I'm writing a book about my great grandfather, a mining engineer who left the UK and went to the coalfields in the Dakota Territory in 1878, then on to become a successful silver mine owner in British Columbia. While I was lucky to have a grandmother who lived till she was 107, there are still some holes in her father's story that I hope you can help uncover.
These are fairly basic questions since I am writing Historical Fiction based on my ggrandfather's life and not a Biography! Even so, I have questions that you might be able to answer with a snap of your fingers (I hope).
For instance, my ggrandfather was trained as a mining engineer in Derbyshire in 1875-1878. He "took his articles with a Mr. Lewis in Derbyshire"... what the heck does that mean?
He was 18 in 1878 when he left for America, so very young. Are "articles" like A levels? With mining engineering training, I'm assuming that it was some hands-on (not mining) and included surveying and soil analysis and the business side of things, so practical training as well as theoretical... but Cambridge was already graduating engineers at the time (assuming that this would have been more theoretical), so how would my ggrandfather's education have compared? Any idea?
Suggestions on who to ask that might know?
Looking forward to your reply!
I am also becoming more and more curious about my ggrandfather as the more I learn about him, the more questions I have on why he chose the paths he did. 18 was very young to run off to America, particularly when both his father and grandfather went to Cambridge and would have been quite happy to have him follow in their footsteps.
My mother died recently, and I wish I'd asked her more questions too! Now, my sister and I are sorting through boxes and boxes of family correspondence, and fortunately I found a pack of my ggrandfather's letters, so will go through those with great anticipation. I don't think I'm going to find the answer to my training questions though since those would have been taken for granted then and besides the letters come from a later period in his life
You ask of your great grandfather's training. Please send me his name as he may be mentioned at one of the collieries.
Mr George Lewis was a mining engineer in the Derbyshire Coalfield during that period. He was a mine manager and Surveyor in South Derbyshire mines. Examinations for first class certificates of competency did not come in until 1873 following the 1872 Act and he would have been given a service certificate due to his practical experience in the position of manager and agent for a company for several years previously.
To train as mining engineer at that time one had to pay 'articles'. This meant that your great grandfather would have paid George Lewis as a mentor to train him in the various jobs and guide him through all the legislation, practical work etc required to be a manager. A typical fee around the turn of the Century was £100. It would have been similar some 25 years before. That was a large fee at the time when miners were earning about £1 to
£1. 10s. 0d (£1.50) a week max, virtually same as the minimum wage of today.
Lewis would have made sure that he did training in all departments, such as surveying, including geology and draughting. Your great grandfather would have done some basic mining jobs also so that he could appreciate the working of the mine.
Electricity was not introduced underground until 1881, firstly at a pit called Pleasley, just inside Derbyshire, on the border with Nottinghamshire so it was not widely used even on the surface and probably he would have had tuition from an electrician or theory and similar tuition for any 'modern' machinery from an Enginewright or person in charge of machinery and winding engines etc.
Having done all this he would have received a certificate stating that he had completed a course. He would not necessarily have sat an exam because of his age and he would not have been able to practice as an Undermanager until aged 25 or a Manager until aged 27. That is probably why he went to US.
An example of one for the Butterley Company was Henry Eustace Mitton who went to the Yukon gold prospecting about the same age in the 1890s also worked on railways then came back to South Wales, was articled to a Mining Engineer there and in 1905 became an Agent and later Chief Mining Engineer and finally a Director for Butterley, and he had not taken or passed a written examination. The Agent was the person who oversaw the running of the mines on behalf of the owner.
Other people who paid for articles in the past were such as solicitors and architects. I began to train as an architect in 1952 but after an initial trial period was asked to pay £3. 3s. 0d (3 Guineas) a week which was impossible as my parents could not afford to fund me, so on the Architect's advice I applied for a job as an Apprentice Mine Surveyor with the National Coal Board, qualifying, eventually becoming Surveyor for the mine at Ollerton and later Senior Surveyor at Nottinghamshire Area HQ.
Trusting this will give you an insight into the work he did.