Monday 24 August 2015

Lead Mining Corruption, Bribery, and Murder

Today I am pleased to welcome Ayr Bray, for an eye-opening tale of lead mining corruption, bribery, and murder.


In the 1700’s Britain was Europe’s largest lead producer with Derbyshire dominating the landscape. Lead was the second most important export, after wool. The great thing about lead was that it had an international market and an international price tag.
By the 1780’s England reached its watershed and foreign competition was growing rapidly. At the time parliament entertained discussion surrounding ‘Trade Liberalization’. By definition, Trade Liberalization is the removal or reduction of restrictions or barriers on the free exchange of goods between nations. This includes the removal or reduction of both tariff (duties and surcharges) and non-tariff obstacles (like licensing rules, quotas and other requirements). The easing or eradication of these restrictions is often referred to as promoting "free trade."
The problem in the early nineteenth century was that there are those who were against trade liberalization. Those against it claim that it can cost jobs and even lives, as cheaper goods flood the market (which at times may not undergo the same quality and safety checks required domestically). Proponents, however, say that trade liberalization ultimately lower consumer costs, increases efficiency and fosters economic growth.
The reduction of the Lead Mining Tariffs in the nineteenth century is the basis for the first book of the Pemberley collection; Cowardly Witness. When the lead mining tariff reduction was first presented to parliament, there were those who vehemently opposed it. With its proposition corruption, bribery, and even murder began to occur in England’s innermost elite society. There were many who were bent on stifling open trade with other countries, primarily Spain and Germany. The tariff reduction eventually passed.
The most hilarious aspect is that now, two hundred years later; the Lead Mining Tariff of Britain has been labeled as a selfish act since it forced France, Germany, and Italy into lowering tariffs directly through bilateral agreements.
I wonder though, was it an entirely selfish act or did it have an element of the provision for public good?
The following image is a lead mine in Brassington, Derbyshire, England.
Brassington Lead Mine

Interesting fact: The Village of Brassington plays a large part in Blinded Recluse; Book 3 of the Pemberley collection releasing soon.
About the Author
"From an early age I have always been fascinated by the written word and the mood and atmosphere it creates for a reader; especially those books that affect me and transport me to some far-off place. These are the elements I strive to create in my books. My books in many ways record what most affects me: my feelings and experiences with family, friends, and those I have run into on my life's journey. My hope is that in my books you will find something that touches you, something which will resonate in your soul and remind you that you are strong and can overcome anything, especially if you have the support of loving friends and family." - Ayr Bray

Ayr Bray is from the Pacific Northwest, but travels as much as possible so she doesn't have to deal with the cold.

Ayr loves to hear from readers. Connect with her at her website or on Facebook at

Excerpt from Chapter 2 of Cowardly Witness, Pemberley Book #1 by Ayr Bray

Darcy took his leave of his wife and went to his study with long, purposeful strides. Upon entering, he found Mr. Hammond and another man. The second man was a little dirty and unkempt and had an arm cradled in a sling tied around his neck. His gaze remained on the floor; he never looked up even to acknowledge Darcy’s entrance.
“Mr. Hammond, it is good to see you, sir. To what do I owe the honour of this visit?” Darcy shook Mr. Hammond’s hand and then took a seat in the high-backed leather chair behind his partners desk.
“Thank you for seeing me with no notice, Mr. Darcy. I apologise for the hour, but it could not be avoided. I need your help.”
“You need only ask. The entirety of my support and Pemberley’s resources are at your disposal.”
“I hoped you would say as much.” Pointing to the other man, he continued, “This is Mr. Matthew Poe.”
Mr. Poe kept his gaze trained at the ground, but he gave a small bob of his head in acknowledgement.
“Mr. Poe is the primary witness in our case against the Derby Mill Lead Mine masters. I need your help to keep him safe. An attempt was made on Mr. Poe’s life. He was set upon a few nights ago by an unknown number of men who chased him through Masson Wood and fired upon him. As you can see, they came close to succeeding.”
“And you have not caught those responsible?” Darcy asked solemnly.
“Not as such, no. Do you know Lord Sharpson?”
Darcy blinked. “Yes, Sharpson Manor is but twenty miles from here. You don’t mean—”
“I do. He may not have fired the gun himself, but he certainly ordered it done.”
“Why?” Darcy asked.
“Lord Sharpson owns Derby Mill. He holds the largest share in the mine.”
“I know,” Darcy said, “though I do not know the particulars of the case against him and the other masters.”
“Parliament has been discussing the reduction of tariffs on foreign lead. If the tariff decreases, imports will increase and the local lead mining industry could suffer. I cannot divulge all of the particulars, though I can tell you all six masters are accused of threatening, bribing, even murdering men who support the reduction of the tariff. Among their victims are Lord Henry Grange and his steward, Mr. Ball. Lord Grange, you see, enjoyed an influential position in Parliament and supported reduced tariffs. He refused to accept their bribes or be cowed by their threats, and Mr. Ball had the great misfortune to be standing too near his lordship when the assassins struck.”
“What does this have to do with Mr. Poe?” Darcy questioned.
“Mr. Poe has worked at Derby Mill for a number of years. He is in a minor clerical position, easily overlooked yet ideally placed for information gathering. He has agreed to testify against Lord Sharpson and the other five masters. His testimony and the evidence he has will ensure a guilty verdict. Without him we have nothing but hearsay.”
“Who else knows he is here?”
“No one. We used his being shot to stage his death and to hold a mock funeral which took place yesterday. Not even his wife knows he yet lives. So long as he stays out of sight, there should be no risk to yourself or your people.”
“Risk or not, we will do our duty to the law and our country. Pemberley has plenty of room for Mr. Poe and I will see he is well cared for until you return for him. You have my word.”
“Thank you, Mr. Darcy. I knew I could count on you.”
Mr. Poe spoke in a timid voice as Mr. Hammond turned to go. “Mr. Hammond, sir, with all due respect, I must write to my wife.”
“I’m sorry, Mr. Poe, but I cannot allow it. It is far too dangerous.”
“Sir, I cannot have her thinking I am dead and all is lost. It is too cruel. My Martha did nothing wrong and does not deserve to suffer. You said she couldn’t know before the funeral and I agreed to that, but it cannot matter now.”
“All right, I will allow you to write her a short letter, but you must let me read it before it is sent. If she is being watched, she must still appear to grieve you, and you mustn’t tell her where to find you. I will not have you jeopardising the Darcys. Mr. Darcy, may we beg the use of your writing desk?”
“That is Mrs. Darcy’s writing desk, though I am certain she would not object,” Darcy said. He pointed to the small writing desk in the corner near the window, placed there under Elizabeth’s direction so she might be near her husband when she wrote her letters.
It did not take long for Mr. Poe to complete his letter. He handed it to Mr. Hammond to read. The inquisitor declared the letter acceptable, sealed it, addressed it, and then handed it to Darcy, who rang the bell for Mr. Reynolds.

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This post copyright © Ayr Bray, 2015.


Sarah said...

fascinating article, thank you! I have always associated lead mining with Cornwall [son is a classicist, 'nuff said] so that was something I've learned today. I like the sound of the book, too, it's gone on my wish list.

Catherine Curzon said...

Thank you for visiting!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for hosting me today. It was great fun.

Catherine Curzon said...

It was a pleasure!