Silver Mining in England and Wales, 1066-1500

Submitted by Peter Frederick Claughton, to the University of Exeter as a thesis for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Economic and Social History, March 2003.


The increasing commercialisation of the economy during the late medieval period, 1066 to 1500, ensured a continued requirement for silver in coinage. Local sources of silver-bearing ores were exploited throughout the period; in the upland areas of England, adjoining parts of Wales and, later, in the South-West of England.

This thesis examines the role of silver in the economy, the nature of locally mined silver-bearing ores and their relationship to other mining activity in the period. The available evidence is interpreted to provide an estimate for the silver mined in the early part of the period, identifying significant production for the Northern Pennines in the 12th century. Better documentation from the 13th century onwards allows the output of silver from the Devon mines to be charted through to the end of the period.

The techniques and technology of silver mining, smelting and refining are explored, starting with the position prior to the medieval period. With the benefit of surviving records, principally those of the English Crown, the technology applied from the late 13th century is examined in some detail; including the relationship with the availability of labour, particularly its influence on the introduction of mechanisation in the latter part of the period. Ownership of the silver-bearing minerals and organisation of working, from regulation according to custom through to the direct involvement of the Crown are examined in detail, along with the move to entrepreneurial investment in mining. The status of the miners and the opportunity for dual occupation are also considered.

Location of deposited copies

Copies of the thesis have been deposited at the following locations -

This thesis is available for Library use on the understanding that it is copyright material and that no quotation from the thesis may be published without proper acknowledgement.


Peter Claughton / SHiPSS
Last modified 15 August 2004