The Greenwich Hospital had two northern receivers who managed their northern estates including Alston Moor and its mineral deposits. Nicholas Walton (1703 – 1795) was appointed receiver in 1735 and retired in 1759. On his retirement his son Nicholas Walton junior was appointed to the vacancy. Nicholas Walton junior’s life and career lie in undeserved obscurity. He held the position of receiver for fifty years almost until his death on 14th January 1810. As in his father’s time, the receivers were based at Farnacres near Gateshead on the Ravensworth estate. Walton’s letters show him to have been a highly proficient manager on top of all the detail much as Joseph Richmond had been for Blackett. For a while his fellow receiver was John Smeaton, the civil engineer, who has attracted more attention than Walton. The two receivers planned and commenced the great drainage tunnel of the Nent Force Level in 1776. The later plaque commemorating the work calls it Smeaton’s project and even misnames Nicholas Walton as Richard Walton. Walton and Smeaton were also responsible for the construction and management of Langley smelt mill. Walton was an early member of the Newcastle Lit. and Phil. and made a very important contribution to the development of geological science when in 1793 he devised and presented to the Society a complete section of the strata of Alston Moor and Dufton Fell. This pioneering work, which the Society still possesses, was later incorporated, unacknowledged, by Westgarth Forster in his much better-known Section of Strata. A memorial inscription was erected to both Nicholas Waltons in Lamesley chapel. It celebrated the son’s “ardent zeal, indefatigable industry, and inflexible integrity”.
Records of the Literary and Philosophical Society of Newcastle upon Tyne
E. Mackenzie and M. Ross, An Historical, Topographical, and Descriptive View of the County Palatine of Durham, Volume One, (1834)
Peter Wilkinson, The Nent Force Level and Brewery Shaft, (2001)
Photograph of the Nentforce level plaque H. Parker collection