Cite this as: Tuck, A. and Rajic, M. 2021 Hollis Croft, Sheffield, South Yorkshire: Old site and new connections, Internet Archaeology 56. https://doi.org/10.11141/ia.56.4
Evidence for prehistoric and Roman activity in Sheffield city centre is rare. It has been suggested that a Roman road may follow the course of nearby Broad Lane, although another interpretation of the origins of Broad Lane is as a medieval droveway. There is no direct archaeological evidence to support either interpretation (APS 2016). The site is located to the west of the medieval town in a large open field known as Town Field. The site of a former medieval cross is located approximately 250m to the south-east. Town Field had been enclosed into smaller closes and crofts by 1637 (APS 2016).
An 18th-century deed is held privately by Footprint Tools. The document is an impressive large sheet written in a beautiful and studied hand and appended with 14 wax seals. It forms an indenture comprising the lease of land in 'Creswick Close' (a field) which appears to have occupied the area of Hollis Croft. The trustees of 'Hollis's Hospital' leased the land to a Johnathan Moore, who was covenanted to develop the land with roads and buildings. The list of trustees is rich with names familiar from the area and comprised [line breaks added]:
THOMAS HOLLIS Senr of the parish of Saint Mary Whitechapel in the County of Middlesex and Citizen and draper of London
WILLIAM BIRCH of Sheffield in the County of York cutler
JOHNATHAN SMITH of Sheffield aforesaid cutler
JOHN BROWNE of Sheffield aforesaid Gent
THOMAS HOLLIS Junr of Trinity Minories in the County of Middlesex and Citizen and Draper of London
RICHARD SOLLY of Trinity Minories aforesaid cutler
JOHN WADSWORTH of Sheffield aforesaid Gent
SAMUEL SHORE of Sheffield aforesaid Gent
JOHN SMITH of Sheffield aforesaid cutler
ISAAC HOLLIS of London Merchant
WILLIAM STEAD of Sheffield aforesaid Mercer [sic]
DANIEL BRIDGES of Sheffield aforesaid Hatter and
JOHN CROOKE of Sheffield aforesaid Grocer
(Trustees of and for a Hospital called Hollis's Hospital in Sheffield in the County of York made begun and endowed by Thomas Hollis late of Minories in London Cutler deceased and since further endowed by his Sons the said Thomas Hollis Senr and John Hollis of the said parish of St. Mary Whitechapel in the said County of Middlesex and Citizen and Draper of London for supporting and maintaining Poor People).
The rent for the plot was £5 17s 6d per annum. The plot 'Creswick Close' abutted 'a Street called the West barr'. In the south the plot bordered the houses and premises of John Skinner and Widow Dewsberry. A Joseph Courtnal to the north had a street running through the west side of Creswick Close which he had access rights to. In the east, Edmund Lambert held a demised plot. The size of the plot covered by the deed was 96 yards 2 feet 9 inches from north to south and 29 yards 1 foot east to west.
The date of the deed is early, 26 December 1726. Even if it took Johnathan Moore more than a decade to fulfil his covenant to erect buildings, this is still a date of a half-century earlier than the next eldest documentary evidence for development at Hollis Croft.
Two records of apprentices to a John Moore exist in Sheffield Archives. In 1765, William Smith and Christian Hall, both poor children of Ecclesfield, were apprenticed to John Moore (Sheffield Archives PR54/22/3/10/2; PR54/22/3/10/3). A genealogical search on Find My Past for an early-18th-century Johnathan Moore returned 65 possibilities.
Johnathan Moore appears to have split his large holding and assigned the lease to various parties (see below) as early as 1727. Leases were still being assigned in his name as late as 1771 (Footprint Tools Archive).
The earliest consulted map of the site is Gosling's map of 1736 which shows three long narrow developed blocks divided by streets known as Hollis Charity Street (now Hollis Croft) and White Field (now White Croft). Garden Street had not been laid out at this time (APS 2016).
As Sheffield expanded in the early 18th century, new streets were laid out within Town Field and these reflected the patterns of the former open field strips. The area became known as The Crofts and was characterised by back-to-back housing arranged around central courtyards with industrial activity associated with metal trades such as cutlery manufacture (APS 2016).
The Footprint Tools archive contains a 1773 assignment between Mr Stephen Green, cutler, and Mr John Scathley, cutler for a tenement on a plot that later came to be known as 60–62 Hollis Croft. The tenement included barns, smithies, workshops, buildings, fold yards, orchards and gardens and was worth 10 shillings a year. This demonstrates that Hollis Croft was developed by this date and gives an impression of the character of the area at that time.
Cutlery production at Hollis Croft was recorded in Sketchley's directory of 1774 which included entries for a table-knife cutler, a scissor-maker and penknife manufacturers.
Fairbank and Son undertook mapping of the area in the late 18th century. A plan was produced of Hollis Croft between 1787 and 1789 and an adjacent plan of Garden Street was completed earlier in 1781. The two plans taken together provide coverage of the entire site. A series of courts with houses are depicted, incorporating probable small-scale industrial and/or commercial enterprises on the northern frontage of Hollis Croft. A similar pattern is shown on the south side of Hollis croft, but here some of the industrial enterprises appear to be on a larger scale with a large plot consisting of buildings around a central courtyard owned by John Kenyon (the site of a saw and steel works; see below). The premises directly to the west of this fronting Garden Street were a tool and steel works owned by John Harrison (Wessex Archaeology 2018a).
The typical working-class house in this part of Sheffield at this time had a single room on each of three floors and the same scenario can be postulated for the houses in the courts shown on the Fairbank maps. The main centre of household activity was the ground floor living room which contained the largest fireplace and which was used as a kitchen, scullery, dining room, living room, washroom and bathroom. A cellar below was used to store coal and meat and the floors above provided sleeping accommodation. The enclosed courtyards were in effect a semi-private space in which activities such as the use of privies and laundry were undertaken (Belford 2001, 111; Wessex Archaeology 2018a).
Industrial activities at this time ranged from a single journeyman undertaking piecework in a rented room to relatively large steel works and toolmaking firms such as those owned by Kenyon and Harrison. The best-known trade in Sheffield was the cutlery industry which was in effect a collection of crafts ranging from forging, through various types of grinding, to buffing and finishing. Related to this were non-metalworking industries such as the manufacture of bone handles. Heavier trades that were attracted to the area included steelmaking and ferrous and non-ferrous founding. The basic layout of most of the larger industrial sites was broadly similar; the buildings being grouped around a yard with an entrance archway wide enough to accommodate wheeled traffic (ibid.). This arrangement can be seen in the plan of Kenyon's saw and steel works on the 1787–9 map (Wessex Archaeology 2018a).
Garden Street had been constructed by the time of a map of 1808. A large building shown on the northern frontage of this street is likely to be the still extant former chapel known as Croft House (Wessex Archaeology 2018a).
The John Kenyon company occupied the largest plot located between Hollis Croft and Garden Street. The history of this plot will be considered from the 18th century to the early 20th century, before the histories of other plots are outlined.
The origins of John Kenyon and Co. lie in the 18th century although the details are debateable. John Kenyon and Co. occupied plots on Hollis Croft and Garden Street from at least 1774 until 1835. John Kenyon led the early activity at Hollis Croft, with the company passing into the Skelton family around the time of his death around the first decade of the 19th century. Thomas Wilde and Joseph Dixon Skelton led the company until their deaths in 1827 and 1835. After this, Elizabeth Skelton, Henry Thorp Skelton and John Kenyon Skelton moved the company's activities away from Hollis Croft. The John Kenyon company were primarily merchants, with a secondary interest in the manufacturing of steel and tools. Documentary evidence suggests the presence of converting furnaces (i.e. cementation furnaces) at Hollis Croft throughout the period of occupation by John Kenyon. Other processes may also have been undertaken.
The main focus of the mature John Kenyon and Company in both the 18th and 19th centuries was as a mercantile enterprise, with the manufacture of steel and saws a secondary activity (Grace's Guide; Sheffield Archives SY244; Bell 2014). The John Kenyon operation at Hollis Croft formed a manufacturing and mercantile branch of a larger mercantile enterprise. Trade was primarily with northern Europe (the Baltic, Russia, Germany, Scandinavia), but also with Spain, North America and Genoa (Bell 2014, 43; Grace's Guide; Sheffield Archives SY244). At first, trade was probably exclusively with Russia through the firm ARCOS then the Engineering and Mercantile Co. (Sheffield Archives SY244), although Bell (2014) contradicts this claiming American trade in the 18th century. Trade in tools and steel was not limited to the goods manufactured in-house and was accompanied by general goods of various types. Imports included steel from Sweden and later Germany, and wheat from Russia. Externally-manufactured iron buttons, shears and scissors accompanied saws and steel produced by John Kenyon and Co. and were exported alongside goods such as silk and worsted stockings (Bell 2014, 43).
An advertisement in White's Directory of 1879 asserts that John Kenyon and Co. was founded in 1710. This early date should be treated with caution and may be an example of creative marketing.
A catalogue compiled by Footprint Tools appears to list two copies of a lease of 26 December 1726 from Thomas Hollis to Joseph Kenyon (or Kenion) for 800 years. No details are given in the catalogue and the originals were not consulted. This document appears to accompany the lease of Hollis Croft to Johnathan Moore made on the same date. In 1727 further land at Hollis Croft was assigned from John Sparker to J Kenion [sic], and again in 1749 T Burks transferred more land at Hollis Croft to a T [sic] Kenyon (Footprint Tools Archive). The John Kenyon and Co. plot therefore represents a consolidation of smaller plots.
Joseph and James Kenyon were probably apprenticed in Sheffield in the early 18th century (Bell 2014, 43). Joseph may have been the founder of John Kenyon and Co. and was the Master Cutler of the Company of Cutlers in Hallamshire in 1738. A Joseph Kenyon (either the same or different) was again Master Cutler 36 years later in 1774 (The Company of Cutlers in Hallamshire 2018). Genealogical searches (Find My Past) have revealed a marriage of Joseph Kenyon, filesmith, to Elizabeth Lord at Sheffield Cathedral in 1719. Genealogical records also show that a Joseph Kenyon took an apprentice, John Stones, in 1746.
Bell (2014, 43) claims that Joseph and James Kenyon were the sons of Peter Kenyon of Chapel-en-le-Frith and that they were apprenticed to a John Kenyon, although such an early John Kenyon (if any) cannot be the man from the Hollis Croft works. It is likely that Bell's claim is erroneous. Ashton (1924, 210) also references this origin story, stating '…John Kenyon and Co., of Sheffield, was started by two sons of a Chapel-en-le-Frith watchmaker.' However, Ashton's source for this is the Sheffield Telegraph of the 10 December 1919 and this, along with the 1879 advert, may represent legend rather than fact.
In 1760, the firm acquired Middlewood Forge (Bell 2014). Details of quantities of steel received from a Mr. Kenyon at Middlewood Forge at some date between 1787 and 1815 are recorded in a notebook belonging to Jonathan Hopkinson (Sheffield Archives BM/54). An 1812 plan of the John Kenyon and Co. holdings in Middlewood is in Sheffield Archives (FC/P/Ecc/165L). Bell (2014) indicates that the focus of the company was at Middlewood (the focus of Bell's work), with other branches at Hollis Croft and the Wicker. On the basis of trade directories (Gell 1825; White 1833; see below) the Middlewood operation may have been disposed of between 1825 and 1833.
Joseph Kenyon is listed ahead of John Kenyon as file maker at Hollis Croft in Sketchley's 1774 directory. This provides the earliest date to link the John Kenyon Co. to Hollis Croft. It is possible that John Kenyon was Joseph Kenyon's son. Did Joseph proudly name the company after his boy?
There are several options for the death of Joseph Kenyon: the estate of two Joseph Kenyons went to probate in 1753 (too early) and 1779, and burial records exist for three Joseph Kenyons in 1779, 1792 and 1798. It is perhaps the 1779 date that is most attractive, appearing as it does in both the burial and probate records, with the burial recorded at Sheffield Cathedral. Any of the burial dates are possible.
The 1782 will of John Wait listed John Kenyon as a beneficiary (Sheffield Archives TT/10/43/18). The repercussions of the will were still being dealt with in 1795 (Sheffield Archives TT/10/43/24–26). In 1785 a John Kenyon married Sarah Staniland at what is now Sheffield Cathedral. A year later, they had a son, also called John Kenyon (Find My Past). Further marriages of John Kenyons that could possibly refer to the man of Hollis Croft occured in 1799 (to Elizabeth Rowley at Sheffield Cathedral) and in 1802 (to Elizabeth Barlow in Ecclesfield).
On 2 January 1783 a Garden Street plot was leased to John Kenyon at £4 4s annually (Sheffield Archives ACM/15/145). The plot is depicted as No. 6 on a Fairbank plan of Garden Street in 1781. The lease was from Sir Philip Musgrave of Eden Hall, Cumberland Baronet, Sir Robert Throckmorton of Buckland in the County of Berks Baronet and Thomas Eyre of Hassop in the County of Derby Esquire, who were trustees of the Duke of Norfolk. The trusteeship had been set up on 11 June 1767, perhaps indicating a date when the development of Garden Street was set in motion. The lease was a printed form with details filled in by hand, suggesting that many similar leases were issued simultaneously. The holders of adjacent plots are named: John Harrison to the west, and Thomas Betts in the east. To the north, (i.e. on the south side of Hollis Croft), the landlord was the Hollis Hospital and the land was administered separately. (The south side of the plot fronted Garden Street.)
Another Fairbank plan, this time of Hollis Croft in 1787–9, depicts the adjacent plot on Hollis Croft as also belonging to John Kenyon, showing a large saw and steel works arranged around a central courtyard. John Kenyon, then, held two adjacent plots leased from two separate landowners and operated as a single works. These two plots would remain united throughout most of the 19th century, with the Ordnance Survey map of 1890 providing the first evidence for their division. This may be related to the 99-year term of the Garden Street lease, which would have expired in 1882. The exact year of the lease should perhaps not be trusted too strongly – an identical lease for the adjacent John Harrison plot (Sheffield Archives ACM/15/140) was made on the same day (2 January) but gives the year as 1782. This could be explained by a clerk forgetting that the year had changed, although the rear cover of Harrison's lease further confuses the issue, pushing the date back another year to 1781. Each lease references the other as a neighbour, suggesting that they were made simultaneously. The lease includes 'all those messuages or dwelling houses, warehouses, workshops and all other erections' suggesting that the plot was already developed when John Kenyon took it on. This development may have been at the hands of Johnathan Moore as outlined above.
Also in 1787, a Sheffield Directory listed the John Kenyon works at 'Holles Croft' as a steel converter (Gales and Martin 1787). Therefore the presence of a converting furnace (cementation furnace) is likely.
Part of the area of John Kenyon's holdings on both Hollis Croft and Garden Street were excavated as Area E/F. A few small survivals of structures, features and deposits may be contemporary with John Kenyon's activities, however the area was substantially re-developed in the mid-19th century, removing most of any evidence of 18th-century activity (see below).
As well as his activities in John Kenyon and Co., John Kenyon lent his name to an apparently separate concern at Ponds Forge. In 1796, a partnership at Ponds Forge of John Kenyon, Joseph Frith, George Woolhouse and Jonathan Bamford was dissolved (Sheffield Archives CA778/14716/34 and CA778/14716/36). A directory of 1822 lists Kenyon, Frith and Woolhouse as 'iron masters, rolling, slitting mill and grinding wheel' at Ponds Forge (Baines 1822). Later directories continue this pattern (see below).
A 1790 meeting of gentlemen and industrialists for the purpose of suppressing the unionisation of scissor grinders was attended by John Kenyon (Sheffield Archives JC/23/15). In 1796, John Kenyon was a recipient in the will of John Turner, merchant (Sheffield Archives TT/10/42/26). In 1798 a consortium of Sheffield industrialists including John Kenyon let out a farm in Little Ashop, Hope, Derbyshire (Sheffield Archives FC/D/28). In the same year, a small property of 16 square yards was rented by John Kenyon at Trippet Lane, Sheffield (Sheffield Archives TT/10/67/1–2). John Kenyon's activities, then, were varied and not limited to the company that bore his name.
A dispute between George Grayson, miller, and John Kenyon over a weir on the River Dunwater at Oughtibridge was recorded in 1803 (Sheffield Archives LD315/2/6). The 'Messrs Kenyon' had built the weir and George Grayson was granted the right to disturb and interrupt John Kenyon's enjoyment of it. The height of boards in the weir was set and Kenyon had to pay Grayson £100. Although this does not relate directly to Hollis Croft, it may be that the unfavourable outcome led John Kenyon to rationalise his business and may have influenced the sale of the Hollis Croft/Garden Street operation.
In 1805, the 1783 lease of the Garden Street site was sold (Sheffield Archives ACM/15/145). It is possible that this may have been to the Skelton family. Presumably the Hollis Croft holding was transferred alongside the Garden Street land.
Following the disposal of John Kenyon's interest in the Garden Street plot, he appears to have turned his attention in 1806 to the lease of garden plots at the end of Pond Street (between the modern Showroom Cinema and main railway station; Sheffield Archives ACM/15/271) and fields at Wadsley Bridge (near the modern Sheffield Wednesday football ground; Sheffield Archives CM/15/270).
Burial records show that John Kenyon, merchant, was buried on the 2nd February 1809 at Sheffield Cathedral (Find My Past).
At some point in the first decade of the 19th century, the firm of John Kenyon and Co. passed to the Skelton family. This may have been in 1805 (Sheffield Archives ADM/15/145), in 1809 (Bell 2014, 40; also the year of John Kenyon's death) or at some other similar time.
The Skeltons lived at Middlewood Hall, a large house constructed in 1810 in the rural hinterland of Sheffield, housing the family and around half a dozen servants (Bell 2014). The Kenyon and Skelton families were related, with Bell asserting (this reads as oral history) that '[o]ne of the Kenyon women married into the Skeltons and when the Kenyons had no direct heirs the firm was inherited in 1809 by Joseph Dixon Skelton… and Thomas Wilde' (Bell 2014, 40).
An 1822 directory lists John Kenyon and Co. at Hollis Croft as 'merchants, saw, file, bar and sheet iron and steel manufacturers'. The company was also present at Willey Street and John Kenyon's name was still in use at Ponds Forge as noted above (Baines 1822).
In 1825 a directory records John Kenyon and Co. at Hollis Croft in a list of 'Iron and Brass Founders, Iron Masters & Merchants', and as merchants and saw, file, bar and sheet iron and steel manufacturers, and as steel converters and refiners (therefore suggesting the presence of both cementation and crucible furnaces). The company is also recorded at Willey St. on the Wicker, and at Middlewood and the Kenyon name is still associated with Pond's Forge (Gell 1825).
White's 1833 directory lists Kenyon, Frith and Woolhouse at Ponds Forge, and John Kenyon and Co. as merchants, file manufacturers and steel refiners at 3, Hollis Croft and saw and edge tool manufacturers at Willey Street.
Joseph Dixon Skelton lived at Middlewood Hall (Bell 2014) and was the Master Cutler of the Company of Cutlers in Hallamshire in 1820 (The Company of Cutlers in Hallamshire 2018). A fragment of his accounts as Master Cutler are held by Sheffield Archives but do not relate to John Kenyon and Co. (LC/6/1). Joseph Dixon Skelton was involved in property (Sheffield Archives Wil D/8/2/2/3a–c and MD6716/5/12) and was on the committee of a reading room close to the 'Old Church Yard' in Sheffield (Sheffield Archives JC/29/53). In 1829, Joseph Dixon Skelton leased land on Garden Street (No. 6, 'Benn's Ground') to William Beardshaw (Footprint Tools Archive). Before 1831, Joseph Skelton held a lease alongside relatives Richard Thorp, Ark Skelton and also Henry Wilson to get coal at Briery Royds (Sheffield Archives Wil D/8/1/53). In 1831 he was administering his absent brother Mark Skelton's affairs (Sheffield Archives Wil D/8/2/2/13). Joseph was therefore involved in a wide range of projects and was prominent in the public life of Sheffield.
On the 19 May 1830, 'Joseph Skelton of Middlewood' alongside three other trustees of the estate of Samuel Thorp agreed to accept arbitration of a coal debt owed to the late Samuel Thorp by Joseph Beckett (Sheffield Archives Wil D/8/1/44). However, the death of Joseph Skelton necessitated a formal legal opinion on 30 Dec 1835 (Sheffield Archives Wil D/8/1/54). A letter to Joseph Skelton's executors is also held at Sheffield Archives (Wil D/8/2/2/16). Joseph Dixon Skelton therefore died around 1835. A burial record at St. Nicholas', Bradfield, Sheffield exists for 23 August 1834 and a will went to probate in the same year (Find My Past).
Bell (2014) asserts that Thomas Wilde was a relative of the Skeltons of Middlewood Hall and that he inherited John Kenyon and Co. alongside Joseph Dixon Skelton.
In 1792 a Fairbank map naming Thomas Wilde alongside John Harrison, John Kenyon and others relates to the endowment of a school on the south side of Garden Street rather than to industrial activity, but does further associate his name with that of John Kenyon (Sheffield Archives ACM/MAPS/2/102).
Thomas Wilde was one of a large number of people holding a lease on the Ballifield Coal Bed in Dore in 1801 (Sheffield Archives SSC1/7/2/1). He held land on The Wicker and intended to erect a steel furnace there (Sheffield Archives FC/P/SheS/1364S). It is possible that this is the Willey Street works listed in later directories although it is hard to geo-reference the small plan.
Bell (2014) gives Thomas Wilde's date of death as 1827. An extract from the will of Thomas Wilde leaving £500 to each of Joseph Dixon Skelton's sons (Henry Thorp Skelton and John Kenyon Skelton) was posted on the Sheffield History forum by his descendant Matthew Wilde (Sheffield History forum Accessed 1 May 2019. Note: the context of this forum post appears to be erroneous, confusing two John Skeltons of different standing from different areas of Sheffield).
When Joseph Dixon Skelton and Thomas Wilde died, the firm passed to Joseph's widow Elizabeth. Elizabeth lived at Middlewood Hall and was the head of the family as listed in the 1841 and 1851 censuses (Bell 2014, 41). Bell thought that Elizabeth's maiden name was Thorp (2014, 43). A letter to Elizabeth Skelton expressing Quaker sentiments is held by Sheffield Archives (Wil D/8/2/2/24). Elizabeth likely died sometime between the censuses of 1851 and 1861 (Bell 2014, 41). Several candidates exist to support this in the genealogical record.
Elizabeth's sons Henry Thorp Skelton and John Kenyon Skelton lived with their mother and operated John Kenyon and Co. Both boys appear to have the surnames of maiden branches of the family as middle names (Thorpe and Kenyon).
Graffiti including a drawing of a shoe was left in the lead roof of Middlewood Hall by Henry Thorp Skelton in January 1842 (Henry was aged 33) and is reproduced by Bell (2014, 41). Henry was a joint executor of the will of his relative Martha Wilson (nee Thorp) of Birthwaite Hall (Sheffield Archives Wil D/8/2/1/5).
In 1835, a deed of partnership relating to the John Kenyon company was made between Samuel Gardner, Charles and Francis Appleby and Henry Thorp Skelton (Bell 2014). The saw and file departments are said to have been moved to Sheldon Row and Willey Street and it is likely that this is the date at which John Kenyon and Co. left Hollis Croft. The Footprint Tools Archive catalogue records a conveyance of land at Hollis Croft between J.D. Skelton, Sam Gardner 'and others'; the details are not known. Pigot's 1841 directory lists John Kenyon and Co. at Willey Street only. The 1866 survey by the Children's Employment Commission refers to John Kenyon and Co. at Sheldon Row only (Sheffield Archives CA-VAC/199 Folio 5).
Henry Thorp Skelton was further linked to John Kenyon and Co. by the subscription of workmen from the Wicker towards a silver tea and coffee service to express gratitude as Henry was taken ill. The illness led to his death in 1858 (Bell 2014, 41). The subscribing workmen were not at Hollis Croft by this point.
In 1849, a 370 square yard plot at the corner of Tenter Street and School Croft was leased by John Kenyon Skelton and two other gentlemen (Thomas Rawson Barker and Thomas Jeffcock). This plot is located extremely close to the Hollis Croft site and may represent a return to activity in the area. School Croft is now lost but ran south from Tenter Street from a point close to the intersection of Tenter Street and White Croft. This plot was surrendered in 1884 (Sheffield Archives TT/10/39).
In 1867/8 the Waterfall family bought out John Kenyon and Co. and moved the business to Millsands (Grace's Guide; Bell 2014). Although long dissociated from Hollis Croft, John Kenyon and Co. was wound up by Cookson Produce and Chemical Co. in 1930 although the name continued to be used by Sanderson Kayser Ltd. until the 1980s (Sheffield Archives SY244, see also SY244/B5/2).
It is notable that a Kenyon Street forms an approximate continuation of Hollis Croft to the west of Solly Street. Kenyon Street was in place by the time of the 1853 Ordnance Survey map; it has not been determined if it appears on earlier plans such as a Fairbank plan.
Shane Skelton today manufactures high-end specialist saws (Skelton Saws). Among his range is a reproduction of an 18th-century Kenyon saw which originally cost six shillings in 1797 (Skelton Saws). These saws were of the highest quality designed to rival the best saws made in London. The webpage contains a photograph of an original Kenyon saw. Examples of Kenyon saws may be held at Benjamin Seaton's Tool Chest at the Guildhall Museum, Rochester, Kent.
During fieldwork, it had been unknown who occupied the large former John Kenyon and Co. site at Hollis Croft between 1835 and 1875. The Ordnance Survey map of 1853 labels the 'Hollis Croft Steel Works' on the former John Kenyon plot. It is likely that this description was intended to be generic rather than an indication of the name of a firm. Archaeological evidence suggests that the two cementation furnaces excavated in Area E/F were constructed around the early 1850s shortly before their depiction as dashed circles on an Ordnance Survey map of 1853. This suggests that the former John Kenyon plot was operated at this time by a concern with sufficient resources for major redevelopment.
An attempt was made to relate the street numbers given in White's directory of 1852 with the Ordnance Survey map of 1853. The Royal Oak and Cock public houses depicted on the map are listed in the directory as numbers 9 and 59 respectively. Counting properties along the road on the map, this suggests that the former John Kenyon plot occupied all odd-numbers between 17 and approximately 47 or 49. This count assumes that the court associated with the Royal Oak was either all considered to be number 9 Hollis Croft or was considered under a court number only; an assumption that is supported by the presence of three businesses at number 9 Hollis Croft in the directory (White 1852). Only one business is listed between 17 and 49 Hollis Croft in the directory, that of Burgin and Wells, coach and railway spring manufacturers at number 23.
The manufacture of such springs is consistent with the need to convert large quantities of iron to steel in a pair of cementation furnaces. Burgin and Wells are also recorded in White's directory of 1852 as steel rollers, indicating that steel rolling equipment would have been present on site contemporary with the excavated cementation furnaces. It seems unlikely that a works with a cementation furnace and a rolling mill would be missing the middle step in the process and the presence of a crucible furnace can be read in later descriptions that they were steel refiners as well as converters. Burgin and Wells appear to have been set up as a self-contained steel works taking in raw iron and sending out finished articles.
Historic references to Burgin and Wells are thin on the ground. There is no mention of Burgin and Wells in Pigot's 1841 directory or White's 1849 directory, suggesting that the firm had not been established at that point.
The Footprint Tools Archive holds two conveyances of freehold, a bond of indemnity and a mortagage from Messrs Gardner, Appleby and Skelton (i.e. John Kenyon and Co.) to Charles Burgin in 1845.
It is probable that the establishment of Burgin and Wells coincided with the construction of the cementation furnaces excavated in Area E/F (dated to the 1840s or early 1850s; see below).
Footprint Tools hold bankruptcy documents relating to Charles Burgin. These are listed as dating to 'around March 1850'. The freehold was transferred from Charles Burgin and Edward James Wells to a Robert Graham under the trusteeship of Edward James Wells in 1852; it seems Charles' bankruptcy did not sink the company. A memorandum from 1889 repeats these details and adds that the 1852 document formalised a state of affairs that had come into being in 1851 (Footprint Tools Archive).
White's 1856 directory lists Burgin and Wells at 23 Hollis Croft as steel converters, refiners, and rollers, and file and spring manufacturers, and also as fender manufacturers. In 1862, the description at 23 Hollis Croft is similar (file and spring manufacturers, steel converters, refiners and rollers), and Burgin and Wells had added the Perseverance Rolling Mills at 12 Furnival Street to their operation.
A minute-book of the council Health Committee from 1860 records a letter complaining about a 'water and manure' nuisance (i.e. pollution) caused by Burgin and Wells. By the time the health inspectors got there, the problem had been resolved (Sheffield Archives CA-HEA/1/3).
In 1861, Elizabeth, the wife of Edward Wells, assigned her interest in Burgin and Wells to Charles Burgin (Footprint Tools Archive).
There is no mention of Burgin and Wells in White's 1879 directory.
The Footprint Tools Archive contains various genealogical documents which seem to be an attempt to link Robert Graham of Burgin and Wells with a Robert Cadman. Robert Cadman may have leased the former John Kenyon plot to Alfred B. Ibbotson in 1869, however Robert Graham himself conveyanced to Henry Cadman in 1870 (Footprint Tools Archive).
An 1898 advertisement lists 'Lot 2' probably forming part of the former John Kenyon plot for sale. The advertisement lists 'brick erections thereon formerly used and known as the Top Rolling Mill Offices, caretaker's houses, melting furnace of ten holes and four converting furnaces. There is a deep well on this lot with a never failing supply of water' (Footprint Tools Archive).
A series of documents from 1889 indicate the intention of Ibbotson Bros & Co. to purchase the plot. However, completion was delayed for a decade and only took place in 1899.
Thomas R. Ellin may have been operating in Birmingham in 1849 as a steel and cutlery manufacturer, and was based in Sheffield from 1875 (Grace's Guide; Sheffield Archives MD7761/1 and X450). In 1925, Thomas R. Ellin was Master Cutler of the Company of Cutlers of Hallamshire (Company of Cutlers of Hallamshire 2018). Two different Thomas Ellins had been Master Cutlers in 1833 and 1841 (ibid).
Thomas R. Ellin occupied the former John Kenyon and Co. works at Hollis Croft (Sheffield Archives MD7761/1). Thomas R. Ellin may also have held Vulcan Works at Hereford Street, Sheffield (Grace's Guide) and/or a works at Eyre Lane (Sheffield Archives MD7761/1). A separate Thomas Ellin Co. (no 'R.') manufactured cutlery at Sylvester Street (e.g. Sheffield Archives BUS12).
Thomas R. Ellin produced the world-famous Footprint Wrench that is still a leading tool today. At the beginning of the 20th century, on the strength of the success of the Footprint Wrench, Thomas R. Ellin began to trade under the name Footprint Tools.
In 1899, there was an agreement between T. R. Ellin and the neighbouring Walter Fearnehough concerning light (Footprint Tools Archive). In 1948 Footprint Tools was taken over by the Jewitt family, and in 2008 Footprint Tools moved to Admiral Works, Owlerton (Sheffield Archives MD7761/1 and X450; Jewitt family pers. comm.).
In the late 18th century, John Harrison and Son operated a second steel works adjacent to John Kenyon's. John Harrison's works stretched from Hollis Croft over Garden Street to Broad Lane. John Harrison also appears to have held The Orange Branch public house on Hollis Croft, or at least an earlier building on the same plot. There is documentary evidence for both cementation and crucible furnaces on the site (see below). Tilting works belonging to Harrison as evidenced in Ashton 1939 were likely situated elsewhere, probably close to one of Sheffield's rivers. In addition to manufacturing, Harrison operated as a merchant. In his correspondence (as reproduced in Ashton 1939) Harrison comes across as a secure and confident man of business, sometimes given to boastfulness, but also as a genuine friend to Peter Stubs, occasionally helping Stubs apparently against Harrison's own interests. Like many, John Harrison's business was involved in price-fixing and operated on the exploitative truck system.
The earliest record of John Harrison is in Sketchley's 1774 directory, when John Harrison of Hollis Croft was listed with a profession of 'fram'd and framp'd penknife'.
A Fairbank plan of Hollis Croft between 1787 and 1789 shows the plot to the west of John Kenyon's as occupied by John Harrison (excavated as Area C; some earlier structures could relate to John Harrison's works but are likely later in date, see below). John Harrison's holdings continued into an adjacent plot fronting onto Garden Street depicted on an earlier Fairbank plan of 1781 (excavated as Area D; likely nothing of this date excavated, see below). The Fairbank plan of the Garden Street plot shows an oval structure between two parallel walls which may represent a cementation furnace. Later maps (e.g. Ordnance Survey 1853) show the two plots combined into a single property.
The lease for the Garden Street plot was made on the 2 January and gives the year both as 1781 and 1782 (Sheffield Archives ACM/15/140). An identical lease for the John Kenyon plot (Sheffield Archives ACM/15/145) gives the same day but in 1783. The two leases must in fact be contemporary as they each list the other as a neighbour. Harrison's other neighbour on Garden Street, occupying the plot that became the Garden Street Chapel, was Benjamin Jepson. The lease also covered land to the south of Garden Street extending to Broad Lane, meaning that John Harrison controlled three plots forming a strip running perpendicular to the local alignment of the roads. The form of the lease was identical to that of John Kenyon's lease (see above) and lasted for 99 years (expiring in the 1880s) for £4 4s per annum. Perhaps the most crucial piece of information on the lease is that the land came 'together with… several workshops and steel furnaces'. There were, therefore, steel furnaces on the John Harrison plot prior to the 1780s. This may include the possible furnace depicted on the 1781 Fairbank plan and may have been developed by Johnathan Moore (see above). The Sheffield Archives catalogue suggests that the lease was sold on in 1799, however examination of the document did not substantiate this, and sale of the lease at this date seems unlikely (see below).
Harrison built an impressive three-storey, four-bayed mansion at the Hollis Croft end of his works in the 1780s (Belford 2001, 110). The Fairbank plan of 1787–9 also shows a John Harrison in the property that would later become The Orange Branch public house on the north side of Hollis Croft (excavated as Area K). Presumably, this was the same person.
In 1787, a directory of steel converters and refiners records John Harrison and Son at Hollis Croft (Gales and Martin 1787). This implies the presence of cementation and crucible furnaces; probably including the cementation furnace identified from the Fairbank plan.
Ashton's 'An Eighteenth-Century Industrialist' is focused on a Peter Stubs of Warrington, chiefly a file maker, who bought steel from, and sold files to, John Harrison and Sons. Stubs appears to have valued the freedom of dealing with a diversity of suppliers and clients, spreading his orders around (Ashton 1939, 39 etc). However, 'in the early days [when?] a large part of his requirements was met by two concerns, Harrison & Son and Love & Spear' (ibid.). In 1789 Harrison wrote to complain that Stubs used multiple suppliers whereas Harrison ordered all his files from Stubs (ibid.) However, the value of steel supplied by Harrison to Stubs was roughly four times the value of the files sent by Stubs to Harrison so this argument 'had an obvious retort' (ibid.).
Between 1792 and 1796, Harrison hired a Joshua Tingle, a 'sober and good workman' (Harrison quoted in Ashton 1939, 39) who had previously been the sole superintendent in the works of no less than Benjamin Huntsman, the inventor of the crucible process (ibid.). Harrison boasted of this workman in a letter to Stubs (ibid.). This demonstrates the presence of a crucible furnace under John Harrison in the late 18th century. Tingle wrote to Peter Stubs in October 1796, informing Stubs that he had set up on his own and that he had previously done Harrison's entire work in cast steel (ibid.). Stubs declined to trade with Tingle, perhaps out of loyalty to Harrison or because Stubs preferred to buy steel from those who would in exchange purchase his files (Ashton 1939, 40).
Ashton describes the competitive business of haulage of steel from Harrison's works to Manchester, Macclesfield and beyond with examples given for 1792 (1939, 89–90). Ashton also describes the practice of using one company's bill as payment to another company with examples given for Harrison's firm in 1796 (Ashton 1939, 108).
On 5 April 1793, John Harrison wrote to Peter Stubs to request that Stubs not offer favourable terms to a customer of Harrison's (Charles Homer of Nottingham) who had previously bought Stub's files from Harrison (Ashton 1939, 54). Harrison, then, was acting as a merchant as well as a manufacturer, and was not above a spot of industrial collusion.
On 13 December of the same year, John Harrison wrote to Stubs recommending types of steel to be used in the manufacture of file swages (moulds) (Ashton 1939, 3). In doing so, Harrison expressed or assumed a superior knowledge of steel and file manufacturer than the expert Stubs.
A letter of 29 April 1794 from Peter Stub's daughter Sarah to her parents stated that she had only seen young Mr. Harrison [John Harrison's son?] and 'the old woman' who was wearing an 'old bonnet you would hardly pick up in the street' (Ashton 1939, 142). By May, a separate letter from Sarah revealed she had dined at the Harrisons' and elsewhere, showing that various companies were 'rivals, not only in trade, but also in hospitality' (Ashton 1939, 43). In the same year Harrison wrote to Stubs about a period of 'bad times' and declared that his firm was 'not quite so near ruin as some Manufacturers'. The purpose of the comments were to reassure Stubs about a bill (Ashton 1939, 44). The bad times may have been driven by the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars, with prices particularly spiking in 1801 (Ashton 1939, 44). In February 1796, however, there appears to have been a boom in work, suggesting a volatile market, and with Harrison boasting of trade with America (Ashton 1939, 120). The family and firm may have been making shows of prosperity when the reality may have been more uncertain.
In February 1797, to explain an increase in prices (caused by an increase in the price of Swedish iron), Harrison stated that 'the present price was fix'd at a general meeting of the whole trade' indicating participation in price collusion between companies (Ashton 1939, 43). Furthermore, in 1800 Harrison informed Stubs of increases in the fixed price of files in Sheffield, and advised Stubs to match the Sheffield prices (Ashton 1939, 67).
In the same year Harrison also informed Peter Stubs of the widespread practice of factors stamping 'PS' on files that were not Stubs' and reassured Stubs that Harrison himself had never engaged in this practice (Ashton 1939, 68). (This practice led to threats of legal action by Stubs in Sheffield papers.)
Harrison worked on the exploitative truck system, whereby workers were paid in goods above the market rate in lieu of cash. He boasted of this and of the benefits of a buyer's market for labour in an 1801 letter to Peter Stubs: 'We never pay any money for files in Sheffield. The makers taking steel etc. and would do more if we wanted' (Ashton 1939, 38). Harrison's ownership of The Orange Branch pub as depicted on the Fairbank plan of 1787–9 may have been part of his truck operation.
In the first decade of the 19th century, Peter Stubs struggled to source steel from Sheffield (presumably including from Harrison), due to the Sheffield works increasingly using the steel they produced for in-house tool manufacture (Ashton 1939, 46). The lack of good quality steel led to scraps being re-used (producing an inferior metal), a situation Harrison complained about as early as 1799. Walkers of Rotherham were undercutting the Sheffield steel trade, and quality was generally so low that Harrison's had to keep their own steel in-house as the 'only way of having a certain article.' Harrison thought the Walker's practices to be deceitful but nonetheless directed Stubs to them (Ashton 1939, 47).
Burial records indicate that John Harrison died in September 1801 (Ashton 1939, 132 suspected 'late 1801 or 1802'). No trace of a John Harrison company at Hollis Croft or Garden Street could be found in directories from 1822 (Baines 1822) and 1825 (Gell 1825), suggesting that operations had ceased by then. It is possible that the company was wound up at the time of Harrison's death.
In 1832 a plan was drawn up to show the encroachment of buildings erected by John Townsend on the property of Ann and Elizabeth Harrison (Sheffield Archives FC/P/SheS/452S). White's directory of 1833 lists 'Misses Ann and Eliza' Harrison at Western [sic; read Weston] hall and John Townsend as a table knife manufacturer at Garden Street. The plan is consistent with the Hollis Croft/Garden Street holdings although this identification is not certain. It would seem likely that Ann and Elizabeth Harrison were the daughters of John Harrison and that they had inherited the works. An attempt to check this genealogically (Find My Past) was foiled by the commonality of the names; candidates exist in the genealogical record that could support this presumption. That John Townsend had succeeded in fully constructing his buildings before the Misses Harrison had noticed suggests that the day-to-day operation of the works had ceased. This state of affairs may have continued until around 1839 when the plot is thought to have been taken over by William Fearnehough.
The 'Misses Harrison of Weston Hall' later built Trinity Church, Nursery Street in 1847–8 at their sole expense (White 1852, 17). The Misses Harrison may have been sufficiently monied (presumably off the back of the John Harrison and Son company) that the steel works were no longer of interest to the family.
A 'Fearnehough' is said to have occupied the Harrison plot from 1839 until 1971 (Wessex Archaeology 2018a). Prior to this in 1825, two of only three Fearnehoughs in Sheffield are listed on Garden Street. Joseph Fearnehough was a saw and scythe manufacturer at 9 Garden Street. If the numbering from the earlier Fairbank plans was still in use, this suggests he was two plots west of John Harrison at this time. Also on Garden Street (number not given) was a William Fearnehough, saw manufacturer (Gell 1825; in 1825 the Harrison plot was probably owned by Ann and Elizabeth Harrison). William Fearnehough is not recorded in White's 1833 directory, however Joseph Fearnehough and Sons (saw and scythe manufacturers) had moved to Wicker Lane where they remained in 1841 (Pigot and Co). William Fearnehough's operation was evidently ongoing as by 1841 he was again listed at Garden Street (ibid.). This was probably at the former John Harrison plot where the company was located in later times.
In 1849 Wm. Fearnehough was a saw, scythe, machine knife, spiral cutter etc. manufacturer at court 21 Garden Street (White 1849). We see here the first reference to W. Fearnehough Ltd's association with machine knives. In 1852, 1856 and again in 1862, Wm. Fearnehough was listed at number 20 Garden Street, with William's house at 43 Broad Lane (White 1852; 1856; 1862).
By 1879 (White 1879), it was a Walter rather than a William Fearnehough at the head of the Garden Street firm at number 18 next to the Congregational Chapel (i.e. on the old Harrison plot). The change from number 20 to 18 probably reflects a re-numbering rather than the firm moving next door.
W. Fearnehough was listed in a review of Industries of Sheffield in 1888 (Sheffield Archives SYCRO 1398).
The Ordnance Survey map of 1890 depicts a 'Machine Knife Works' on the Fearnehough plot, running across from Garden Street to Hollis Croft. It is likely that this label was a description of the machine knife activities undertaken by W. Fearnehough Ltd. instead of the name of the works. A chimney and associated structures depicted on this map were excavated in Area C.
A Walter Fearnehough of W. Fearnehough of Garden Street died in 1908 aged 59 and attracted an official Iron and Steel Industry Obituary (Grace's Guide). He was '…head of one of the largest machine-knife manufacturing businesses in Sheffield…'
The Fearnehough works at Garden Street were extensively modified on nine occasions between 1911 and 1940 (Sheffield Archives CA206/23125a) and on three occasions between 1941 and 1945 (Sheffield Archives CA206/23125b).
Picture Sheffield hold a 1960s photograph of the interior of Fearnehough works at Garden Street. The photograph depicts a mid-20th-century building with workers and equipment including racks of bar iron or steel stock (Picture Sheffield y04211). Further pictures are held by Sheffield Archives under restricted access.
A Fearnehough Street formerly existed in Darnall, Sheffield. Fearnehough is a moderately unusual name and the street may be linked to the family associated with Garden Street.
An attempt was made to trace each name that appears on the Fairbank plan of 1787–9 within the area of the site. Trade directories (particularly Sketchley 1774, Gales and Martin 1787 and Gell 1825), the Sheffield Archives Catalogue and Grace's Guide were searched for each name as a minimum.
The names fall into three categories: industrialists and other trades, property dealers and untraceable names.
Alongside Kenyon and Harrison's major works (see above), Samuel Marples and John Wilde were each likely manufacturing pen and pocket knives at Hollis Croft in 1787–9, and Benjamin Leathley was cutting ivory. It is likely that Leathley was primarily producing animal bone knife handles, perhaps alongside some production of genuine ivory items. Leathley's operation is likely to have fed directly into the operations of cutlers and steelmakers in the area. Also present were Thomas Lindley and William Gill, operating a hairdresser's and library.
Samuel Marples occupied a plot on Hollis Croft immediately to the west of John Harrison's plot. Samuel Marples was listed as a spotted penknife cutter at Hollis Croft in 1774 (Sketchley 1774) and as cutler in 1787 (Gales and Martin 1787). Directories in 1822 (Baines) and 1825 (Gell) list S and B Marples as pen and pocket knife manufacturers close to Hollis Croft at 40 Solly Street. In 1831, Samuel and his brother Benjamin Marples, both cutlers, leased a large property on Devonshire Street of 2330 square yards at £1000 per annum (Sheffield Archives LD1792/2); they were clearly prosperous.
Multiple documents relating to Samuel Marples' will and probate are held by Sheffield Archives (LD1792/7; CA778/1401/3; MD6862-6870 No. 5; and CA778/2608/1). The will was dated 1841 and probate was granted in 1843. Complex arrangements were made for an Eliza Marples to secure a £420 mortgage following Samuel's death; this does not seem to relate to Hollis Croft. Samuel's brother Benjamin appears to have died at about the same time as Samuel, perhaps indicative of an accident or communicable illness.
There may be a family connection between Samuel and Benjamin Marples and the later major toolmaking firm William Marples and Sons.
Benjamin Leathley occupied two plots on Hollis Croft as depicted on the Fairbank plan of 1787–9. One plot was medium-large and the other small. Notes accompanying the Footprint Tools Archive identify these plots with the modern 44–62 Hollis Croft.
One or more of Benjamin Leathley's plots may have been assigned to Stephen Green (then at no. 16) in 1726, the same year than Johnathan Moore received the lease.
An 1789 property assignment outlines a series of family relationships. Benjamin Leithley [sic] was the only son of John and Elizabeth. His father, John, died, and his mother Elizabeth remarried Richard Kent (Footprint Tools Archive).
Sketchley's 1774 directory lists Benjamin Leathley of Hollis Croft as a cutler and ivory cutter. Gales and Martin's 1787 directory lists Benjamin Leathley of 'Holles [sic] Croft' as an ivory cutter. In 1775 John and Elizabeth Leithley [sic] held a mortgage relating to Benjamin Leathley's property from Samuel Staniforth. In 1789 Benjamin's step-father assigned property on Hollis Croft to Benjamin (Footprint Tools Archive). Gell's 1825 directory gives Benjamin Leathley at 47 Hollis Croft (this number does not tally with the earlier Fairbank plan) although unusually it does not list a profession. Could Leathley have retired? There is no record of Benjamin Leathley from Baines' 1822 directory onwards. Leathley's occupation as an ivory cutter would have been closely associated with the cutlery trade, producing handles for knives and other items.
In 1824, Benjamin Leathley transferred assignment of properties on Hollis Croft to John Staniforth. Benjamin Leathley was deceased and his estate was in administration in 1829 and in 1831, with John Staniforth acting as administrator. George Coe was the recipient of the plot (Footprint Tools Archive). It is perhaps possible that Benjamin Leathley had been deceased for a few years and that the disposal of his estate was proving problematic. In 1835, George Coe passed the plot on to Frances Cooper (Footprint Tools Archive).
In the Gales and Martin 1787 directory, John Wild (no 'e') was listed as a pen and pocket knife manufacturer and cutler at Hollis Croft.
On the 9 August 1791, Johnathan Wild (no 'e') and Sarah his wife were involved in the assignment of a complex mortage (Sheffield Archives LD2006/7). Exactly one year later on the 9 August 1792 there was a second mortgage (Sheffield Archives LD2006/8). The mortgages relate to dwelling houses at Coalpit Lane. In 1793 John and George Wild (no 'e') leased ground at West Bar to build houses and took out a mortgage. There is also an assignment in trust to Robert Unwin, builder, to sell, indicating that the construction was an investment (Sheffield Archives MD6316). The same could have been true at Hollis Croft.
A John Wild (no 'e') was a manufacturer of table knives, scissors, razors, show knives, awl blades etc. at 27 Pond Hill in 1825 (Gell 1825).
A John Wilde 'late of New York [Rotherham? Lincolnshire? America?]… but now residing in Manchester' registered a patent in 1835 (Grace's Guide). The family name of Wilde may indicate a connection with the John Kenyon works (Thomas Wilde later ran John Kenyon and Co.).
A Thomas Lindley was recorded in a directory of 1787 (Gales and Martin 1787) as a 'hairdresser and keeper of a circulating library'.
No William Gill of this time period could be traced, although a later Rev William Gill rented property from John Kenyon Skelton in 1838–9 (Sheffield Archives Wil D/8/2/2/17).
It is possible that these two gentlemen, with Lindley or both working as hairdresser and librarian, are candidates for historic LGBT representation. Homosexuality is hard to detect in the historic record, particularly in light of historic oppression. An outline of difficulties surrounding this topic is given in a guide produced by Sheffield Archives (2009–2017 [PDF]).
Thomas Lindley and William Gill's plot was excavated as Area A, revealing pits and a wall contemporary with Lindley and Gill's occupation of the plot.
A large proportion of the individuals named in 1787–9 may have viewed the Hollis Croft plots as investment opportunities. This may be related to the (re)distribution of the plots undertaken in the late 18th century. Some or all of the individuals named below are primarily attested in the historic record as property speculators, although at least some may also have been industrialists. In particular, John Spooner is regularly listed on property deals as a cutler, and John Jepson may have been a minor industrialist whose activities happen to have been best attested in the records of property exchange. A bias towards identifying these individuals as property speculators may be due to the survival of property deeds over other types of record.
Part of John Wingfield's plot was excavated as Area B, which recorded structures contemporary with John Wingfield's occupation (see below). A prosperous gentleman by this name lived in Norton and there are many documents in Sheffield Archives relating to him. John Wingfield of Norton appears to have been interested in agricultural concerns and to have been involved with the church. John Wingfield's interest in the Hollis Croft plot was likely as an investment as he does not seem to have been much of an industrialist. In Gales and Martin's 1787 directory, John Wingfield of Hollis Croft is listed as a 'gent'.
In 1782, William Stocks and George Deakin held tenements 'west of the Market Place and near to the new Quaker Burial Ground' adjoining Watson's Walk (Sheffield Archives ACM/MAPS/SheS/1592L and FC/P/SHeS/1271L). In 1806, a lease covering several properties included a messuage in Upper Hallam and three closes called The Croft, The Stone Delf and House Field 'now or late in the possession of William Stocks' (Sheffield Archives TT/10/11/2). William Stocks, therefore, may have been a property speculator.
Another person interested in property was John Spooner, who appears to have been involved in property deals throughout the 18th century, although his profession is repeatedly given as 'cutler'. In 1739 John Dickson, in 1743 William Hague, bricklayer, and in 1753, William Prior, cutler, each made purchases at Silver Street from J Spooner (Sheffield Archives FC/P/SheS/1076S; MD4056/14; MD4056/11/2). In 1747, John Grattan, carpenter, and in 1749, Richard Wright, scissorsmith both bought plots in 'the Beanfield' at Westbarr Close from John Spooner, cutler (Sheffield Archives MD4056/9/1; MD4056/10/1). In the latter case, Spooner had installed drainage. In 1779 John Spooner owned property at Richmond, Handsworth (Sheffield Archives FC/P/Han/42S), and in 1787–1790 he had a close near Crooks [sic] (Sheffield Archives FC/FB/63; ACM/MAPS/12/13). In the latter case, John Spooner was such a prominent landowner that his holdings were colour-coded along with the Duke of Norfolk and John Parker. Less significant landowners were not colour-coded. These examples no doubt exist within a larger body of property deals that are unattested in the historical record.
A John Jepson held land at Neepsend in 1747 (Sheffield Archives ADM/MAPS/8/2). This may have been the John Jepson who surrendered land in Ecclesfield in 1721 (Sheffield Archives PR54/17/2/18). It seems unlikely though not impossible that the same John Jepson was operating in both 1721 and 1787–9. It may be that as a young man Jepson disposed of land in Ecclesfield before moving to Neepsend and eventually to Hollis Croft late in life.
No records securely relating the first three individuals could be found. Searches for variant spellings and readings were attempted. A Joshua Wright of Birmingham was declared bankrupt in 1841 (Grace's Guide) but this may be a different individual.
The Diamond Works was situated on the north side of Hollis Croft opposite the site of the plot occupied variously by John Kenyon and Co., Burgin and Wells, W. Fearnehough and Footprint Tools. The Diamond Works was associated with the Beardshaw and Stevenson families. The Beardshaws had personal links with Kirkstall, Leeds. An attempt to excavate this plot (Area J) had a negative result.
An assignment and a separate indenture held by Footprint Tools record that in 1727 Johnathan Moore transferred the lease for the Diamond Works plot to William Hydes. This was one year after Johnathan Moore received the lease (see above). The will of William Hides, cutler of Hollis Street (sic throughout) was made in 1748.
The plot must have reverted to Johnathan Moore as in 1771 he again transferred assignment of the plot to May King, the widow of James King (Footprint Tools archive). May probably passed away around 1791 or 1792 as the 'executors of James King' transferred the property to John Beardshaw (Footprint Tools archive).
However, John Beardshaw almost immediately (in 1794) assigned the property to John Salt. John Salt passed away in 1809, however his widow Ann continued to run the business until 1830. In 1830 it was necessary for one of the long-standing workmen (George Cartwright) to swear an affidavit to the effect that he knew the property to belong to the late John Salt, and that he had purchased it from John Beardshaw who had it from Joseph [sic] King. George Allot, Mrs Berry and Mr Bradley are named as occupants of three dwellings (nos. 54, 55 and 56) on the plot. The property was then assigned back to John Beardshaw (Footprint Tools archive).
In 1787, John and William Beardshaw were listed separately at Hollis Croft as pen and pocket knife manufacturers (Gales and Martin 1787). Gell (1825) gives T Beardshaw and Son as a cutlery dealer at Hollis Croft. In 1839 (Robson 1839), Beardshaw and Son were saw and file manufacturers at 18 Garden Street, and by 1841 they were also at 4 Garden Street (Pigot and Co. 1841).
In 1843, a partnership was dissolved between Jonathan Beardshaw (born 1780), George Beardshaw (his son, born 1802), Thomas Lowrey Stevenson and Joseph Stevenson (possibly a brother) (Grace's Guide).
The 1851 census records Thomas L Stevenson living at 32 Hollis Croft (age 43 born Kirkstall [Leeds]), employing 76 men, 12 women and 35 boys. Living with him were Hannah Stevenson (45, born Sheffield) and Frederick (14), Mary Ann (11), Emma (6) and Samuel (4), also one servant. In this year, George Beardshaw and his adult son Jonathan (then a bank clerk) were living at Fulwood Road with others.
The 1852 White's directory records Beardshaw, Stevenson and Co. at numbers 30 and 32 Hollis Croft. Number 30 Hollis Croft is given as the site of a file manufacturing works and steel merchants (likely Diamond Works), and the adjacent number 32 as the residence of Thomas Lowrey Stevenson.
In 1854, there was a partnership change with George Beardshaw leaving Thomas Lowrey Stevenson and Jonathan Beardshaw (George's son) in charge of the firm (Grace's Guide). George would have been 64 and it is possible that this document records George's retirement or death.
In 1863, Thomas Lowrey Stevenson left Jonathan Beardshaw as sole director and married Sarah Jessap in Sculcoates, Hull.
Later, the Diamond Works were occupied by the similarly named J (Joseph) and TS (Thomas Styring) Beardshaw. Joseph, described as a file manufacturer and publican and born at Kirkstall, Leeds, left the business in 1880 with Thomas Styring Beardshaw continuing. (Grace's Guide). White's 1876 directory lists J and TS Beardshaw as file manufacturers at 32 Hollis Croft but by 1884 (White) the company was just TS Beardshaw, steel file manufacturers and was at number 30. In 1890, the Diamond Works was named on an Ordnance Survey map. Directory entries continued into the 20th century.
The 1853 Ordnance Survey 1:1,056 and 1890 1:500 Town Plans show both frontages of Hollis Croft (north and south) as being characterised by courts associated with domestic, commercial and industrial activity. This plan shows two dashed large circular structures that correlate with the cementation furnaces excavated in Area E/F.
A directory of Hollis Croft has been compiled for the early 1850s using information from both the census of 1851 and from White's directory of 1852 (see Appendix 10 of the archive report [PDF]). This date has been selected for this study as it is approximately the date of construction of the cementation furnaces in Area E/F.
White's directory of 1852 discusses the new 'Clerical District of Hollis Croft' comprising Hollis Croft, Garden Street, and all or part of nine other streets and all courts, lanes etc. associated with them. This division is also used on the 1851 census returns. The Rev. R H Deane BA received a stipend of £130 and there were hopes (unrealised?) to build a church on Solly Street. This refers to the Anglican church and ignores the Catholic establishment of St. Vincent's (Solly Street, built in the early 1850s under Father Edmund Scully) and the independent Garden Street Chapel.
A full search of White's 1852 directory for the string 'Hollis' was used to supplement the street directory for Hollis Croft given towards the rear of that publication. Census information was compiled from the pages listed in the microfiche catalogue held by Sheffield Archives as containing entries for Hollis Croft. The census information was obtained online from a genealogical website (Find My Past) so may contain transcription errors. Some transcription errors have been identified through examination of digital copies of the original records and fixed in Appendix 10 of the archive report [PDF].
Many small narratives and touches of life can be teased out through examination of the data, which provides a jumping off point for further research into life in the area.
The combination of these two data categories underlines the 'hidden' population behind industrial activity. The smaller list of businesses (approximately 60) given in the trade directory obscures the scale of population of the road (total 680 persons). For dates prior to the first census in 1841, it may be particularly problematic to access this 'hidden' population in the historic record. It is, of course, probable that some people living and working on Hollis Croft worked and lived elsewhere, as is underlined by occasional records of business owner's home addresses in the trade directory. However, this result gives a tentative heuristic of 10–11 persons (workers, children and others) per business.
Some discrepancies in the detail between the two data sources likely represent change from 1851 to 1852. Examples include the Rhodes and Buller families perhaps leaving number 63 to make way for Enoch Beal's scissor and shear operation, and the Haywood family leaving number 76 in favour of William Whitehead, traveller. These examples do not necessarily indicate change; it is possible, for example, that the Enoch Beal company was operated by one of the Rhodes or Bullers.
Hy. Egginstone's brass turning business is attested in an advert in the directory. In the 1851 census, Henry Egginston (no final 'e') lived at number 5, however the advertisement gives number 9, the Royal Oak public house. This may mean that business enquiries were best directed to the pub.
Some simple demographic conclusions can be drawn. The majority of households were families comprising father, mother and children. Single parent families were present, sometimes demonstrably as a consequence of bereavement, and extended family members such as nieces/nephews, aunts/uncles, grandparents and grandchildren were sometimes living as part of the family unit. Examples of multiple families in a single property are present. There are also examples of families with the same surname living next door to each other, for example in the case of the families of George and Robert Hides, who may have been brothers and who ran a cutlery business together. LGBT representation is non-existent in the record, as may be expected from a period of LGBT repression.
Lodgers and apprentices apparently unrelated to their host families are attested. Apprentices were 10 in number and comprised boys between 14 and 20 years of age, apprenticed as cabinet makers (2) and various types of cutler and tool manufacturer (8), and all of English origin, although with one boy from Kent and another from Middlesex, tentatively suggesting on a small sample size that apprentices may have originated from more varied locations than the general population. There were 39 lodgers, 15 of whom (38%) were female. Some lodgers formed small family groups of two or three persons and ranged in age from 0 to 65. The range of professions for lodgers was similar to the group as a whole. Six of the lodgers were born in Ireland, with the remainder English, primarily from Sheffield but not from further away than Northamptonshire.
For the group as a whole, most were English, primarily from Sheffield, but also from locations elsewhere in Yorkshire, Lancashire and the midlands. A very few were from further afield in England, comprising Kent (2), Middlesex (1), Newcastle upon Tyne (1) and Northumberland (1). As stated above, two of these were apprentices. Twenty-four persons (3.5%) are listed as having been born in Ireland, with the family members of these persons perhaps also of Irish ethnicity. The birth place of 12 people was not recorded.
The youngest married person was 18-year-old Elizabeth Glaves, with a total of 283 people listed as married and 20 as widows or widowers. The youngest widow was 22 years old. The population who were married or who had been married formed 78% of the adult population of 388 (with adults defined as 18 or older). The rate of unmarried people appeared to decline rapidly with age, particularly after the age of 23. Of course, many of the ages recorded in census records may have been creatively reported.
No occupation was listed for 320 persons. Every man over the age of 18 had a listed occupation. There were 69 boys and 96 girls under the age of 18 without listed occupations. The remaining persons with no listed job were adult women (155), including seven individuals over the age of 60. In addition, 33 girls and 33 boys (under 18) were Scholars, or in one case, a Pupil. Three persons reported that they were receiving parish relief. For the one male receiving relief, the census specified that he was physically disabled.
Between 21 and 27 women were employed in manufacturing and related trades: Awl Blade Polisher (1), Bone Button Maker (1), Button Wrapper (1), File Cutter (2), File Dresser (1), Fork Burnisher (1), Fork Filer (3), Metal Rubber (3), Screw Turner (2), Silver Buffer (1), Spoon Buffers and Rubbers (3), Striker (1) and as a Super Burnisher (1). Women with more general job descriptions included Assistant (1), and warehouse work variously described (4). A Silver Plater's Wife (1) may also have been involved in industrial activity, particularly if the appellation was intended to be cognate with, say, 'Silver Plater's Mate' or 'Farmer's Wife'.
The second most common category of employment for women was as clothes makers, with 7 Dressmakers but also a Cap Maker (1), Shoe Binder (1) and Straw Bonnet Maker (1). There were 6 female general servants (the youngest a tender 10 years old and with a different surname to the family she lived with and presumably served). Remaining female jobs were Char Woman (1), Grocer/Shop Keeper (2), Hair Weaver (2), Midwife (1), Upholdstress (1) and the amusingly-phrased 'Keeps a Mangle' (1). One visitor was listed as such under 'occupation' as well as 'relationship'.
Like female employment, male occupations were dominated by industrial activities (166–184). Those jobs related to cutlery, tool manufacture and related trades comprising (including apprentices): Awl Blade Manufacture (4), Blacksmith/Metal Smith (6), Blade Grinder (2), Bone Button Maker (1), Bone Scale Cutter or Presser (4), a Brant [sic?] Bit Maker (1), Brass Turner (3), Comb Makers (2), Cutlers, Blade Makers and Table Knife trades (62), Cutters (4), File trades (34), Manufacturer of Powder Horns (1), Mark Maker (1), Moulder (1), Pen and Pocket Knife trades (14), Plane Maker (1), Razor trades (7), Saw trades (7), Scissor trades (5), Silver Plater (1), Silver Smith (1), Stag Horn Cutler (1), and various Strikers (3). Further men were described in more general terms or undertook related roles: Dealer in Horn, Bone etc. (1), Table Knife Clerk (1), Engine Tender (1), Errand Boy (9, ages 9–13), Fitter (1), Labourer (4) and Warehouseman (1).
Men only were occupied in the furnaces (7), comprising Brass Caster (1), Furnace Labourer (3), Iron Moulder (1), Steel Furnace Man (1), Steel Melter (1) and Steel Refiner (1). The Steel Melter and Refiner can be said to have operated crucible furnace(s) and were named Samuel Damms and William Wing.
Additionally, some men (5) can be identified with activities probably associated with Burgin and Well's railway spring manufacture: Coach and Railway Spring Maker (4) and Fender Filer (1).
The construction industry employed 15 men: Brick Maker (4), Bricklayers and associated labourers (5), House Painter (1), Joiner (1), Mason and associated labourer (2), Slater (1), Stone Grate Fitter (1).
The presence of four brick makers on Hollis Croft suggests the presence of a brick kiln somewhere in the general vicinity.
Men associated with clothing trades were 8 in number: Shoe and Boot Maker (5), Hair Setting Manufacturer (1), Tailor (2).
Other occupations for males (17) were: Book Keeper (1), Cabinet Maker (3, including 2 apprentices), Carter (1), Chelsea Pensioner (2, i.e. military out-pensioners), Cooper (1), Druggest (1), Gentleman (1), 'Inn Maker' (2, perhaps inn decorators or builders rather than publicans?), Licensed Victuallers (2, i.e. publicans), Teacher (2) and Oyster Vendor (1).
Ten men were listed as employing at least one other individual.
The Footprint Tools Archive contains three assignments relating to 60–62 Hollis Croft from the period 1850–1852. On 2 December 1850 Frances Cooper, die sinker, and James Staniforth, penknife cutler, signed an assignment. In 1852, two separate assignments transferred the Grape Tavern and other properties between James Staniforth and B R Francis, Henry Chambers, Charles Chambers and John Chambers. The executors of James Marshall are named as a neighbour. The Grape Tavern was eventually transferred in 1898 to Gertrude Steegman of Chiswick, Middlesex, William Walker of Leeds, and Chambers & Co. Ltd, registered in Sheffield. This later document reveals that the Chambers family were from Hastings, Sussex, although Harry Walker Chambers, gentleman, was based in Sheffield, as was the Chambers company. Further transfers between the above named people consolidated the holding in the name of Chambers & Co Ltd.
Several further trades are registered in White's Street Directory of 1884, including shopkeepers, a victualler, a manufacturer of electroplated goods, a coal dealer and a razor scale presser (Wessex Archaeology 2018a).
A brief search was conducted for other works labelled on the 1890 Ordnance Survey map. Searches were performed of the Sheffield Archives catalogue and Grace's Guide as well as general searches of the internet. These were unsuccessful, with no further information obtained for the Globe Forge and Rolling Mills, British (Electro Plate) Works or Exchange Works. The appearance of the name Globe Forge and Rolling Mills on the map is curious, however an undated (late-19th-century?) document in an envelope labelled 'Mr Blenkin' held by Footprint Tools states that 'all these properties were formerly called Forge and Rolling Mill and are now called Footprint.'
Other industrial enterprises located close to the site included the Toledo, Argyle and Hollis Works (all cutlery works) as well as a smithy.
Little appears to have changed between 1890 and the Ordnance Survey map of 1905. However, the buildings within the Globe Forge and Rolling Mills, now explicitly belonging to Footprint Tools, are shown in more detail. Small-scale metallurgical business is well-attested in the area, including two crucible steel manufacturers which appear in the 1932 Kelly's Directory (APS 2016).
By 1935, the western courts on both sides of Hollis Croft had been demolished and replaced by larger industrial sheds associated with the use of the site by Footprint Works (APS 2016).
By 1954, all of the courts appear to have been demolished although a terrace of four buildings, possibly houses, remained on the southern frontage of Hollis Croft. A Rubber & Tyre Depot is identified to the south of the terrace. The Machine Knife Works (Fearnehough works) is identified on the southern frontage of Hollis Croft extending onto Garden Street. The sites of two Tool Works and a Furniture Works are also marked on the Garden Street frontage (APS 2016).
Late 19th-/early-20th-century photographs showing the exterior conical chimneys of cementation furnaces at Hollis Croft were kindly made available by Footprint Sheffield Ltd (Plate 1, Plate 2 and Plate 3). The cementation furnaces in the pictures are located east of the former entranceway and are not the same furnaces that were excavated during this project.
The factory buildings present on the site until their recent demolition, had largely been built by the time of the 1964 Ordnance Survey map. In 1968 the Footprint Works (bought by John Jewitt Snr in 1948) was merged together with other companies owned by Jewitt family under the trading name of Footprint Tools Limited which, in 2009, relocated to Admiral Works, Owlerton where it still operates as Footprint Sheffield Limited (Jewitt family pers. comm.).
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