Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Atkinson, Stephen

ATKINSON, STEPHEN (fl. 1619), metallurgist, was a native of London. After serving an apprenticeship to Francis Tiver, a refiner of gold and silver, he was admitted a ‘finer’ in the Tower of London about 1586, and subsequently he was engaged in refining silver in Devonshire, from lead brought from Ireland. He tells us that he was taught his mining skill ‘by Mr. B. B., an ingenious gent’ (i.e. Mr., afterwards Sir Bevis, Bulmer); that he spent his ‘golden time’ in different shires in England; and that he was for two years in Ireland with Bulmer, who died in his debt 340l., having left him there ‘much in debt for him.’ By a grant of the privy council of Scotland in 1616, confirmed by James I, he obtained leave to search for gold and silver in Crawford Muir, on paying the king one-tenth of the metals found. It appears that he was unsuccessful in his mining operations, and consequently he wrote ‘The Discoverie and Historie of the Gold Mynes in Scotland.’ This was edited by Mr. Gilbert Laing Meason for the Bannatyne Club in 1825, from a manuscript in the Advocates' Library, Edinburgh. Another manuscript is in the Harleian collection, 4621. The author proposes to the king ‘the opening of the secrets of the earth—the gold mines of Scotland, to make his majesty the richest monarch in Europe, yea, in all the world.’ This measure was to be accomplished by moving ‘twenty-four gentlemen of England, of sufficient land, to disburst 300l. each,’ by creating them ‘for ever Knights of the Golden Mynes, or Golden Knights.’ Atkinson failed to make any impression on the king, who had already expended 3,000l. on the gold mines of Crawford Muir, and had obtained not quite three ounces of gold.

[Meason's introd. to the Discoverie; Lowndes's Bibl. Man. ed. Bohn, App. 9.]

T. C.