Women leadminers

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).
D7676 BagC 382 account

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.

D7676 BagC 382 lads and women

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?)
Mary Buros
Sarah Hills
Elizabeth Smith
Elizabeth Goos
Dawrathy Bright
Needham maide*
John Middleton maide*
Hunter wife*
Mary Redfern
Sarah Eyre
Ann Flecher
Ann Wibersly
Grace Chapman
Isabell Mellor
Ann Hall
Ann Townend
Elizabeth Skidmore
Alice Hardy
Ann Johnson
Ann Young
Mr Barker wench*
Bekin maide*
Elizabeth Hatfield
*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.

3 thoughts on “Women leadminers

  1. Hi Mark, From my research the involvement of women isn’t that uncommon. One example at Taddington: A cope bargain dated the 3rd of November 1781, to George Marsden & Co., includes payment to “Mary Farmer washing 4 days” and paid 4/-, and under this to “daughter sieving 2 days” and paid 8d. Frequently in accounts of ore measured you’ll find women measuring sometimes fairly large amounts of “caved ore” too. Then at the other end of the social scale it is not uncommon to find women with a significant shareholding in lead mines, generally as a result of a legacy from a husband or father.

  2. Mark What a great post – loved it! Is there anyway of me sharing it in my facebook page?? Do I just need a link?? Cheers Paula

    Sent from my iPad


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