Pioneer iron founders Abraham DARBY and Dud DUDLEY were both natives of Sedgley. Abraham DARBY was born on or very near Wren's Nest Hill in 1678,1 and grew up there before being apprenticed, whilst Dud DUDLEY spent his boyhood in the surroundings of his father's baronial seat of Dudley Castle, also possibly being born there in 1599.2 Both locations were actually part of the 'Old Park', belonging to the parish of Sedgley, Staffordshire. It is therefore interesting that both men should share the same claim to fame, since it will be seen that they were also closely related.
Abraham DARBY came from a Quaker family of yeomen farmers and small metalworkers, and was most probably born at Old Farm Lodge. The site of this house may have been immediately to the east of Wren's Nest and Mons Hill.3 However, original documentary evidence may also infer another position to the west of Wren's Nest Hill.4 Abraham's mother Ann (nee BAYLIES) died when he was only about two years old. Abraham's father John DARBY (junior) was a locksmith and farmer, who remarried after Ann's death.
The fact that John DARBY had two recorded trades is nothing unusual for those times or the area in which he lived. Such dual occupations were actually a feature of places like 'Over' and 'Nether' Gornal, as they were then known. When agriculture suffered due to drought and similar problems, having a secondary source of income was a blessing. Hence, young Abraham would have been acquainted with his father's smithy, and its forge, from an early age. From here Abraham became apprenticed to a malt-mill maker in Birmingham, where he also married in 1699, before embarking on a career first in brass and then iron founding at Bristol. It was from Bristol that Abraham first began to establish links with Coalbrookdale in Shropshire, eventually moving there permanently in about 1706 to further his hollow-ware manufacturing business. By 1709 he was clearly using coke to smelt iron. Abraham maintained strong associations with the Society of Friends in both Bristol and Broseley, near Coalbrookdale.
John DARBY lived to a good age for those times, and benefited from his illustrious son's success at Coalbrookdale, by relocating to nearby Madeley Lodge in 1706, along with his newly married daughter Esther and her husband Anthony PARKER. Although they were Quakers, John and his family must have enjoyed greater comfort at Madeley. Abraham DARBY died aged only thirty-nine in 1717 and John outlived him by eight years, dying in 1725. The history of their descendants' achievements at Coalbrookdale and Ironbridge is both well known and well documented.
About members of the DARBY family who remained behind in Sedgley, very little is known other than is shown in the registers of Dudley Friends' Meeting House, and also in Sedgley parish registers. However, research into my own family history - undertaken over many years - has unexpectedly thrown new light on this branch of the DARBY family and, perhaps more importantly, on their antecedents.
From records which do exist, it can be shown that John DARBY was one of three brothers, viz; Edward, John and Thomas. Edward and Thomas also married and had families of their own, and their descendants continued to live and work in the area of Upper Gornal - then still entirely rural. Religious nonconformity continued down the generations, though 'Quakerism' evidently fell out of favour over the years, to be replaced in some branches of the family by Presbyterianism and, later on, leanings towards the Independents.5
Descendants of Edward DARBY in particular, married into other prominent local families (including TURTON, WHITEHOUSE and UNDERHILL) and were still farming here in the early nineteenth century. These descendants included a great grandson - another Abraham DARBY (the spelling is more often 'DARBEY at this time) - who was buried at All Saints' parish church, 11th March 1821, aged 72. He was a farmer and nail maker of Upper Gornal, with three sons, viz; William, Abraham and John.6
These three later DARBY brothers all became cordwainers (shoemakers) in Sedgley village from about 1800 onwards, and all three lived to very good ages for those times (being present on both the 1841 and 1851 census).7 Of these however, only William married, and had one son named Thomas in 1799.8 It was this Thomas who later gave his name to the 'Thomas Darbey School', that was attached to Bilston Street Congregational Church (later St. Andrew's United Reformed) after providing much of the funding himself, and leaving very generous legacies in his will of 1863, to both this church and also Ruiton Independent Church at Upper Gornal.9
A daughter of Abraham DARBY of Upper Gornal was named Rachel. She was born about the beginning of 1778 and married another cordwainer named Thomas HANCOX, in 1800.10 He came from a prominent family of Dudley, where his grandfather had been Mayor in 1766.11 They promptly settled in Coseley, where they produced many more descendants, including my own ancestral line.12 Several children of Thomas and Rachel HANCOX are referred to as 'cousins' in the will of the above Thomas DARBY. Interestingly, other members of the HANCOX family married descendants not only of the DARBYs, but also a descendant of Esther PARKER, the sister of Abraham DARBY of Coalbrookdale.13
Looking back to the mid seventeenth century, the parents of Edward, John and Thomas DARBY, were John (senior) and Margaret of Old Farm Lodge.14
This 'lodge' appears to have been an old gamekeeper's house standing in what was part of the 'Old Park' of Dudley and Sedgley. The 'Old Park' formerly belonged to the Lords of Dudley as their private game reserve. A previous occupant of Old Farm Lodge may well have been one John BAGLEY, who is recorded as 'head deerkeeper' to Edward SUTTON, Lord DUDLEY, as early as 1611.15 It was in this year that John BAGLEY was granted the 'ancient lodge' in 'Old Park' as his living quarters. John BAGLEY is known to have died in 1648 - the year before Old Farm Lodge was leased to John DARBY.16 It will be seen from the indenture of lease, however, that property belonging to John BAGLEY's son, Dudley BAGLEY, lay immediately to the west of the land leased to John DARBY.
[There is also strong evidence that John BAGLEY was related by marriage to Lord DUDLEY's mistress, Elizabeth TOMLINSON, since his sons Edward and Dudley BAGLEY are referred to as nephews in her nuncupative (oral) will of 1629.17 Edward Bagley was the administrator of her estate in 1635. Indeed, John BAGLEY appears to have married a sister of Elizabeth TOMLINSON around 1600.18 Since Elizabeth TOMLINSON was the mother of Dud DUDLEY and at least ten other 'natural' children by Lord DUDLEY, this would have made John BAGLEY uncle to Dud DUDLEY and his siblings.]
After the demise of the SUTTON line of Dudley lords, with the death of the aged Edward Lord DUDLEY in 1643, and the ensuing strife of the Civil War, the legal heirs of the SUTTON-DUDLEYS were quick to continue the break-up of the old Dudley estates. This included releasing parts of the 'Old Park' of Sedgley and Dudley for agricultural use. It was in these circumstances that the lease of Old Farm Lodge came to John and Margaret DARBY in 1649, the year John DARBY 'Jnr.' was born - also a pivotal year for English government and 'the Crown' if ever there was one! Baptisms of John and Margaret's children in Sedgley registers, from 1644 onwards, show they had already been in the parish for a number of years.
The surviving indenture of lease, dated 10th December 1649, shows the transaction was between John 'DARBYE', locksmith, on the one part and Humble Lord WARD, Baron of Birmingham, on the other. The document bears the signatures not only of John DARBY but also of Edmund ASHENHURST - who appears to have been acting as legal representative to Lord Ward - and of Edward PARKSHOUSE, who was probably acting attorney.
Other sources reveal that Edmund ASHENHURST lived at nearby Wren's Nest House and that he also had ties with the BAGLEY family.19 However, it is Edward PARKSHOUSE who is a more significant participant in this transaction. Indeed, he is the linchpin almost, in showing that there was a close relationship between the DARBY family and the SUTTON-DUDLEYS; for Edward PARKSHOUSE was not only the brother of John DARBY's wife, Margaret, he was also the nephew and close confidant of Dud DUDLEY.20
It was in 1665, at the behest of his nephew Edward PARKSHOUSE, that Dud DUDLEY wrote his treatise 'Metallum Martis', which was essentially his testament to having first produced iron by smelting with pit-coal, instead of charcoal, many years before as a young man.21 The universally accepted method of smelting iron up to this time was with charcoal, so understandably Dud's claims raised more than just a few eyebrows.
It should be remembered that England was then a very different place. To the superstitious 'everyman' of the early 1620's, Dud's experiments with coal would have been treated with suspicion, seen possibly as alchemy or borderline witchcraft. To the local charcoal burners and rival ironmasters, his activities would also have been viewed as a threat to their livelihoods. Fortunately, to begin with at least, Dud had the backing of his father Edward SUTTON, Lord DUDLEY, who had recalled his favourite though illegitimate son from studies at Oxford in about the year 1619, in order to oversee the running of the 5th Baron's ironworks and furnaces around Dudley and, in particular, on the vast wastes of Pensnett Chase (a mile or two to the west of Dudley).22
This is where Dud had spent his time as a youth, watching his father's furnaces and forges at work, within sight of the ancient family seat of Dudley Castle. As a youth, being in possession of a scientific and enquiring mind, he would not only have learned the process of smelting iron, he would especially have acquainted himself with the local geology - enough to be able to produce the first accurate geological map of his native region, later to become known as the Black Country.
The geological importance of places like Wren's Nest Hill and Dudley Castle Hill would therefore have been immediately evident to Dud as sources of limestone, another essential ingredient of the smelting process, and he would have noted where minerals such as pit-coal could be readily found, and at what depth. It should perhaps be remembered that Dud's father owned many coal mines in the region, whilst Dud's maternal grandfather, William TOMLINSON, had been a collier in Dudley, probably working in one of Lord DUDLEY's pits, though at this time coal was used mainly for heating forges and hearths, not for smelting iron.
Dud would have been drawn to coal for two main reasons. Firstly, due to government limitations imposed on the use of timber for charcoal burning, and its subsequent rising cost, his interest in finding an alternative fuel was aroused. Secondly, coal was readily available to him, lying in abundance all over the region, which meant it was also relatively cheap. From the wording of 'Metallum Martis' it would appear that Dud was also genuinely concerned by the rate at which woodland was being cleared for timber to burn in order to make charcoal.23 To Dud, there were then obvious advantages to be had in using coal.
We know from 'Metallum Martis', however, that Dud was beset by constant troubles in one form or another, almost from the start. Some of the problems Dud encountered were natural - as in the case of the great 'Mayday Flood' of 1623, which swept away some of his major works at Cradley. But Dud also fell victim to the protests of his rivals. After the natural disaster at Cradley, Dud continued to smelt iron with coal at his father's furnace at Himley, but this venture was thwarted due to lack of a nearby forge where the pig-iron could be worked. Instead, Dud was forced to sell his pig-iron cheaply to rival charcoal burners, who 'disparaged' it, but still apparently sold it to their own profit. So, Dud then decided to rebuild another furnace belonging to his father at Askew Bridge on the edge of Gornal Wood, near the Himley border.
Askew Bridge (also called Hasco Bridge, possibly from a local family name) crosses Straits Brook, aka Bob's Brook, on the Sedgley / Himley border, along the Himley Road. This was the old turnpike road from Dudley to Wellington, in the 'golden' days of coaching and highwaymen! The old toll-house can just be seen on the left, opposite the lane end leading to the Crooked House Inn. Dud Dudley reputedly succeeded in smelting iron with coal as early as 1620, and chose 'Hasco Bridge' to set up a more powerful blast furnace.
This field, alongside the Himley Road at Askew Bridge, is bounded to the west by Straits Brook, aka Bob's Brook. Running along this side of the brook is a dyke or earth bank. Could this have been anything to do with Dud Dudley's attempts to increase the flow of the brook, in order to power the large bellows, in turn required to operate the blast furnace which Dud built near here, in about 1622? Dud claimed to have smelted good iron, using coal here, but his furnace was sabotaged and Dud was evicted.
This furnace was evidently something new and different, being purpose built, and Dud must have been proud of it, since he describes it in some detail,
"...27 foot square, all of stone for his new Invention, at a place called Hasco Bridge, in the parish of Sedgley... the Bellows of which Furnace were larger than ordinary Bellows are, in which work he made 7 Tuns of Iron per week, the greatest quantity of Pit-cole-Iron that ever yet was made in Great Brittain; near which Furnace, the Author discovered many new Cole-mines 10 yards thick, and Iron-mine under it, according to other Cole-works; which Cole-works being brought unto perfection, the Author was by force thrown out of them, and the Bellows of his new Furnace and Invention, by riotous persons cut in pieces, to his no small prejudice, and loss of his Invention of making of Iron with Pit-cole, Sea-cole, &c..."
It is likely Dud would have needed to improve the flow or alter the course of Straits Brook (aka Bob's Brook) by which the bellows of this furnace were undoubtedly powered. Old maps show the later turnpike road in the area of Askew Bridge was liable to flooding from Straits Brook for many years, until modern improvements took place.
Continued setbacks in the form of opposition, lawsuits and over-expenditure, soon led Dud DUDLEY into prison. This was far from the profitable result that Lord DUDLEY had hoped for in first installing his son as 'works manager'. Dud's troubles were compounded when he also fell foul of his father through misunderstandings about his entitlement to Himley Hall - though it is not clear just who was most to blame. It seems Lord DUDLEY could have enticed Dud away from Oxford by promising him the Manor of Himley in the first place. However, Lord DUDLEY was already heavily in debt himself, and probably had to use Himley as security for various loans without telling Dud. In the event, Himley Hall legally passed to the WARD family, Lord DUDLEY's heirs. Possibly Lord DUDLEY had already had enough of his son 'lording it' at his expense, but whatever the case, it appears Dud's father had his son forcibly evicted from his estates.24
Over the years, writers with a sound understanding of the iron smelting process and interest in its history, have argued that Dud DUDLEY could not possibly have succeeded in smelting iron with coal.25 Much of their argument has been based on the fact that coal with a high sulphur content, such as that generally found across the Black Country, and referred to as 'the thick coal', would have been very difficult to coke at that time - requiring extremely high temperatures not attainable in the type of blast furnace then in general use during the early 1600's. Any attempts to smelt iron using raw or only partially coked coal of this type would have resulted in 'red shortness'.
'Red shortness' is what happens if the sulphur content of the coal being used to smelt iron is not sufficiently reduced, causing the iron to become brittle on cooling - not so bad for low grade casting, but quite useless for anything else. Dud DUDLEY's claims have been dismissed largely on this basis, since it had been supposed he would not have known about the coking process, almost a hundred years before Abraham DARBY purportedly 'cracked it' at Coalbrookdale.
One drawback in assessing Dud's achievements remains the lack of both written and physical evidence for what actually happened back in the early 1620's. To say Dud definitely could not have discovered a way, either through trial or accident, seems presumptive. For instance, we know the first patent was granted from King James I to Lord DUDLEY in 1620/21, so that his son Dud could carry on smelting iron - apparently using coal, as he had stipulated. Resultant iron was subsequently tested for its quality at the Tower of London no less, and found to be good and 'merchantable'. But not only is there no surviving example of any of the iron produced (that we know of) there is no written record of how Dud is supposed to have done it. Nor, I think, do any of the relevant documents of the Tower of London for that time survive. But this makes the few surviving documentary records that we do possess all the more tantalizing.
Dud surely had nothing to gain from fabricating his success, and maintaining such a hoax for so many years would have been nigh impossible. Actual proof that he did not succeed at all is lacking. The fact that he was certainly no fool and thought scientifically is attested by his geological survey of Dudley and environs. He understood local geology and the smelting process possibly better than anyone else at the time, and it is obvious from 'Metallum Martis' that he was only too well aware of the problems of 'red shortness'. Also he was not alone, as he had the support of his PARKSHOUSE relatives.
Dud's older sister, Jane, was probably born around 1590 though, as for other illegitimate children of Lord DUDLEY by Elizabeth TOMLINSON, there is no trace of any baptism. On 19th Oct. 1609 she married Richard PARKSHOUSE at Tipton (PARKHOUSE, PARKES and PERSEHOUSE were also surname variants used by this family).26 Richard was probably a year or two older than Jane, having been baptised at Sedgley in 1588, to Thomas and Joan of Holly Hill in Ettingshall.27 It seems likely that for Lord DUDLEY to have allowed his daughter to marry Richard at such a relatively young age, either his family were already considered of good status, or else inherent illegitimacy was at work again, and Jane already had a child by Richard before the wedding took place.
The latter does appear to have been the case if we are to believe the birth date of their eldest son, Edward - given by him as 18th Sept. 1608, at the Herald's Visitation of 1663. But Richard's family were not of lowly stock to begin with, his forebears having inherited the Turle Hill estate (later Turl's Hill House) and intermarried with the JEVON family of Sedgley Hall. They were also closely related to the family of the same name at PARKESHOUSE Hall in Woodsetton.28
Richard PARKSHOUSE was a young lawyer and, possibly with his father-in-law's influence, he became Steward of the Manor of Kingswinford. He was evidently well favoured, for in 1610 he served as Esquire to Lord DUDLEY's legitimate heir, Ferdinando, at the Investiture of Prince Henry (eldest son and heir of James I) whose untimely death occurred two years later. According to Dud DUDLEY's 'Metallum Martis', it was this same Richard PARKSHOUSE (Dud's brother-in-law, also referred to as 'PARKES') who conveyed samples of Dud's iron to London to be tested. Richard is also recorded in the same treatise as owning a fowling gun made from the same iron, which was taken by Colonel LEVESON, Governor of Dudley Castle, and never returned.29 This piece of information does beg the question, would Richard PARKSHOUSE really have been in possession of such a firearm, if he didn't trust the quality of the iron from which it was made to prevent it exploding in his face?
Richard's lasting testimonial is actually to be found in All Saints' Church, where part of an original pew back survives from the church rebuilding of 1829. On this pew panel can be found an inscription, which shows that it was made for Richard PARKSHOUSE 'de holli hill', in 1626. This, however, was also the year that Richard died aged only thirty-eight.30
This early 17th century pew back survives from the original All Saints', rebuilt in 1829. It was built for Richard Parkshouse of Holly Hill, Ettingshall, in 1626. Richard was an attorney who married Jane, the natural daughter of Lord Dudley, making him brother-in-law to Dud Dudley. He was involved with Dud's exploits in the early use of coal to smelt iron, by transporting samples to the Tower of London for testing. His daughter, Margaret, married John Darby, ancestor of the Coalbrookdale Darbys.
Richard's widow, Jane, survived for another thirty years. She appears to have lived with her younger children at Lower Gornal, until they left the roost to marry.31 Besides Edward, who also became a lawyer and coroner for the county of Staffordshire, these children included a daughter named Margaret. She was baptised at Sedgley, 14th Jan. 1614/15, where there is also a note against the entry in the registers, pertaining to her parents' marriage at Tipton in 1609.32
Any entry in the registers for a marriage between Margaret PARKSHOUSE to John DARBY is conspicuous by its absence. This is unfortunate, though it is not particularly unusual to encounter this phenomenon in family history research, for a number of reasons. Firstly, common-law marriage happened then, just as it happens now. Secondly, it must be remembered that Civil War was already raging across the country in the early 1640's, when John and Margaret started their family. Neighbours and even families were torn by their allegiance to one side or the other for the first time in living memory, and this may have had a bearing on John and Margaret's predicament.
What we know of Margaret's background suggests her family would have been in support of the King; Dud DUDLEY certainly was - the stories surrounding his rise to General of Ordnance in Prince Maurice's troop, and his later Civil War exploits, alone could fill a book.
John DARBY's origins are obscure, though he may have been born in neighbouring Tipton.33 However, it is his later history and that of his descendants as Quakers, which may suggest he came from a more puritanical background, likely to favour Cromwell's Parliamentarians in any conflict. Such division would have been a serious hindrance to either party receiving the blessing of the other family for a wedding ceremony to take place. A wedding may still have happened, but perhaps in secret, at the risk of being 'cut off' by other family members. Then again, such Puritan leanings and involvement with the Society of Friends may only have begun after the Restoration of 1660. John and Margaret's eldest son, Edward DARBY, married Mary COOPER at Dudley Friends' Meeting House in 1671, whilst John DARBY Snr.'s death was recorded there in 1700.34 He must have been over eighty years of age.
Either way, John and Margaret lived as husband and wife, and their children were accepted into the church. In 1656, Margaret's mother Jane PARKSHOUSE died and was buried at Sedgley. An inventory of her possessions was drawn up, one of the appraisers being John DARBY.35 In the same inventory, 'Brother DARBY' is recorded as being in keeping of a ewe and a lamb, belonging to Jane. This suggests that any former family rift arising from divided loyalties during the Civil War had long since been healed.
It was in 1663 that both Dud DUDLEY and his nephew Edward PARKSHOUSE were interviewed independently of each other, by William DUGDALE - the Herald appointed for the County of Staffordshire - who duly recorded their genealogies and coats of arms. Both gave their descent from Lord DUDLEY and Elizabeth Tomlinson, but only Edward PARKSHOUSE gave details of whom his sisters had married. It is from this information that we have clear written evidence that Margaret PARKSHOUSE had married John DARBY of Sedgley.36
Edward PARKSHOUSE, then, could be considered the real connecting link between Dud DUDLEY and the DARBY family of Old Farm Lodge. He was of an age to have witnessed first hand the results of Dud's early experiments into smelting iron using coal, his father Richard having been entrusted to convey samples of that same iron for testing in London. Dud names his nephew Edward PARKSHOUSE in 'Metallum Martis', as being one of the few people to whom he intended to reveal his method of smelting iron using pit-coal.
Edward was not himself an iron founder, but he did have a keen interest in and understanding of local geology, being a contributor to Dr. Robert PLOT's 'Natural History of Staffordshire', and having invited PLOT to see first hand a number of significant geological sites on his property at Lower Gornal.37 Is it possible, therefore, Dud's 'secret' did not die with him, but could have been passed via Edward PARKSHOUSE to his DARBY relatives?
As to what that 'secret' may have been; possibly it was nothing more than a theoretical outline of the coking process, so as to sufficiently reduce the sulphur from pit-coal before it could be considered suitable for smelting iron. Or, possibly Dud had actually succeeded in reducing the sulphur content of pit-coal he was using, through a combination of increasing the temperature in the blast furnace and by introducing a greater quantity of limestone. The fact that Dud states in 'Metallum Martis' that his new furnace at 'Hasco Bridge' (Askew Bridge) was purpose built with a much larger bellows, clearly shows he was deliberately trying to produce much more heat, for a very good reason. Most likely then, he was trying to coke coal in order to get rid of the sulphur. However, we shall probably never know, since the site of this furnace has in all likelihood been obliterated by subsequent mining and landfill activity.
On a practical level, we may never be sure just how far Dud DUDLEY could have gone - or indeed did go - given the necessary support and financial backing, towards perfecting the process.
One possibility which has been put forward by John HEMINGWAY, Archaeological Officer for Dudley Borough, is that Dud struck 'lucky' early on.
There is a field near Barrow Hill to the south west of Dudley, in the north of what was Pensnett Chase, called Furnace Piece, and it was most probably here that Dud worked the 'New Park Furnace' around 1619-20 - probably his first. Barrow Hill is all that remains of an extinct volcano and it is a fact that the surrounding geology has been naturally coked by post-carboniferous volcanic activity. Any coal Dud may have used from here could theoretically have worked, and any resultant iron would have been seen by others as proof of Dud's successful enterprise - hence the granting of the first patent.
However, Dud would have seen and noted the difference between this and other local coal seams. This could in turn have given him the idea for trying to coke coal from elsewhere, by artificial means.38
It is in this last activity, later on in his career, that Dud may have had more variable success. This could have resulted in poorer quality iron than previously, and would no doubt have led to his former financial backers losing interest. Unfortunately Dud apparently did not have the business acumen or social graces needed to go alongside his knowledge of geology and the smelting process.
Having once encountered failure, he would therefore have been unable to persuade anyone else to take his ideas seriously, with the exception of a small group of close confidants, who included his nephew Edward PARKSHOUSE (brother-in-law to John DARBY).
Dud DUDLEY died in Worcester in 1684, a sad old man who had seemingly spent almost the last twenty years of his life either bemoaning his fate or languishing in obscurity. He did marry in 1626, to Eleanor, the daughter of Francis HEATON of Groveley Hall, Worcestershire, but this marriage appears to have been childless. Eleanor died in 1675 and Dud set up a lasting memorial to her in St. Helen's Church, Worcester. More recent research suggests Dud may actually have remarried in old age and possibly had one or more sons.39
Interestingly, there may have been others who came into contact with Dud DUDLEY at different times in his life, who could in turn have tried either to copy him or else, actually further his methods through having worked with him. One such earlier contact may have been Prince Rupert of the Rhine (1619-1682) brother to Prince Maurice, in whose company Dud DUDLEY had served during the Civil War. It is a known fact that Prince Rupert was of scientific mind, being a member of the Royal Society, and he is also known to have attempted the smelting of iron using coal in Sussex, quite late in his life, though his attempts failed.40
Another contact was Sir Clement CLARKE of Dudley, who is known to have worked with Dud DUDLEY. CLARKE later established a successful copper and lead smelting works, with his sons, using reverberatory furnaces in the 1690's.41 Some at least of Dud's knowledge and expertise could have enabled figures like CLARKE to benefit from his methods, adding their own modifications along the way. Another such figure who probably 'inherited' Dud's knowledge may well have been his great-nephew, the young Abraham DARBY.
Some of this may still be speculation but I think there is certainly food for thought here.
Article in the Blackcountryman magazine, Summer 2006 (vol.39 no.3) by Martin White, called "Yet Another Side of Dud Dudley"
New evidence (in the form of papers in Lambeth Palace Library) shows Dud DUDLEY was granted a licence to practice medicine in the 'province of Canterbury' - probably indicating London - on 30 July 1679. Dud would then have been about 80 years of age! But it appears from the wording of the grant that Dud had already been practising medicine under licence from the Bishop of Worcester, since about the time of the Restoration of Charles II. This was not so long after political circumstances had necessitated that Dud masquerade as a "Doctor Hunt" in Bristol, during the early Commonwealth years. This suggests Dud Dudley had assumed more than just a pseudonym and, amongst his many other talents, was actually capable of practising medicine. The 'letters testimonial' for the grant of a medical licence of 1679, also show that Dud DUDLEY had the recommendation of none other than Elias ASHMOLE, sometime astrological adviser to Charles II and founder of the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, with whom Dud probably first came into contact whilst serving with the Royalist forces in the mid 1640's, either at the siege of Lichfield or Worcester. During the 1670's Ashmole, and others like him, were becoming increasingly interested in the work of a sixteenth century physician named Paracelsius, who put forward the idea of alchemical production of medicines containing such basic mineral ingredients as iron, sulphur, mercury, copper and lead, to treat various bodily ailments (rather like the medicines prescribed by a modern homeopathist). No wonder then that Dud DUDLEY should have shown renewed interest in medicine at this time, since he was already well versed in metallurgy and evidently saw the potential of its medical application.42
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