SchooIdays - Memories and History
                     Pre 20th. Century

REMINISCENCES OF SHEFFIELD by R. E. LEADER

CHAPTER 03 - CONDITION AND HABITS OF THE WORKMEN and NOTABLE CRIMES.

'The best help we have towards an appreciation of the character and condition of the artizans of Sheffield in the eighteenth century is to be found in the songs of Joseph Mather. These frank and wholly unconventional effusions throw a vivid light on the habits and modes of thought of the workman. Mather was himself a file-cutter‹or file-hewer, as it was then called. He spent his life amid the operatives, taking some share in their labours and their sufferings, and more than his share of their rude pleasures. For as a singer of his own songs, he enjoyed a large measure of the popularity which expresses itself in terms of drink at the public-houses frequented by the operatives; and his presence was sought after in a way hardly conducive to steady application at the bench. A very favourite way of indicating to obnoxious manufacturers the disfavour in which they were held, or of retorting upon magistrates for decisions deemed to be unjust, was to persuade Mather to sing, in places where they were congregated, satires ridiculing their ways, or reviling their doings in scathing language. Thus when any particular trade had a quarrel with the employers, Mather was taken to sing his lampoons at the public-house where the masters spent their evenings; or if the justices had offended, he would be stationed on court-day opposite the Cutlers' Hall, to satirise them as they dispersed after discharging their duties. One cutlery manufacturer, Jonathan Watkinson of Silver Street, who had incurred the fierce indignation of the work- men by inaugurating a system of counting thirteen to the dozen, came under Mather's lash; and it was applied lustily in several bitterly personal songs. Watkinson was Master Cutler at the time (I787), and in virtue of his office he gave a bespeak night at the theatre. The gallery was packed by indignant cutlers, and, led by Mather, they roared out the vivisectory chorus of " Watkinson and his Thirteens " with such persistence as finally to drive the unfortunate man out of the house. The late Mr. John Wilson, to whom we are indebted for these and other particulars of Mather's life and songs,* was informed that the ballad drove Watkinson still further‹that is to his grave. Whether this were so or not, it is certain that life was made a burden to him by Mather's invectives, hurled in a song which remained for many years a prime favourite at workmen's convivialities. It never failed to bring down the house long after the original quarrel had been forgotten, and when, indeed, the custom of counting even fourteen as twelve had been accepted. Mr. Wilson tells us that when Saturday night came and found Mather without any wages to draw, or unable to coax any from an obdurate employer, he would go about the streets seated on a grinder's donkey, with his face to its tail, vending his songs and amusing the populace with his quips and jests. The incident gives a finishing touch to the pictures which have been drawn of the neighbourhood of the old market place on Saturday nights, when the crowd of cutlers and their wives wandered about, providing for the Sunday dinner or buying clothing, amid the stalls of the butchers and fruiterers and fishmongers, the shoemakers and tinmen, the leather breeches' makers and the vendors of buckles, and the old women with their meal tubs, and the noisy criers of ballads and last dying speeches and confessions. We can well imagine that Mather would take especial care to loiter with his animal opposite the old Debtors' Gaol in Pudding Lane (King Street), with whose interior he was not unacquainted, intent on holding up that arbitrary official, the gaoler, to the ridicule of prisoners peering through their gratings, and not without a malicious hope that another of his favourite butts, Buggy Eyre, constable and market keeper, might, in the Roundabout House over the way, be within earshot of his scurrility. And we may be sure that these escapades did not finish without many an adjournment to " Shout-'em-Downs," or the Hullett, or the Cock, or the Old Tankard, or the Ball, or other familiar drinking place. ------------------------ * The Songs of Joseph Mather, with Memoir, Introduction, and Notes by John Wilson, Sheffield: Pawson and Brailsford. 1862. ------------------------ Grinders always had a reputation above that of other craftsmen for uncouthness and brutality. Ebenezer Elliott wrote: There draws the grinder his laborious breath; There, coughing, at his deadly trade he bends. Born to die young, he fears nor man nor death; Scorning the future, what he earns he spends; Debauch and riot are his bosom friends.* Here expression is given to the wide-spread opinion that the vices of this class were attributable to the recklessness caused, by the fatal nature of their calling‹to the feeling that, as they were doomed to short lives, they might as well have merry ones, filled with the selfishness of low enjoyments, and callous as to all other human beings. But whatever may have been: the case when Elliott wrote, this explanation is not applicable to the earlier days when grinding was done under conditions more rather than less, favourable to health, as compared with other processes. Sir Arnold Knight, when discussing, in 1819, the subject of grinders' asthma, asserted that, until the beginning of the eighteenth century, grinding w as not a distinct branch of business, 1 ut was performed by men who also engaged in various other departments of the cutlery trade, and who were consequently exposed but seldom, and then only for a short t time, to the injurious effec'ts of the grinding wheel. This statement was used as one explanation of the fact that the century was far advanced before the grinders' disease mani- fested itself, or at least before the occupation was noted as specially unhealthy. No authority was given for the assertion, which seems to have been accepted without question. It has been repeated by Dr. J. C. Hall, and subsequent writers on the subjec't. And, startling as it is in the light of modern ideas, it in no way confiicts wilh the traditions still found among the older workmen as to former conditions of industry. Men are still remembered who forged their own blades and springs, marked, hardened, and tempered them at their own houses; and ground them themselves at one of the wheels; finally making them up; and thus carrying out, with one pair of hands, all the processes, except actually making the scales, --------------- * "Village Patriarch," Book V., 4. --------------- necessary to the production of a knife. And in none of the older records are grinders spoken of as a separate class. By the regulations of the Manor Court, I570, the occupier of a wheel is not to suffer any person who does not reside within the lordship or liberties to grind knives there, and the wheels are always called ~'cutler wheels," not "grinder or grinding wheels." Thus Harrison, in his Survey (I637), says: " These rivers are very profitable unto the Lord in regard to the mills and cutler wheeles that are turned by these streames, which weeles are employed for the grinding of knives by four or five hundred Mr. workmen that gives severall marks." Whether, however, treated as a separate craft, or whether done by cutlers incidentally as one among other processes, grinding, by water power, in wheels freely open to the circulation of best country air, cannot have been accompanied by the injuriousness experienced in the closer rooms and more populous places used after the application of steam. It is notorious that saw grinders, who adhered longer than other branches to the old water wheels, were far healthier than their fellows. But wllatever the explanation of the freedom of grinders from special diseases in the older days, the fact that thev were so free disposes effectually of the short-and-merry life theory, as accounting for their recklessness. Their rough habits may well have been the outcome of comparative isolation, of the freedom from control that they enjoyed in the remotest valleys of Rivelin, Sheaf, Porter, and Don, where there was little check upon their doings. And, being a law unto them- selves, they became, as Elliott describes them, arbitrary " blackguards." The first Mr. Samuel Roberts, who wrote with a personal knowledge of the Sheffield manners and customs of the late eighteenth century, described the brutal usage which boys had to undergo before they were made "free of the wheel." A mere payment of foot-ale did not suffice; their " footing" had to be made good by bodily indignities, and there can be little doubt that the account given in " Tom and Charles," a moral story of two grinder lads, of the manner in which the grinders ingeniously coupled cruelty to the apprentice with brutality to a cat, was drawn from a real incident. It may be remembered, however, in fairness to the grinders, that theirs was no enviable lot. If not liable to grinders' asthma in the times when " the dairy maid," as they called the water wheel, was their motive power, they yet might, at any moment, be maimed or killed, by a defe~tive stone flying. Mr. John Wilson rescued from oblivion a song, very popular at grinders' festivals, of which the refrain was: " There's fev- suffer such hardships as we poor grinders do." In summer time we can't work till water does appear, And if this does not happen, the season is severe; Then our fingers are numb'd by keen winter frosts or snow, And few can brave the hardships that we poor grinders do. When war is proclaimed our masters quickly cry, ' Orders countermanded, our goods we all lay by; Our prices ~,e must sat~le, and you'll be stinted too "‹ There~s few suffer such hardships as we poor grinders do. There seldom comes a day but our dairy maid goes wrong, And if that does not happen, perhaps we break a stone, Which may wound us for life, or gi~,e us our final blow‹ For there's few that have such hardships as we poor grinders do. Nor must it be supposed that the grinders had by any means a monopoly of barbarous manners and rough horseplay. Even in trades conducted under conditions more favourable to good order and more conducive to self-respect, there was much lawless licence. Mr. John Holland, who was brought up as an optical instrument maker, has left on record a wail over the irreligion and drunkenness which characterised the men in Proctor and Beilby's workshops; and the new industry of silver-plating, destined to play so important a part in the prosperity of the town, had, at first, demoralising effe~t upon the operatives. In the absence of local skill, workmen had to be brought from other towns, or itinerant tinkers had to be set to work on the nobler metals. Mr. Samuel Roberts gives a deplorable account of the morale of these importations: * They were indifferent characters‹many of them very bad ones; therefore, during the first forty years, the journeymen platers were, as a body, the most unsteady, depraved, and idle of all other workmen. They were not only depraved themse]ves, but the source of depravity in others. ---------- * See Samuel Roberts's Autobiography, p. 37. ---------- They were, in fact, in many respects a pest to the town. The masters could neither do without them, nor obtain better. They were therefore forced to give them high wages, and to wink at all their irregularities. From this cause the masters were continually enticing the workmen from each other's houses, giving them money to hire with them, and letting them get into their debt as a kind of security. There were, in consequence, continual disputes between masters and work- men, and between masters and masters about them, so that they almost occupied all the time of the patient Mr. Wilkinson and the impatient Mr. Athorpe, during one day in the week, in the little old Justice Room at the Cutlers' Hall. The masters suffered too much all kinds of drinking, rudeness, and profane swearing in the workshops, and once a year, about September, they gave a sort of saturnalia, called the Candlelight Supper, at a public house where the workmen, the workwomen, and the masters of other trades connected with them, were all Hail fellows‹well met. At that period many of the most prospering masters were such as had been of the few steady workmen. In the manufactory in which Mr. Winter and my father had a share, the burnishing women and girls worked in a passage room between two rooms containing workmen of the descrip- tion mentioned." The men used their power to dictate their own terms to their employers to such an extent that " it was no uncommon thing for men in a shop to demand £50 or £IOO to support them whilst they went off ' on spree'; and one instance has been given in which a party of seven braziers, who had been absent for a week (on the strength of money already advanced by their masters), sent two of their number for another £10 each, to be added to their individual debts. On this condition only would they promise to return the following week; and their demand was complied with."* Mr. Nicholson, who in I787 was a member of an early silver and silver-plating firm (Gainsford and Nicholson, Eyre Street), was accustomed to tell how two of his braziers kept hunters, whilst the employers had to walk; and several of the men had the hair-dresser to attend them with powder at their respecive manufactories in working hours. It was only by slow degrees that the employers were able to throw off a vassalage as bad for the workpeople as for themselves, and to inaugurate a better state of things. ------------ * Paper on the Sheffield Assay Office, by Mr. A. T. Watson. Literary and Philosophical Society's Transactions, October 1, 1889. ------------ Judged by its treatment of subject living creatures, whether human or brute, the moral sense of the English people in the eighteenth century was deplorably low, and the Sheffield populace were no better than the rest. What has been said of apprentices is true of others in a dependent position. The story, to be told in subsequent chapters, of the attitude of the inhabitants towards the Methodists, and all who could be bullied, is not pleasant reading. The punishments of stocks, the pillory, and the gallows, brutal in themselves, were made more brutal by the gibes of a reviling mob. The cuck- stool, as a rough cure for scolding women, was barbarous enough, but it was not so bad as the sight of a wife, led by her husband in a halter to Paradise Square, or the Market Place, and there sold to the highest bidder. Thus, in I796, John Lees, " steel burner," sold his wife to Samuel Hall, fellmonger, for sixpence. " She was delivered up with an halter round her neck, and the clerk of the market received 4d. for toll." In another case the sale took place in Paradise Square. Although buyer and bought lived together afterwards without any marks of public opprobrium or loss of caste, it would be unfair to regard the transaction as one of common occurrence. It was, indeed, sufficiently rare to become the theme of a street song: In Sheffield market, I declare 'Tis true, upon my life, A cotton spinner t' other day, By auction sold his wife. . An outrage of this kind is recorded as late as I822. The price paid to the vendor, a hatter, was five shillings, a silver watch, and a gold chain. The chronicler gives the names of the parties to the transaction and quaintly adds: " The lady, it seerns, was nothing loath to the transfer." Fairs and feasts, amid much rough kindliness and neighbourly feeling, were made opportunities for unbridled orgies. Those who can remember thc scenes at Rotherham Statutes, when farmers' lads and lasses stood in the church- yard or the streets, to be poked and examined by hirers like so many slaves, need not regret that the Sheffield Statute hirings were discontinued many years earlier. But the circumstances which led to their abolition were not creditable. They were held on the Feast of St. Simon and St. Jude (October I8), and they were looked upon by the cutler lads of the town as fitting opportunity for indulging in coarse horseplay at the expense of the country bumpkins who came to be hired. Verbal rude- ness of the broadest kind was but a small part of the indignity the poor chattels had to undergo. All manner of practical jokes were perpetrated. Many a torn coat displayed where a nail had been driven through it, to fasten its wearer to a post; and often did the lasses find themselves pinned to their neighbours, or even fastened by stitches and thread. These, and worse enormities, rose to such a pitch that the country people, at length, wisely declined exposing themselves to them, and the statutes died out. It is not surprising that, when human beings were thus treated, dumb animals had an uncommonly bad time. On Statute day, dogs were more brutally ill-used than lads and lasses. For by bad old custom there had been set up a prescriptive right to whip all dogs found at large in the streets; and, armed with heavy whips, the populace hunted the luck- less curs with unsparing cruelty, chivveying them from street to street, and beating them at times even to death. This pra~tice long survived the statutes, and it was to some extent carried out in the recolle~tion of men whose memory went back to the early years of the present century. The Hallamshire artizans have ever taken keen delight in field sports, and notable skill in woodcraft has, through all time, been found compatible with skill in the smithy and the wheel. The wastes, and commons, and moors, and streams surrounding the town afforded large opportunity for indulgence ‹sometimes with, but more often without the leave of the lord of the manor‹in the pursuit of game. Harrison, in 1637, reported that the manor was "furnished with red deer and fallow," and he estimated the number in the Park alone at one thousand, "whereof deer of antlers is two hundred." There were also, he said, " hares and sonle rows, with pheasants and great store of partridges, and moor game in abundance, both black and red; also moor cocks, moor hens, and young pootes upon the moors; as also mallard, teale, hearnshewes, and plover. The chiefest fishing within this manor is in the rivers that passeth through the same, wherein are great store of salmons, trouts, chevens, eels, and other small fish." As the Earls of Shrewsbury wisely allowed the ~ apron men " to have a wild day among their deer once a year, so landowners in later times have encouraged the visits of the workmen's harriers, the ingeniously economical keeping of which has been so marked a characteristic of the neighbourhood. But prose- cutions for such offences as "breaking into Riveling forrest and killing a stag," and edicts against hunting, shooting, or destroying game, running through the centuries, show that the Sheffield men, while availing themselves of such opportunities of legitimate sport as came in their way, had no scruples at adding the excitement of poaching to the joys of the chase. There were other amusements less manly and defensible‹ amusements which derived their fierce excitement from the sheer brutality of cruelty to animals. Bull-baiting, bear baiting, dog-fighting, and cock-fighting, afforded a delight not inferior to that supplied by frequent prize fights on the commons around the town. In this, it is true, all that can be said of the Sheffield artizans is that they were not in advance of the public sentiment of the time, whether in their own class, or among those of higher social position. Oliver Heywood* gives a vivid account of the demoralising scenes at Halifax cockings, in which " gentlemen " disgraced themselves more than "the poorer sort." Cock-heel maker and cock-weapon maker are recognised trades in the old diref~tories. " A feeder of cocks" was a distinct calling, often leading direct to the gallows. George Lockey, executed at York in I789 for murder, had given up shoemaking to become a cock feeder. Oxley, too, Spence Broughton's confederate in the robbery of the Rotherham mail (of which more hereafter), had abandoned his employment and " turned his attention entirely to cocking;" and Broughton followed him to Leicester, where he had gone " to the cockings," to recover his share of the spoil. Broughton's downward career was traced to the time when he became the companion of gamblers and sharpers, and began to attend cockings and races. The cockpit in fact was -------------------- * Diary (Turner's edition), vol. ii., page 272. --------------------- as sure a road to ruin as the turf. As villages and towns and counties now compete against one another at cricket and foot- hall, so in those days the championship they aspired to was to breed cocks that could kill those of the rival community. Bull-baiting, which was encouraged by the Lord of the Manor in I632, was, as late as I802, defended in the House of Commons from the point of view of the bull, no less than from that of the spe~tators. The bull, it was declared, felt a satisfaction in the contest, the sport was characterised as " manly," and one member exclaimed, " What a glorious sight to see a dog attack a bull." General Gascoyne " observed with regret a disposition to deprive the poor of their recrea- tions, and force them to pass their time in chanting in con- venticles." There was no great room for his fears so far as Sheffield was concerned, and many years were to elapse before bull-baiting and bear-baiting were suppressed. But the better public opinion was, much earlier, veering against an even less defensible amusement‹that of making living cocks a kind of " Aunt Sally," the bird being tied to a stake and bombarded with heavy billets of wood. In 1752, the Town Trustees were at charges to distribute papers con- demning this diversion of throwing at cocks, and they took (1757) the more pracical course of paying I4S. 6d. to cricket players on Shrove Tuesday " to entertain the populace and prevent the infamous pracice." But the concourse was evidently disorderly, as a wall was thrown down during the cricket match, for the repair of which the Trustees had to pay. The same body went to some expense to get horses to the races at Crookes Moor‹where is now Fulwood Road; and the subscriptions of the wealthier inhabitants were suffciently liberal to justify the erection of a grand stand, whose memory is perpetuated in " Stand House." The first reference to these races is in I71I. They were discontinued in I78I; and in I790 the race stand was taken down, and "the produce divided among the original subscribers to its erecrtion." There is no room to doubt that the Sheffield cutlers and grinders were distinguished in the midst of a generation addicted to intemperance by their drunken habits, and it may be feared that even football, and the fine old Yorkshire game of knur and spell, and the quiet bowling green* and skittle alley and quoit ground, derived additional attractions from the opportunities they gave for betting and heavy drinking. An acute knowledge of the ideal of bliss, as it presented itself to many a poor fellow doomed to a dismal life, was betrayed by the publican who put out the attractive announcement: " You may get drunk here for a penny, dead drunk for twopence, and have clean straw for nothing." When Nield visited the old Debtors' Gaol in King Street (I802), he found that large numbers of the prisoners were incarcerated for the non-pay- ment of alehouse scores, as was the case in most manufacturing towns " where idleness and drunkenness prevail." Mather could and did write poems which were used as favourite hymns by Methodist class leaders. There constantly occur in his songs, even amongst the coarsest, sentences of unimpeachable piety, and references showing a very intimate knowledge of the Bible. The best of his effusions, though unrestrained in the grossness of their language, are filled with a righteous indignation at all forms of injustice, and are manly vindications of the rights of the humblest to independence and liberty. Yet they imply throughout that drunkenness, so far from being discreditable, is a praiseworthy diversion, and they deal with other forms of sensuality with a bald plainness which shows little advance in moral sense and delicacy from the time when Chaucer wrote his " Canterbury Tales." Other popular Sheffield songs have for their burden the joys of drink. In a favourite " topical " song which hit off the characteristics of the various trades with a technical precision that ever brought down the gallery, whether sung in the theatre or at a losing feast, the cutler is described thus: Like his anvil, he's steady, to labour he's ready, He drinks, then he works, boys, again and again. In Mather's " Guinea Club Feast" the guests have made an ----------- * There were bowling greens near Bower Spring (Bowling Green Street), at Little Sheffield (Hermitage Street), Tudor Place (where the Lyceum Theatre now stands), and on the sight of the demolished Sheffield Castle, now occupied by Messrs. Nicholson's horse auction yard. ------------ agreement not to separate until they have drained every barrel, though they drink through the whole night. "The Nether Green Lad" is eulogised as a fine fellow, because In tipping a bumper he's exactly right, He'll dance, drink, and sing like a toper true-born, And scorns to give out until three in the morn; And then goes reeling home like a Nether Green lad. It was not only in the public-house that there was drinking. The ale pot not unfrequently stood on the idle anvil, and men gossiped and drank instead of working. The unknown writer of " The Jovial Cutlers" depicts what was evidently a familiar scene‹the incursion of an irate wife into the smithy. She is represented as reproaching her lazy spouse thus: Thou leads a plaguy drunken life; Here thou sits, instead of ~vorking, Wi' thy pitcher on thy knee; Come thee, thou'd be always lurking And I may slave myself for thee. Ah ! thou great, fat, idle devil, Now I see thy goings on; Here thou sits all t' day to revel, Ne'er a stroke of work thou's done; If thou canst but get thy tankard Thou neither thinks o' work nor me. See thee, look what stays I've gotten; See thee, what a pair of shoes; Gown and petticoat half rotten, Ne'er a whole stitch in my hose; Whilst, broil'd up wi' noise and racket, Thou'dst swallow more than fills a butt‹ D‹‹it, tak' it, devil tak' it, It's better there than in thy gut. (Flings the liquor in his face.) Pray thee, look thee, all the forenoon Thou s wasted wi' thee idle way; When does t' mean to get thy sours done ? Thy mester wants 'em in to-day. So, too, the famous song, " The Cutlin' Heroes," indicates that however hard the pinch of poverty, however low the grade of industry, ale, at least, must be found, and the gallery of the theatre patronised: Cum all yo cutlin heroes, where'er some 'er yo be, All yo wot works at flat-backs, cum lissen unto me; A backetful for a shillin, To mak' em we are willin, For flat-backs and spotted hefts we daily mun be sellin, Or swap em for red herrins, ahr bellies to be fillin. A basketful o' flat-backs o'm sure we'll mak, or mooar, To ger reit into t gallera, whear we can rant and roar. Let's send for a pitcher o' ale, lad, for o'm gettin varra droi, O'm ommast chooakt wi' smitha sleck, the wind it is so hot; Ge Rafe an Jer a drop, They sen they cannot stop, They're i' sech a moita hurra to get to t' penny hop. It is only fair to admit that heavy drinking was not confined to the operatives. We have seen how the masters were wont to spend their evenings in the public-house, where they, too, were not free from the incursion of indignant wives ‹" mourning coaches," they were called. A once well-known song, entitled "Saturday Night," describes how the masters, having paid " reckonings" to the workmen ranged round the the door of the warehouse, forthwith repair to the beershop, " Where the fumes of tobacco and stingo invite, to feast jovial fellows on Saturday night": Then while o'er the tankard such fun they are raisin, Full often will fate their enjoyments annoy; A scolding wife puts her unwelcome face in, An intruding guest that breaks in on their joy " What ! here again, Billy ? Why, sure man, thou'st silly; O'(l burn thee come home, or o'l dit up thy sight." ~ How so, now, my jewel ? I'm sure that is cruel, To begrudge me a sup on a Saturday night." The accounts of the Town Trustees and the Cutlers' Company teem with entries showing how in the old days any bit of business had to be " wetted." As workmen could not do anything without their " 'lowance," so all sorts of visitors and officials had to be treated, while the City Fathers them- selves never met about some bit of arrangement or consultation without there appearing an item " spent at" some tavern in connection therewith. They could not entertain an Archbishop without spending 7s. Id. at the Cock and Mr. Watson's when consulting with the Master Cutler and Church Burgesses about the arrangements. " Spent at Mrs. Horsfield's at a meeting about the lamps, 4s. 6d. ;" " Mary Clarke, for Drink- ings, I4S. 6d. ;" " Mr. Watson, for wine when we went to see Mr. Eyre, I9S. 5d. ;" " Mrs. Horsfield for the like and tobacco, £I 0s. I0d. ;" " Spent at a meeting to consult whether the waits might have coats and hatts or no, 3s. 4d. ;" " Spent at a meeting about indicting the midding stead behind the Shambles, 3s. 6d." It was just the same with the Cutlers' Company. Thus:‹" I725. Spent at Mrs. Wood's with Mr. Clay to know for what purpose he was sending workmen abroad,1S.; Spent at Mrs. Wood's consulting about chusin a new company, 2s. 6d." " I726. Treating Vicar Dossie for liberty of the door and walk in the Churchyard, 6s.; Charges of treating the Bishop (ye town as much), £6." " I730. When Lord Malton sent an invitation to ye town and Corporation, gave amongst ye servants, I6S. The town gave as much. Spent in treating two Assyrian Princes, £I I4S. The town did the same. Gave ye said two Princes, £5 5s. The town did the same." " I734. Spent at meeting to consult who should go inviting (to the Feast), gs. 3d.; made a present of cutleryware to ye Duke and Duchess of Norfolk, £4 IOS. 6d." " I739. Spent at the King's Head, about chusing a beadle." " I74I. Spent consulting whether to bind a boy ;" and so forth perpetually. Proclama- tions of peace were celebrated by bonfires at the Town Hall, the Irish Cross, and the Market Place; with payments to trumpeters, drummers, or ringers, who were decked out with ribbons and cockades. Much gunpowder was exploded, and candles were stuck in the windows by way of illumination. The bells were set a-ringing on every conceivable occasion, and the cutlers promptly took this as a signal to lay aside their aprons, and flock to the public-house. In I747 there was an attempt to restrict these excesses. The Town Collector was to be allowed twenty shillings with which to treat the freeholders on the anniversaries of the Rcstoration (I660), the King's accession, the King's coronation, and the Fifth of November, but there was to be no treating at the town's expense on any other public days; and in I749 it was resolved that the ringers were to be paid five guineas and no more for ringing on Sundays, " rejoicing days and all other usual occasions," except when they ring by order of the Town Collector on account of any nobleman or person of distinction coming to the town.* But it was all in vain; any excuse was good enough for a drinking bout. The ringers were continually receiving their extra half-guineas for ringing " on good news brought," and the Town Trustees themselves still ameliorated the severity of their conferences "'at King's Head, at a meeting concerning the water;" " at Mr. Watson's in exchanging security for navigation shares;" or " at Mr. Webster's to consider the relieving of the poor." Even such sedate citizens as Joseph Gales, of the " Sheffield Register," James Montgomery, in his younger days, Ebenezer Rhodes, of Peak Scenery fame, Charles Sylvester, who became famous for his scientific knowledge, and others of the more intellectual inhabitants, were accustomed to meet " to discuss political and social topics" in the Bull Inn, Wicker, known as " Billy Hill's parlour "‹in former times The 'Sembly House. From this abode of harmony, this hot bed, as the authorities thought it, of sedition, Sylvester poured rhyming ridicule on the struttings of the Loyal Independent Volunteers. There, too, was concocted the long-famous hoax played upon the Mayor of Doncaster in retaliation for his loyal zeal in sending flannel stockings and breeches for the comfort of the troops serving in the imbecile campaign in Flanders. Montgomery, under the cognomen of " Paul Positive," told in satiric verse how " the Mayor of Donchester " had his head turned by the receipt of an official-looking document, informing him that King George, in recognition of his efforts, commanded him to repair to London to be knighted. His Worship, not scenting in the missive the wits of " Billy Hill's Parlour," was thoroughly taken in. The short-lived airs in which he indulged made him a general laughing-stock, and it is not surprising ---------------------- * " Records of the Burgery of Sheffield, by J. D. Leader, passim, but especially pp. 333, 37I, 372, 381, 382, 40I-406 ------------------------ that when, at Doncaster Sessions, Montgomery was sentenced to imprisonment in York Castle, there was no one in the court more pleased than the Mayor, who had been so mercilessly bantered by the rhymester of the " Sheffield Register." In the old days there was a standing item in the Town's Accounts for a dinner to the jurors attending the 'Sembly Quest, or Court Leet; and in course of time there occasionally crept in a modest item " for bread and drincke" to those attending the annual meeting at which the Town Collector presented his accounts. Then there appear such entries as " for dynners of those that were present att takeing this accompt," sometimes varied into " dinners for the townesmen." The eighteenth century account boldly acknowledged " the dinner for the Trustees." If rumour does not belie the Town Trustees, there is, to this day, a survival of the custom. The Guardians of the Assay Office were accustomed to hold their annual meeting at one of the inns of the town‹the George or the Angel‹and even after they had premises of their own commodious enough for the transac'tion of their business, they, up to I832, wound up by adjourning to an hotel for dinner. Their " eating," on one occasion at the Tontine, was covered by a payment of £2, but they drank malt liquor, and red port, and claret, and punch to the tune of £3 IIS. 6d., while coffee and tea cost them Il/-. One of their earliest acts, after incorporation, on obtaining a house of their own, had been to purchase a dozen wine glasses, and to send out for wine, pipes, and tobacco. So far as serious crimes are concerned, Sheffield, in the eighteenth century, has no bad record. The compilation of criminal statistics had not yet become a fine art, and possibly if we had them, they would not, when the machinery for the detection of crime was so primitive, be of much value. But some facts are attainable, and from them certain deductions may be drawn. The list of executions at York Castle, shows that out of I85 cases in which capital punishment was inflicted in the seventeenth century, two only of the malefactors were associated with Sheffield. One was a coiner; the other, a native of the town, was hung for taking part in a highway robbery near Huddersfield. In the eighteenth century there were 223 culprits executed at York, and of these I3 were from Sheffield. By the barbarous and inhuman criminal code which, with difficulty, was only swept away bit by bit in the memory of men still living, the punishment of death was inflicted for all manner of trivial offences‹offences against property being regarded as more serious than attacks on the person. It was a hanging matter to pick a man's pocket of any greater sum than twelvepence, or to steal goods of the value of five shillings from a shop. The only difference in punishment by which the law distinguished the most atrocious murder from cases like these, was that he who had slain another was executed within forty-eight hours of his con- vicion, and his body was handed over to medical schools for dissection; or, if the crime were particularly heinous, the corpse was hung in chains on the spot where the murder, or even robbery without murder, was committed. The remains of minor criminals were usually handed over to their friends for interment. Now this makes it all the more remarkable that the Sheffield culprits, hung at York, were so few. Of the thirteen, only four were executed for murder, and with two of these‹ the killing of a paramour and a case of infanticide‹we need concern ourselves no further. Three instances out of the thirteen were, clearly, judicial murders of the innocent. One of these sufferers was a poor Attercliffe man named Hoyland, against whom, in I793, a vile charge was trumped up, largely to obtain " blood money"; the others were Stephens and Lastly, whose case is sufficiently notorious in Sheffield annals to deserve further notice presently. In I766 Thomas Taylor was executed for stealing divers goods and chattels from the dwelling-houses of Caleb Roberts and Matthew Lambert (the latter a Town Trustee), linen drapers, in the Market Place. In I775 John Vickers suffered the extreme penalty for relieving two men‹John Murfin and John Staniforth, of Darnall‹of sundry small articles, on the road at Attercliffe. In I786 two labourers (not Sheffield men) went to the gallows for breaking into the house of Duncan M'Donald, button maker, Sheffield; and in I790 George Moore, a blade forger and noted prize fighter, living in the Park, who had enlisted into the 19th Foot, was executed for robbing a shop in York. The neigh- bours clubbed together enough money to take his father, who worked for the Saynors in Scargill Croft, to visit him in the condemned cell; but having got as far as Brightslde, the old man drank away all the money in a public-house, and returned home with the philosophic reflection that he could have done no good to his son by seeing him. Another Sheffield man was hung in I800, for forgery. Four cases remain which are worth more detailed attention as, for various causes, they stirred the depths of popular feeling and are retained in local memory with a vividness denied to far more important events. Frank Fearn was a good-for- nothing fellow, who as an apprentice had caused infinite trouble to his master, Mr. Ellis, file-maker of Westbar Green. Tn I782, under the pretence that a watch club had been formed at Bradfield, he persuaded Mr. Nathan Andrews, a respectable jeweller in High Street, to go to that village with watches. Pretending to show him a near way, Fearn decoyed him into a solitary place on Loxley Edge, and there brutally murdered him. He was apprehended the next night when in bed in Hawley Croft, and being positively identified was condemned and executed. The judge, on passing sentence, had ordered the body to be dissected; but afterwards, impressed by the heinousness of the crime, he directed that it should be hung in chains on a gibbet near the scene of the murder. And this was done. Mather pointed the moral in two ballads, in one of which the felon was represented as humbly repentant, but this hardly agrees with the story that on the scaffold he said, " My master has often told me I should die with my shoes on, so I shall pull them off and make him a liar." The Burgery Accounts contain two entries relating to this event:‹" I782. July 30. Paid Mr. Wheat's bill on prosecuting Fearne for the murder of Nathan Andrews f~I4 I9S." ~' I783. August 30. Paid Thomas Holdsworth for carrying gibbet post to Loxley 15s. The popular tendency to gloat over gruesome things has delighted to trace the subsequent history of this gibbet post. Fearn "fell from his irons" on Christmas Day, I797, and in I8IO the post was still standing ~'on Lhe crest of Loxley." It is commonly believed to have been subsequently used as a foot bridge over the Rivelin or the Loxley; and it has been stated that, having been washed down to Sheffield by a flood, it came into the possession of a builder and was used by him, along with a quantity of old material obtained by the removal of the Shrewsbury Hospital, in erecting a row of cottages. More curious is the difficulty the public mind has had in agreeing upon the locality of Nathan Andrews' shop. Church Lane, Bull Stake, and Fargate have all been named as its site, but the choice really lies between High Street and Campo Lane, in each of which a Nathan Andrew paid poor rates in I78I. The Campo Lane assessment was the larger, but the weight of contemporary testimony is in favour of High Street. The last case in the immediate neighbourhood of Sheffield of the barbarous praccttice of gibbeting occurred ten years after Frank Fearn's execution. Like his, it made so lasting an impression that it has ever since remained a tragedy deeply engraven on the public imagination. It is the more notable as being the only recorded instance here of a once common crime‹the robbery on the highway of His Majesty's mails. Yet it was something of a sordid business after all. There was none of the dramatic adventure usually associated with the " Knights of the Road "‹no mail coach, with its gallant team and its complement of affrighted passengers " set up " by mounted highwaymen, demanding your money or your life with levelled pistol. The victim was just a poor solitary unresisting postboy driving a pony cart. The boy was blind- folded and tied to a hedge, what time the thoughtful thieves fastened his pony to a gate and relieved the mail of the Rotherham bag. But the boy was so gently bound that when the affair was quietly over he was able to release himself and to pursue his journey, minus his letters. The date was February, I79I. The robbery took place on Attercliffe Common, and the perpetrators were Spence Broughton and John Oxley. They made good their escape, and it was not until the following October that, when dealing with the proceeds of two other mail robberies at Cambridge and Aylesbury, they were arrested in London, together with Thomas Shaw, who, there can be little doubt, was the instigator of the crimes. Shaw and Oxley both tried to save their own necks at the expense of Broughton's‹and they succeeded, the latter by mysteriously escaping from Clerkenwell Prison, to which he had been committed pending the trial; and Shaw by turning King's evidence at York Assizes where Broughton was arraigned. Within an hour and a half after the opening of the court Broughton had been condemned and sentenced to be hung in chains on the scene of the crime. The contemporary accounts of the men are exceedingly imperfect and conflicting. The only person connectedt with Sheffield who came into the case was one John Close, a worthy with wives both in Sheffield and London, who was partner with Shaw in lottery offices and gaming tables. He was present at Shaw's when the robbery of the Rotherham mail was planned, and he backed up his partner's evidence at Broughton's expense. According to one tradition Broughton lived in New Street, Sheffield, but there is absolutely no ground for believing that he had anything to do with the town. Another story is that, like his father (who is described as a celebrated boxer or prize fighter), he was a Lincolnshire farmer, married to a superior and well-dowered wife, and prosperous until he fell into evil gambling ways. The belief that Broughton was victimised by greater villians who deserted him to save themselves, his dignified demeanour at the trial and on the scaffold, and the sound hatred of everything savouring of blood-money, created a strong feeling of public sympathy in his favour. Mather, as usual, gave expression to the popular indignation, putting into Broughton's mouth accusations against the informer Shaw, and imputations of corruption against the judge and jury, in a strain altogether at variance with the words attributed to the culprit before execution, and with a pathetic letter addressed from the condemned cell to his wife. In this he admitted the justice of his sentence, and bewailed the gaming, idleness, and dissipation that had led to his ruin. This letter is believed by many to be authentic, though it is, in truth, so modelled on the " Correct Letter Writer" style, and so high flown in sentiment, as to be strongly suggestive of the hand of the prison chaplain. Broughton was executed at York Tyburn on Saturday, the 14 th April, I792, and in the grey dawn of the following Monday morning, his body was hung in chains on Attercliffe Common, near the scene of the robbery.* We have to recall the excitement caused in later days by the capture of Charles Peace to realise the public commotion the event caused. The road between Sheffield and Rotherham was black with the mass of people who streamed from the two towns to see the wretched spectacle; and the landlord of the Arrow, a neigh- bouring public-house, though driven to his wits' end, did a roaring trade. As in the case of Fearn, the history of the gibbet-post has been followed with a carefulness worthy of a better cause. As late as I8I7 the whitened bones of the male- factor could still be seen, with the remnants of his clothes fluttering in the breeze; and the gruesome objecrt was not removed until ten years later, when Mr. Henry Sorby, of Woodburn, who had bought the land on which it stood, had the gibbet-post cut down and removed to his coach-house. In I867 a person named Holroyd, while making excavations for cellars opposite the Yellow Lion, came upon an upright piece of solid black oak, passing through and bolted to a massive framework, firmly imbedded in the ground. There can be no doubt that these were the socket and the bottom of the gibbet- post, and they showed what sound material Gregory, of the Nursery, the maker, put into his work. Considerable crowds flocked to see the relic. The memory of the last man hung in chains in Sheffield is perpetuated in the names of a railway station and a street (Broughton Lane). A ghastly memento of the tragedy is said to have been turned out at the Don Pottery, Swinton, in the shape of a small jug, the " body" of which was partly composed of two of the fingers of Spence Broughton. The story runs that they were calcined and incorporated in the material from which a seal bearing a gibbet, and this jug, were manufacrtured. Broughton's companion, John Oxley, is described as a native of Wentworth, at one time employed in the stables --------------------- * See " Criminal Chronology of York Castle " (York, 1867) for particulars of this and other executions referred to in this chapter. --------- there. He had, therefore, the local knowledge which enabled him to plan the mail robbery. A fine collection of romantic myths has grown up as to his career after disappearing, so wonderfully as to suggest accomplices, from Clerkenwell Prison. According to one of these, he was spirited out of the country by the aid of Folkestone smugglers, and conveyed to America. Another circumstantially relates how, drawn by a fatal fascination to see the remains of his comrade, he made his way to Attercliffe, had all his appeals for help rejected by old acquaintances in the neighbourhood of Rotherham, and perished miserably of starvation on Loxley Moor. The prosperous landlord of the Arrow was accustomed to entertain visitors with a story of the visit to his house of a mysterious distressed female, who contemplated the gibbet with such long-drawn woe as to convince him that she must have been Broughton's wife. Or was she the other woman ? Compassionate sympathy, like that extended to Broughton, had been more legitimately and largely excited a few years before on behalf of two unfortunate Sheffield men executed in I790, for the offence of stealing, on Lady's Bridge, a basket containing a shoulder of mutton and a few groceries, from a man named Wharton. Their fate afforded a strong pracrtical argument in favour of a mitigation of the cruel criminal code, for the affair was believed to be really only a rough and foolish joke on the part of Wharton's fellow workmen‹button makers, in the employment Mr. John Hoole, Lady's Walk (Sheflield Moor). Five of them had been drinking together, when Wharton started to do some marketing. The others followed him, watched him make his purchases, had more beer with him, and then " for a lark," took the opportunity, when he had momentarily put down his basket on the way home, to run off with it. They carried it to the Barrel, Pinstone Street, and, without touching the other articles, had the mutton cooked. Thinking that Wharton would follow and share in the supper, for they had told him where they were going, they made up among themselves enough money to pay for the meat. But Wharton, angered at his loss, had gone off with exaggerated complaints of the desperate crime to Buggy Eyre, the constable. So his four companions‹Stevens, Lastly, Booth, and Bingham--uere apprehended on a charge of highway robbery. Bingham was acquitted; the other three were condemned to the gallows; but Booth's sentence was commuted to transportation for life. Petitions on behalf of the remaining doomed men, signed by the Master Cutler and many leading inhabitants, were promptly forwarded to London. A reprieve was in consequence sent down to York; but it did not arrive until two days after the unfortunate men had been hanged. Lastly, on the scaffold, addressed a great crowd of spectators, declaring that Wharton well knew there was no intention to rob. The fury of the populace was boundless. It was directed against Wharton and the constable Eyre, who were both accused of having over-coloured the case for the sake of £IOO " blood money." The anger was augmented by the arrival in Sheffield of Booth, who, reaping advantage from the mis- carriage of his companions' reprieve, received an unconditional pardon; and by a letter, written on the eve of execution by the condemned men to their shopmates, protesting entire innocence of criminal intent. Wharton tried to throw the odium on Eyre, declaring that all he had wanted was to recover his goods, and that it was the constable who insisted on treating the case seriously. But this availed him nothing. In addition to his trade, he kept a shop at the corner of Chapel Street, Bridgehouses, and here an angry crowd assembled, intent on lynching him. They raised before his door a gibbet, with his effigy hanging upon it, and they uould have torn him in pieces, but that, disguising himself in women's clothes, he made his escape. He uent to Manchester, and was seen in Sheffield no more. Disappointed of their prey, the mob wreaked their vengeance on his house, smashing every window and committing such damage as to make it scarcely habitable. In this case, too, Mather translated the popular sentiment in verse, Wharton being aposirophised as a " villain most base," whose " name must eternally rot," because he had sold his companions for gold. If not viciously criminal beyond the average of the period, the Sheffielders were yet a turbulent race, very apt, whether with or without reason, to express their feelings by rioting. Mention will hereafter be made of certain coal riots in I774, as senseless as the outbreaks in other parts of the country against turnpike roads whose effect ctcould only be beneficial to the people. The more serious food riots of which the town has been the scene belong chiefly to the starvation days of the present century, but they had their precursors at an earlier time. In I756 the necessaries of life were scarce and dear, and the people rebelled. The Town Trustees' accounts show that there was riding in hot haste to Wentworth and elsewhere to obtain magisterial aid. There was expenditure for watching the streets, for constables' charges, for prosecutions, and for compensation; together with subscriptions wisely designed to stay the cause of the outbreaks, by buying corn for the relief of the poor. The writer of a contemporary letter (28th August, I756), gives the following vivid piclure of the disturbances:‹ " I suppose you have heard what terrible confusion this town has been in for this four days past, the mob carrying all before them, and breathing nothing but fury and destruction. Thursday night last they attacked the Pond Mill, pulled all the slates off one side, but did very little damage besides considering the quantity of corn in the mill, not taking, I believe, above tuo loads. Yesterday the Marquis of Rocking- ham and Justice Battie was in the town, and constituted ten new constables. A very good scheme was formed by raising a company of stout, able men, who assembled last night well armed with bludgeons, guns, and bayonets, knocked down all before them they knew to be of the gang of the mob, patrolled the town round and seized all the ringleaders, some in bed, some in the streets, brought them in prisoners to the Town Hall, and this morning has escorted about 30 persons to ye Marquises, where Justice Battie and Sr. Rowland Wyn a!tends. All the best of the people in town is ready for its defence, and the mob is not able to stand them. All is at present very quiet." It is not explained why the town, having spent £I8 I3s 3.5d.* on prosecutions, should also "pay Mr. Battie and James Whitham the Expenses of obtaining the Discharge of the Rioters committed to York Castle £43 I4S. 6d." ------------------ * The precision of the old accounts as to fractional parts of a penny, exemplified here and in many other instances, is worth noting. ------------------ Perhaps we may interpret the ac as a merciful recognition of the fact that the rioters were not without justification or provocation‹just as at the end of the century, when similar riots were put down, their suppression was accompanied by vigorous measures against those " forestallers " who, by keeping food supplies out of the open market, artificially enhanced the price to the starving people. The riots of I79I, which resulted in much damage being done to the debtors' gaol in King Street, and in the celebrated attack on Broom Hall, the residence of Vicar Wilkinson, had a different origin. The objects on which the mob's wrath was vented on this occasion indicate a long-accumulating resent- ment at the methods in which justice was administered and punishments were infliced. And to these have to be added the popular prejudice against a recent widening of Church Street by taking a strip off the graveyard‹for the multitude is always very sensitive to any interference with the bones of the dead, even for the advantage of the living. So that although the immediate reason for the outbreak was anger at an Act of Parliament empowering the enclosure of Crookes Moor and other waste and common lands in Hallam, there were some old scores to pay off, and the populace, inflamed by one of Mather's fiercest diatribes, went on the war path with much heartiness. The authorities promptly invoked the aid of the military, and a company of dragoons from Nottingham, clattering through the streets with drawn swords and jingling scabbards, increased the excitement, and suggested to the mob that it was a pity the soldiers should come so far for nothing. The roughs scuttled into places of safety as the dragoons rode by; the moment they had passed the scattered units flowed together again; and when some malign spirit raised the cry, All in a mind, for Broom Hall !" the suggestion aptly hit the imagination of the crowd. So they poured along Back Lands Lane‹corrupted into Black Lamb's Lane, now Broomhall Street‹to Broom Hall, where they set stacks ablaze and did much damage to the house. ----------- # " The Black Resurrection," in Wilson's Mather, p. 44‹the wail of one whose ashes had been cast out. In this the Vicar is dubbed " the old serpent," and is spoken of as " that black, diabolical fiend." -------------- The outbreak had a tragic ending. Five men were arrested and were tried at York. Four got off, either altogether or with minor punishments; but by a whimsicality of injustice, the fifth, John Bennett, a half-witted fellow who had been employed by the mob as the monkey used the cat to take the chestnuts from the fire, received sentence of death, and was duly hanged at the York Tyburn. There was the usual gruesome flavour of blood-money about his conviction. The incident was afterwards used, along with the other cases already mentioned, as an argument for the abolition of that abominable incentive to perjury. And these riots had three other results‹the establishment of the old Barracks; the payment by the town of costs and compensation to the tune of £56I I5s. 1.5d.; and striking the knell, as Dr. Gatty puts it, " to any expectation that a clergyman can be advantageously prominent in a manufacturing town for the administration of civil justice." ******************************************************************************** * This out of copyright material has been transcribed by Eric Youle, who has * * provided the transcription on condition that any further copying and * * distribution of the transcription is allowed only for noncommercial * * purposes, and includes this statement in its entirety. Any references to, * * or quotations from, this material should give credit to the original * * author(s) or editors. * ********************************************************************************
 

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