Derbyshire Lead Mining

This trade was huge until I think the 19th century when Spanish led undercut it. This is again from Highways & Byways of Derbyshire:

The Derbyshire lead minders, who were highly esteemed in the British army as sappers, aroused the wonder of most visitors to the county. Defoe describes how, near Matlock, he watched a miner emerge with difficulty from one of the curious shafts, or “grooves” as they were then called, a narrow hole leading straight down into the mine with timber steps at its sides. This man was clothed in a leather suit and cap, and Defoe says he was “as lean as a skeleton, pale as a corpse, his hair and beard a deep black; what little flesh he had was lank and, as we thought, something of the colour of the lead itself.” He spoke with so uncouth a dialect that Defoe could not understand what he said until his guide acted as interpreter.

This looks to me like a man dying of lead poisoning, probably aggravated by poor diet and lack of sunlight.

Women, too, worked in the lead mines, and wore, according to a visitor’s account of 1829, an extraordinary garb. “The head… is much enwrapped, and the features nearly hidden in a muffling of handkerchief, over which is put a man’s hat, in the manner of the paysannes of Wales.” Their gowns were usually red, tucked up round the waist into a sort of bag, and set off by a bright green petticoat. a man’s coat of grey or dark blue completed the costume, and to protect their feet they  wore rough shoes with soles 3 inches thick, tied round with cords and thongs. The writer describes then as “complete harridans.” But the Peakrills generally were reputed to be “a rude, boorish kind of people.” The phrase is Defoe’s. Prebendary Gilpin from the polite south was horrified. “The inhabitants of these scenes [in 1772] … are as savage as the scenes themselves. We ere reminded by a disagreeable contrast of the pleasing simplicity and civility of manners which we found among the lakes and mountains of Cumberland. Here a wild, unimproved stare, through matted, dishevelled locks, marks every feature, and the traveller is followed, like a spectacle, by a crowd of gazers.” But wages were dreadfully low. At the Ecton mines, which brought the Duke of Devonshire £10,000 a year, a miner was paid 1 shilling for 6 hours’ work; women could only earn from 4 pence to 8 pence a day; and boys and girls from 2 to 4 pence. 

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