The approach to Sheffield from Lincolnshire
is through a defile, and over a long lofty viaduct,
which affords a full view of the beautiful amphitheatre
of hills by which it is surrounded.
The town is situated in a valley,
on five small streams one the “Sheaf,”
giving the name of Sheffield, in the southern part
of the West Riding of Yorkshire, only six miles from
The town is very ugly and gloomy;
it is scarcely possible to say that there is a single
good street, or an imposing or interesting public
building, shops, warehouses and factories,
and mean houses run zigzagging up and down the slopes
of the tongues of land, or peninsulas, that extend
into the rivers, or rather streamlets, of the Porter,
the Riveling, the Loxley, the Sheaf, and the Don.
Almost all the merchants and manufacturers reside
in the suburbs, in villas built of white stone on
terraces commanding a lovely prospect.
The picturesqueness, the wild solitude
of the immediate neighbourhood of Sheffield, amply
compensates for the grimy gloom in which the useful
and disagreeable hardware trade is carried on.
All around, except where the Don opens a road to
Doncaster, great hills girdle it in, some of which
at their summit spread out into heath-covered moorlands,
where the blackcock used lately to crow. Almost
in sight of the columns of factory smoke, others of
the surrounding ridge are wood-crowned, and others
saddlebacked and turfed; so that a short walk transports
you from the din of the workshop to the solitude of
“the eternal hills.” We do not remember
any manufacturing town so fortunately placed in this
respect as Sheffield. For an excellent and truthful
description of this scenery, we may turn to the poems
of Ebenezer Elliott, who painted from nature and knew
how to paint in deep glowing colours.
“Hallamshire, which is supposed
by antiquarians to include the parish of Sheffield,
forms a district or liberty, the importance of which
may be traced back to even British times; but Sheffield
makes its first appearance as a town some time after
the Conquest. In the Domesday Book the manor
of Sheffield appears as the land of Roger de Busk,
the greater part held by him of the Countess Judith,
widow of Waltheof the Saxon. In the early part
of the reign of Henry I. it is found in the possession
of the De Levetot family, and the site of their baronial
residence. They founded an hospital, called
St. Leonard’s (suppressed in the reign of Henry
VIII.), upon an eminence still called Spital Hill,
established a corn mill, and erected a bridge there,
still called the Lady’s Bridge, from the chapel
of the Blessed Lady of the Bridge, which had previously
stood near the spot; and their exertions and protection
fixed here the nucleus of a town. The male line
of the Levetots became extinct by the death of William
de Levetot, 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
for some time at his Castle of Sheffield.
“On the 12th of November, 1296,
Edward I. granted to 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 Tuesday and Wednesday
after Trinity Sunday, and another on the 28th of November.
The same Lord Furnival granted a charter to the town,
the provisions of which were of great liberality and
importance at that period, viz., that a fixed
annual payment should be substituted for the base,
uncertain services by which they had previously 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 the exaction of toll throughout the entire
district of Hallamshire, whether they were vendors
About this time Sheffield began to
be famous for the manufacture of falchion heads, arrows,
files, and whittles. Chaucer tells us of the
“A Sheffield thwytle bare
he in his hose,
Round was his face, and camysed
was his nose.”
The ample water-power, the supply
of iron ore close at hand, and in after times, when
its value for smelting was discovered, the fields of
coal all helped Sheffield.
“Another only daughter, and
another Maud, transferred by her marriage the lordship
of Sheffield to the more noble family of Talbot, Earl
of Shrewsbury. William Lord Furnival died 12th
April 1383, in 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. George, fourth Earl of Shrewsbury,
built the lodge, called Sheffield Manor, on an eminence
a little distance from the town, and there he 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. In the reign of Queen Elizabeth,
Mary Queen of Scots, who had been committed to the
custody of George, sixth Earl of Shrewsbury, after
being confined in Tutbury Castle, was removed in 1570
first to Sheffield Castle, and then to Sheffield Manor
House, where she spent fourteen years. It was
for the alleged intention of moving her hence that
Thomas Duke of Norfolk, an ancestor of the ducal family,
still closely connected with Sheffield, suffered on
the scaffold. The grandson of this Duke of Norfolk,
at whose trial the Earl of Shrewsbury presided as
High Steward, afterwards married the granddaughter
of the Earl, and thereby became possessed of this
castle and estate.” And now, in 1851,
another son of Norfolk is about to acquire a large
fortune by a Talbot.
During the reign of Elizabeth, the
Duke of Alva, whose persécutions did more for
extending and improving the manufactures of this country
than any amount of parchment protection, drove over,
in addition to the weavers of linen and fullers of
cloth, artizans in iron and steel. These, according
to the wise rule of settling all one craft in one
spot, were by the advice of the Queen’s Chamberlain,
the Earl of Shrewsbury, settled on his own estate at
Sheffield, and the neighbourhood thenceforward became
known for the manufacture of shears, sickles, knives
of every kind, and scissors.
About this time (1613), according
to a survey, Sheffield contained about 2207 inhabitants,
of whom the most wealthy were “100 householders,
which relieve the others, but are poore artificers,
not one of whom can keep a team on his own land, and
above ten have grounds of their own, which will keep
a cow.” In 1624, an act of the incorporation
of cutlers was passed, entituled “An act for
the good order and government of the makers of sickles,
shears, scissors, and other cutlery wares in Hallamshire
and parts near adjoining.”
Gilbert, seventh Earl of Shrewsbury,
the last of the male line of the house of Talbot,
who inherited the Hallamshire estates, died on the
8th May 1616, leaving three daughters, co-heiresses.
The Lady Alethea Talbot, the youngest, married the
Earl of Arundel, and the other two, dying without issue
in 1654, the whole estates descended to her grandson,
Thomas Howard, Earl of Arundel, who was restored to
the title of Duke of Norfolk by Charles II., on his
restoration, and in that family a considerable property
in Sheffield remains to this day not without
narrow escapes of extinction. Charles James
Fox’s friend, Jockey of Norfolk, was one of a
family which seems to afford every contrast of character
in possession of the title.
In the great civil wars, Sheffield
was the scene of more than one contest. In 1644,
on the 1st August, after the battle of Marston Moor,
the castle was besieged by twelve thousand infantry
dispatched by the Earl of Manchester, compelled to
surrender in a few days, and demolished by order of
The manor was dismantled in 1706 by
order of Thomas Duke of Norfolk, and the splendid
park, shaven of its great trees, was converted into
building land, or accommodation land, part of which
is still known by the name of the Park.
During the eighteenth century the
Sheffield trade was entirely confined to the home
market, and chiefly conducted by pack horses.
In 1751 a step toward extension was made by the completion
of works, which rendered the Don navigable up to Tinsley.
In 1819 the Sheffield and Tinsley Canal was completed;
and now Manchester, Leeds, Hull, and Liverpool, are
all within a morning’s ride.
The art of silver-plating was invented
at Sheffield by Thomas Bolsover, an ingenious mechanic,
in the latter half of the eighteenth century, and
extensively applied by Mr. Joseph Hancock. This
trade has been seriously affected by the invention
of electro-plating, which has transferred much of
the Sheffield trade to Birmingham. The invention
of Britannia metal speedily followed that of plating.
In 1750 a direct trade to the continent
was opened by Mr. Thomas Broadbent. The example
was soon followed. The first stage-coach to London,
started in 1760, and the first bank was opened in
At present the population can be little
short of 120,000. The passing of the Reform
Bill gave to Sheffield two representatives. The
constituency is one of the most independent in the
kingdom. No “Man in the Moon” has
any room for the exercise of his seductive faculties
What is still more strange, until
after the enactment of the Municipal Corporation Bill,
Sheffield had no local authorities. The Petty
Sessions business was discharged by county magistrates,
and the Master Cutler acted as a sort of master of
the ceremonies on occasions of festivity, without any
real power. That honorary office is still retained,
although Sheffield has now its aldermen and common
There is a “Royal Free Grammar
School” founded in 1649, with an income from
endowments of about 150 pounds a-year. Free to
thirty boys, as regards classics, subject to a charge
of four guineas per annum for instruction in the commercial
department. In 1850 there were eighty-one scholars.
through every change, has deservedly retained its
reputation for the manufacture of razors, surgical
instruments, and the highest class of cutlery, and
a considerable number of carpenters’ and other
In the coarser steel articles Birmingham
does a considerable and increasing business, and Sheffield
workmen settling in Germany and in the United States
have, from time to time, alarmed their native town
by the rivalry of their pupils; nevertheless, it may
confidently be asserted, that with its present advantages
Sheffield can never lose her pre-eminence in cutlery
if her sons are only true to her and themselves.
The steel consumed in England is manufactured
chiefly from iron imported from Sweden and Russia.
It has not been exactly ascertained whence arises
the superiority of this iron for that purpose.
But all foreign iron converted into steel is composed
of magnetic iron ore, smelted with charcoal.
This kind of ore is found in several countries, particularly
in Spain. In New Zealand, at New Plymouth it
is said to be found in great quantities; but from
the two countries first mentioned we obtain a supply
of from 12,000 to 15,000 tons, of which about 9000
come from Sweden. The celebrated mines of Danemora
produce the finest Swedish iron, and only a limited
quantity is allowed to be produced each year.
All the steel-iron used in England is imported into
Hull. Bar-steel is manufactured by heating the
iron, divided into lumps, in pots, with layers of
charcoal, closely covered over with sand and clay,
for several days. By this means the iron is
carbonized and converted into what is commonly called
blistered steel. The heat is kept up a longer
or shorter time according to the hardness required.
Bar-steel, as it comes from the furnace,
is divided and sorted, and the pieces free from flaws
and blisters are rolled out and converted into files,
knives, coach-springs, razors, and common implements,
according to quality. It will be seen that there
is a good deal of science and judgment required to
manufacture the best steel.
Sheer steel is made from bar-steel
by repeated heating, hammering, and welding.
Cast steel, a very valuable invention,
which has in a great degree superseded sheer steel
for many purposes, was first made in 1770 by Mr. Hunstman,
at Allercliff, near Sheffield. It is made by
subjecting bar-steel, of a certain degree of hardness,
to an intense heat, for two or three hours, in a crucible,
and then casting it in ingots.
The Indian Wootz steel, of which such
fine specimens were exhibited in the Exhibition, and
from which extraordinary sabres have been made, is
cast steel, but, from the rudeness of the process,
rarely obtained perfect in any quantity. Whenever
we have the good fortune to intersect India with railroads,
steel-iron will be among the number of our enlarged
The hard and elastic qualities of
steel, known as “temper,” are obtained
by heating and then cooling rapidly. For this
purpose baths of mercury and of boiling oil are used.
Some waters are supposed to have peculiar virtues
for tempering steel.
Case-hardening, a process much used
for tools and plough-shares, consists in superficially
hardening cast iron or wrought iron by heating it in
a charcoal crucible, and so converting it into steel.
The successful operations for converting
steel into various kinds of instruments, depends very
much upon manual skill. The mechanics are united
in trades’ unions of great power, and have exercised
an influence over the manufacturers of the town of
a very injurious nature. At one period, the
razor-grinders and superior mechanics in several branches,
were able to earn as much as five and six, and even
ten, pounds a-week. At that period, when they
had almost a monopoly of the cutlery trade, on a very
trifling excuse they would decide on taking a holiday,
or, as it is termed, “playing.” Strikes
for higher wages generally took place whenever any
good orders from foreign markets were known to have
reached the town. By these arbitrary proceedings,
arising from an ignorance of the common principles
of political economy, which it is to be hoped that
the spread of education will remove, the Sheffield
cutlery trade has been seriously injured. A few
years ago large numbers of the cutlers emigrated.
Further depression was produced by
the rivalry of Birmingham in the electrotype process,
which has, to a considerable degree, superseded the
Sheffield plate and other trades, the latter town being
better placed for the foreign trade, while the workmen
are less turbulent.
Beside cutlery and Sheffield plate,
Britannia metal, and other similar ornamental and
domestic articles, a good deal of heavy ironware is
made in Sheffield. We may notice the fire-grates,
stoves, and fenders, of which all the best, wherever
sold and whatever name and address they bear, come
from Sheffield. In this branch of manufacture
a great deal of artistic taste has been introduced,
and many scientific improvements for distributing and
The firm of Stuart and Smith, Roscoe
Place, distinguished themselves at the Great Exhibition,
by producing a series of beautiful grates, at prices
between two pounds and one hundred guineas.
There are some establishments for
the manufactory of machinery.
Within the last year or two Sheffield
has enjoyed a revival of prosperity, especially in
the article of edge tools.
The mechanics of Sheffield are a very
remarkable and interesting set of people, with a more
distinct character than the mechanics of those towns
which are recruited from various parts of the country.
They are “Sheffielders.”
A public meeting at Sheffield is a
very remarkable scene. The rules of public business
are perfectly understood and observed; unless in periods
of very great excitement, the most unpopular speaker
will receive a fair hearing. A fair hearing
does not express it. The silence of a Sheffield
audience, the manner in which they drink in every word
of a stranger, carefully watching for the least symptom
of humbug, and unreduced by the most tempting claptrap,
is something quite awful.
A man with a good coat on his back
must dismiss all attempts at compliments, all roundabout
phrases, and plunge into the middle of the business
with the closest arguments he can muster, to produce
any effect on the Sheffield blades. Although
they look on all gentlemen with the greatest distrust,
and have a most comical fear of imaginary emissaries
from Government wandering to and fro to seduce them,
they thoroughly understand and practise fair play.
The sterling qualities of these men inspire one with
respect, and regret that they should be imposed upon
by such “blageurs” as Feargus O’Connor
and his troop. Perhaps they are wiser now.
The Sheffielders, by way of relaxation,
are fond of gardening, cricket, dog fighting, and
formerly of hunting. They are very skilful gardeners, their
celery is famous. A few years ago, one of the
trades hired land to employ their unemployed members.
Many possess freehold cottages.
Cricket and similar amusements have
been encouraged by the circumstance that, in summer
droughts, the water-power on which the grindstones
depend often falls short, and then there is a fair
reason for turning out to play or to garden, as the
case may be, according to taste.
Sheffield bulldogs used to be very
famous, and there are still famous ones to be found;
but dog fighting, with drinking, is going out of fashion.
But, although other towns play at
cricket, and love good gardening and good dogs, we
presume that the Sheffielders are the only set of mechanics
in Europe who ever kept their own pack of hounds.
Such was the case a few years ago, when we had the
pleasure of seeing them; and, if they are still in
existence, they are worth going a hundred miles to
see. The hounds, which were old English harriers,
slow and deep-mouthed, were quartered at various cottages
in the suburbs. On hunting mornings, when the
men had a holiday, the huntsman, who was paid by a
general subscription, took his stand on a particular
hill top and blew his horn.
In a few minutes, from all quarters
the hounds began to canter up to him, and he blew
and blew again until a full complement, some ten or
twelve couples, had arrived.
The subscribers came up in twos and
threes on the hacks of the well known “Shanks,”
armed with stout sticks; and then off they set, as
gay and much more in earnest than many dozen who sport
pink and leathers outside on hundred guinea nags.
Music is a good deal cultivated among
all classes in Sheffield. There are two scientific
associations, but of no particular mark. Sheffield
has produced two poets of very different metal, James
Montgomery and Ebenezer Elliott, both genuine; and
a sculptor, Chantrey, who was apprenticed there to
The railway communications of Sheffield
were long imperfect, they are now excellent.
The clothing districts of Yorkshire are united by
two lines. The North Midland connects it with
Derbyshire, and affords a short road by Derby and
through Leicestershire to London on one side, and by
Burton to Birmingham on the other. The Lincolnshire
line has shortened the distance to Hull, whence the
steel-iron comes, and fat cattle; the Manchester line
carries away the bars converted into cutlery, and
all the plated ware and hardware, by Liverpool, to
customers in America, North or South.
We must not forget that there are
coal-pits close to the town, of extensive workings,
which are extremely well suited for the visit of an
amateur. Even a courageous lady might, without
inconvenience, travel underground along the tramways
in the trucks, if she did not mind the jolting.
The miners are not at all like our
Staffordshire friends, but are very decent fellows.
There are a good many Wesleyan Methodists among them,
and hymns may be heard sometimes resounding along
the vaulted galleries, and rising from behind the
air-doors, where children sit all day on duty, dull
work, but not hard or cold.
A well managed coal mine is a very fine sight.