Derbyshire lead trade’s story is charted in new musical drama

The Merchants of Fortune, performed by Dronfield Musical Theatre Company.
The Merchants of Fortune, performed by Dronfield Musical Theatre Company.

For hundreds of years Dronfield lead merchants cornered the market in lead thanks to the indomitable efforts of the miners and smelters who helped them

to make their fortunes.

Now, the story of the Derbyshire lead trade is being told in a specially written and commissioned musical drama/documentary for Dronfield Musical Theatre

Group called Merchants of Fortune. Subtitled How Dronfield Led the World in Lead, the show is at Dronfield Civic Hall next week and features local folk band

Scuppered.

The history of lead mining in Derbyshire goes back to at least Roman times and Merchants of Fortunes captures the entrepreneurial spirit of all those who

made Derbyshire a global player.

Set in the winter of 1699 and moving through to May Day 1700, it tells the story of two Dronfield families as they vied with each other for lead trade

supremacy.

Writer and director of the show is Alan Powell. He said: “The story of the lead trade, from mining and smelting, to selling, is an amazing one. Conditions in

the mines were harsh and smelting was a dangerous occupation as well. In those days, nothing was known about the toxic effect of lead and the average

lifespan of a miner was only 32.

“In the show, we demonstrate the trials and tribulation of ordinary folk and contrast that with the comfortable lives of the merchants who built the Manor

House (now Dronfield Library) and The Hall on High Street. Dronfield was a vital mid-point between the Derbyshire lead mines, the smelting mills and the

(then) inland port of Bawtry.

Merchants of Fortune is at Dronfield Civic Hall on Wednesday May 16, Thursday May 17, Friday May 18 at 7.30 and a Sunday May 20 matinee at 2.30pm. For tickets, call 01246 416364.