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Sheffield in 1841

SHEFFIELD is situated in the district of Hallamshire, in the upper division of the wapentake of Strafforth and Tickhill in the West Riding of the county of York. It is in the southern part of the West-Riding, being only one mile and a half distant from Derbyshire, 33 miles south of Leeds, 50 miles south-west of York, and 163 miles north-north-west of London. The name is derived from the Sheaf, one of the rivers on which the town is situated, and 'field.'

Sheffield became a parliamentary borough and acquired the privilege of returning two members to the House of Commons under the Reform Act. In population and commercial importance it is the second town of the county. It lies at the eastern foot of that extensive range of hills which form a huge back-bone running along the centre of the island from Staffordshire to Westmoreland ; and it occupies and is now spread over various uneven but gradually subsiding tongues of land lying between the Porter, the Riveling, the Loxley, the Sheaf, and the Don, which, rising from various points of the mountainous range, here unite their waters into one considerable river, the Don, which hence pursues a more steady course through the level country to Doncaster. With the exception of the single level outlet towards Doncaster, it is encompassed and overlooked by an amphitheatre of hills - some verdant, some wooded, and some in the distance with a clear outline of blue heath. The neighbourhood indeed presents a variety and beauty of prospect which can seldom be met with so near a large manufacturing town. The parish of Sheffield comprises the six several townships of Sheffield, Ecclesall Bierlow, Upper Hallam, Nether Hallam, Brightside Bierlow, and Attercliffe-cum-Darnall, and contains an area of rather more than 22,000 acres : the parliamentary borough is co-extensive with the parish.

Hallamshire, which, though its limits be not exactly determined, has been considered to include the parish of Sheffield and the adjoining parishes of Handsworth and Ecclesfield, forms a district or liberty, the origin and history of which may be traced back to Saxon, Roman, and even British times, whilst the importance of the town of Sheffield is of comparatively recent date.

The manor of Sheffield however appears in Domesday-book as the land of Roger de Busli ; but the greater part of it was held by him of the Countess Judith, widow of Waltheof the Saxon.

At what period or, how it passed into the family of De Lovetot is uncertain ; but it is found to be in their possession in the early part of the reign of Henry I. The Lovetots selected this part of their extensive possessions for their baronial residence, and promoted the interests and aided the industry of their tenants. They founded an hospital, called St. Leonard's (suppressed in the reign of Henry VIII), upon an eminence still called Spital Hill, established a cornmill, and erected a bridge over the river Don, then and still called the Lady's Bridge, from the chapel of the Blessed Lady of the Bridge, which had previously stood near the spot ; and by their exertions and protection fixed here the nucleus of a town, which the natural advantages, of the locality afterwards sustained and swelled into importance. The male line of the Lovetots became extinct by the death of William de Lovetot, leaving an infant daughter, Maud, the ward of Henry II.His successor, Richard, gave her in marriage to Gerard de Furnival, a young Norman knight, who by that alliance acquired the lordship of Sheffield.

There is a tradition that King John, when in arms against his barons, visited, Gerard de Furnival, who espoused his cause, and remained with him for some time at his castle in Sheffield.

On 12th Nov. 1296, King Edward I granted to Thomas, lord Furnival, a charter to hold a market in Sheffield on Tuesday in every week, and a fair every year about the period of Trinity Sunday. This fair is still held on the Tuesday and Wednesday after Trinity Sunday, and another fair on the 28th of November. The same Lord Furnival in 1207 granted a charter to the town, the provisions of which were of great liberality and importance at that period, viz. that a fixed annual sum should be substituted for the base and uncertain services by which the inhabitants had hitherto held their lands and tenements, that courts-baron should be held every three weeks for the administration of justice, and that the inhabitants of Sheffield should be free from all extraction of toll throughout the entire district of Hallamshire, whether they were vendors or purchasers. Sheffield had about this time acquired a reputation for iron manufactures, especially for faulchion heads, arrow piles, and an ordinary kind of knives called whittles. Chaucer thus describes the appearance of the miller :-

'A Shefeld thwytle bare he in his hose,
Roude was his face, and camysed was his nose.'

In no situation indeed could such manufactures have been expected more naturally to arise ; iron-ore, stone, and coal were found here in great abundance. The upper bed of coal immediately under a part of the town has long been exhausted,but the pits now working are very near ; and in 1841 a lower and thicker bed of coal was reached, and is now in course of working, which comes up to the mouth of the pit in the very town itself. To these local products of iron-stone and coal, the several mountain streams which unite at or near the site of the town became afterwards, and still are, an important auxiliary in the process of manufactures ; from them an extent of water-power is obtained which probably few other localities could furnish ; and the present manufactures of the place became thus permanently settled here before the introduction of steam, which has since been employed to sustain and carry them forward.

Another only daughter and another Maud caused by her marriage the transfer of the lordship of Sheffield to the more noble family of Talbot, earl of Shrewsbury. William, lord Furnival, died 12th April, 1383, at his house in Holborn, where now stands Furnival's Inn, leaving an only daughter, who married Sir Thomas Nevil, and he, in 1406, died, leaving an only daughter, Maud, who married John Talbot, earl of Shrewsbury, a soldier and a statesman of considerable reputation. George, the fourth earl of Shrewsbury, built the lodge called Sheffield Manor, on an eminence a little distance from the town, and he there received Cardinal Wolsey into his custody soon after his apprehension. It was on his journey from Sheffield Manor up to London, in order to attend his trial, that the Cardinal died at Leicester abbey. The same place acquired a greater celebrity in the reign of Elizabeth, by the imprisonment there of Mary Queen of Scots. This ill-fated lady was committed by the Queen to the custody of George, sixth earl of Shrewsbury. After being for some time confined in his castle of Tutbury in Staffordshire, she was, in 1570, moved to Sheffield castle, and shortly afterwards to the Sheffield manor-house. She left Sheffield in 1584, and consequently spent fourteen years of her imprisonment in this neighbourhood. It was for the alleged intention of removing her hence, that Thomas, duke of Norfolk, suffered on the scaffold ; and it is remarkable that the grandson of this duke of Norfolk, at whose trial and condemnation the Earl of Shrewsbury presided as high steward, afterwards married the grandaughter of the earl, and thereby became possessed of this castle and estate. Francis, fifth earl of Shrewsbury, obtained from Queen Mary a charter restoring to the church burgesses certain property (which had been sequestered in the previous reign of Edward VI) upon the original trusts for the benefit of the church and town, and creating them a body corporate.

About this period occurred a circumstance which added skilful artizans to this aptitude of site and natural products. The duke of Alva had caused many artizans to emigrate from the Netherlands into England, where they were well received by Queen Elizabeth, and the general rule was adopted of settling all of one craft in one spot ; the workers in iron were, by the advice of the queen's chamberlain, the earl of Shrewsbury, settled on his own estate at Sheffield, and the neighbourhood from this time became known for the manufacture of shears, sickles, knives of every kind, and scissors.Gilbert, the seventh earl of Shrewsbury, and the last of the male line of the house of Talbot who inherited the Hallamshire estates, died on 8th May 1616, leaving three daughters and co-heiresses. The lady Alethea Talbot, the youngest, married the earl of Arundel, and the other two dying without issue, the entirety of the Sheffield estates vested, in 1654, in her grandson, Thomas Howard, earl of Arundel, who, in the restoration of Charles II, was restored to the title of duke of Norfolk ; forfeited bv his ancestor in the reign of Elizabeth. Sheffield about this time (by a survey in 1613) contained about 2,207 inhabitants, of whom the most wealthy were "100 householders which relieve others, but are poor artificers, not one of whom can keep a team on his own lande, and not above ten who have grounds of their own which will keep a cow." In 1624 an act of incorporation of the cutlers was passed, entitled "An act for the good order and government of the makers of knives, sickles, shears, scissors, and other cutlery wares in Hallamshire and parts near adjoining."In the contest between Charles I and his parliament, the town became on more than one occasion the theatre of war, and consequently experienced its casualties. Sir John Gell, with troops from Derbyshire, took military possession of the town and castle ; but the duke of Newcastle, at the head of the royal army, having taken Rotherham by storm, and marching forward to Sheffield, the parliamentarians fled into Derbyshire. The people of Sheffield submitted to the royal army, and a garrison was left in the castle under the command of Major Thomas Beaumont, who held the town and castle till, on 1st August, after the battle of Marston Moor in 1644, the earl of Manchester despatched 12,000 parliamentary infantry to attack the castle of Sheffield. After a siege of some days the castle was obliged to capitulate on 10th August, 1644. It was then demolished by order of parliament, and though same attempts were afterwards made to restore it, there are no vestiges of it remaining above ground ; but the names of Castle hill, Castle green, and Castle folds, still mark its site. The earl of Arundel, who had been of the royal party, retired to the Continent, and his estates at Sheffield were seized by the parliament, but restored in November, 1648, on payment of £6,000 as a composition.

The Manor did not suffer from these hostilities, but continued to be the occasional residence of its noble owner, and afterwards of his agent, till, in 1706, Thomas, duke of Norfolk, ordered it to be dismantled ; "the park" ceased to be such except in name, its splendid and even tilled, and its splendid and even far-famed timber was felled, and its wide range of undulating hill and dale divided into farms. The district however still retains its ancient names, and even a populous and increasing portion of the town itself on the east side of the river Sheaf is yet called "the park."

Though Sheffield maintained its staple manufactures, it did not during the seventeenth century increase much in commercial importance. The manufacturers were men of very small means ; they were without water conveyance to either the eastern port of Hull or the western port of Liverpool ; pack-horses were the usual means of transit for their heavy goods ; and such a character as a merchant or trader to foreign countries was altogether unknown amongst them. It was with the eighteenth century that the business of the town began rapidly to improve. In 1700 the town-hall was built, where the town business was transacted and the sessions held. In the early part of this century an Act was obtained for making the river Don navigable up to Tinsley, within three miles of Sheffield ; and the work was completed in 1751. It was not however till 1819 that the water communication was continued through these three miles by the opening of the Sheffield and Tinsley canal. The. new church of St. Paul's was erected in 1720 ; and during this century the art of silver-plating was invented by Thomas Bolsover, an ingenious mechanic, and extensively applied a few years after by Mr. Joseph Hancock.The introduction of this manufacture speedily gave rise to the invention of a compound called Britannia Metal, in imitation of it. A silk-mill was also erected in 1758, and subsequently cotton-spinning was carried on upon the same premises ; but though perseveringly continued in spite of two conflagrations, this trade did not appear to thrive, and has now been for some time entirely abandoned, and the mill is converted into an excellent workhouse. In the same year (1758) lead-works were established on the river Porter, which are still in operation.In 1750 Mr. James Broadbent first entitled himself to the style of merchant by opening a direct trade to the Continent, and the example was soon followed. Attention was now also turned to the formation or improvement of roads, and the establishment of convenient and regular means of communication with the chief marts of commerce. A.stage coach first started from Sheffield to London in 1760, a stage waggon having been on the road a few years previous ; and in 1762 the first bank was opened in Sheffield by Mr. Roebuck. The duke of Norfolk, under the authority of an Act of Parliament obtained in 1784, erected the present suite of shambles and other market buildings ; and towards the close of this century reservoirs were formed in the neighbouring hills whence to distribute water for the regular supply of the town. The machinery employed in the manufactures had hitherto been propelled by water only ; in 1786 the ingenuity of Mr. William Dunn suggested the application of steam-power to the purposes of grinding, and the first steam grinding-wheel was erected in 1786.

In the beginning of the seventeenth century Sheffield was only a large village ; it now displays all the features of a manufacturing and commercial community of the first importance, comprising within its parish a population of 110,891. If it present few of the venerable remnants of antiquity, it is one of the most remarkable instances of the rapid progress of industry. But its wealth, though of speedy growth, is not accumulated in a few large masses ; it is spread and divided in moderate accumulations amongst a numerous class, and is of a peculiarly steady and substantial. quality. In times of financial pressure Sheffield presents fewer instances of bankruptcy, and altogether suffers less than most other towns of equal manufacturing and commercial importance ; and from the rare combination and advantages which it possesses for the conduct of its staple manufactures, it can calculate with as much confidence upon its future welfare as perhaps any town in the kingdom.

As to its local government there is none, not even a magistrate resident within the parish. As it increased in population, and its various wants multiplied correspondingly, it adapted itself, from time to time by various means, to the urgency of circumstances. There is a master cutler, who is by common consent and established custom recognised as the head of the town, but the only occasion on which he legally acts as such is in the election of members of parliament for the borough, under an authority so recent as the Reform Act; otherwise he is simply the master or president for the year of the corporation which was established by the Act of 1624 for the good order and government or a particular trade, but was deprived by another Act, passed in 1814, of the principal powers given for that purpose, which became rather injurious than useful, and now exists only for purposes comparatively unimportant. There is a Local Police Act for the better watching, lighting, and cleansing the town, obtained in 1818, and which is now by all acknowledged to be in many respects inefficient, and even its operation is confined to the area lying within a boundary line drawn at the distance of three-quarters of a mile round the parish church, beyond which boundary the town has now stretched itself considerably in many directions. The expenditure under this Police Act is about £5,000 a year. The onerous duty of administering justice amongst so large a manufacturing community is discharged by the county magistrates, who attend at the town-hall on Tuesday and Friday in each week for that purpose. Various suggestions have recently been made for the due and im-proved administration of the affairs of the town, and a petition for a Charter of Incorporation is now pending before the Privy Council.

The situation of the town causes it to be well drained, except in a few confined localities. The streets and buildings do not generally present an opulent or handsome appearance ; but from the abundance of excellent stone in the neighbourhood, the former are throughout well pitched and paved. There are very few good dwelling-houses in the town, almost all the merchants and principal manufacturers residing in the country ; but within the last few years the shops in the principal streets have assumed generally a much more ornamental front, and various public buildings of some architectural pretensions have been erected. There are six churches in the torn of Sheffield, of which two were built in the last century, and three since the commencement of the present one. There is also a church at Attercliffe, one at Darnall, one in Upper Hallam, and one in Nether Hallam, and a chapel-of-ease at Ecclesall. Chapels for the various bodies unconnected with the establishment are also very numerous ; they are generally capacious, but few of them display any architectural ornament.

The public buildings consist of town-hall, the Cutler's hall, the corn-exchange, recently erected by the Duke of Norfolk, who owns the ground upon which no inconsiderable part of the town is built, and whose liberal conduct in the management of his estates here has been of the utmost advantage to the inhabitants ; the fire-office, the assay--office, the assembly-rooms and theatre, the music-hall, two news-rooms, and the public baths, which are a very complete establishment ; the cemetery (an extensive piece of ground on the slope of a hill about a mile from the town, laid out for its present purpose with much taste and at considerable expense), and the botanical gardens, which are of considerable extent and for beauty of situation are unrivalled.

Among the charitable institutions are the infirmary, a noble building, near to which fever-wards are now in course of erection ; the dispensary, and the Shrewsbury hospital, established and munificently endowed by the Earl of Shrewsbury, pursuant to the will of Gilbert, seventh and last earl of Shrewsbury, who owned the Sheffield estates, and which have been recently re-erected on a new site in a particularly simple yet elegant style of architecture.

The town is well supplied with water, light, and fuel. The competition of two gas companies ensures a cheap and good supply of light.

There are two public bodies which are in possession of property applicable to the benefit and general improvement of the town, viz. the town trustees and the church burgesses. The principal manufacture is that of cutlery in all its branches, indeed of everything that can be fabricated of iron or of steel. The vast buildings used for grinding by steam form one of the curiosities of Sheffield. A peculiar and fatal disease, called the grinder's asthma, is caused by the inspiration of the minute particles of steel and stone thrown off in the rapid process of grinding. So fatal is this disease, that though thousands are so employed, very few grinders are known to survive the age of 45. Various means of diminishing the evil have been suggested, and some adopted, but there is too much inclination among the men to neglect whatever appears to give the least additional trouble, even though death be the penalty of neglect.

Silver-plate, and plated-goods form also one of the staple manufactures of Sheffield. Its plated goods have a deserved reputation for strength and durability. Brass-founderies are also numerous. Britannia metal, a superior kind of pewter composed of tin, antimony, and regulus, forms a cheap article of common use and great consumption, the manufacture of which occupies many hands. Latterly a much superior but more costly kind of white metal has been introduced, called German silver.Brushes, buttons, combs, and optical instruments are also made here to a considerable extent ; and various other manufactures which arise out of or are connected with the staple commodities of the town, such as cabinet-case makers, engravers, haft and scale pressers and cutters, powder-flask and shot-belt makers, silver-refiners, wood-turners, &c. There are also many mercantile houses, some of which confine themselves to the home markets, while others export to the Continent, to Brazil, the Cape, and various other parts of the world, but far beyond any other in importance, to the United States of America. In a memorial to government on 16th December, 1839, respecting the admission of American flour duty free, it was stated that the Americans were then owing to the manufacturers of Sheffield £600,000.

The following tabular statement of the population of the parish of Sheffield displays a remarkably high ratio of increase between the years 1821 and 1831 :-
























The number of houses in the parish in the year1831 was 19,998, of whom 14,734 were returned as employed in trades, manufacture, or handicraft, 443 in agriculture, and 4,821 either in professional pursuits or unemployed. The establishments for education and for the diffusion of knowledge are various, and though inadequate to the numbers who need instruction, are perhaps sufficient for those who endeavour to obtain it. Sunday-schools are connected with almost all the places of religious worship. There are also national schools in several districts of the town ; a Lancasterian school for about 400 boys, and another for 250 girls ; an endowed boy's charity school for 90 boys, and a similar establishment for 70 girls. The foregoing schools are chiefly maintained by subscription. There is also a grammar-school, and a free writing-school where there are 33 free scholars. At a short distance from the town a handsome Gothic building called the Collegiate School has recently been erected by a body of proprietors, and another still larger building on the same side of the town is more recently completed, called the Wesleyan Proprietory school. There is also a Roman Catholic day-school for the poor, and there are several infant-schools, and many private establishments for education.

The Subscription Library has upwards of 7,000 volumes ; the mechanics' library has 5,000 volumes ; a literary and philosophical society has been established for many years, and a mechanics' institution for a few years. The medical gentlemen of the town have also established a medical school, and certificates of attendance at its lectures are received by the College of Surgeons in London.