Around this time yesterday, I was at an interdisciplinary seminar at Brunel University, showing an assortment of lead-mining documents to an assortment of academics. All those assembled had an interest in metals and mining during medieval and early modern times, whether from the perspective of a historian, geographer, palaeoecologist, sociologist or, in my case, archivist. Here are three examples of the Derbyshire Record Office documents that I had digitised to take with me:
This is a lease by the Abbot and Convent of the Dale (i.e. Dale Abbey) to Richard Blackwell of “Worseworth” (Wirksworth), of their lot and tithe ore at “the Gryffe” (Griffe). It dates from 1489. The tithe was ten percent of whatever lead ore was extracted at Griffe during that period, whereas lot was a customary payment of every thirteenth dish of lead ore. For the six years covered by this lease, those payments would go straight to Blackwell – by the time the lease expired, he would know whether the bargain had been worth making.
The all-important measuring of lead ore would have gone on in a building like the one depicted in this map of Wensley of 1688, reference D239/M/E/5525:
See the circular yellow-green blob just to the right of the centre? Inside is a drawing of something marked “reckoning coe”, where the ore would be measured. You can also see the “smithy coe” in the bottom-right corner. (A coe is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as “a little hut built over a mine-shaft, as a protection to the shaft, or as a repository for ore, tools, etc” – although on the map it is spelled “cow”.)
Finally, there’s this petition, D258/10/9/35:
It is addressed to the King from Wirksworth’s miners and argues that the town ought to have its own representatives in parliament, because as things stood the miners “have noe voyces” in choosing MPs. To back up their argument, they point to the importance of the town’s barmote court in regulation of the lead industry, the employment of “many thousand people” in the mines, the profitable incomes from the customary dues of lot and cope, and the benefits of having so much lead “for the use of the kingdome in generall, and in transporting the rest to forraigne nations, whereby your Majestie hath greate customes, both for the leade exported, and for the other merchandize imported in exchange thereof”. I am afraid we do not know exactly when this petition was drawn up, but it was not a success – Wirksworth never had its own parliamentary constituency.
After the seminar, heading home from Derby railway station, I chanced to hear a song by Jim Moray which has been nominated for this year’s BBC Folk Awards. The reason I mention it is that it was clearly inspired by the life of Sir John Franklin, polar explorer (1786-1847). You might want to have a look at some of this blog’s previous posts about Franklin, or listen to the the very final tune of Simon Mayo’s programme on the iPlayer.