Treasure 25: The John Wheatcroft Plan of the Hubberdale Possessions, 1840

This treasure has been suggested by one of our regulars, researcher Steve Thompson.  He is the author of the text which follows.

D3266/92 is a very fine lead mining plan indeed, entitled “Plan of the Pipes and Rakes in the Hubberdale Title Within the Townships of Taddington & Flagg in the Queens Field and Hundred of High Peak by John Wheatcroft in June 1840”.  This very large plan, a little over eight feet by six feet, is drawn on a scale of 1 inch to 50 yards (1:1800), and demonstrates a very high standard of draughtsmanship. Continue reading

Mining the Archives… Literally!

I never thought that during this project I would literally be mining the archives… until this week when I began work on dismantling the 18th Century account book of Robert Thornhill, and to my surprise, hidden between the pages, I discovered what appeared to be deposits of lead!

D307 B 19 1 Lead particles found in between pages (1)

D307 B 19 1 Lead particles found in between pages (5)

This caused quite a scare for our health and safety team – Lead is a highly poisonous metal, and if it is inhaled or swallowed it can cause serious damage to the nervous system or brain. This being so, I stopped working on the book immediately, and our health and safety manager rushed to the scene to advise us on how to proceed.

Lead is dangerous if it is inhaled or ingested, but to inhale it the particles must be very fine and dust-like. Luckily the particles of lead we found were relatively large, and there was no evidence of dust, so we were told we were safe to proceed with precautions – wearing a mask, gloves and protective clothing; hand washing and proper disposal of the gloves and masks; and ensuring that the work area is cleared of all debris with Hepa filter vacuum cleaner…

D307 B 19 1 dismantling and numbering sections (1)

…Panic over!

However, in the midst of all this excitement, we had a thought…  the discovery of lead in this account book might tell us something about its history – the environment in which it was written, and where the work was carried out. We have collected samples of the lead and debris from the guttering of the pages and are hoping to get these tested using Infrared Spectrometry, a method of analysing the samples to identify the substances present. The findings could give us more clues about the provenance of the book, and lead mining history in general, which would potentially be valuable information for researchers.

Who knew this long neglected account book would cause such a stir?!




Mining the Archives Project – Conservation Update

I have now completed the bulk of the conservation work on  D248: Barmaster’s Lot and Cope account books, 1831-1870. Here are some of the repaired pages:



It really has made such a difference to all those pages which were in many pieces, as they can now be handled safely. The final few pages we came across in this pack were slightly different in appearance and texture to the others, and we think there may have already been some historic conservation procedures carried out on them which now requires some extra special treatment.

Whilst we investigate and decide what to do with the above, in the meantime I have begun work on the next document identified as part of the project; D307/B/19/1: Account book/ledger of Robert Thornhill, 1768 – 1829.


This 18th Century account book is still in its original, parchment-covered binding, which has considerable damage from a damp storage environment.  The book has suffered extensively from damp penetration, leaving the edge of every page extremely fragile and crumbling away. In its current condition this item cannot be used by researchers, as turning the pages will result in significant loss of information.

D307 B 19 1 crumbling pages 1D307 B 19 1 back end leavesD307 B 19 1 text block edge damage close up 2

Before I can repair the pages, the first job is to very carefully take the whole book apart. Each page will then be cleaned and washed before repairs are carried out. The original binding is too badly damaged to be re-used, so it will be kept with the item as part of the collection, and the repaired pages will be re-bound in a new binding.

So… scalpel at the ready, I will update you on how dismantling it goes!


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.

Mining the Archives Project – Conservation Update

I’ve been working away on the conservation of documents as part of the Mining the Archives Project, and have so far repaired over 50 individual pages of D248: Barmaster’s Lot and Cope account books, 1831-1870.

damaged cope account book before repairs damaged cope account book before repairs

Each page is extremely fragile – the book has been badly damaged by damp and mould, which has caused the paper to lose all of it’s strength and it is literally falling to pieces. The book had been dismantled years ago, so the pages are in no particular order with fragments muddled up and all over the place. Before I can begin the treatment process the first task is to puzzle all the pieces back together so that all the bits are in the right place. This can be very tricky due to the extent of the damage, a bit like a very complicated mouldy jigsaw puzzle!

lead mining puzzling pieces

Once I am sure everything is in the correct place I can begin the repairs. I have to be certain about this, because otherwise the information may not appear accurate, particularly as these are account books, so contain a lot of complicated numbers and arithmetic. After painstaking attempts, if I can’t find where a piece definitely goes, it will be saved in case researchers (or jigsaw enthusiasts) want to try and attempt to find where it fits in the future.

As you can see it requires a lot of patience, but it is very satisfying when you manage to match one up successfully!


Lead-mining seminar (and please like PDMHS on Facebook)

We have just concluded the second in a series of seminars on the Derbyshire lead-mining industry, chaired by Matthew Pawelski (pop that surname into the search box just below the Derby City Council logo to see related earlier posts).  Steve Thompson kicked us off with a presentation on the usefulness of tithe and enclosure records for historians in this field, and Matt then spoke about what can be discovered in account books.  Both speakers were exemplary at keeping to time, which meant that, as hoped, the majority of the event could be devoted to discussion around the table. I was pleased to see we had a new participant who had made the decision to come along on the strength of the video about the Gregory Mine reckoning book which was posted here last month.  So do feel free to join in: we will publicise the next in the series as soon as the date is settled.


Among the assembly was George Jaramillo of the University of Edinburgh, who has been looking after the Facebook page of the Peak District Mines Historical Society.  He remarked that the page is close to the 100 “likes” threshold, beyond which it can be picked up by search engines.  If you are a Facebook user, please do like the page and share it with your friends!

New Perspectives on the Derbyshire Lead Industry – the next session

Thanks to everyone who made the first lead industry seminar go so well last month.  I found it invigorating to encounter so much enthusiasm, experience and subject knowledge.  Much of the session was devoted to introductions and admin, but we took the opportunity to hear from Lien and Clare about the Mining the Archives project, which is facilitating conservation work on some of the lead-mining records we hold.

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The next session is on Friday the 13th of February 2015.  (Yes, I know.  Bring your own horse-shoe or rabbit’s foot and don’t pass under any ladders on the way here.)  The seminar will be divided into two discussions:

  • “Tithe and Enclosure Awards and Maps: Resolving problems in Lead Mining History” – discussion led by Steve Thompson
  • “Financial Accounting and the Derbyshire Lead Industry: role and impact” – discussion led by Matthew Pawelski

We had a diverse array of talents at the last seminar, some of whom had only very recently developed an interest in the history of the lead industry, and others for whom it has been a lifelong obsession.  I have reserved places for everyone who was there to come back in February; but there are other places available if you have anything to contribute to the conversation, however minor – you certainly don’t need to be the world’s authority on lead.  You can book by calling 01629 538347.

Mining the Archives Project – Conservation of Lead Mining records

You may have heard that we recently received funding from the National Manuscripts Conservation Trust to conserve some of the rare and important lead mining documents we have in our collections.

The lead mining history of Derbyshire is unique – its roots run deep into our local cultural heritage, and its legacy is still visible today in the landscape and traditions of the Peak District. Much of the written material which relates to this important part of our history is held here at the Record Office.

With the help of lead mining researchers we have identified the most important documents which are in need of attention.  These documents have been severely damaged by damp and mould, and many of them are falling to pieces, which means they are in no fit state to be handled (or even digitised) and are currently unavailable to researchers. Its up to us to ensure their survival – without vital conservation work they would never be seen, and the information contained within them would be lost forever.

As project conservator on the Mining the Archives project, its my job to carry out the conservation work on the documents. Last week I began the first part of this work – repairing D248: Barmaster’s Lot and Cope account books, 1831-1870.

Damp and mould damage

Barmasters account book 2This item has around 100 loose pages, which were at one time bound together in an account book. Continue reading

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 Continue reading