter, to you, before the Bishop of Durham and that his Lordship waived the Offer made him of the Old Composition because he thinks it insufficient, but is ready to receive Propositions on the part of Sir Thomas Blackett, if we choose to furnish him with an Account of the Value of the Lot Ore for a number of years last past that he may be able to form his judgement upon; I shall acquaint Sir Thomas Blackett with his Lordships answer, but I do not think that Sir Thos. will give more for the Lot Ore for although more Ore has been wrought within these late years than formerly owing to the encouragement of the price of Lead (wch. is very fluctuating) yet was the Lot and Tithe Ore to be taken in kind there could not be that inducement to make fresh trials & not one half of the quantity would be wrought; for some years the late Sir Walter Blackett, & for a couple of years Sir Thomas Blackett, lost Money by the Weardale Lead Mines which may be the case again, & at a time when the Bp. of Durham & the Rector of Stanhope took their Lot & Tithe Ore in kind they were both sufferers by it, & were convinced that it was for their Interest to Compound; the Lot Ore has been kept separate since the Death of the late Bishop & shall continue to be so, until this affair is settled in some shape, wch. should there not be a prospect of doing by the Old Composition we must be under the necessity of laying off all the fresh trials & working only a few things which are the most promising; For the reasons above mentioned an Account of the Value of the Lot Ore for a number of years past cannot answer the purpose of forming a judgement on the matter –

      I am &c	J: E: B:


Geo. Brooks Esqr. under Cover to Richd. Master Esq: Banker M.P. Chancery Lane London

 									Newcastle April 28th 1787


	At my return home this evening from the Lead Mines I found your favour of the 25th inst. by which I observe that the Bp. of Durham is desirous that I should furnish him with some information upon which he may form a judgement of the propriety of accepting or refusing the offer made him by Sir Thos: Blackett as a Composition for his Lot Ore; I really am at a Loss what information to give his Lordship for was I to send him an Account of the Ore wrought in those Mines at any given time? it would mislead him, as it is well known, that by the Composition only, both the late Sir Walter Blackett as well as Sir Thos: Blackett have been enabled to work those Mines to Profit, & was the Lot & Tithe Ore taken in kind Sir Thos: Blackett will be under a necessity of laying in two thirds of the Mines & discharging that proportion of the Workmen. I have had a letter from Mr: Hardinge the Rector of Stanhope, acquainting me that he accepted of Sir Thos: Blackett’s Offer of £450 as a Composition for his Tithe Ore, & I am satisfied that his Lordship will find it for his Interest to accept of the offer made him – I am &c:

J: E: Blackett

And the said J.E.B. also saith that he never wrote or said to Sir Thos  Blackett or to any other person whomsoever, that he the said JEB had gained an undue advantage over the said Complainant in the beforementioned agreement with him nor did he ever think he had done so – and J:E:B: also saith that without a fair Composition for the said Lot Ore it would not be prudent or safe for the Lessees to work the said Mines in an extensive manner and in order to shew the necessity of such Composition, saith that on Working one of the Mines so held by Lease by the said Sir Thos Blackett and afterwards by the Defendants, namely a Mine called Wolfcleugh Mine there was a loss of upwards of £10,000 during the last fourteen years without including its portion of Rents, Compositions Salaries of Agents or Interest of Capital expended, and that the said Mine still continues unproductive – and the said J.E.B. saith he hath been informed and believes it to be true that the expence of winning the LeadMine called Breckonsike amounted to upwards of Nine Thousand Pounds - * and the said J.E.B. further saith that had the Complainant at the time of the Agreement with him in the year 1791 insisted upon the Rent for the Lot Ore which he now by his Bill states to be reasonable J:E:B: would not have advised Sir Thomas Blackett to give the same nor to give the Rent which he afterwards did for the Tithe Ore due to the Rector of Stanhope.

[Given on a separate sheet:] 

(To be inserted on page 19)

*  J.E.B. further saith that in furnishing the Accounts to make up the Schedules to the Defts. answer, he omitted at that time to take notice of certain quantities of Ore annually raised by the Governor & Company for smelting down Lead &c. in part of the premises included in the Lease to the said Sir Thos. Blackett, and which are held by the said Governor & Co under the said Defts. which Account furnished by their Agents appears to be as follows. Viz.

      Bouse  Cutting Total

      Ore    Ore     Bs  Cwt

In the year 


  1792               80  6

  1793              112  6

  1794              132  1

  1795              192  .

  1796              120  7

  1797              201  .

  1798              520  .    

  1799             1540  3

  1800             2077  3

  1801             2112  7

  1802             1368  1

Not having received any Account since the year 1802 J:E:B: is unable to state what quantity of Ore has been raised by the Governor & Co since that time.

(Then follows ‘and the said JEB. further saith &c’ to the end) 
The letters included towards the end of this deposition given by JEB are also to be found in the agent’s  copy letter book NRO 672/E/1E/5 and available in ‘Dukesfield Documents’ under the original  dates in 1787

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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