Staffordshire Working Lives
Accounts from Ecton Mine

A page of accounts from Ecton Mine, 1811.

(© Staffordshire Record Office: D1065/12/2/3)

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Extracting ore: metal mining labour and processes

Page of accounts from Ecton Mine, 1811 (D1065/12/2/3).

The Ecton Mines were in the rocky hills high up in the parish of Wetton in the Staffordshire Moorlands, above the Manifold Valley. The mines in this area were actually underground stone quarries from which metal ore could be extracted. The ore was mainly lead and copper. Other papers in the same collection include methods for identifying and obtaining the metal by a sequence of chemical processes and for analysing other minerals.

At this date the mines in this area were let by the owner, the Duke of Devonshire, to small partnerships of working miners. Quite a large outlay was required to open a new mine or to revive an abandoned one, and to keep it running, and the operations might be supported by subscriptions for shares. An engine was crucial to the work to prevent the mines from flooding, and the cost of labour is also shown with a high figure. During the eighteenth century hundreds of workers were employed at Ecton, from the miners to women and children on the surface washing the ores. The market price for the metal was therefore a key factor in deciding whether the work would be profitable, and mines were usually abandoned when the cost of metal fell. The accounts shown here illustrate the wide variety of labour required in supporting the operations, on top of the labour for the actual digging sorting and washing. An allowance was also made for sick pay, reflecting the dangers of the mining work.


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