Glossaries and Interpretation Aids

Useful contemporary guides on commercial practice are available at the site: the Youth’s introduction to trade and business (1769) and A new introduction to trade and business, very useful for the youth of both sexes (1786).

Common terms and abbreviations

These are some of the common terms encountered in the correspondence contained in ‘Dukesfield Documents’, particularly those to do with lead mining and smelting. More comprehensive glossaries and dictionaries of early modern England are listed at on the Lexilogos site. The National Archives useful pages on paleography, or the reading of early modern handwriting, contain some quick reference information.

7ber  September
8ber October
9ber November
10ber December
Bail, Bole, Baal hill A smelting place consisting of stone on three sides which was fired using wood and lead ore
Bill Not an invoice but a ‘promise to pay’ at a certain period’s notice, often 3 months. Formally ‘bills of exchange’. Bills from people of good credit standing were treated as banknotes and traded on in an era perennially short of cash.
Bingstead A storage area where lead ore was dumped before smelting, ideally to separate ores of varying qualities from different veins for separate smelting.
Bingtale Contract with miners for payment by weight of washed ore
Blackwork oxidised lead smelted in a bole, part left for the second firing, and part smelted in an oven

Boneashes The ash from burning bone was used to create a calcareous lining on the bottom of a refining hearth in which lead was processed to produce silver and litharge. The lining had to be calcareous because lead reacts with silica (clay compounds) to form viscous lead silicate that prevents the needed absorption of litharge, whereas calcareous materials do not react with lead.
Bouse Ore The large pieces of ore of the better quality, directly from the mine undressed
Cinders Coke, ie. coal that has been baked to draw off sulphur, leaving better fuel for refining lead for silver, reducing litharge back to refined lead or re-smelting lead slag. It was increasingly used from the early 18th century
Concentrate Lead ore dressed ready for smelting
Cupola Commonly used name for a reverberatory furnace used to smelt lead with coal, designed to keep the coal physically separate from the ore to avoid contamination. The London lead Company appears to have been the main user of this process in the North Pennines, but the widespread availability of peat and distance from principal coal deposits was probably the reason why most 18th century smelting mills in the region retained the older and simpler ore hearth furnace in which the fuel and ore could be mixed.
Cutting Ore Smaller pieces of ore of inferior quality
Deadwork Driving through ground where there is no ore
Dress To remove waste materials from ore ready for smelting
Farmer In this period it means someone who has bought from the owner of tolls, wayleaves or taxes, the right to collect payments, usually for a fixed fee
Fathomtale or Fathom work Contract with miners for payment by distance driven. Stone work in driving levels or sinking shafts in which the workmen were paid by the number of fathoms sunk or driven in a forward direction at a given bore.
Flat/Flatt Horizontal ore deposit
Galena Lead sulphide (PbS), the most commonly found ore of lead
Gangue Waste materials attached to lead ore
Gavelock Iron crowbar used for stirring the contents of an ore hearth
Gin Horse driven machinery for lifting out of mine, short for ‘engine’
Governor and Co name often used for the London Lead Company, derived from its formal title.

Groove, grove (1) The entrance area to an individual mine.
(2) General term for a mine or series of mines within a small area.
Hush Removing surface materials using a rush of water to reveal a lead vein
Level An underground mine way (with or without direct access to the surface) which is more or less horizontal rather than a vertical shaft
Liberty The area where the miner was permitted to find and mine for ore
Litharge  A lead oxide produced in the refining process and used in the manufacture of paint, putty and glazing pottery among others. Output often measured in casks
Lre Letter
Matie /Majtie Majesty
Mart.s Martinmas, 11 November. One of the traditional half yearly rent days in the North East, May day being the other
Meer Area or tract of land, measured in yards along the vein, where mining was permitted
Mich Michaelmas, 29 September
Mine shop Lodgings for lead miners
Ore hearth Furnace where peat (or coal) was used as fuel, blown by water-powered bellows, for smelting lead
Piece Cast lead piece formed in a mould. Weights varied with mould sizes, but were often 8 stones or 11stones. The number of pieces in a fother of smelted lead could therefore vary
Pig See piece

Quaker company name often used for the London Lead Company, based on the religious affiliation of most of its founders
Rake Vein of lead in a vertical fissure running across the land
Senight Seven nights, ie. week
Sesse/ cesse a tax or rate, strictly short for assessment
Slag Waste material produced in both bole and ore hearth smelting which could be re-worked to make slag lead. Ordinary slags are the refuse of the smelting process and black slags those of the refining process
Slag hearth Furnace with hotter temperature to re-work slag and a make slag lead, which was less pure than ore hearth lead
Stamping Crushing (particularly of the ore at the minehead prior to smelting and the slags prior to their being resmelted.)
Stemples Short timbers across the lead vein as platforms for waste
Stoping Working overhead vertically up a lead vein
Tack Usually a one-year license to explore for lead
Test (1) The vessel in which the lead was de-silverised.
(2) The process of de-silverising in which the said vessel was used.
Turnbole A variation on the bole, developed in Durham, whereby the furnace could be revolved to face the prevailing wind
Xber December
Xtopher Christopher

Weights and measures


Bing Eight hundredweight of crushed lead ore. Carried in sacks –or pokes-of 1 cwt each. Each horse could carry 2 sacks. Hence the units of measure for ore transport were bings, horses and pokes: 2 pokes to the horse, 4 horses to a bing
Cwt usual abbreviation for Hundredweight, = 8 stones or 112 lb/pounds
Fother, fodder, fudder Weight by which smelted lead was sold. This measure varied from port to port:

Newcastle:   21 cwt/fother
Hartlepool:  20 cwt/fother
Stockton:      22 cwt/fother
London         19 1/2 cwt/fother

Horse in terms of lead ore carriage, a single horse could carry roughly a two cwt load, typically in the form of 2 single cwt sacks or pokes; 4 horses was therefore a bing

Quarter 2 stones, or a quarter of a hundredweight

Poke Measure of lead ore carriage: a poke was a 1 cwt sack of lead ore. Since a single horse could carry roughly two of these, 2 pokes = 1 horse.
Pound/lb 16 ounces
Stone 14 pounds/lb

Land area

Acre One acre equals 0.0015625 square miles, 4,840 square yards, 43,560 square feet or 0.405 hectares.
Rood one quarter of an acre or 10890 sq ft (approximately 1011 m2, 10.1 ares or 0.1 hectares). A rectangular area with edges of one furlong (i.e. 10 chains, or 40 rods) and one rod respectively is one rood, as is an area consisting of 40 perches (square rods)
Perch A perch is equal to a square rod, the rod being 5.5 yards or 16.5ft in length. There are 40 square perches to a rood.


Crown 5 shillings
Guinea £1 1s
Mark 13s 4d, ie. 2 nobles
Noble 6s 8d, ie. 3 nobles = £1
Pound/£ £1 = 20 shillings
Shilling 12 pence or 12d
pence/d 1d = 1 penny

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