Archiver > NORTHUMBRIA > 2001-05 > 0989922011

From: Brian Pears <>
Subject: Re: [NMB] Coalcleugh lead mine - occupations
Date: Tue, 15 May 2001 11:20:11 +0100
References: <>
In-Reply-To: <>

>As they lived at Coalcleugh, (in the house
>which is still standing there in ruins) can I safely assume that their
>workplace was in the mine just half a mile or so down the hill and on the other
>side of the road towards Carrshield? Or would the "smelting" be done on another
>site. What was a "dresser's" job? And was a "lead ore washer" as it literally
>sounds? - someone who washed the ore free from soil? Would there be any records
>of the men employed in the mines at that time?


The dressing probably took place at Coalcleugh, but all of
Coalcleugh's lead ore was smelted at Allenheads Mill at
Dirtpot. This fairly small mill worked until 1870 and just
handled lead ore from the Allenheads and Coalcleugh mines,
plus some from the Wearhead area.

"Washing" was part of the "Dressing" process - which separated
waste (rock - not soil) from the ore and produced pea-sized
pieces of ore ready for transport to the smelting mill. I've
always assumed that the terms "Lead Ore Washer" and "Lead Ore
Dresser" were interchangeable, though these were just the
formal names and were not generally used - the everyday term
was "wesher".

Some mines employed women and girls as "weshers" but, as far
as I know, this was not the case at Coalcleugh or Allenheads.
There the "weshers" were boys from around 10 years to mid-teens.
Parts of the job were heavy and very unpleasant - it would take
too long to describe the dressing process here.

Many records of lead-mine employees do survive for Coalcleugh
and Allenheads - they are in "Bargain Books" which are
available at Northumberland Record Office.

Cheers, Brian
Brian Pears Home page:
Gateshead, UK Fax: 0870 1600865 (Charged at National Rate)

This thread: