REMINISCENCES OF SHEFFIELD by R. E. LEADER
CHAPTER 02 - SMITHIES, APPRENTICES, DAMES, DRESS, AND CUSTOMS.
THE places in which the
industries of the town were carried on were not such as to promote the
health, or to
civilize the manners of their occupants. Passing reference to these has been made in the preceding chapter, but
they played so large a part in the lives of " the apron men," as the operatives were called in the semi-feudal age,
as to merit a fuller description- . " Smithy" is now becoming an obsolete term; instead of speaking of " ahr
smithy," our cutlery makers have " my factory," or " warehouse," or " workshops." To realise the smithy which
was typical of the Sheffield of the past, it is necessary to picture a low, often a "lean-to" building, with walls of
undressed stone, showing in their erection a primitive workmanship not superior to that displayed in the rough
boundary walls of Hallamshire fields. It would be seven or eight yards long by four wide, and seven feet high to
the rise of the roof. There being no ceiling, it was open to the slates, or thatch. The door was in the middle of one
side, the fire- place facing it; a hearth at either end, with the bellows in the corner, and the " stithy stocks" in their proper situations. The walls, rarely covered with a rough coat of lime, were more frequently plastered over with
clay, or " wheel swarf," to keep the wind out of the crevices. The floor was earth or mud, and the sides were
open, with shutters hanging ready to be put up when work ceased; or, if there were windows, these had no
glass, but paper, which had once been white, well saturated with boiled oil. One corner would be partitioned off,
as a warehouse or store-room for " t' mester"; and on each side were work-boards, with vices for hafters.
putters-together, and so forth. Over the fireplace a " paddywack " almanac was nailed, and the walls were
covered with last dying speeches and confessions, street ballads, " Death and the Lady," wilful murders,
Christmas cards, lists of all the running horses, and the like. The smithy was a favourite roosting-place for hens,
and other live stock were often harboured Theresa rabbits, guinea pigs, or ducks; while singing-birds' cages
were hung on the walls. Close at hand were malodorous out-offices, and it was essential that the whole should
be within easy call from the back door of " t' mester's " house.
Until near the close of the eighteenth century (1791) it was not permitted for apprentices to be bound to workmen. They were indentured to the master, and the " Little Mesters " not infrequently relied on these lads for all the rough work of the shop, dispensing with journeymen, and themselves contributing all the skilled labour. The apprentices had a very hard time of it, both in the shops and in the houses, as the old custom was for them to live with the masters and to be boarded in the family. Wilberforce noted in his diary the abandonment of this custom as a sign of decadence. " An increasing evil at Sheffield," he recorded, " is that the apprentices used to live with the masters and be of the family; now wives are grown too fine ladies to like it; the apprentices lodge out and are much less orderly." But the system, over whose abandonment he sighed, was by no means ideal. Nothing can be more significant than the fact that the sittings of the justices were very largely occupied in adjudicating upon disputes between the apprentices and their employers. It has been stated that it was the exception, rather than the rule, for spring knife cutlers' apprentices to serve out their time. Possibly there is some exaggeration in this, but it is at any rate incontrovertible that the masters, having made life intolerable to the apprentices, actually found it necessary to form themselves into a society whose object was the recovering of run-away lads.
The apprentice system was the best ally of the recruiting sergeant, for absconding usually meant enlisting. This was the revenge which boys constantly took for unmerciful thrashings or penurious board and they not infrequently carried several fellow apprentices off with them. Doncaster race week was a very tempting time for cutlers' lads to run away. They would visit the races and then, dreading to return, take the king's shilling. As the result of this, Sheffield contributed a very fair proportion of the blue-jackets who won many a famous naval victory, and of the troops which fought under Lord Wellington in the Peninsula. The Cutlers' Company is frequently found in antagonism with the military and the magistrates, contesting the right of the Crown to enlist apprentices. " He's treated as bad as any 'prentice lad" became a current saying.
Some amazing but well authenticated stories are told of the treatment apprentices in the staple trades met with. Old George Smith, cutler, whose house is still standing in Pea Croft, may be taken as typical of the better class of masters. He was the great grandfather of the late Mr. Albert Smith, known and respected for so many years as Clerk to the Magistrates George Smith was Master Cutler in I749, when his feast cost £2 2S.9d. Besides his apprentices, he had a large family, and he was wont on Sundays, dressed in his close-buttoned coat and three-cornered hat, to head quite a considerable procession down the croft, along Grindlegate and Silver Street head, across Hick's Stile Field (afterwards Paradise Square), and over the stile at the foot of Virgins' Walk (St. James's Row), to the Parish Church, of which a son of his and a grandson were afterwards assistant ministers. It was in the household of this substantial citizen that, on a memorable Sunday, one of the apprentices ventured to complain about the pudding. Dame Smith immediately rose and boxed his ears, saying, " Thou grumbles at such pudding as this ? Better flour and better watter were never put together." If such things happened in the best houses, what was the state of things in the worst ?
An old man named Dawson,
who worked at Scythe Wheel, Loxley Bottom, was accustomed to relate his
experiences. He was apprenticed to "Johnny Jackson," who, as was not infrequently
the case, supplemented his trade labours by keeping a public-house, in
Crookes. Dawson was the youngest of four apprentices. According to his
story their customary supper consisted of grout porridge which was
made from the refuse of brewings, and
may be described as the essence of grains. They were allowed neither fire nor light. One night, as they went
home from the wheel, the eldest apprentice, one Uckler, said to his companions, " Now, lads, if it's grout porridge tonight, I'll tell you what I shall do. I'st throw my piggin (a wooden vessel with a handle, holding about a quart)
under t' ass nook, and you mun all do t' same." They agreed; and when they got home, sure enough there was
the inevitable grout porridge, in a large " piggin." Uckler, having received his portion, threw it among the ashes;
the three others did the same, and ran upstairs. The master followed, armed with a stout stick, and gave each a
good " hiding"; but the result thereafter was real porridge. They were never offered grout refuse again.
Old George Jeeves, brushmaker,
of Little Sheffield, formerly of Fargate, if not more despotic than other
was more eccentric in his despotism than most. But although, on that account, the management of his
apprentices may be regarded as carrying to an extreme the half-pedagogic, half- parental relationship in which
masters stood to their lads, it is nevertheless typical of the personal supervision given to their habits and their
morals, and of the freedom with which corporal chastisement was inflicted on the erring. Mr. Jeeves would
station himself at the gates of his works at six o'clock in the morning, and punish any boys who were late by
pulling their ears. He kept a whip to thrash them with, and in beating one who was particularly troublesome, the
old man was so frequently betrayed into profane swearing, that he pathetically complained, when his passion
was over, " Thah maks me run into more sin than a little." The apprentices were required to be punctual in their
attendance in their master's pew in St. Paul's Church. Once, on his way thither, Mr. Jeeves saw an apprentice
playing at marbles. " Now, thah'll be in time, lad; thah'll be in time," was the admonition he gave in passing. "
Aye, mester," was the reply; but the game proved too engrossing, and he was late. Old Jeeves waited his
opportunity, and sidling up to the offender during prayer, gave his ear a tremendous wring. The boy, partly from
pain, and partly to serve out his master, set up a yell that resounded through the church, and disturbed the
congregation- . Another lad showed his dislike to church attendance by making a point of going in old clothes.
His master, greatly annoyed, quite audibly exclaimed, " Go thee to t' bottom (of the pew), thah shabby devil." and he was heard to improve the decencies of worship by saying, " Do you, kneel in a praying posture !" Oatcake and porridge formed the staple fare of apprentices, but the one was too often mouldy or sour, and the latter too often
made with water. A cutler in Allen Street named Barber, who had sixteen apprentices, was noted, even among
the penurious, for his especial meanness. It was the custom in his household to make the oat cakes in large
batches, so that they might be stale enough, when placed before the apprentices, to discourage inordinate
appetite. The lads, when opportunity offered, would snatch an oat cake hot from the bakestone, to enjoy it fresh,
and to this end they would hide the stolen morsel anywhere under their shirts, or thrust in the coal hole. As a
rare treat, there was sometimes for dinner brewis, or brewes oat cakes, mixed with dripping and hot water, and
seasoned with salt and pepper, still the traditional dish when the members of the Cutlers' Company lunch
together at the annual swearing in of the Master Cutler.
The last three survivors of the apprentices of Barber (who only " clemmed " his lads to end his days in the workhouse) were William Ironside of Garden Street, Robert Hownham of Edward Street, and William Pearson. William Ironside, who afterwards worked for " Sammy Skinner," Broad Lane, the progenitor of two generations of surgeons will be remembered by not a few old Nonconformists as a prominent feature in the services at Nether Chapel, where, in the days of the Rev. Thomas Smith, occupying one of the boxes that flanked the pulpit on each side, he led the singing, as he had previously done at Garden Street Chapel. Minister and clerk together formed an impressive spectacle, for they were both stout and ponderous men.
The symmetry of the arrangement was somewhat marred when the Rev. Henry Bachelor succeeded Mr. Smith, for Mr. Bachelor, being spare and slight, with all the characteristics of a new generation, did not match well with the preceptor. Nevertheless Mr. Ironed continued to be typical of the old style of Nonconformist psalmody until he could no longer walk to the chapel. He was the first recipient in Sheffield of the pension of the Iron and Hardware Society. He died in I858, at the age of 76, at the house in Garden Street where he had lived for fifty years. He was the uncle of two well known Sheffield men Isaac Ironside, the able but eccentric politician, and James Ironside, who presented, in many respects, a strong contrast both to the somewhat ascetic Isaac and to another brother, Samuel, a Methodist missionary in New Zealand. William Pearson, who was the last survivor of Barber's apprentices, was the father of Mr. Joseph Pearson, collector, in the Hartshead.
It cannot, of course, be said, that the apprentices were always virtuous innocents, docile, reasonable, and contented if fairly treated. On one occasion, when a master was summoned before the bench for " clemming" his apprentice, the justices were rendered somewhat suspicious by reason of the strong and healthy appearance of the lad. " What had he for break- fast ?" he was asked. " Whoy, sometimes milk porridge, and sometimes watter porridge." '~ And what for dinner ?" " Stop a bit; there's t' drinkin." "Well, what's that?" "Some- times, nay, ammost allis, it's cheese and whotcake." " Well, the dinner ?" " Whoy, sometimes we 'an stew, sometimes boiled meat and greens, sometimes dumplins and tracle, some- times won thing and sometimes another." " Then what have you for supper ?" "Stop a bit; there's us drinkins agen." " Well, what's that ? " " Whotcake and cheese." " and now your supper ?" " Sometimes we'en whoaten porridge and tracle, sometimes we'en whotcake and cheese wi' a sup o' beer, sometimes milk porridge, sometimes won thing and sometimes another." Then, my lad," said the magistrate, " I think you fare very well, and have no reason to complain." " But I han, for t' missis mays tantaddlin tarts, and shoo locks 'em up i' t' cupboard, and ne'er gies me a bit on 'em." While the phrase, " indifferently fed and worse clothed," describes pretty accurately the general condition of apprentices- , it must be admitted that there were some tender-hearted " dames " who behaved well to them, and partially atoned for their hard lot in the shops. There was plenty of room for this, as the masters kept them at work in the smithy from early morn until bedtime. This confinement was very injurious to young lads, and it was standing for long hours in awkward positions that caused the deformity of knock-knees previously spoken of as so common. The growing 'prentice in his working attire was a queer sight. His garb in the shops has been described in prose, and his clothes on Sundays have been pictured in verse. We owe the latter to one who, himself a tailor, has shown how rhymes of the sheerest doggrel have a distinct historical value.
For, with all its ludicrous
literary imbecility, the so called poem in which James Wills contrasted
the Sheffield of
I827 with its former condition, is invaluable as one of the very few contemporary accounts we have of the town,
as seen by a resident and eye-witness, in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century. And this is what he
says: The church-going clothes of our Hallamshire lads, Coats twenty years old, and their hair put in pads, With
strong buckskin breeches, and waistcoats of shag No wonder they put so much money i' th' bag. Striped
pudding-poke nightcaps, worn all the week long, With broad buckles at shoes, both easy and strong. The prose
description of the work-a-day apprentice is in this wise: " Tall and thin, with looks that bespoke hard work and
poor feeding, the apprentice would be encased in leather breeches that had been big enough three or four years
before, but with which he was now on bad terms, they having run in, and he having run out. The consequence
was garments that barely covered the knees, ludicrously tight, and shining with oil and grease. Or if the breeches were of fustian, they were less constraining than leather, and consequently needed a constant hitch to keep
them from slipping down altogether, for gallases (braces) were not. On his head he would wear an old hat crown,
or a brown paper cap; his shirt sleeves doubled Up, would probably reveal a pair of old stocking legs on his
arms. Sometimes, but not always, he enjoyed the luxury of stockings on their proper members, with a pair of old
shoes of the mester's or the dame's, by way of saving his own for Sundays. Add to these things a shirt
unbuttoned at the neck, and a leather apron, and you have a picture of a cutler's 'prentice of former days. The
regular diet of the lads was, in the morning a quarter of ' whoat (oat) cake,' and milk porridge.
To dinner there would be broth and meat from fat mutton or coarse parts of beef. A quarter of oatcake
to drinking' at four o'clock, and supper as breakfast. It was considered the height of extravagance to eat oatcakes
that were not a week old.
Monday was baking day, and a week's batch was; done at a time, not to be begun until the following Monday. Thus, before a batch was finished, they were nearly a fortnight old and quite mouldy. The lads then called them biscuit. It was a Sheffield saying that to let the 'prentices eat new bread would ruin a man with a hundred a year. After supper, the lads had to fetch, on their heads, water for the house supply, sometimes from a considerable distance, to feed the pigs, and so forth- and then, if there were no errands to run, they might play till bedtime." An apprentice of Thomas Renshaw, button-maker at Portobello, absconded in 1755, and the advertisement discharging any person or persons from employing or harbouring him at their peril, describes the dress of the period. " About five feet two inches high, and his hair cut off; he had on a dark coloured kersey cloth coat, with white metal buttons, a blue and white flannel waistcoat, wash-leather breeches, and blue grey yarn stockings." His master cryptically gives this as his character: " That he is full of deceit bar but his faults, then his honesty needs never be disputed."
Another runaway of the same year though as a tailor's apprentice he may perhaps have been dressed with greater eye to effect than a cutler's lad had long dark brown hair and wore " a dark brown coat, with yellow gilt buttons, lined with a dark colour'd tammy; a black waistcoat, the laps lin'd with black damask, drab coloured cloth breeches, with light grey stockings ribbed, with either a yellow or a chocolate coloured silk handkerchief about his neck." This was the sort of duty laid upon a 'prentice lad by his vigilant dame after his long day's work in the shop seemed to have entitled him to some repose: " Thou mun goa an' droive t' hen aat o' t' assnook, an' tak' t' scummer an' fetch some cobblins to t' foire aat o' th' koil- hoil, an' put t' potter i' t' grindle kowk-hoil, an' then thou mun fetch t' raken sleck, then thou mun tak t' ass to t' midden- stead, an' riddle t' ass an' bring t' kowks i' t' basket into t' hause, an' then wesh theesen an' get thee supper, an' then thou may goa an' play thee, the whoile its toime to goa to bed."
In the above category of requirements the dame was merciful in that she did not include one especial duty of apprentices, the fetching of water, for the use of such house- holds as had not wells of their own, from the various public wells. As an extra supply was needed early on Monday morning for wash day, the wells on Sunday nights were thronged with lads and lasses waiting their turn to draw water, and beguiling the time with flirtations. The art of carrying a kit of water poised on the head, which gives such grace to the figures of Eastern women, was, in those days, a necessary accomplishment here; and though the convenience of having water brought into our houses in pipes is inestimable, it is purchased by the loss of some picturesque street scenes, both at the wells, and as strings of young folk walked away, con- tinuing their conversation as if unconscious of bearing any burden. Another function laid upon apprentices, and even upon workmen, was to accompany their masters or mistresses with lanterns when they went out o' nights.
There is a story of an adventure which, though it occurred at a somewhat later period, is illustrative of the perils of the streets. Mr. Josiah Blackwell, a manufacturer living at Low Field, having been out to dinner, was fetched home by his man. The festivities of the occasion had " uplifted " him, and he was dictatorially drunk. He was exceedingly angered by the attendant going in front with the lantern, and peremptorily ordered him to keep his place and walk behind. The consequence was that in the darkness Mr. Blackwell walked straight into the old horse-pond on Sheffield Moor. A former apprentice was accustomed to tell how, in his younger days, he was expected to fetch home old Mrs. Jeeves, the brushmaker's wife, when she had been out to visit her friends, and how, cloaked up and clattering in her pattens, he lighted her through the dark and miserably paved streets. He had a very keen recollection of the dangers of Pincher Croft Lane (Pinstone Street), which, as was customary, had a channel down the middle, with steep sloping sides.
The old form of indenture was both curious and significant. here is one, dated I708, by which the son of a husbandman at Conisbro' was bound for nine years to Joseph Beal, of " Pittsmoor," cutler. The wages of the boy were to be sixteen- pence per annum, and these are among the covenants:- " Fornication he shall not commit nor matrimony contract. Taverns or ale-houses he shall not frequent; at dice, cards, or any unlawful game or games he shall not play, nor absent himself from his said master's service by night or day without ye consent and lieve of his said master; nor do, or assent unto anything whereby his said master may by any means be damnified. But in all things, as a good and faithful apprentice and servant, shall gently and dutifully demean and behave himself during ye said term." The master agrees to chastise the boy " reasonably." Before a lad was bound, he generally went a liking' to his proposed master, and if this led to satisfaction on both sides, he was taken to the Cutlers' Hall, where he was bound apprentice until he had attained the full age of twenty-one, the binding fee being half-a-crown, which was paid by the lad's friends, or the master.
His years of service were no pleasant thing to look forward to, but there was the encouraging prospect of having a good trade in his fingers at the end of the time. That over, he had to take out his mark and freedom before he could begin working as a journeyman with safety. This mark was registered by the Cutlers' Company for a fee of 2/6, with 2d. annually as mark rent. If he neglected paying this for seven years, any other person might take the mark; otherwise it was a piracy to strike a mark without the consent of the owner. Sometimes a mark was let for a sort of royalty say I/- per gross if it were a profitable one. There were instances of the right to a mark in good repute being sold for as much as £150, then regarded as a very large sum.
The " Dames," as we have seen, played a very important part in the social economy, in the days when apprentices boarded with their masters. For to them was left the entire management of the affairs of the house and family, "t' mester" seldom interfering except for the administration of discipline. When the system was dying out, it was a common lament, among lovers of old customs, that there had been no good doings in Sheffield since so many fine mistresses came into fashion, and the good race of Dames was supplanted. Dames, as substantial matrons, were looked up to with great respect. When the 'prentice lad was well treated, he regarded his dame as a mother, and if of the right sort, she acted a motherly part to him. " There were," said a writer long dead, " a great many Dames when I was a boy, and they would have taken offence if anyone had given them the title of mistress, since that word was used then only in its bad meaning. Ladies of higher rank were 'Madams.' These wore hoops of cane precursors of the more modern ' crinolines' near the bottom of their gowns, forty inches or more in diameter, and to gain entrance through a door had to pull their hoops and gowns aslant. There was a wonderful difference in the appearance of the Madams and the Dames. The latter, on working days, wore linsey-woolsey or checked bed-gowns. In these they did their household work, a woollen or blue apron in front, and a plain cap fitting close to the head.
The house of the capable dame was a model of brightness and order. Everything in its proper place, 'clean as a new pin' the pewter and pewter case a credit to her care. The trenchers as spotless, the fireirons, candlesticks, brasses, and coppers as bright as hands could make them. In the evening you would see her daughter and the servant-girl, should one be kept, at a spinning-wheel. All the dame's bed and table linen had been spun thus; each had her task of spinning to accomplish by the end of the week, and the noise was such as would not now be tolerated by the male members of the family. " On Sundays the dame was scrupulously clean and precisely neat; not a pin out of its proper place; her gown-body and sleeves as tight as her skin, the skirt (open in front) displaying an excellent quilted petticoat, three or four thicknesses of calamanca. Nor was she ashamed of a fine Irish linen apron, white as the driven snow. On her head she would have her best mob cap, neatly plaited and tied close under her chin. Her gown came up to her neck, round which she wore a white muslin kerchief. Her hair was turned up in front over a roll an inch and a half broad, and her back hair was wound up close. No flowing ringlets about her face, and nothing to hide a full view of it. Her stockings were of white thread, knitted by herself in intervals of leisure; her shoe heels an inch high, her shoe fronts adorned with a pair of bright buckles. In fine weather out of doors she would wear a short silk cloak, with lace upon the cape and bottom, two inches broad; in wet weather, an oil-case hood and tippet. A pair of good pattens were necessary to keep her out of the dirt; and she took care to hold her petticoats up to the calves of her legs, to prevent any chance of them being ' drabbled.' When umbrellas came into vogue, she wondered how people could have the pride and assurance to walk under them. She wore no preposterous stays that laced behind, but a pair of good " jumps," with three or four buckles and straps in front, which were invariably slackened on the hearthstone, and the stomacher taken out a little time before going to bed. Then was the opportunity for the dame, with garters also taken off her stockings, to unbend. Mester and Dame would have their pipes, upon the hearth, with a quiet talk over family matters. The good dame was noted throughout the neighbourhood of her house for her charitable disposition and the ready help she was quick to give to any in sickness or distress.
Dame Hoult, who lived at the sign of the Parrot for many years, is reputed to have been the last person who went by the old name. And that was some hundred years ago." Mather satirises the changes in fashion, when the old woolsey gowns were no longer fine enough, when wenches began to powder and puff " in the mode of the French," and " to strut in stuff shoes ;" while as to their hats, they were so large as to darken windows and doors as they passed, and to suggest that a round table top or a new tea tray had been utilised, or the sounding-board stolen from Ecclesfield Church, as the ground work to be decked " with ribbons and gauzes." And Wills tells the same story of greater dressing affected both by lads and lasses.
Now-a-days the apprentice
" must be trimmed up from morning till night, a stick in his hand, with
his hat all
awry." The girls are no longer content to wear their bed gowns of '' striped linen, pinn'd over behind; thick shoes
with large buckles, quilted petticoat, and stout Jersey stockings." These have been exchanged for silk dress,
shawl, mantle, and pumps. It is necessary, in endeavouring to recall the old days, to remind ourselves that our
forefathers lacked a good many things which we have come to regard as the necessaries of life. The gulf
separating the off-hand use of the lucifer match from the time when lights had to be obtained by the laborious
striking of flint and steel is simply immense. Pocket handkerchiefs were regarded as extravagant luxuries, their
absence being provided for by a homely process which, if effectual, was not elegant.
The first hackney coach in the town made its appearance in I793; before that, the fair ladies who were not disposed to tramp through the muddy lanes on pattens, with skirts well tucked up, and attended by a lantern, had to charter one of the few sedan chairs which the place boasted. And they had no umbrellas until the century was well advanced- The first inhabitant - it is doubtful whether it was Mr. Samuel Newbould, or Mr. Holy, or Mr. John Greaves, merchant of Fargate, for the honour has been claimed for all of them who, greatly daring, ventured into the streets with an umbrella, was greeted with shouts of derision on the part of scornful passers-by. We should possibly smile if we could see him now, but for another reason, for the umbrella with which Mr. Greaves first astonished Sheffield was of fearful and wonderful construction. It is, or was not long ago, kept as a curiosity by his descendant, Miss Law, of Western Bank. The ribs were jointed in the middle, so that the cover attached to them doubled back; and the upper part of the stick being proportionately- short, the whole, when folded, was about fourteen inches long, though it made up in bulk what it lacked in length. The idea evidently was to construct an umbrella that could be carried in the capacious pockets then in vogue. When it had to be hoisted, there was a jointed stick to fit into the upper part, making the whole of suitable length. When the father of the late Mr. George Hadfield, M.P. (who was warehouseman to Mr. Greaves, and took to wife one who was domestically employed in the family), went off to Howard Street Chapel on a wet Sunday with an umbrella of this kind, his sons were so ashamed of being associated with the scorned novelty that they would not be seen with him, but chose another route. And when William Trickett, Master Cutler in I77I, appeared with an umbrella, his brother Enoch joined in the general derision, with the remark, " See thee, ahr Bill's getten a waukin stick wi' petticots on."
We get a useful glimpse at the customary attire of middle class shopkeepers in the description of the dress of Nathan Andrews, the murdered watchmaker, when his body was found on Loxley Edge. He had on white stockings, short black gaiters, black breeches, waistcoat, and coat; and at first sight the corpse was thought to be that of the parson, who wore a similar dress. The day when any self-respecting citizen would venture to show himself in trousers was far distant. Those garments had, in their turn, like the umbrellas which preceded them, to run the gauntlet of popular disfavour. Mr. Marriott, founder of the firm which became Marriott and Atkinson, was the pioneer in this line. Then, after a visit to London, he revealed himself to his astonished townsmen in trousers, he was greeted with the exclamation ~ "Whoi, lad, thou's getten breeches wi' chimbley poipes on 'em. Where iver did'st get 'em ?" The ridicule was so merciless that Mr. Marriott thought it prudent to put them away in a drawer until more enlightened times dawned. But, one day, when he was at work, some frolicsome friends went to his wife, and, by professing they had " the mester's" authority, got possession of the "breeches with chimney pipes" and pawned them. So when he wanted them for his next visit to London, he had perforce to go in more ancient costume. Our ancestors had, however, something that we can do very well without - wigs. They were made plain for working day wear, with sausage curls over the ears; but bag wigs, with more or less amplitude of tail, were donned for great occasions.
In the middle of the century, the Rev. John Pye, of Nether Chapel, paid a guinea for his wigs, but later, the price was increased, and on occasion he gave as much as two guineas. Citizens with any claims to position, who did not affect wigs, wore their hair long, and powdered, often with a pigtail]. By an Act of Queen Anne, penalties were imposed for the use of powder not made of starch, or with adulterated starch. When, in I795, Pitt, looking round for objects of taxation, put a tax of a guinea a head on all who used hair-powder, Ridgard and Bennet, the stationers in High Street, had an office for granting hair powder certificates. But Pitt, though he raised £200,000 a year by this tax, gave to the practice a blow which, added to the popular feeling against wasting on the hair flour which would be better employed in feeding the starving multitude, led to its gradual disuse and ultimate abandonment. For a time it was a point of honour on the part of those who upheld the Government and its warlike policy, to make hair powder a sign of loyalty. On the part of the Whigs, and especially by the sympathisers with the French Revolution, it was regarded as no less a duty to refuse to powder. Noble- men and gentlemen entered into mutual engagements not to wear their hair tied or powdered, and " crop clubs" were formed, the qualification for membership being the close cutting of the hair. Short hair and the absence of powder thus came to be regarded as the token of Revolutionary sentiments; the "crop ears" retaliating on the powdered ones by dubbing them "guinea pigs." But dearth cured all this, and the dire necessity of cheapening flour made it a patriotic duty, over- riding party animosities, to economise every grain of wheat for the purposes of food. And personal cleanliness was the gainer too, for the grease needed to make the powder stick rendered the hair a nasty, coat-soiling mess.
Mr. Tillotson of High- field, and Dr. Ernest, house surgeon to the Infirmary from 1798 to I84I, are said to have continued the use of hair-powder after all others had abandoned it. Mr. Jobson, one of the founders of the stove-grate works at Roscoe Place, was the last Sheffielder to adhere to the old fashion of wearing his hair in a queue. There was a wide- spread and generally believed local tradition that this particular appendage came to a sensational end, the story being that, as the worthy man sat in St. Philip's Church one Sunday, a military joker, in the pew behind, cut it off. But this was an exaggeration of a milder incident. What really happened was this. Mr. Jobson, conscious of some movement behind him, turned sharply round, and detected an officer of the 3rd Light Dragoons, not really cutting the pigtail, but affecting to do so by moving his first and second fingers as if they were scissors. He said nothing, but the next day he called at the barracks, and had an interview with the commander, Lord Robert Manners. The lively subaltern himself got a good wigging, and had to make an ample apology, accompanied by a donation of £5 to the Infirmary.
There are early references, from I64I downwards, to the provision of pipes and tobacco on various occasions, but chiefly for the commonalty, since, among others, tobacco was used in the form of snuff far more generally than for smoking. The consumption of snuff was so large that silver and plated snuff- box making was a distinct industry. And somehow, Mr. Joseph Wilson, who was associated with Thomas Bolsover, the inventor of silver plating, in button making on Bakers' Hill, got hold of a secret which has shown that the preparation of snuff can be more profitable than the manufacture of the boxes in which it is handed round, so obtaining for Sheffield the pre-eminence kept by the Top Mill to the present day. Mr. Wilson is comprehensively described, in the Directory of I774, as "silversmith, saw maker, tobacco and snuff manufacturer, Highfield, near Sheffield." There was a contemporary firm of Dickenson and Barker, tobacconists and snuff makers, in Fargate.
There were some curious
burial customs. The overseer's accounts for I668 record the receipt of
£2 IOS. 0d. for " burying, Mr. Ratcliffe daughter in lynnen." She
was the daughter- in-law of Mr. Francis Ratcliffe of Sheffield Manor, agent
of the Earl of Arundel, and wife of Henry Ratcliffe, of Holme Hall, near
Rotherham. An Act of I666 (I8 Car. II. c. 4) enacted that for the encouragement
and protection of the woollen manufactures a fine of £5, to be paid
to the poor of the parish, should be levied if any person were buried in
any sort of grave dress not entirely composed of wool. It must not be supposed
that Mr. Ratcliffe got off with payment of half the statutory fine when
his daughter-in-law was buried (28 January, I668-9) in linen, for no doubt
the other moiety went into the pocket of the informer. The Act proving
" ineffectual for lessening the importation of linnen from beyond sea and
encouragement of woollen and paper manufactures in this kingdom," another statute was passed in I677 (30 Car.
II. c. 3) which decreed that no corpse must be buried in any shirt, shift, sheet, or shroud, or mingled with flax,
hemp, silk, hair, gold or silver, or any stuff other than is made of sheep's wool, or be put in any coffin lined with
any material not made of sheep's wool only. Judges at assize and justices at quarter sessions were directed to
give notice of the Act in their charges, and it was ordered to be read in churches on the first Sunday. It was rigorously enforced, and persons in holy orders were required to take an affidavit in every case, from a
relative of the deceased at the time of the interment, showing that the statute had been complied with.
The law was of the same
class as those directed against round hats and covered buttons. Legislation
of this kind was a very old attempt to protect the woollen trade and makers
of woollen caps. In I482 (temp. Henry IV.), a law was passed prohibiting
the fulling and making of caps by machinery; and this statute was revived
in I552 (Edward VI.). But as the people would have felt hats instead of
woollen caps, the cap trade had so much declined that, towards the end
of the reign of Elizabeth, there was further legislation. The use of foreign
material in the manufacture was first prohibited in I566; and this proving
ineffective, in I57I an Act was passed requiring that all
persons above six years of age, with certain exceptions, should, on Sundays and holidays, wear a cap of wool
made in England, under a penalty of 3/4 a day. It was for defiance of this statute that a " great number of persons
" were fined " for wearing hatts and not cappes in Sheffield Church" in I578. The preamble to the Act of Edward
IV. is an interesting instance of the antiquity of the resistance by hand-makers to machinery. It recites that: "
Hats, bonnets, and caps, as well single as double, were wont to be faithfully made, wrought, fulled, and thicked
by men's strength, that is to say, with hands and feet, and thereby the makers of the same have honestly before
this time gained their living, and kept many apprentices, servants, and good houses, till now of late that, by
subtle imagination, to the destruction of the labours and sustenance of many men, such hats, bonnets, and caps
have been fulled and thicked in fulling mills, and in the said mills the said hats and caps be broken, and
deceitfully wrought, and in no wise by the mean of any mill may be faithfully made, to the great damage of our
Sovereign lord the King and of all his subjects, and to the final undoing of such which be the makers of hats,
caps, and bonnets." The penalty imposed on all who offered for sale hats or caps produced by mechanical power was 40/-, an enormously heavy fine then.
The fight against covered
buttons was continued to much later times. The Sheffield people, as large
makers of horn buttons, of many different kinds for common wear, and of
metal and plated buttons for coats and waistcoats and gaiters of better
quality, had a special interest in resisting the introduction of covered
buttons, and were zealous to enforce the laws forbidding their use. There
are records of prosecutions of offenders from I720 to I791. In the latter
year a tailor was convicted in a penalty of forty shillings a dozen for
setting covered buttons on a gentleman's waistcoat, and the wearer in a
like penalty for appearing in the garment so adorned. In I802, the
master and journeymen button makers of the town gave public notice of their intention to lay informations, under the Statute 8th of Queen Anne, against all tailors using, and other persons wearing, garments having buttons
covered with cloth and other stuff, whereby they incurred penalties of £5 and 40s. They allowed four weeks as an opportunity for removing the obnoxious buttons, and during that period there was a very general substitution of
the legal ones; but some who did not conform were proceeded against. The magistrates, however, gave so little
encouragement that the button makers, shirking the expense and odium of enforcing an obsolete statute, let
the matter drop. After that the law, although it remained long unrepealed, fell into dissuetude, and covered
buttons were extensively worn without let or hindrance.
A certain "A. Chalmer, of Darnal," though otherwise unknown to fame, has made us his debtors by leaving quaint records of marriages and funerals which throw a vivid light on the customs of the eighteenth century. He tells how when Mr. Samuel Staniforth, having been married at Bradfield on the I9th July, I722, "being Attercliffe Feast Day," came to Darnall Hall, Mr. and Mrs. Staniforth " kept three tables every day," and they had maid servants, and under maid servants, and man servants. "A. Chalmer" excelled himself in describing the obsequies (May 6, I72I) in the " Upper Meeting place at ye very bottom of ye isle," of young Mr. John Bagshawe, of Hucklow Hall. It was a great event among the Nonconformists, for the deceased was grand-nephew to the "Apostle of the Peak"; his grandmother was one of the Brights, of Whirlow, and his step-grandmother the daughter of an ejected minister. His widowed mother had taken, as her second husband, the Rev. Daniel Clark, minister at Attercliffe and assistant minister at the Upper Chapel; and his sister, who became heiress of the family, was afterwards the wife of Aylmer Riche, of Bullhouse. Mr. John Bagshawe was only twenty years of age when he died. Unfortunately Chalmer does not tell us at what house the sumptuous funeral entertainment, which he thus so quaintly and graphically describes, took place: " They gave gloves and hatbands . . . Then men served first with a glass of sack on a silver hand salver. The ladies were invited downstairs to dinner, and filled up table with gentlemen afterwards. Other gentlemen were invited to dinner. First, cool tankards, a glass of white wine, a glass of red. Corps lay in dining room in an extraordinary good coffin, no Paul over him, very good grave clothes, room hung with 58 black clothes, four large sconces with tall candles on each side ye coffin, and two mourners, one at each end, in black clothes, and mourning hats, and hatbands, and relieved by other two. About 4 o'clock mourners came down out of the chamber over ye hall into withdrawing room, where corps lay, and the minister went out in the room for his band. Then out as follows:- Mr. Clark, his wife as chief mourner, with his cloak on; Mr. Ort on Mrs. Grace (Bagshawe, deceased's sister), Mrs. Hayward on Mrs. Dun (deceased's mother was a Miss Dunne, of Attercliffe), Mr. De la Rose on Mrs. Jonathan Clark, Mr. Blyth on Mrs. Sheffield, on Mrs. Mason. He was carried in a hearse drawn by pair of their own mares first, then follows mourning coach with Mrs. Clark, Mrs. Dun, Mrs. Grace (Bagshawe), and Mrs. Sheffield; Mr. Clark, and his sister Sarah on horseback, somebody rode in her coach fore- most the corps. Then mourning coach 4 horses, then Sheriff's (Mr. Richard Bagshawe, of Castleton, and The Oaks, 4 horses, his lady and son in it; Mr. Somebody's large coach; Mr. Ofmey (of Norton) on horseback.
Grace Bagshawe was married to Mr. Riche, by Mr. Harris, minister of Attercliffe Chapel, December 4, 1722, the constables and churchwardens being present, as Chalmer records, to keep good order. Wadsworth preached a funeral oration for him from the xi. of Heb. last close, 4th verse, ' He being dead yet liveth.' All had gloves and dined. Ordinary sort were in kitchen, and had a separate dinner in low parlour, but good beef and veal and lamb. Gentleman's table there were ham and tongues, piddgeon pies, roast pig, lamb, fowls. Wine there plenty, sack, and, to put into close mourning, fine kickshawes in the middle of the table; and on Sunday, 11th May, Mr. Blyth preached another funeral sermon for Mr. Bagshaw. Text was in Gen. 37th, 30 verse, last clause, 'The child is not, and I, whither shall I go ?' Pulpit and seat being hung with black. 6 gentlewomen and gentlemen mourners." The mother of the gentleman thus elaborately interred, Mrs. Clark, "my good friend and pious gentlewoman," as Chalmer calls her, died February 3rd, I722-3. " She was buried the Thursday following at Upper Meeting place, in a new vault digged on purpose for her on the left hand meeting place as one goes into the south door, i.e., ye door towards Hossopfield (Alsop Fields), her son Mr. Bagshaw up and set up in ye same vault. Bearers of ye pole were Mr. Wood, Mr. Trout. At feet ye first Mr. De la Rose and Mr. Smith, then Mr. Wadsworth and Mr. Blythe, at head and last, Mr. Heywood and Mr. Ash, all Independent and Presbyterian ministers. She was carried in an hearse made by Mr. Hall, drawn by their own mares, then their own coach drawn by Mr. Offley's 4 horses, with Mrs. Dun, Mrs. Sheffield, Mrs. Grace Rich, Mrs. Mason, and Mrs. Sarah Clark, Mr. Clarke, as chief mourner in his black cloak, and Mr. Rich in his, on horseback. Mr. Bagshaw's coach only carried Mr. Bagshaw and Mr. Offley. Mr. Wadsworth spake at the funeral, 7 Eccle., and last part of Ist verse. Mr. Blyth preached another at Attercliffe meeting in afternoon Sunday following, upon Psalm 27, from 10 verse to the end. Vault cost £8 I8s, 6d." At the burial (June 23rd, I723-4) of " that good Christian and orthodox Divine," Mr. De la Rose, there was " a general mourning through his church. Jno. Smith bought himself mourning, and if the rest of his church had been in as good a capacity as Jno. Smith, his church had all of it been in sable. Mr. Blythe read a dull funeral oration. I have ventured to make a few alterations in Mr. Chalmer's punctuation, by way of rendering his account somewhat clearer; but these phrases I cannot pretend to explain.
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