We like to bring you news of research discoveries as and when they happen; this discovery was made in our search room about two hours ago, by Matthew Pawelski. OK, actually, it’s not a discovery per se, having been published in various forms before (e.g. Lynn Willies’ article in the Bulletin of the Peak District Mines Historical Society). But let us not get bogged down in semantics. Instead, have a look at this extract from a 1737 reckoning book for the Miners Engine lead mine at Eyam Edge. The section shown is principally dedicated to recording payments made to individual “coppers”. Nothing to do with the police, and it’s usually spelled “copers”; it refers to the men who were extracting lead ore below ground. Above their names, you will spot a reference to “17 women’s wages”, coming to £6 16s. Assuming this was shared equally, that comes to 8s each, or 40p in new money).
Nearer the back of the same book, we can actually see the names of some of these women, who would (like the “lads” named on the same page) have been working above ground, “drawing to”, i.e. hauling the ore to the surface.
Matthew P. is with us while he researches his doctoral thesis in the University of Lancaster, focusing on the Derbyshire lead industry in particular, and has been especially impressed by this reference to female workers, as his previous experience of reckoning books like this is that “women are almost invisible”. So, here’s to some visible women:
Hellin Buros (Helen Burrows?)
John Middleton maide*
Mr Barker wench*
*And yes, we don’t have the real names of these maids, wives and wenches. This tells its own story, really.
As a postscript, it’s nice to be able to tell you that we have been awarded some funding by the National Manuscripts Conservation Trust, which will allow our Conservation staff to repair two lead mining account books which are currently unavailable for consultation.
More (re-)discoveries anon.