Re-discovered: a late eighteenth-century lead-miner’s diary

You may have seen earlier posts highlighting how useful it is to have volunteers, and how useful it is to have a PhD student working with our lead-mining records.  Well, here’s a post that combines the two.

Last week, our volunteer Mavis examined and briefly described a collection, D3017, which had remained unlisted since we accepted it in 1986.  What had interested me was a mention on the Record Office Guide saying that D3017 included a c1789 coal mining diary.  On closer inspection, the thing turned out to have nothing to do with coal; it was the personal working diary of a particular lead-miner.  As Matthew Pawelski, our doctoral student, was on hand to confirm that this was quite a rarity, we digitised it to save wear and tear on the original.  I then spent a bit of time looking at it – just long enough to add a description to the catalogue.  If you follow that link, click on the catalogue entry for a fuller explanation, then click on the next link to see the description of the volume.

I also gave it a new reference number, because I couldn’t find any connection with the rest of that collection, so the diary is now D7812/1.  You can use a copy on any of the record office computers by looking for CD/348.

The diary seems to have belonged to John Naylor, who mined lead in the area around Ashford-in-the-Water.  (He gets a mention in Lynn Willies’s PhD thesis.)  The book looks rather home-made, and if you handle the document you can see how the pages have been roughly sewn together – in fact, it’s just possible that it was not originally a single volume, because it contains some quite different types of material.  For the most part, it’s a daily diary, covering 1789 to 1792, saying what tasks the diarist was engaged on, and where, as well as the dates of religious holidays when no work was done.  It’s also a personal account book, recording his spending on food and candles – for obvious reasons, lead-miners got through quite a lot of those.  As a sample, have a look at this page:


Here’s a transcription/explanation:

March 1790
21 March: C5 [C is for “church” – and the five means it is the fifth Sunday in Lent]
22-27 March: Knocking etc. all week
28 March: C6 [sixth Sunday in Lent]
29-31 March: at mine, knocking and budling
[No, I don’t know what budling is, but I’m confident one of our readers will know, and will post a comment below to explain.]

1790 March.  Bought of Mr Woodruf
9 March: flour, coarse, 1/2 stone: 1 shilling
10 March: meal, 4 pecks: 4 shillings
12 March: candles, 1 1b; 13 March: flour, coarse, 1/2 stone: 1 shilling, 8d
16 March: cheese, 4 1/2 lb: 1 shilling 5d
17 March: flour, 1 stone, coarse: 2 shillings
18 March: bacon, 3 lbs: 1 shilling, 10 1/2d
19 March: meal, 2 pecks: 2 shillings
20 March: bacon, 1 pound: 7 1/2d
24 March: flour, 1 stone; 26 March: ditto 1/2 stone, coarse, 3 shillings
27 March: Candles, 1 lb; 28 March: beef, 1/2 lb: 4 shillings 11d
Total: £1, 2 shillings, 6d

April 1790
1 April: at mine, budling
2 April: knocking
3 April: budling
4 April C: Easter Sunday
5-10 April: at mine all this week, knocking, budling and washing. Margaret Harrison came to knock two days this week and one washing – in all, three days
11 April: C1 [First Sunday after Easter]
12 April: John and Margaret knocking and washing a little
13 April: knocking ourselves, water [What’s that about water? There’s some writing next to it – a measurement of depth?]
14 April: knocking ourselves
15-17 April: Margaret washing
18 April: C2 [Second Sunday after Easter]

I’m no handwriting expert, so I couldn’t swear it’s all written by the same person, although I think that’s the likeliest explanation.  The reason we think the writer is John Naylor is this page, which says “John Naylor his book”.


Notice the adjacent page?  It contains an epitaph, headed “The Grave has never been denied”:
Ho, ho, lies here
‘Tis I the good Earl of Devonshire
With Cate my Wife, to me full dear
That we spent we had
That we left we lost
That we gave, we have

I don’t know if that’s a quotation, or if Mr Naylor was an aspiring poet.  (If you know, don’t be shy – please use the comments box below.)  We might infer literary aspirations from the bits of the volume that have been used as a commonplace book for prayers, devotional writings and short essays on esoteric subjects, such as “On Dreams”, describing to the attitudes of Ptolemy, Galen and Solomon towards dreams.

7 thoughts on “Re-discovered: a late eighteenth-century lead-miner’s diary

  1. Someone beat me to it, Budling/buddling was the process of washing the ore to sort the dross from the lead – this answer via my father Dr Trevor Ford author of Lead Mining in the Peak District.

  2. I think the epitaph is most likely to be a quotation; if the book was written in the 1790s then mention of an Earl of Devonshire is going back more than a century, given that the fourth Earl was upgraded to the first Duke for his key part in the installation of William and Mary on the throne.

  3. It is a wonderful resource, one which we are lucky to have found considering its location. I wonder how it got there!

    Anyway, I think there is a great deal to decipher within this diary, many gems and many veins of information to extract!

  4. Nice find, Mavis, Matt and Mark! I found it also very interesting to see evidence of women in the mining business – Looks like Margaret gets involved in the knocking bit as well.

    • Women were very heavily involved in the lead industry. Though it requires work and consideration that goes beyond the documented history; the account books, correspondence and diaries of the Derbyshire Lead Industry were, after-all, written for and by men. But, we shouldn’t therefore believe that women weren’t involved, they were an essential element of any mining workforce, albeit a socially supressed and poorly paid element. Discovering the way they contributed to the economy is really a fascinating and forthcoming field of research!

  5. Knocking and Buddling are the basic ore processing techniques. Knocking is breaking the ore that comes out of the mine (although this was also done underground as well), and then sorting out the pieces which had lead ore in. Buddling was then the process of washing the ore and sorting it by gravity using water flow. Hopefully at the end of the process you had cleaned and reasonably concentrated lead ore for the Barmaster to come and measure.

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