Date: 04 Oct 2011

The Affair at Clonmines

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Abstract

The prospect of an indigenous supply of silver at Clonmines, co. Wexford, would have excited Henry VIII given the parlous state of his finances. Initial results were mildly encouraging. Henry died before any serious action was undertaken, although the necessary legal instruments to do so were set in place. The financial inheritance of Edward VI made the option more attractive, even moreso given the reportedly favourable results of an assay of a sample of ore from the mine. A force of German miners was recruited and sent to Clonmines to start extraction operations on a serious scale in mid 1552. Robert Recorde was commissioned to oversee the operation. He met with continual interference from Garret Harman who had spearheaded the project from its inception and had provided the favourable assay results. After 5 months work, Recorde found that the operation was financially unsound, primarily because the initial assay provided was wildly optimistic. The project was abandoned at major cost to the Crown. Recorde’s accounts were passed for payment but his personal financial debt was not honoured by the Crown. This bankrupted him. The debt was acknowledged and discharged to the benefit of Recorde’s nephew in 1571.