Family History Notebook

Lead Mining & Smelting in Northern England
with reference to the Swindles

Lead was mined in northern England from at least Roman times - and possibly earlier. The 'silver mine of Carlisle' referred to lead mines in the Alston area - Tynedale and Upper Weardale - worked for the silver content in the lead which was extracted and used for minting coins. The lead produced was considered a by-product. Silver production fell off in the 1180s. Lead mining continued on a small scale until the beginning of the 17th century. In 1629 the manor (excluding the liberty of Priorsdale), complete with the minerals, was sold to Sir Edward Radclyffe for 2,500. It was reported that the mines of Alston Manor were nearly exhausted but mining activity increased under Francis Radclyffe (created the first Earl of Derwentwater in 1688).

'In 1664 John Bacon leased all the lead ore in the Manor of Alston Moor at a duty of 37 shillings per bing, that is one fifth duty, from Sir Francis Radcliffe' a. John Bacon was the son of George Bacon who had been born in Derbyshire but married Cecily Robson of Ninebanks in the West Allen valley about 1650 and leased Broadwood Hall in Allendale for 21 years in 1659b. John Bacon became High Sheriff of Northumberland in 1699.

It would seem likely that George Bacon either saw an opportunity in the lead mining industry in Northumberland or was encouraged to move north by the Radcliffes to develop the industry. There is evidence that others moved north from Derbyshire at the same period: in the Ninebanks register for 7 February 1664 'Hercules Hill a smelter and Elizabeth Bland, ye daughter of Thomas Bland who all of them came out of darbyshire was married'.

John Swindel and Richard Swindel are the first Swindells to be recorded in northern England though there are many 16th century parish registers. John and Richard could be father and son or brothers. Richard married Margaret Foster on 11th April 1667 in Hexham and in the register entry for a later re-marriage in 1687 he is described as a 'piper' which is an early term for a plumber or lead worker. In 1685 he is said to be of Mollersteads which is a farm just quarter of a mile from Blackhall lead smelt mill which had been established since at least 1653c. The birth region of John and Richard has not been established but it is quite possible that George Bacon encouraged skilled lead workers to move north from Derbyshire to bring their skills to Northumberland. Blackhall lead smelt mill was built on land belonging to the Swinburn family and there were certainly connections between the Swinburn and Bacon families.

(Much more to follow)


a    Fairbairn, R. A., The Mines of Alston Moor (1993 British Mining No 45 Northern Mines Research Society ISBN 0901450405)  p16.
b    Hodgson, J. C., History of Northumberland, Vol IV: Hexhamshire Part II (Hexham, Whitley Chapel, Allendale, and St John Lee) (1897 Andrew Reid & Company) p117
c    Fieldwork on the Site of Dukesfield Smeltmills, Hexhamshire (2012 Friends of North Pennines)
(refers back to work by Greg Finch and the Friends of North Pennines for the date)

Lead Mining Index & Bibliography