Images of Industry: North Pennine Lead Miners in the Regency Period
Author Ian Forbes, HB, 174pp Price £24.00 + P&P available from usual outlets inc www.moorebooks.co.uk
In the days before photography, a mystery artist turned out 67 watercolours, pen and ink and sketch illustrations of the life and works of lead miners in the North Pennines. They portray the various stages of lead ore mining, processing and transportation, and also social studies of the miners themselves. PUBLISHED for the first time as a complete set, the high-quality reproductions in this book illustrate the unique collection of early 19th century North Pennine lead mining watercolours and pen-and-ink sketches owned by the Science Museum Library in London.
Each illustration with its location and date is explained by the author, who was for many years director of the Killhope Lead Mining Museum. These give a great insight into the people who kept this important industry going from the time of the Napoleonic Wars – the miners, carriers and agents who worked in the dales of East and West Allendale, the upper reaches of the Wear, Tees and Derwent in County Durham, and in the Alston Moor area of Cumbria.
All proceeds from book sales will support future maintenance of the Dukesfield Arches near Hexham, the remains of a once huge lead smelting mill which has been recently conserved.
(From Northumberland Chronicle)
Ian viewed the pictures after they had been bought by the Science Museum Library. He said: “I thought they were fabulous. There is nothing else from that era pictorially which shows what it was like in the lead mining industry. “Here for the first time we see depictions of working life in the North Pennines from the time of the Napoleonic wars. We saw sacks of lead ore on the backs of ponies and donkeys, the two-wheeled cart used for carrying lead which we had known about from documents, the different stages of lead ore washing.
“We saw life in colour, not the black and white past of early photographs, with their stiff, formal poses, but miners in brightly coloured jackets and trousers. “They shed a unique light on a period in our regional history. “When the Dukesfield project came along it was an opportunity to do something to get the collection into the public domain in the North East.” The images show miners walking to work on a Monday morning, with their cloth bags on their shoulders containing their food for the week they would spend away from home. Miners are seen working with picks, blasting and boring, pushing waggons, “buddleing” the lead ore, breaking it with hammers, and filling a kibble, or bucket. A group of miners is seen in conversation, another group meets the mine manager, while two bloodied men fight in front of an inn, with the image titled “The Effects of Alston Brewery.”
Another picture is labelled “November 5, 1813” This date was the coming of age of Thomas Wentworth Beaumont, a member of a mine-owning family which dominated the North Pennines industry. To mark the occasion, his parents provided the miners with copious amounts of free beer and inscribed pot mugs and the image depicts the inevitable results. Not for nothing did the occasion become known as the Great Drink.
In Weardale and the Allendales the company founded by William Blackett. WB Lead, descended through the generations to the Beaumont family. The other major player in the North Pennines was the Quaker business, the London Lead Company. Ian has been absorbed in detective work to tease more information from the pictures. In “The Effects of Alston Brewery” the inn bears the name of J Dawson. He was Jacob Dawson, landlord of the inn at Allenheads, from at least 1791 to 1827. The Great Drink, says Ian, can only have taken place in WB Lead territory, which covered East and West Allendale, and Weardale. He says: “The biggest and most tantalising question of all is who was the artist?” His choice is Joseph Crawhall. Joseph’s father, Thomas Crawhall who died in 1812, was a lead mining agent for WB Lead. His sons George, William, Isaac and Thomas followed him into the industry.
The exception was Joseph, who instead founded a rope works in Newcastle which became the biggest in the region. He was also a talented artist. “Joseph Crawhall had artistic talent and he was intimately connected to and familiar with the lead mining dales,” says Ian.