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1. Gentlemen
2. Yeomen
3. Husbandmen
4. Scythemakers
5. Cutlers
6. Blacksmiths, Smelters and Leadworkers
7. Nailers
8. Non-Metalworking Craftsmen
9. Labourers
10. Male Servants
11. Paupers
12. Women
13. Men whose occupations were not recorded

Chapter III

Riches and Poverty: Occupation, Status and Standard of Living in Elizabethan Norton

This chapter provides a "blow-by-blow" account of what the registers, wills and inventories have to tell us about the different occupational groupings which together made up Norton's population. The detail into which it goes may perhaps be found a little tedious by some - but for the sake of making information available to family historians, it has not been edited. It is necessary to read the previous chapter for an explanation of the "Top 50 names" yardstick, which is used to distinguish between established local families, and likely newcomers to the parish.

1. Gentlemen

Who were Norton's gentlemen?

By far the largest landowners in Norton at the beginning of the sixteenth century were the monks of Beauchief Abbey: most of the parish was under their control. This meant that after the Dissolution of the Monasteries in the late 1530s, the Crown had large estates to dispose of in Norton, and as a result of this process a substantial number of families who had acquired the status of gentlemen were to be found in the area. Some of these were branches of families already firmly rooted in the locality - families who were able to consolidate their standing through the purchase of monastic lands. 11 of the 40 gentlemen who appear in Norton's registers during this period came from three of its five largest family networks - 4 Bullockes, 4 Parkers, and 3 Blythes. But many of Norton's gentlemen appear to have been newcomers: 26 of the 40 gentlemen's surnames do not appear in the "top 50".

Five of the 40 quite probably never lived in Norton: two appeared in the registers only when they married, and another was Francis Bray, gentleman of Eyam, who in 1611 was "killed at Bradway, buried at Norton after an inquest". A further two outsiders number amongst those gentlemen who fathered illegitimate children born to Norton women: we will return to them in the following chapter. But otherwise, we can pin down particular gentlemen to specific localities in the Norton area.

Haslebarrow was the address given for a number of gentlemen families during this period: the Selioke family in the 1560s and 1570s, and the Fretchviles - a family with roots in Staveley - in the first decade of the seventeenth century. In 1593 a gentleman by the name of Civilli Arthington was described as living at Haslebarrow, and Thomas Beverley, gent. three years later. It would take more research to establish whether these families followed one another in such rapid succession on the same estate, or whether the place-name of Haslebarrow encompassed any other substantial houses in the vicinity. At Haslebarrow today, the magnificent Elizabethan gateway still stands at the entrance to the farmyard, a reminder of past glories.

At Himsworth gentlemen from four different families appeared in the registers during this period, and at Bradway there were two. Beauchief itself was home to the Strelley family, three of whom appear in the registers with the description of gentleman between 1590 and 1610. It was Nicholas Strelley who had purchased the main estate of Beauchief Abbey, including the abbey site itself, after the Dissolution: at the time they were lords of Ecclesall Manor.(1) Another of the Beauchief gentry appearing in the registers, Dionysius Berisforde, had married into the Strelley family; a third gentleman of Beauchief, one Walter Whalley, appeared only at his burial in 1587.

Their surnames suggest that none of these Beauchief families had their roots in the parish: a distinct contrast with the cluster of gentlemen described as living in Grennell. Sorting the parish registers by address indicates that Grennell had the largest concentration of population in Elizabethan Norton, and nineteenth-century maps show that it was the settlement with the clearest open-field pattern in the parish. In the light of this evidence for a long-established village community, it is not surprising to find that four of the five gentlemen whose address was given as Grennell, belonged to the "top 50" Norton families. These were Jerome Blythe, James Bullocke, Anthony Kirke, and George More: all came from families with branches well-established in the ranks of the local yeomanry by the beginning of the Elizabethan period. Three other gentlemen from the Bullocke family appearing in the registers were very probably Grennell residents too, since there was a very definite concentration of Bullockes here: but the registers do not make it clear whether all the Bullocke gentlemen recorded in this period were members of a single branch of the family.

James Bullocke provides the clearest example of this consolidation of status from one generation to the next. His father (also a James Bullocke of Grennell, who died in 1598) was a yeoman; but John, the brother of James senior, had acquired lands in Darley, and moved into the ranks of the gentry. Clearly, then, James the younger came from a family which was already moving up in the world. As with many other Norton gentry, James the younger had allied himself through marriage with another high-ranking local family: widowed while still in his early 20s, his second wife was Anna, daughter of Rowland Morewood, gent, from Himsworth. There can be little doubt that it was this James Bullocke who was responsible for the sumptuous building (or perhaps rebuilding) of Grennell Hall in the years around 1620 - fortunately the interior was photographed before its demolition in 1964. "The Bullock coat of arms was proudly set in the elaborate woodcarving of the fireplace surround and the family crest in the decorative plasterwork of the ceiling"(2) - clear symbols of the prestige attached to the acquisition of gentleman status.

There are wills and inventories proved at Lichfield for 10 Norton men described as "gentlemen" or "esquires" during this period: a surprisingly low number, given the level of wealth which went hand- in-hand with gentleman status. But 7 of these 10 were for gentlemen who were members of Norton's "top 50" families - it is the "incoming" gentry who are under-represented in this collection of documents. The reason for this is very probably that they continued to hold family property in their place of origin, in addition to their newly- purchased Norton estates: in cases where the deceased had property which fell under the jurisdiction of more than one diocese, it was common practice for wills and inventories to be proved at Canterbury. Whether or not searches through the Canterbury archives would prove this point, it remains the case that the most accessible sources draw us towards the gentry with local roots, and have a good deal less to tell us about the considerably larger number of gentlemen who were newcomers to the area.

Still more evidence emerges from wills and inventories of upward mobility amongst the most substantial members of the local yeomanry: two men classified as gentlemen in these documents had never been described as such in the registers, and had clearly elevated themselves from the yeoman ranks. One of these was Philip Gill of Lightwood, who died in 1630: at the baptisms of his 6 children between 1599 and 1610, he had been consistently described as a yeoman. By the beginning of the seventeenth century, the Gills had established themselves as one of Norton's most solid yeoman families: all 6 Gills for whom occupations were given in the registers, were yeomen, with family branches established at Norton, Lightwood and Haslehurst. John Urton als Steven, also of Lightwood and buried in 1645, came from a similar family: 6 of the 8 Urtons for whom occupations were given were yeomen, living at Lightwood, Himsworth and Herdings. John Urton's will tells us that he had purchased lands from Anthony Morewood, gentleman of Himsworth; and we know from Philip Gill's will that he had acquired tithe rights from John Bullocke esq. of Norton. Other Norton wills add to the impression of a high level of movement on the local land and property market in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries: a favourable climate for the local yeoman who was intent upon betterment.

The standard of living of Norton gentlemen

All the gentlemen's wills and inventories point to a high level of wealth and comfort. The six inventories for Norton gentlemen dating from this period give total values for their moveable property of between 250 and 390; in the four cases where only a will has survived, these suggest a similar degree of prosperity.

The gentlemen's homes appearing in Norton inventories all had an extensive range of rooms. These always included a great variety of service rooms - separate butteries, brewhouses, dairies, wash-houses and so forth. John Parker of Himsworth, who died in 1607, had both a gallery and a study; his home also boasted a clock house with clock and bells. In addition to the servants' quarters, the inventories always show at least four good bedrooms: these were furnished with feather beds, lavishly equipped with curtains and vallances.

The quality and quantity of the bedding is perhaps the most telling indicator of wealth and social status that wills and inventories provide. In the "Great Chamber" of John Parker of Himsworth, the maple bedstead was topped with "one mattris one fetherbedd one boulster two pillowes two ruggs one counterpane of arris worke, five taffatie curtaynes of whyt & yellow one vallans wrought with divers collers and three yron curtayne rodds." This one bed was estimated to be worth 7 - more than the total value of all the household goods of a relatively well-off Norton husbandman. A kinsman who was buried in 1615, John Parker of Lees Hall, had a still more luxurious bed in his "New Parlour". Valued at 12, it was embroidered with velvet and fringed with silk; its curtains were of green cloth and it came complete with "gilded knobs". Another four of this John Parker's beds were each valued at a similar sum.

All the Norton gentlemen who left wills or inventories had a good deal of silverware; a generous range of cooking vessels and eating equipment; an abundant supply of linen; carpets; and glassware. They usually possessed some musical instruments or a collection of books - two of them were also the owners of a map. Taken in their entirety, the household goods of John Parker of Lees Hall were worth well over 200 - more than half the total value of all his moveable property. At his death in 1629, Thomas Stringer of Himsworth had much the same proportion of his wealth represented by household goods: around 160 out of a total 308. In the case of Philip Gill, household goods accounted for approximately 130 out of the 345 at which his property was appraised. The other inventories give a very similar impression.

Sources of gentlemen's wealth

What was the source of Norton gentlemen's wealth? At least five of the six gentlemen for whom inventories are available were farming on a large scale. Teams of oxen (six was the usual number) figured strongly in their agricultural stock: it seems evident from looking at the full range of Norton inventories that possession of oxen was a key feature which distinguished "farming for cash profit" from "self sufficiency farming". The John Parker of Lees Hall who died in 1615 had agricultural stock worth around 100 in all, and so did Thomas Stringer of Himsworth, who died in 1624. In the case of George More of Grennell, buried in 1623, agricultural stock accounted for about 80 of the total 253 at which his moveable goods were appraised. And the goods of Philip Gill, valued at 345 in all, included over 190 worth of farming stock.

Compared with the husbandmen and many of the yeomen for whom inventories survive, these represent very substantial agricultural holdings indeed. But farming of his own estates was by no means the only source of income for the Elizabethan and early Stuart gentleman: "unearned income" from land rents, tithes, manorial dues, leasing of mineral rights, also figured strongly. These sources of wealth are not usually obvious from inventories, but they occasionally become apparent in wills. This is true for John Parker of Lees Hall: when he died in 1615 he left his wife Mary various parcels of tenanted land, much of it in the area of Cliffield, together with a water wheel in the tenure of Richard Cowley (a cutler), and a scythewheel rented by William Barnes. These were very probably both at New Mills, in the area of Smithy Wood. "Profits of the Mill" were also mentioned - almost certainly, this referred to the corn mill at Heeley. The burial registers provide another, more indirect piece of evidence relating to the Parker family's sources of income: in 1596 Andrew Barker, "labourer in the mine of John Parker senior, gent" was "killed by a fall of coal which he was working". The senior "John Parker gent" at this time was the Himsworth branch of the family; but later coal mines are known to have existed close to Lees Hall, and it is very probable that these Parkers also had mining interests.

Evidence would need to be pieced together from a far wider variety of sources in order to gain a clear picture of how the Norton gentry made their money. And in particular, we are left with the question of whether those gentlemen who were (in relative terms) "newcomers to Norton" in the Elizabethan period - the Strelleys, the Seliokes, and the Fretcheviles for instance - functioned within the Norton economy in anything like the same way as those who came from long-established local families.

2. Yeomen

Who were Norton's yeomen?

The definition of a "yeoman" is a little vague, but it seems as if the main qualification for yeoman status was the possession of land - either freehold, or on such a long lease that it was to all intents and purposes equivalent to freehold. A number of early seventeenth century Norton yeomen's wills refer to 800-year leases with "700 and odd" years yet to come - presumably these apply to Beauchief Abbey lands which came onto the market after the Dissolution of the Monasteries. Possibly these lands were bought from the Crown in the first instance by families of gentleman status, who then profited by selling off long leases on parts of what they had acquired.

The yeomanry were the largest occupational grouping in Norton during this period, with nearly one in five of the adult men recorded falling into this category at some point in their lives. Unlike the gentlemen - where "newcomers" clearly outnumbered the established Norton families - the "top 50 names" yardstick indicates that the vast majority of Norton yeomen had strong local roots.

Out of the 90 appearing as yeomen in the registers, just four were "outsiders" entering the picture only because they married Norton women. (One from Hope, one from Silkstone, one from Blythe, and one from just over the parish border at Holt House.) Of the remaining 86, 70 - over 80% - had surnames from the "top 50". The 37 inventories for Norton yeomen show much the same ratio (31 had surnames falling into the "top 50").

The largest clustering of yeomanry was in the Grennell area: this was the address given in the registers for 17 yeomen (including three Cammes, two Kirkes, three Mores, two Bullockes, and two Bates). Other communities with a substantial yeoman presence were Little Norton, with nine yeomen recorded, including three Parkers, three Rollinsons, and two Mawers; and Woodseats. Amongst the eight yeomen entered here were two Allens and four Bartens: the Bartens emerge from the "Top 50" ranking as Norton's third largest family network, and they were very clearly concentrated at Woodseats.

At Lightwood there were eight yeomen recorded including four Gills and three Urtons; at Norton Lees the Blythes were quite evidently the dominant family, accounting for four of the nine yeomen recorded there. Yeoman families were also to be found at Jordanthorpe (five yeomen recorded, including three Bates); Himsworth (five, including two Urtons); Bradway (4, including two Owtrems); and Norton (four, including two Gills). Other yeoman households were scattered over the parish - they appear in the registers at Mackerhay, Beauchief, Bolehill, Weetlands, Herdings, Okes and Smithies.

Because of the extent to which Norton's yeomen had their roots in the area, the registers enable us to build up a picture of the family networks from which they came in terms of the occupational status of their different members. 71 of Norton's yeomen can be put into a wider family context from the combined registers, and Table 4 summarises what this shows. As in Table 2, nobody is recorded here under more than one occupational category.

Table 4: Occupational spread of Norton family networks which included yeomen

Family Name Occupation No. Notes: all occasions where yeomen were also entered in registers under different occupations.
ALLEN YEOMAN 2 1 scyseller, one scysm in earlier entries
ATKIN YEOMAN 1 weaver in earlier entries
  WEAVER 1 father of above weaver/yeoman Atkin
BARTEN YEOMAN 6 3 earlier craftsmen, 1 earlier husb,
2 yeomen for whom 1 entry only each
  NAILER 3  
BATE YEOMAN 6 1 scythefinisher in earlier entry
  NAILER 1  
  COOPER 1  
  MASON 1  
BULLOCKE YEOMAN 2 1 later gentleman
  GENTLEMAN 2 plus the one under yeoman here
  SLATER 3  
  PAUPER 1  
CAMME YEOMAN 3 1 also described as husbandman
  HUSBANDMAN 1 also described as ironsmith
  LABOURER ETC 2 both have mixed occs
EYRE YEOMAN 1 later entries desc. as husbandman
  CUTLER 1  
HOLLAND YEOMAN 1 also descr. as husb & scythesm.
  TAILOR 1  
  WEAVER 1  
  CUTLER 1  
KIRKE YEOMAN 3 1 also gent, 1 also husb & salter
  WEAVER 1  
  SLATER 1  
MAWER/MORE YEOMAN 6 1 also miller & husb., 2 also husb
PARKER YEOMAN 6 1 later scythesmith/striker
  JOINER 1  
POYNTON YEOMAN 3 1 also husb, 1 also Keeper of Beasts
  CUTLER 1  


1. There were 15 other yeomen living in Norton during this period: in each of these cases they were the only adult man with that surname whose occupation was recorded.

2. The table includes only yeomen listed as such in the parish register, and not those described as yeomen only in wills or inventories.

The table shows a good deal of variety in the wider family backgrounds of Norton's yeomen. In the first place, there were family networks which were notable by virtue of the fact that no adult men were ever recorded below yeoman rank. 21 of the 71 yeomen for whom family networks can be constructed came from this background: the seven Blythe yeomen, the six Gills, four Rollinsons, and four Mores. It appears from the registers that the seven Blythe yeomen came from four branches of the family: one at Lees, and others at Norton, Woodseats, and Mackerhay. The Gill yeomen came from three separate branches, at Lightwood, Hazlehurst, and Norton; the Rollinsons from two, one at Herdings and the other at Little Norton. In the case of the Mores, one yeoman branch lived at Dore, officially outside the parish boundaries, and there appear to have been two yeoman branches at Grennell.

Secondly, there were those family networks which were distinctly "yeoman-dominated", but where a minority were of lower ranks. Another 21 yeomen (Urtons, Parkers, Bates and Poyntons) could be said to fall into this category. The Bate family, with six yeomen from branches at Mackerhay, Jordanthorpe, and Grennell, included three humbler members employed as a striker, a nailer, and husbandman; this is one of the numerous cases where it is impossible to establish how closely lower-ranking family members were related to the yeoman branches. In the case of the Urton als Steven family(3), there were six members whose occupation was recorded as yeoman, from three branches at Herdings, Himsworth, and Lightwood. It is tempting to regard the other two Urton men - Thomas, a labourer, and Richard, who died a pauper in 1590, as the "bad eggs" of the family; but again, the registers give no clues as to how closely related they were. As far as Richard is concerned, it seems very probable that one of the most pitiful entries in the burial registers, dated August 1565, had something to do with him. "Three infant reputed children of Richard Urton, als Steven, born at one birth": no other Richard Urton appears in the registers as a possible contestant for this putative fatherhood.

Given that the Parkers were one of the largest family networks in Norton at this time, and were recorded in the area with a scythesmith amongst their number by the fifteenth century, it is perhaps surprising that its members were concentrated as heavily as they were in the ranks of the yeomanry and gentry. There were six Parker yeomen as well as four gentlemen: the different yeoman branches are a little difficult to disentangle, but there was certainly one at Little Norton, another at Okes, and perhaps a third at Weetlands. The three Parker men below yeoman rank were a husbandman, a joiner, and a wheelwright; two of these, Edward the joiner and Jerome the husbandman, were sons of John Parker of Okes, yeoman, who died in 1576. Jerome inherited the farm at Okes; as we shall see, it is clear from his father's inventory that it amounted to very little, and it is perhaps not surprising that he was described in the registers simply as a husbandman. The Okes branch of the Parker family seem to have been the "poor relations" - the working life of another family member, a John Parker from Okes who moved to Woodseats soon after his marriage in 1604, adds to this impression. In 1607 he was described as a yeoman, but in 1609 he was recorded as a scythesmith. By the following year he was a mere striker, which was little more than a semi-skilled labourer: and this was still how he was classified in 1612, the last occasion when his occupation was entered in the registers before his death.

Norton's five largest family networks included the Parkers, Bullockes, Bartens and Blythes: while the Parkers and Blythes were heavily concentrated in the upper social ranks, the Bullockes and Bartens were more widely distributed. Table 4 shows that families like this with branches spread broadly over the occupational spectrum, produced a significant proportion of Norton's yeomen. Four members of the Bullocke family whose occupations were given in the register were yeomen or gentlemen, while ten belonged to the humbler classes: strikers, scythesmiths, slaters and wallers, a worker in leather, a labourer, and a pauper. Six of the Bartens achieved yeoman status, while the other eight with known occupations included three nailers, a carpenter, a shoemaker, a husbandman, a surgeon, and a striker. Unlike the Bullockes, though, no Barten ever became a gentleman.

Rich yeomen, poor yeomen

The contrast in wealth between the richest and the poorest members of the yeomanry is one of the clearest points to emerge from the inventories they left behind. Wills and inventories have been looked at, in most cases a good deal more briefly than they deserve, from 31 of the 37 Norton yeomen for whom they were left during this period. In terms of the value of goods itemised in his inventory, the wealthiest of these yeomen was William Blythe of Norton Lees (buried 1631/2), one of the family whose home is now known as the Bishops House.(4)

Blythe's goods were valued in his inventory at 641. This level of prosperity was tempered to some extent by his outward debts, which exceeded those owing to him by around 220; but nonetheless the inventory suggests a level of wealth on a par with the gentlemen of the parish. His farming stock was comparable to that of a gentleman, with a total value of between 225 and 250. But what set Blythe apart from the "average" yeoman to a far greater extent, was his family's entrepreneurial activity in the local scythemaking industry. Blythe's investment in the scythe trade accounted for a similar sum to his farming stock: he had a stock of scythes worth 166, and iron and steel worth nearly 47. Blythe was also the owner of smithy gear at the smithies of George Roper and William Kent, and at Heeley Wheel which, together with Heeley Mill, he held on lease. (The inventory itemised corn-milling equipment at Heeley Mill, and at the "mill in East Hall Meadow": there is a strong possibility that this last was the mysterious "Blythe Wheel" on the Meersbrook, which appears on a Fairbank map and in the parish registers during the early eighteenth century.(5))

With this degree of investment in farming and the scythe-trade, it might be expected that William Blythe's lifestyle would be on a level with Norton's leading gentry. Comparing William Blythe with John Parker, Gentleman of Lees Hall (1615) the total value of goods listed in their inventories was much the same, once William Blythe's debts are taken into account. But on closer inspection the gulf is considerable. John Parker's house was a great deal larger, and while his household goods were valued at over 200, under 80 of Blythe's total wealth was represented by household goods. There were carpets and curtains in William Blythe's home, but no mention of any books or musical instruments. The beds and bedding were very adequate, but with nothing splendid about them. A description of the goods in Blythe's "Chamber over the House" suggests the combination of sleeping space and storage space which was a regular feature of yeomen's homes:

A seeled bedd 15s
A table with a frame, and a buffett stoole 6s 8d
A trindle bedd and 2 chists 20s
A kimnell, a kneadtrough, 2 boxes, 2 shelves, 2 basketts & a chair 20s
Two coverletts, a paire of blanketts, a paire of sheets, a fether bedd, a bolster, and a pillowe 3 3s 4d
Certeine wooll 16s
Certeine line, & yarne 35s
A dagger, 2 temses (and other small items) 5s
Certeine salt flesh 10 0s
Certeine tallowe & greace 10s

There were only two rooms in the house offering superior sleeping accommodation to this, while John Parker had six or seven luxurious bedrooms at Lees Hall.

William Bate, yeoman of Jordanthorpe (buried 1617) provides a similar example. The total value of goods listed in his inventory was 410 - this was another occasion when the figure was higher than the total given for any of Norton's gentlemen. The scale of William Bate's farming activities was exceptional. Inventories suggest that somebody farming on a substantial scale for "cash profit" - whether yeoman or gentleman - would normally own 6-8 oxen. William Blythe had only 8; but William Bate owned 17, and these alone were worth a total of 87.

Bate was farming lands at Greenhill, as well as Jordanthorpe: it was not uncommon for Norton's yeomen to hold lands in more than one place. Robert Rollinson, who died in 1648, had a farm as far away as Eyam as well the farm where he lived at Herdings. Inventories show that yeomen would sometimes extend the size of their farms by renting lands on shorter-term leases in addition to their permanent holdings, the value of which was never included in these documents. William Blythe's inventory included a lease valued at 40 for lands rented from John Parker at Lees Hall; William Bate's inventory included land leases worth 48. In total, Bates' farm stock, corn supplies, and land leases were worth around 300; his apparel and the money in his purse accounted for 38 of his remaining property, and his household goods were worth around 70.

In fact - as with most yeomen and husbandmen - it is hard to disentangle William Bates' household goods from his farm stock: the parlour and the chamber over the parlour were the only two rooms not used for the storage of agricultural equipment. Both of these had feather beds and bedding: the parlour - which must have been where William Bate entertained his visitors - also had a table, chairs and cushions, brasses, candlesticks; and a chamber pot. In the three other chambers within the main body of the house, beds shared space with wool, oatmeal, pitchforks, wheat, salt flesh, sickles, malt, ironware and sacks. In the 'house', as the everyday, general-purpose living room was usually known, the family's pewter dishes, candlesticks, and two silver spoons (the only "non-essential" luxury) were listed alongside "13 iron teames, 7 paires of buckles, and 2 millstone hookes of iron". ('Teames' were harness chains for oxen or horses.)

The basic theme persists throughout all the Norton yeomen's wills and inventories, however substantial they were by the standards of the day. With the scythe stocks of the Norton Lees Blythes forming a notable exception, by far the largest part of the yeomen's wealth consisted of their farming stock. Out of those leaving inventories, perhaps two-thirds achieved a standard of living where the basic necessities were provided for with a good measure of security; but there was little in the way of luxury. The home existed as the centre of a yeoman's working life; in contrast many, perhaps most, gentlemen's homes were geared towards providing an appropriate environment for cultural and social activities.

Norton's most substantial yeomen were farming on a scale which matched, and sometimes exceeded, the agricultural activities of the gentry. But a high proportion of a gentleman's income came from the renting out of lands and property rights which, being "immovable" goods, were not included in inventories. It was this "unearned" income which gave the gentleman both the money to buy luxuries, and the leisure time to enjoy them.

As far as the yeoman was concerned, it seems clear from wills and inventories that a good night's sleep was the greatest comfort to which he and his family would aspire. Even though they lacked the trimmings which might be found in a gentleman's chamber, beds and bedding were usually the most valuable items amongst a yeoman's household goods, and figured prominently in their wills. When yet another John Parker, yeoman of Little Norton, died in 1638, he carefully bequeathed to his wife "All her apparel, her chist, my best bedstocke with boulster pillows" with the accompanying coverings, featherbed, chaffbed, curtains, vallance, "and all other necessary furniture fitt and meete for a sufficyent Bedd". "The widowes Bedd & furniture", as the appraisers of his inventory described it, was in the parlour, and was valued at 6-13-4. Henry Mawer, also a yeoman of Little Norton, who died in January 1631, willed his granddaughter Dorothy Barnes a bedstead, coverlet and featherbed worth 5 in all. (Dorothy was about to marry when Henry Mawer died: the wedding took place just ten days after his burial. But the newly-weds may have had to wait some time longer for such a comfortable resting-place - the will had laid down that Henry's widow Marjorie was to have the use of the bed until her death.)

William Bate and William Blythe were both able to build on family wealth accumulated by earlier generations: William Blythe senior, buried in 1620, had considerable investments in metalworking, and William Bate's father James had already established a very substantial agricultural holding in Jordanthorpe - he left goods valued at 247, including 12 oxen, when he died early in 1609. (William Bate was 40 by then; the registers show that it had not been necessary for him to wait until his father died before he could establish himself with his own family. He had married when he was 20, by which time he was already being described as a yeoman.)

In contrast, John Green had started married life as a labourer at Cliffield Yate, and continued as such for ten years or so, during which time he had five children baptised or buried. By 1612, he must have leased some land in the vicinity, and was described as a husbandman. No more was said of him in the registers until his burial was recorded in 1635, and then no occupation was entered. But his will and inventory described him quite clearly as a yeoman - the will also leaves us in no doubt that this was one and the same John Green. By then he had moved to Himsworth, where, the will informs us, he had purchased some land from one of the John Parkers; leased some more ground; and "lately builded" a house: three rooms up and three rooms down, as the inventory makes clear. His goods were valued at 150: 10 for his "purse and apparel"; 25 for leases; around 95 for farm stock, and under 20 for items in the house. The household goods listed included supplies of corn, floorboards, sickles and sacks. Despite the value of his agricultural stock and his elevation to the yeomanry, John Green's home life remained so frugal that he possessed nothing better to sleep on than chaff beds.

There were plenty of yeomen a good deal worse off than John Green, though. In some cases it is clear that they were old men when they died, so they may well have had no dependents, or they may have made arrangements with family members to pass on their property before they died. When Christopher Chapman died in 1611 he left goods valued at under 50: this would have meant a struggling family left behind him if he had been a young man, but in fact the registers inform us that that he was "aged about 100". But again, bedding can be a pointer to wealth or poverty, whatever the age of the deceased. It is not possible to establish how old John Barten, yeoman of Woodseats was when he died in 1572, leaving goods appraised at 3 4s 3d; but the total worth of his purse and apparel was just 15s, and the combined value of all the bedding he possessed was 13s 4d.

Farming required a good deal of capital to invest, and it does not appear from the Norton inventories that rewards, in terms of living standards, were particularly high. It seems possible that metalworking could bring a better cash return, for a considerably lower investment; although perhaps, for those directly engaged in production rather than taking an entrepreneurial role, it would mean unpleasanter working conditions and less security. None of Norton's yeomen came close to matching the Blythes' involvement in the scythe trade, but their wills and inventories do show that some others had interests in metalworking, as producers and not just as middlemen. Edward Hudson of Sickhouse (buried 1620) left goods worth nearly 200; his house had just four rooms with an offshot, and his farm stock accounted, as usual, for most of his wealth. But the outhouses included a smithy, where there were bellows, stithy, tongs and other smithy gear - worth in all 6. Possibly, it was the additional cash income from this source which had enabled Edward Hudson to purchase the dictionary, bible, psaltery and other books which were to be found in his parlour - unusual possessions for a yeoman at this time; and their presence may connect in turn to the achievements of his son Thomas who was buried in 1608: "A youth of zeal, goodness, and humanity, and one who was possessed of no common talent for writing beautifully".

In the case of Anthony Poynton, yeoman of Grennell who died in 1628, metalworking interests only become apparent from his inventory when the list of his debtors is studied: "John Raworth for 3 Foothers of Lead - 24". (A "foother" was just under a ton.)

Apart from the Blythes, it is the Urton als Steven yeomen whose metalworking connections appear most clearly from their wills and inventories. These were left between 1560 and 1650 for five yeomen from the family; I examined four of these, and three suggested metalworking interests. The will of Henry Urton from Lightwood, who died in 1591, suggests that he was the owner of a smithy in the occupation of John Barnes; and he willed his son James "all such smithy geare as belongeth to one hearth". However, his inventory makes no mention of metalworking stock. Two years later, John Urton Senior of Lightwood (- possibly Henry's brother -) died. His heir Anthony inherited all his farming stock, while Anthony's younger brother Edward, aged 12 at the time, was left 10, bellows, "and all the smithie geare belonginge to one harthe"; these were to be handed over when he reached the age of 20.

The total value of the goods itemised in John Urton's inventory was 136; around 100 of this was accounted for by agricultural stock, and the metalworking stock listed was worth just 4 10s, so it does not appear from the evidence that John Urton's involvement in metalworking was particularly great. He lived at Lightwood, but the smithy gear was "At his house called the Heerdings", some distance away; and it is not possible to establish whether or not Edward actually used his smithy gear to earn his living. If he did ever work as a smith, he was never described as such - from the first time that he appeared as a father in the baptism registers, he was always entered as a yeoman.

But it is quite possible that some members of Norton's yeoman families worked as craftsmen in their youth, and only married when they were in a position to establish themselves as yeoman farmers. Any such period in their working lives would thus never appear in the registers (unless they died a particularly untimely death), which places a clear limitation on any occupational analysis based on this source. It is also possible that members of well-established yeoman families were occasionally considered to be yeomen even if they were not actually in possession of a farm. George Urton of Lightwood, buried in 1623, may well be an example of this. It seems fairly clear from the combined evidence of the registers and his will that he was the third son of John Urton junior of Lightwood - younger brother of the Anthony and Edward who we have already met. George left a wife and infant children when he died at the age of 36; although his occupation went unrecorded in the registers, he was described on his inventory as a yeoman. However, no farming stock was included in his inventory, and out of goods valued at a total of 93, 80 was accounted for by "iron steele and sithes in his stock together with debts oweing unto the said George".

The parish registers provide a little additional evidence of yeomen's involvement in occupations other than farming: seven men who were described as yeomen in the registers, were recorded in earlier entries as employed in non-agricultural crafts or trades. One of these was Philip Bate junior, of Grennell, who seems to be a fairly clear example of a yeoman's oldest son who worked in a craft trade - as a scythefinisher - and then joined the ranks of the yeomanry once his father had died. Three others were members of the Barten family. One of them, Anthony, was a sheather when he married in 1611, a husbandman by the following year, and a yeoman by 1614. Thomas Barten was a tanner at Woodseats when, in 1581, he first appeared as a father in the baptism registers. By 1589 he had moved to Norton Lees; he was still described as a tanner, but by the time of his death 30 years later, he was known as a yeoman. Thomas's son Godfrey, also of Lees, was classified as a yeoman in the registers on three occasions between 1611 and 1619 - this was while his father was still alive. But there must have been some confusion about his status: the first time Godfrey had a child baptised, in 1610, he had been described as a tanner. Just two days later, the new baby was buried; and on this occasion Godfrey was entered as a yeoman.

Richard Atkin provides a clear example of a yeoman whose occupational roots were in a craft trade. His father Godfrey was a weaver, and Richard, his oldest son, followed him into the trade. By 1601 Richard was 26, and had three children baptised; on these occasions he was always entered in the registers as a weaver. Over the following 18 years, he continued to appear regularly in the baptism records - he was married twice, and had a total of 14 children. Between 1601 and 1602 he had succeeded in elevating his position to that of a yeoman, and this is how he was consistently described from then onwards.

The Blythes of Norton Lees were not the only yeomen to become involved in the marketing or distribution of goods, although the others are unlikely to have operated on anything like the same scale. Stringar Kirke of Mackerhay may well have seen a decline in his fortunes: in 1610 and 1611 he was described as a yeoman, then in 1614 and 1616 as a husbandman. On his last appearance in the registers, at the baptism of a daughter, he was entered as a salter. In the 1560s, John Allen senior of Woodseats was described as a scytheseller in a baptism entry appearing between others where he was classified as a yeoman. His son John junior also supplemented his income through metalworking: he was working as a scythe finisher at the time of his first child's baptism in 1593; then he was entered on five occasions over the following two decades as a yeoman; as a scythesmith at the burial of his second wife; and then as a yeoman again. In the case of this family, poverty seems a possible explanation of their "dual occupations". When an inventory was drawn up after the death of John Allen junior in 1642, the total value of his goods - once a lease worth 15 had been deducted - was under 5. The contrast between his situation and that of the Blythe family at Norton Lees provides a clear indication of the variety in standards of living which existed amongst Norton's yeomanry.

3. Husbandmen

Husbandmen were the most volatile of the major occupational groupings in Elizabethan and early Stuart Norton. 58 - nearly one in eight - of the adult men appearing in the registers during this period were described as husbandmen during their working lives, but 32 of these also appear on other occasions with a different occupational description. 10 of the 58 only had their occupation entered in the registers on a single occasion; so of the 48 husbandmen whose working lives we can follow through two or more register appearances, as many as two-thirds moved from one occupational category into another. Just one of the husbandmen in the registers was an "outsider" appearing only at his marriage - and he was from just across the parish boundary at Dore. 40 of the 58 husbandmen had surnames from the "Top 50"; thus the proportion with other surnames was nearly one-third, compared with only one-fifth of Norton's yeomen: a reflection of the greater diversity in background amongst Norton's husbandmen.

The most substantial husbandmen were quite probably better off than the poorest yeomen: as a general rule, it seems that the distinction between the two lay in the basis on which they held their land rather than their precise level of wealth. Most husbandmen were tenants, possessing leases which would be secure for at most two or three generations, and in some cases for only a few years. Occasionally it seems that Norton's husbandmen might possess the freehold on a piece of land which was, perhaps, too insignificant to qualify them for yeoman status; and sometimes it seems evident that there was a measure of confusion over whether or not it was appropriate to describe somebody as a yeoman. There were for instance four occasions when a man was described as a yeoman in the burial registers and a husbandman when his will or inventory was drawn up, or vice versa.

However, as far as the registers are concerned it seems fairly clear that such confusions account for only a few of the occasions when Norton men shifted between 'husbandman' and other occupational descriptions: there was distinct meaning behind the great majority of shifts in status. For some, being a husbandman was the springboard from which they moved up into the ranks of the yeomanry; for others it was a landing-place - the height of a labourer's ambitions, perhaps. Still others described as husbandmen may have been permanent married farm servants - the section dealing with servants later in this chapter looks at this possibility. Amongst Norton's husbandmen there were, too, yeomen who had fallen upon hard times; and of course there were men who shifted between earning their living on the land or at a craft, or who more or less permanently combined the two.

Of the 32 husbandmen who also appeared in other occupational categories, eight were men who moved on and upwards, into the ranks of the yeomanry. Six of these eight had surnames which numbered amongst Norton's "top 22", suggesting that they were members of the best- established local families. In the case of five of them, at least one other member of the family network had yeoman status.

A further eight of the 32 husbandmen had previously appeared in the registers as labourers; only two of these had a surname from the "top 22", but a further three had surnames from the "top 50". In contrast with the husbandmen who went on to become yeomen, this is likely to mean that most of them came from families with only shallow roots in the parish, or perhaps from families which had failed to thrive and thus to expand over the generations to the same extent as their more prosperous and successful neighbours. But only two of these "labourers turned husbandman" had names which nobody else appearing in the registers shared. Rather than being complete newcomers, most of the labourers who became husbandmen seem to have come from families which had been settled in the area for at least one generation.

Four of the six labourer-husbandmen who shared a surname with other men appearing in the registers (William Barker, John Green, John Kirkby and Charles Morten), were members of family networks containing nobody listed above the rank of husbandman. A fifth, John Browne, was a labourer's son; and in the case of the sixth, John Townend, only one of the four Townends in the registers achieved yeoman status.

There is a very definite date clustering in the group of labourers who became husbandmen: seven of the eight making this shift did so between 1610 and 1620. There also seem to be clear patterns in the distribution of husbandmen, and "types" of husbandman, over different parts of the parish. Although Grennell had a far larger yeoman population than any other part of Norton, this was not the case with husbandmen. There were eight recorded at Grennell, all of whom had surnames appearing in the "top 50", with six in the "top 22"; four of these went on to achieve yeoman status. Meanwhile at Himsworth there were 10 husbandmen recorded; six had surnames in the Top 50, but only one of these was in the "Top 22". Three of Himsworth's husbandmen had been labourers earlier in their working lives; none of Grennell's husbandmen was an ex-labourer. So it would appear that land was available at Grennell only or mainly to families with strong roots in the area. This could well connect to a process of enclosing or dividing the open fields there, but more research would be needed to demonstrate this. Meanwhile at Himsworth, perhaps there was a good supply of land available for rent where families without an existing "stake in the parish" could try their fortunes at farming.

Bradway was the other area with a sizeable clustering of husbandmen: eight were recorded there, three coming from the well-established North family. At Jordanthorpe, there was another family grouping: four of the five husbandmen recorded here were Hollands. Three of the four Jordanthorpe Hollands appear to have pursued a "dual occupation" - two combined scythesmithing with husbandry, and one combined tailoring.

In all, 14 of the 32 Norton husbandmen who shifted between occupational categories were men who were also described at some stage in their working lives as craftsmen or tradesmen. Some of these appear to be cases of men earning their livelihood through a long- term combination of farming and a non-agricultural trade; but in other cases the change in description seems to have reflected an actual change in circumstance.

John Saunderson is the clearest example to suggest shifting circumstances; he was also the least skilled member of this craftsman-husbandman group. In 1604, he was described as a striker; in 1606 as a husbandman, and in 1608 as a striker again. In 1610 he was a miller, and finally, in 1612, a labourer. In the case of Jerome Parker, a change in occupational description from husbandman to surgeon was accompanied by a move from Okes to Grennell. Leonard Norris of Himsworth appeared four times in the baptism registers between 1577 and 1583 as a husbandman; in 1586 he even made one fleeting register appearance as a yeoman, at his son's burial. But in 1589 he was described as a woodman; in 1601 he was still a carpenter, but he was now living some distance away at Lees. (A possible scenario is that he had failed at farming - perhaps through overstretching himself in order to buy land - as a result of which carpentry became his primary source of income. His move from Himsworth to Lees suggests that he may have given up his farm completely.)

Examples which could be pointers to either changes in circumstance, or to a dual occupation, include Stringar Kirke of Mackerhay who we met amongst the yeomen - later entries described him as both a husbandman and a salter. Between 1600 and 1603, William Greene was a scythegrinder at Himsworth; he continued in the same trade until 1611, moving first to Heeley Bridgehouses and then up the hillside to Hollogate Head (now Four Lane Ends). By 1617 he was classified as a husbandman: perhaps the intention of the move to Hollogate Head had been to acquire some land, which was no doubt in short supply on the "industrialised" and fairly populous banks of the Sheaf.

Where wills and inventories supplement the register evidence, definite confirmation can occasionally be provided that husbandmen were in fact pursuing a "dual occupation." There were three times when men were described as husbandmen in the registers and as craftsmen in wills and inventories, or vice versa. Robert Holland of Jordanthorpe was a husbandman in the burial registers, but a scythesmith in his inventory; John Hunter of Grennell was a husbandman in his inventory, but a charcoal burner in the burial registers; and John Wigfall of Himsworth was a blacksmith in the burial registers, but a husbandman in his inventory. However, these amount to a distinct minority; and on none of the 16 occasions when the appraisers chose to describe the subject of an inventory as a husbandman, was there anything in the way of smithy tools, rough knives or scythes, bar iron etc. amongst their possessions. It does not appear, then, that metalworking was a normal "by-employment" amongst Norton's husbandmen, at least as far as the evidence of those leaving wills or inventories is concerned.

However, it seems clear that in one respect at least the husbandmen leaving wills and/or inventories in Norton cannot be regarded as a cross-section: none of the eight "labourers turned husbandmen" appear amongst them. In addition the Norths of Bradway are disproportionately represented in this source. Four of the 16 wills or inventories for husbandmen dated between 1560 and 1650 relate to this family, but there were only four Norths amongst the 40 men who were described as husbandmen on the last occasion when their occupation was entered in the registers.

Nobody described as a husbandman in their will or inventory left goods valued at more than 70. Agricultural stock accounted for by far the greatest proportion of their assets, and household goods were distinctly frugal. The husbandman's inventory with the highest total value related to Lyon Spencer of Mackerhay, buried in 1611; but his circumstances were exceptional. In October 1610, he had moved from Sheffield when he married Anna Bate, widow of George Bate, yeoman of Mackerhay - who had died just nine months earlier, leaving his widow seven months pregnant and with a three-year old son to bring up. An inventory had been drawn up for George Bate as well as Lyon Spencer, and a comparison suggests very clearly that Lyon's possessions had come his way almost entirely through his widow.

The North family were amongst the most substantial of the husbandmen who left inventories, and yet they had very little indeed in the way of domestic comfort. When Thomas North died in September 1587, he left goods valued at 46 6s 8d. 39 19 4d of this was accounted for by his agricultural stock, which is listed here in full. Four oxen (13); three kine and two calves (5 10s);one horse (33s 4d);one sow and two pigs (10s); wheat and rye (7 10s); oats (9); peas (10s); hay and manure (40s). His clothing and the money in his purse was worth 20s; he was owed 13s 4d; and the total value of the remainder - the family's bedding, pots and pans, and all their other household goods - was well under 5. We know that Thomas North was not an old man when he died: it appears from the registers that his youngest child was not yet 11. It is perhaps not surprising that when Thomas drew up his will, he had a special plea for his landlord, John Bullocke, "whom I humbly desire to be favourable to my said wife and children."

John North - almost certainly the brother who was mentioned by Thomas in his will - left a slightly more substantial farm when he died in 1598. His goods were valued at 54 21s 5d (sic): in addition to four oxen, two kyne, three heifers, two pigs and two horses he had 20 sheep valued at 4, together with two geese, three mallards, three hens and one cock. The inventory itemised ploughs, wheels and other implements worth 5 in all as well as hay and corn: altogether agricultural stock accounted for 48-8-0 of the total. His purse and apparel were valued at just 12s, leaving household goods worth 6. This included three bacon flitches worth 20s and swines' grease valued at 12s: with the remainder of household equipment worth under 4 10s, there was not a shred of comfort, let alone luxury.

To make matters vastly more dismal, John North's debts amounted to more than the total value of his goods. These included 10 owed to members of the Gill family, while lesser creditors included Thomas Owtrem, a Bradway yeoman, Eliseus Bradbury, a labourer, and the Vicar of Norton for a horse. The registers suggest fairly convincingly that this must have been the same John North, husbandman of Bradway, who had five children baptised between 1583 and 1594. The oldest, Thomas, was 15 when his father died; and if he lived on in Norton parish he must have been the Thomas North, weaver of Bradway who married in 1613 and continued to live and work as a weaver there when his children were born. It is presumably likely that the farm stock had been sold to cover his father's debts.

The inventory of another Thomas North, husbandman of Bradway dates from early in 1610. This was almost certainly the son of Thomas North who died in 1587: if so, there would appear to have been little change in their fortunes from one generation to the next. The total value of his goods was 52-4-0: the agricultural stock was worth in all nearly 43; purse and apparel were valued at 20s. Household goods included a supply of yarn, flax and tow, together with two stone of wool, bacon flitches and grease. There were fire tools worth 4s; pots, pans and candlesticks valued at 25s in all; sheets valued at 28s, and pewter worth 3s 4d. And that was more or less everything: the only other items considered worth mentioning were the beds and bedding, which together were worth no more than 2: four pairs of bedstocks, three chaff beds, coverlets and blankets and, as the one touch of slight comfort, two feather bolsters. But even bedding like this was treated as a valuable possession, to be carefully disposed of when a will was drawn up - a clear demonstration of the low living standards which prevailed. Thomas North's niece was to inherit bed and bedclothes, but not until after the decease of his mother.

Thomas's brother Roger was the main beneficiary of his will - he inherited all the husbandry gear, and the four bullocks. He had already been established as a husbandman in Bradway for more than 20 years before his brother died; but as the father of 11 children, none of whom appear from the burial registers to have died in infancy, it is hardly surprising that his inheritance did not provide the means of increasing the family wealth. When Roger died in August 1632, his goods were valued at 64-17-4d: although his age must have been somewhere around 70 by then, it is clear that he was still running the farm himself. The agricultural stock and household goods had improved only slightly since his father's day; possibly the greatest change was that when Thomas North died in September 1587 he possessed four oxen and one horse, while in 1632 his son had three oxen and four horses.

There were a number of other husbandmen whose farming stock and household goods were very similar to those possessed by members of the North family. William Allen of Himsworth, buried in 1577, left goods valued at 66-6-8. Although his farming stock was slightly larger than any of the Norths, its quality may have left something to be desired: he had 14 sheep but they were described as "old", as were his four swine and his only mature horse. John Holland of Jordanthorpe left goods appraised at 58-11-8 when he died early in 1602; over 47 of this was accounted for by his agricultural goods, 1-5-0 by his purse and apparel, and household goods were worth under 11. 2 of this was accounted for by salt flesh and butter which were included in the inventory. With pots and pans valued at 2-6-0 in all, his cooking and eating equipment was a good deal better than most husbandmen's; he was also the owner of two silver spoons, valued at 6s 8d. But these were the only items which fell outside the range of basic necessities: excluding bedding, all the furniture taken together was worth less than the pots and pans or the supply of salt flesh. As far as the bedding was concerned, sheets were made of harden cloth, not linen, and the beds were of chaff, without even a feather bolster to provide a little comfort.

This very frugal standard of living was all that could be attained by the husbandmen at the upper end of the scale - those who owned oxen, and could therefore cultivate sufficient land to provide a surplus over their own family requirements. But there were also husbandmen leaving inventories whose livestock suggests that they could have been farming on little more than a "self-sufficiency" level: while they might have dairy produce for sale, they do not appear to have raised beefstock on any scale, or to have been in a position to grow corn as a cash crop. Humphrey Clayton of Lightwood, buried in December 1570, was one of these. His farm stock consisted of three cows, three heifers, one bullock, two calves,one horse,one filly, seven sheep, two goats, and two geese, together with corn and hay valued at 1, and a small selection of husbandry implements. Humphrey's household goods were worth only about 2: they consisted simply of two pans, two pots, seven doblars (dishes), a landiron, three arks, one coffer, one kimnell (wooden tub), two bedsteads, three coverlets, two blankets and two pairs of sheets. Humphrey was not an old man without any dependants: a daughter had been baptised in 1560, just 10 years before his death (- and there may of course have been other children born before the registers were commenced.)

Roger Holme of Bradway, buried in March 1592, left goods valued at 16-5-4; although he had a reasonable stock of agricultural implements (including an ox harrow and a horse harrow, four sleds, wain bodies, and wain wheels), the only livestock included were two cows worth 4. Like Humphrey Clayton, his household goods were worth only about 2, and of this the total value of his bedding was just 6s 8d. Thomas Camme the younger of Grennell, whose inventory was drawn up in 1589, left goods worth 15-6-8: his farm stock consisted of two cows, two heifers, two calves, one sow and two young pigs, and "5 days work of oats growing on the ground"; his household goods were worth less than 4.

The inventories demonstrate the considerable variations in fortune which existed amongst Norton's husbandmen - and as always when using inventories as evidence of living standards amongst all but the wealthiest occupational groupings, it is essential to remember that we are not likely to be looking at a cross-section. Inventories exist for well under one-third of the husbandmen appearing in the registers during this period. And there was almost certainly a greater likelihood that the more substantial husbandmen - those whose livestock included a team of oxen, in particular - would leave a will or inventory, and thus be disproportionately represented in these documents. Rather than seeing those who left inventories as representative, it is very probably more accurate to assume that the majority of husbandmen lived on a level closer to the poorest of them than to the richest; and even the wealthiest husbandmen had little in the way of comfort. As a general rule, husbandmen's inventories do not itemise household possessions room by room - a probable indication of the very basic level of their housing. Certainly the yeoman's "parlour" with its feather bed and linen sheets was a refinement to which none of Norton's husbandmen could aspire.

4. Scythemakers

Scythemakers were divided in Table 1 into two groups: firstly, those described as scythesmiths, grinders, and finishers; and secondly, scythe strikers. Although there are special reasons in terms of skills and status for treating these as two separate groups, there is considerable overlap - 11 men are included in both categories. Taking this into account, there were during the period a total of 70 Norton men appearing in the registers who were employed in some capacity at scythemaking during their working lives: nearly one in six of all adult men with known occupations.

Scythesmiths, scythegrinders and scythefinishers

The extent of overlap between the men who were described as scythe smiths, grinders and finishers is a good deal more than between scythesmiths and strikers, as a result of which they have been considered within one occupational grouping; 11 out of 14 men described as "scythe finishers" were also listed on other occasions as "scythesmiths", and three out of seven described as "scythe grinders" were also listed as scythesmiths. Nonetheless, there does appear to be significance in the use of these different terms; but before looking at this, some more general points are worth considering.

Of the 53 men who were scythesmiths, grinders, or finishers, 30 had surnames included in Norton's "Top 50" (23 of these from the "Top 22") and 23 had other names: scythemaking featured strongly in the occupational patterns of well-established Norton families, but also attracted newcomers to the parish. As Table 5 shows, there were a number of families who were particularly closely identified with the scythemaking trade: the Barnes, Biggens and Brownells in particular. Table 5 puts Norton's scythesmiths (together with the finishers and grinders) into the context of their wider family networks. Seven of the scythesmiths had surnames which no other adult men appearing in the registers shared, and in one case the occupation of the second man with that surname was not given. In the remaining 45 cases the scythesmiths can be placed in family networks which include two or more adult men with known occupations.

Table 5: Occupational spread of Norton family networks which included scythesmiths

Name G Y Scythesmiths St Cu OM Cr Hu La Mi Uk Tot
ALLEN   1 1 : also yeo       1 2 2   3 10
BARNES     4   1   1       2 8
BATE   6 1 : later yeo 1   1   1     1 11
BIGGEN     5 :one also cutler 1               6
BORE     1 : also striker, labourer   2           3 6
BROWNELL   1 5 :one also striker               1 7
BULLOCKE 4 1 3 :one also striker 1     4   1 1 7 22
CALTON     3                 3
CAMME   3 1         2     2 8
CLARKE     1                 1
CLAYTON     1 : later striker       2 1     3 7
COWLEY     1 2 1           2 6
FAILS     1                 1
FIELDE     1                 1
GILLOT     2               1 3
GREENE     3 :one later husbandman       1 1 2 1 2 10
HALLAM     1 : also lab, striker, nailer 1         1   1 4
HOLLAND     1 : also husb/yeo       2 2     3 8
KENT   1 1 : also striker   1             3
LITTLEWOOD     1           1   1 3
MELLERS     2                 2
PADLEY     1 : also striker                 1
PARKE     2 :one also striker                 2
PARKER 4 6 1 : earlier yeo/later striker       2   1   4 18
PEARSON     1 : also striker               1 2
ROPER     1                 1
ROSE     1 : also striker/lab   1   3   2   1 8
SAVAGE     1   1             2
STANNIFORTH     1 1       1     1 4
THORPE     1     1           2
TURNER     1 1   1   1     1 5
WAINWRIGHT     1                 1
WALDREN     1                 1
Total     53                  

Key: G Gentleman; Y Yeoman; St Scythe striker; Cu Cutler;

OM Other Metalworker; Cr Craftworker; Hu Husbandman; La Labourer; Mi Miller; UK Occupation not given

Three of these scythesmiths who can be placed in a family context came from predominantly yeoman families (Bate, Camme, Parker), and another four from families spread widely across the social spectrum (Allen, Bullocke). There was one Kent: the other two Kents were a yeoman and a cutler. But in 32 of the 45 cases where scythesmiths can be placed in a family context, their kinsmen were entirely from the lower ranks: other metalworkers, non-metalworking craftsmen, husbandmen, or labourers. Finally there were the Brownells - a family where five out of the seven adult men recorded were scythesmiths, but the other two had apparently attained higher things. (One was recorded as a yeoman, and the other was a Bachelor of Arts who lived at Rawmarsh.)

It seems clear, then, that Norton's scythemakers had only limited family connections with the local yeomanry. As we shall see in Chapter IV, marriage between yeomen and scythesmiths appears to have been an uncommon occurrence, and different social patterns emerge between scythesmiths and yeomen when bridal pregnancies are analysed by occupational grouping. In terms of their background, their behaviour, and their social expectations it seems that scythemakers were identified a good deal more closely with the "lower" ranks of society than with the "middling" ranks.

This is not to deny that there were occasions when yeomen might also work as scythesmiths, or when younger sons of yeomen entered the trade. Amongst the scythesmiths entered in the registers, Philip Bate junior of Grennell, oldest son of Philip senior, yeoman, was described as a scythe finisher in 1591 when his first child was baptised. His father died in 1596; the next time Philip junior's occupation was given was not until his own burial in 1604, when he was described as a yeoman. John Allen junior of Woodseats was another yeoman's son; he was described as a scythe finisher in 1593 at the baptism of his first child, and then consistently as a yeoman from 1596 (- before his father died -) until 1611. But in 1618 at his second wife's burial he was entered as a scythesmith, although the following year when he married once more he was called a yeoman. His third wife was Maria Valiance, widow of John Parker, scythesmith and then scythe striker at Woodseats; and he too had been described as a yeoman, when he first appeared in the registers.

We have already seen that John Allen appears to have been amongst the poorest of Norton's yeomen, with goods valued in his inventory at just 19-17-0, 15 of which was accounted for by a lease. In both his case and that of the Woodseats John Parker, it is quite probable that inability to make ends meet as farmers, perhaps lack of sufficient capital stock, had resulted in their yeoman status being compromised or undermined. The fourth and last case emerging from the registers where an individual was described as both a yeoman and a scythesmith during his working life, was Robert Holland of Jordanthorpe, who was classified as a husbandman, then a farmer, then a yeoman, between 1600 and 1605; but in all three entries after this date (- at baptisms between 1607 and 1616 -) he was known as a scythesmith. Again, it seems likely that his situation had changed so that scythemaking had become a more central part of his livelihood.

None of these occasions gives any indication that scythemaking could offer the means whereby a smith could "work his way up" into the ranks of the yeomanry; and the other 14 instances when a scythesmith also appeared in a different occupational category mostly suggest downward rather than upward mobility. In addition to the John Parker who has just been mentioned, a further 10 scythesmiths were also described as strikers; but none shows a clear upward shift from the less skilled work of the striker to the more skilled work of the smith, and three of the 10 descended still further into the ranks of the labourers.

There were four more scythesmiths who had made occupational shifts. One scythesmith, Isaac Biggen, had started off his metalworking career as a cutler. Thomas Bullocke junior of Grennell moved on from making scythes to selling them; William Green of Hollogate Head moved on from scythegrinding to husbandry, in the pursuit of which we have already met him; and Robert Gillott of Lees was described as a millwright as well as a scythe grinder.

Robert Gillott was the only Norton man to be classified as a millwright during this period, and it may well be of some significance that he was also a scythegrinder. Despite the fact that water power was being used for scythegrinding at Holbrook in Derbyshire as early as 1489, it seems a likely assumption that it would take some time for the necessary technical expertise to permeate through the scythemaking community of Norton; especially since the art of scythegrinding without the assistance of waterwheels must have already been a well-established part of the scythesmith's work. But given that scythemaking was a central part of the Norton economy by the mid sixteenth century, the lack of evidence for the existence of water-powered scythewheels by this date is surprising: the earliest records seem to be for Cliffield Wheel in 1583; and Moscar Wheel, close to Millhouses and just outside the Norton parish boundary, by the 1590s.(6)

It seems quite possible, then, that in the Elizabethan period and the first decade or so of the seventeenth century, only a small number of Norton scythesmiths had successfully confronted the problems of applying waterpower to scythegrinding; and that these few had consequently developed a level of specialisation which led them to be described specifically - if not entirely consistently - as scythegrinders. In the baptism registers, there are 16 uses of the description "scythe grinder" between 1560 and 1620, but these are not scattered amongst the scythemaking population in anything like a random pattern. Just six of the fathers occupied in scythe production were described in the baptism registers on any occasion as "scythe grinders"; a seventh appears in the marriage registers. In addition to Robert Gillot, who appeared in the registers between 1608 and 1628, there was Roland Gillot of Cliffield - almost certainly his brother. Between 1613 and 1626, he was described variously as a scythesmith, a scythegrinder, and a "scythe-miller". Three of the others who were described as scythegrinders were members of the Barnes family: the first person to whom this occupational description was applied was Robert Barnes of Cliffield Wheel (or "Heeley Bridge Wheel", as it was also known), in 1583. Robert was also described as a scythesmith, but the entries for his son John, who took over Cliffield Wheel after Robert's death in 1603, described him quite consistently as a scythegrinder. More is said about Robert and John Barnes, and about Cliffield Wheel, in Chapter IV. William Barnes was almost certainly a younger son of Robert, born in 1593: in 1615, he was described as a scythegrinder at the baptism of his child. (In the same year, the will of John Parker gent, of Lees Hall, mentioned a "scythewheel now or late in the occupacon of William Barnes or his assignees" - this appears to have been at or near the "New Mill" in the Smithy Wood area.)(7)

The sixth scythegrinder appearing in the baptism registers was William Green, who was later described as a husbandman: on the four occasions between 1600 and 1611 when he was described as a scythemaker of any description, the term "scythegrinder" was always used.

Francis Littlewood was the seventh scythegrinder, but the only occasion when he appeared in the registers was at his marriage in 1602. No address was given for him, but otherwise a notable point about the fathers described as scythegrinders is their clustering in one particular area of Norton parish: the section of the River Sheaf between Heeley and Smithy Wood, and the hillside immediately above. It seems very probable that Cliffield Wheel, in particular, was the centre of water-powered scythegrinding in Norton parish during this period.

As far as "scythe finishers" were concerned, it is a little more problematic to pinpoint likely reasons for the use of the term. It appears on 27 occasions in the baptism registers, and was applied to 14 fathers in all: the major pattern which emerges is a clustering of its use during one short period of time. Although there were one or two occasions when "scythe finishers" were listed in the registers in the 1620s these do not detract from the overall picture, with appearances of the term concentrated between 1587 and 1598. In Table 6, the baptism registers are analysed by both date and occupation: the last 20 years of the sixteenth century appear to have been a period of particularly rapid growth in the metalworking trades, which could perhaps have given rise to increased levels of specialisation. If this was the case, the virtual disappearance of a specialisation could also be taken to correspond with the levelling-off, or possible slight decline, in the number of metalworkers during the first two decades of the seventeenth century. However, this is too tentative a suggestion to dwell on at any length. If the use of the term "scythe finisher" did point to a division of labour, it was between a first stage, when the scythesmith forged the rough scythes from a sandwich of wrought iron and steel; and the second stage, when the rough scythe was shaped, straightened and tempered prior to grinding. In the eighteenth century, this second stage was known as "finishing"; it was regarded as a highly skilled task, which was carried out at a hand forge with a striker assisting the smith.(8) Those described in the Elizabethan registers as finishers included two for whom inventories were left - which is likely to suggest that they were amongst the more successful (and by implication more skilled) of the scythesmiths; and another two who were also classified on other occasions as strikers.

In all, wills and/or inventories were left for eight scythesmiths during the period. As Table 2 shows, this was only half the number which related to husbandmen, although there were exactly the same number of men - 40 - described as scythesmiths, grinders or finishers at their last entry in the registers, as there were husbandmen. The most likely reason why there are twice as many wills and inventories for husbandmen as for scythesmiths is because agricultural stock, particularly horses and cattle, were such valuable items; the household goods of the husbandmen leaving inventories were extremely frugal, and suggest a standard of living which was little above subsistence level.

But if it is correct to assume that it was the value of agricultural stock which led to a relatively high proportion of husbandmen leaving wills and inventories, then perhaps the relatively low proportion of scythesmiths leaving wills and inventories might suggest that a little caution is required before assuming that a fully-fledged "dual occupation" was in fact typical of their way of life.(9) A few chickens and a pig or two very probably did scratch around almost every Norton metalworker's home; but if more substantial smallholdings had been usual amongst metalworkers - if, for instance, it had been normal for metalworkers to keep cattle as beefstock or for dairying - then we could reasonably expect more wills and inventories from them.

So the comparatively small number of wills and inventories raises questions as to how fundamental a part farming played in the livelihood of most Norton scythesmiths; and the same questions are echoed once more when a closer look is taken at precisely which scythesmiths left wills or inventories. The eight who did were by no means a cross-section. Not one of the 11 scythesmiths who were also described as strikers at some point during their working lives, left a will or inventory: these were men likely to have been amongst the less skilled of Norton's scythemaking community. In contrast there are inventories for two of the seven men described as scythegrinders (John Barnes of Cliffield Wheel and Robert Gillott); there is also a will for a third, Robert Barnes, amongst those proved at Canterbury.(10) I have suggested that these were craftsmen with skills which were particularly highly in demand; the men described as scythe finishers may also have been especially skilled, and two of these left wills or inventories. (John Barnes of Bolehill and Henry Brownell.)

The other four leaving wills and inventories all had one characteristic or another to suggest that they may have been in a particularly fortunate position. George Brownell of Mackerhay was a member of one of Norton's leading scythemaking families; Robert Holland of Jordanthorpe (1615) was described as a scythesmith in his inventory, but as a husbandman in the burials register - he could be expected to have possessed a notable amount of agricultural stock for a metalworker. Edward Hudson of Sickhouse (1622) was the son of Thomas, who we met amongst the yeomen; and Richard Urton of Norton (1572) was a member of a prominent yeoman family. Six of the eight had surnames numbering amongst the "Top 22", suggesting once again that wills and inventories have a good deal more to tell us about well-established Norton families than about newcomers to the parish.

By far the wealthiest of these scythesmiths leaving wills or inventories was John Barnes of Cliffield Wheel, with goods valued at 150-13-10. The rooms in his house included a "great parlour" as well as a "little parlour", and a buttery as well as a kitchen: the bed in the great parlour had curtains and valances, and was valued at 5 10s. There was a desk in this room too, and also "Two Bibles and two other bookes", valued at 20s. Books were items which few local yeomen possessed; so too were musical instruments, but John Barnes' possessions included "A citherne with the case". In the buttery was a plentiful supply of tableware, and a silver bowl valued at 5s. This was evidently one of his most treasured possessions, and he disposed of it in his will rather quaintly: "Item I give and bequeath unto John Stacie (?) my grandchild my silver bowle howbeeit my mynde and will is that the said Dorothy my wife shall have the occupacon of the same silver bowle during her naturall life." In all, John Barnes' household goods were valued at over 37, with another 6-13-4 for his purse and apparell - representing a standard of living well above that of all but the most substantial yeomen.

John also had a well-equipped smithy, with large stocks of scythes - 600 of them; and he had enough tools to suggest that other scythesmiths worked for him as employees.(11) Out of the 150 which his goods were worth in total, nearly half was the value of the smithy.

Far less (17 compared with 70) was contributed by the value of his agricultural stock. Livestock consisted of just one horse, two kine and a heifer, and two pigs; as far as crops went, one could expect stocks to be relatively low in an inventory drawn up in March, but nonetheless a mere "Two quarters of oats sown on the ground" suggests no more than a small supply for home consumption. In his work on Rural Metalworkers of the Sheffield Region, David Hey includes John Barnes as an example of the typical metalworker with a "dual occupation", combining agriculture with scythe production. But it seems clear that most of his income, most of his assets, were coming from scythegrinding. The amount of livestock and crops growing was well within the province of what would in any case be considered as part and parcel of the woman's work: milking the cows, feeding the pigs, sowing, reaping and threshing a supply of corn sufficient just to meet the family's needs.

As a general rule, it seems likely that a major difference between the farming activities of Norton's metalworkers on the one hand, and the yeomen or more substantial husbandmen on the other, was the difference between farming aimed primarily at self-sufficiency, and farming to produce a cash surplus. There were no scythesmiths who kept oxen, or more than two or three dairy cattle; only one (Henry Brownell) appears to have been raising more than one or two beasts for beefstock. But in the case of Henry Brownell, Robert Gillott and John Barnes of Bolehill, agricultural stock accounted for a considerable proportion of their assets. Establishing a smallholding was an expensive project: even where it seems clear that craft work rather than farming was the primary source of cash income, it was common amongst all craftsmen leaving inventories - not just scythesmiths - to find that their agricultural stock was worth considerably more than their trade stock. Ensuring a sufficiency of wholesome food was inevitably the top priority of life, and a goal which only the most fortunate or resourceful of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century families could attain.

The farm stock belonging to Robert Gillott, scythe grinder of Norton Lees, buried in March 1628, consisted of three kine and two calves, one mare, six swine, a sucking calf, some hay, straw and manure; together these were valued at 18-7-0, while the total value of Gillot's scythemaking stock was around 14. Henry Brownell farmed his land on a 21-year lease from John Bullocke, Esq.; he had four two-year old beasts and six yearlings, worth 8; a supply of hay valued at 10, a bay nag, a mare, two days work of oats on the ground, and a large heap of manure. Altogether his farm stock was worth over 24; meanwhile his trade stock, consisting of "smithy gear belonging to one hearth", and "200, four dozen and eight scythes" was worth a total 21-6-8.

But although - with the one exception of John Barnes of Cliffield Wheel - they had relatively low investment in their trade, it was income from this source which permitted the most skilled craftsmen to achieve a standard of living which was considerably higher than that of most husbandmen leaving inventories. As we have seen, there were few exceptions to the general rule that inventories relating to Norton's husbandmen itemised an extremely scanty range of household goods, and rarely indicated divisions of houses into rooms. But in addition to John Barnes of Cliffield, another three of the seven scythesmiths' inventories (- an eighth, George Brownell, left only a will -) suggest a standard of living which was notably higher than this, humble though it may appear by modern standards. The homes of Robert Gillott, Henry Brownell, and John Barnes of Bolehill had one or two chambers upstairs and two rooms - house and parlour - down, with perhaps an offshot kitchen. These three men all had goods valued at a total of 60 - 80, out of which household goods accounted for between 14 and 25.

Robert Gillott's household goods were worth around 24. The family slept on chaff beds, but they had linen sheets, and furnishings included a glass case and a looking glass - luxuries which were not to be found in any husbandman's home. However, Robert Gillott appears to have brought up six children in what was basically a "two up, two down" (no burial was recorded for any of the children, who would have been aged between 8 and 20 at his death). Even the most comfortable of craftsmen's homes were likely to have been cramped and overcrowded.

John Barnes of Bolehill (an uncle of the Cliffield John Barnes) died early in 1603 - just seven years after his marriage, leaving three children, the youngest of whom was just nine months old. As with so many craftsmen's inventories, the initial impression is of relative prosperity and security; but matters appear in a rather different light when we realise that a family was being left behind to struggle on after the untimely death of the breadwinner. His livestock consisted of two mares, two swine,one heifer, and six sheep; the general level of self-sufficiency which he had attained is particularly evident from the goods itemised in his house. In the chamber - along with the beds - there was corn, a straw skip with flax in it, a tanned hide worth 6s 8d, and three spinning wheels; there was a churn and two looms in the parlour, and in the house were two bacon flitches and six beef flitches. His smithy suggests that his was a much smaller operation than his nephew's at Cliffield, although his stocks included bar iron worth 4 and scythes at his brother Robert's wheel (their value is illegible). With a feather bed to sleep on, he was probably a good deal more comfortable than the average husbandman who left an inventory. And with his skills as a scythesmith to provide him with a cash income, he could no doubt afford to keep a considerably larger proportion of his agricultural produce for home consumption than was usual amongst Norton's husbandmen: the six beef and two bacon flitches hanging in his house amounted to an unusually plentiful supply. But there are no records in the Norton registers of John's widow Margaret remarrying, or of her burial: she would certainly have needed to find another wage-earner very rapidly if she was to maintain this standard of living.

There is no doubt that Norton's scythesmiths included some of the most prosperous households below the ranks of the yeomanry. By the Elizabethan and early Stuart period, scythemaking families who were to remain prominent in the trade into the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, were already well-established in Norton. There were five Biggens amongst Norton's scythesmiths in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth century; at various times between 1700 and the early decades of the nineteenth century, Biggens had controlling interests in the wheels at Walk Mill, Abbeydale, Hutcliffe Wheel, Smithy Wood and Little London. There were also five Brownells; during the seventeenth century, a branch of the family established themselves just over the Sheffield parish border at Newfield Green. Here, they pursued a dual occupation as scythesmiths-farmers and remained the leading family of the Upper Heeley community until the mid-nineteenth century, with their home at Newfield Hall. One of the family, Peter Brownell, became Master Cutler in the 1810s. During the later seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, wills and inventories show that a few other local scythemaking families established themselves on a level which was comparable to that of John Barnes of Cliffield: the Goddards and the Wainwrights, in particular. But even though there are considerably more inventories from this later period relating to scythesmiths operating at this substantial employer/businessman level, they certainly remained the notable exception, and not the rule, in the scythemaking community.

In Elizabethan and early Stuart Norton, John Barnes of Cliffield was very probably unique in "rising from the ranks" to such a position. The other scythesmiths leaving inventories had a distinctly lower standard of living, but nonetheless represented a skilled and privileged elite: they cannot be regarded as typical of Norton's metalworkers during this period. Just as many, and quite possibly the majority of metalworkers, might expect a standard of living which was a good deal closer to that of the landless wage-labourer than the yeomanry.


Apart from the smithing, grinding and finishing, the other major type of work involved in scythemaking, was what was known as "striking". Of the 70 men included in the registers during this period who worked in scythemaking, 28 - well over one-third - were sometimes or always described as strikers. The term "striker" continued in use well beyond the seventeenth century in hand-forging processes; as the name suggests, their task was to assist the smith with the extremely heavy labour of hammering out the scythes. (Much the same task was also involved in the making of the iron bar itself; the sponge-like bloom required consolidating and scouring by means of prolonged violent hammering. Occasionally, register entries specifically referred to iron-strikers; and a number of the men who were sometimes described as scythe-strikers, and at other times simply as strikers, may have been employed at this too.)

The water-powered tilt-hammer was able to reproduce this heavy pounding action mechanically; its technology was directly related to that used in English fulling-mills since the twelfth century. General histories of metalworking suggest that the water driven hammer was being used in some European iron-making centres by the fifteenth century, and by the mid-sixteenth century, it could be expected that Agricola's De Re Metallica would have spread an understanding of its potential application through the educated elite of English society. But tilt hammers needed considerable investment of capital for the large water wheels and provision of a continuous water supply on which they depended. In addition, "The machinery of the forge was subjected to far more violent stresses than that of the corn mill. The rapid striking action of the hammers produced a shuddering vibration that shook loose wedges and made constant maintenance and repair essential."(12)

Perhaps these technical obstacles explain why the evidence for the use of tilt-hammers in the Sheffield area during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries seems to be very limited and inconclusive. It is notable that at Rockley Smithies in the early seventeenth century, where careful excavation has been carried out, water was used to power the bellows, but apparently not to operate hammers. It has been suggested that Smithy Wood in Norton became the site of a tilt hammer in around 1630, but in general it does not seem to have been until the first half of the eighteenth century that the use of tilt hammers was firmly established locally: 15 tilting mills were erected in the Sheffield area between 1700 and 1750.

Hand-forging of large implements like scythes was a two-man job. The smith would manipulate and shape the blade, while the striker was hammering it. The physical strength required for striking would inevitably mean that the smith's assistant had to be a grown man, not an apprentice lad; and it seems fair enough to suppose that any skilled scythesmith would do his best to avoid being employed in this extremely arduous labour. The evidence from the Norton registers certainly indicates that the terms "scythe smith" and "scythe striker" (or simply "striker") were not used at random; blurred at the edges it was, but there nonetheless remained an evident distinction between the two occupations.

17 of the 28 strikers listed in the baptism registers were never described as scythesmiths, grinders or finishers. Only one of these was a man who made a single appearance in the registers, and who can thus provide no evidence of occupational mobility or stability. Amongst these 17, five also appeared as labourers, and one as a nailer - this was the least skilled of the metalworking trades. Out of the remaining 11 who also appeared amongst the scythesmiths, three were entered as labourers as well, and not one of them suggested a pattern of upward mobility from less skilled to more skilled work. Altogether then, nine of the 28 strikers - nearly one-third - also appeared in other occupational categories which were (more or less) "unskilled". Particularly common was the downward shift from striker to labourer - since a striker's work required a great deal of physical strength, it would be impossible to continue once a man was weakened by sickness, accident, or old age. Six of the eight strikers who also appeared as labourers, were labourers the last time they were entered in the registers.

Clearly a division of labour already existed between scythesmiths and strikers by the beginning of the Elizabethan period: strikers appear consistently in the registers from then onwards. 16 of the 28 strikers had surnames numbering amongst the "Top 50" - in all probability the work offered higher wages than agricultural labour, and was attractive to members of long-established local labouring families who had the physical strength to do it. Seven of the 28 were the only men with that surname in the registers, or the only one with a given occupation; of the remaining 21, 14 came from family networks which included nobody of yeoman status or above.

No father who at any stage in the registers was described as a striker, left an inventory; nor are there any other inventories at any date from Norton where the deceased was a striker at his death. Since the registers suggest that they constituted over 1/3 of the adult scythemaking population during this period, this lack of inventories adds to the likelihood that these were a significant group of metalworkers whose status and standard of living was closer to that of labourers than a craftsman elite.


During most of the seventeenth century, the Blythe family seems to have dominated the marketing and distribution of Norton's scythes, but in the late sixteenth century at least, there were others who - almost certainly on a much humbler level - took on a specialist role as scythe-sellers. Three of Norton's fathers were described as scythe sellers in the parish registers between 1560 and 1620, but all three names also appear elsewhere under different occupations. John Allen, yeoman of Woodseats, was described as a scythe-seller in 1564; Thomas Bullocke of Grennell was described consistently as a scythesmith at his first four entries in the registers, and then as a scythe-seller in the last four where his occupation was given. Between 1587 and 1592, Thomas Bore (or Bower), of Norton Lees, or Hollogate Head, was described as a cutler; in 1593, when his last child was baptised, he was a scythe seller.

An inventory survives for Thomas Bore, who was buried in 1640 - by which time he must have been an old man. The total value of his goods was 27-10-6d - his household goods were basic and his livestock consisted of only one cow and one calf; 1/3 of the total value was accounted for by "9 dossen scythes at John Gillott's wheele" valued at 9-9-0, and he also had smithie gear worth 4-10-0.

Given the importance of scythes to the Norton economy, it is perhaps surprising that scythe-sellers figure so little in the parish registers. This could perhaps have been because large-scale dealers - particularly the Blythes, but also other substantial men like George Urton, yeoman, of Lightwood, had cornered the market. It is worth looking more closely at the Blythe family to establish more precisely what their role may have been - it seems very clear that, unlike the more humble scythe-sellers, they were operating by the seventeenth century along distinctly capitalist lines.

In the context of scythe marketing and distribution, David Hey has illustrated the special emphasis which needs to be placed on the relationship of the Blythe family to Norton's scythemaking community. In 1620, the inventory of William Blythe the elder of Norton Lees, included "a stythie at Isaac Biggens", valued at 30/-. Together with similar entries in later inventories of the Blythe family, this suggests the existence of a number of scythesmiths who, although they worked from their own premises, did not operate as independent masters. As David Hey says, the Blythes seem to have rented out equipment to scythesmiths, and presumably bought up and marketted the scythes they produced. The Blythes also appear to have supplied these scythesmiths with iron and steel: the William Blythe who died in 1665/6 had "one ton 12 hundreds six stone of iron at Robert Hollands and Robert Brownells, valued at 23-14-06, and "steel in the house at Robert Hollands" worth 1-10s. These entries in the inventory follow immediately after tools "at the smithies at Newfield Green"; it is very likely that these were Robert Brownell's smithies. The Holland family were based in Jordanthorpe, and it would appear that these were two distinct operations in which the Blythe family was involved.

By the last half of the eighteenth century it was becoming a familiar pattern that the status of the skilled craftsman in the cutlery industry would be maintained "in a twilight world of semi- independence, where he worked for a merchant (and, sometimes, for more than one), hired his motive-power at a "public wheel"; and adhered to strict price lists."(13) In Heeley in 1764, Benjamin Roebuck, factor, entered into agreements with three cutlers, members of the Gill family, whereby each of them was to buy of Roebuck "all the iron, steel and other materials he shall have occasion to use in the manufacturing of knives" (and all his family's clothes and linen too), provided that such goods were supplied at the rates and prices at which "the same may be bought in Sheffield." Joshua, George and Stephen Gill each agreed that he "shall and will during the term of his natural life diligently and faithfully work and employ himself and his Apprentices Journeymen and Servants in the manufacturing of knives for the use of the said Benjamin Roebuck his Executors Administrators and Assigns and shall not work for any other person or persons whomsoever without the license and consent of the Said Benjamin Roebuck . . ."

In the cutlery trade, it appears that this is amongst the earliest evidence of manufacture being controlled by the large-scale merchant or factor; but it makes sense of the evidence from the Blythe inventories to suggest that this was very much the same kind of arrangement which they had been operating in the Norton scythemaking industry a century and more before. The inventory of the William Blythe who died in 1631/2 suggests the possibility that the "specialist grinders" were also amongst those who had entered into this kind of relationship: his debtors included Roland Gillott and John Barnes, both of whom owed him 3-4s "besides toules". It could well have been the more skilled and ambitious, rather than the humblest, of Norton's scythemakers who found it in their interests to operate like this: it was a means of acquiring the capital stock and equipment with which they could expand their operations. And perhaps it was this investment which enabled them to take on additional employees - over whom they, not the Blythes, would maintain control. If it is the case that the Blythes' arrangements were similar to those operated later by Benjamin Roebuck, the main benefit for the craftsmen involved would have been a commitment from the Blythes to purchasing all the goods they produced, at the prevailing prices; they could thus leave in the Blythes' hands the full responsibility for marketing and distribution.

5. Cutlers

Norton's cutlers showed a more marked increase in number than any other occupational grouping between 1560 and 1620. (See Chapter IV, Table 6). A total of 30 men were described as cutlers in the registers: of the 24 appearing at baptisms, only one was recorded for the first time between 1560 and 1579, but between 1580 and 1599, there were 10 making a first appearance, and 13 between 1600 and 1619.

The baptism registers suggest that Norton's cutlers were clustered in two distinct areas of the parish. Sheffield was well-established by the Elizabethan period as a major cutlery centre, and not surprisingly one of these clusters was near the Sheffield parish boundary: 13 of the 30 lived close to the stretch of the Sheaf between Heeley and Smithy Wood, at Heeley Bridge, Cliffield, Hollogate Head and Norton Lees. An indenture in the Jackson Collection dated 1608/9 provides clear evidence that there was by then a "cutlers mylne or wheel" at Smithy Wood, "belonging now or late in the occupacon of Richard Cowley"; these 13 cutlers were within easy reach of both this grinding wheel, and the cutlers wheel at Heeley. (Two of the Norton cutlers living in this area were members of the Tayler family, who held the tenancy of Heeley Wheel during the early Elizabethan period.)(14)

The other major clustering of cutlers was at Walk Mill (where Dore and Totley station now stands), which was first built as a fulling mill by the monks of Beauchief Abbey in the late thirteenth century. Seven of the 30 cutler fathers lived at Walk Mill or nearby in Beauchief; four of these had the surname of Mylneward or Milward. The name itself suggests strong family connections with the operation of mills; and perhaps it was the Mylnewards themselves who - by the 1580s when they first began to appear in the baptism registers - had undertaken the work of converting Walk Mill into a cutlers wheel. At Woodseats there were four cutlers recorded; the remaining six were scattered over the parish.

23 of the 30 cutlers were entered only under this occupational category, but eight of these appeared only once in the registers. So while it seems that there was a fairly high degree of occupational stability amongst cutlers, it is possible that this did not exist to the extent the figures suggest - the large proportion of single entry cutlers can provide no positive evidence of either occupational mobility or stability. Seven of the eight "single entry" cutlers appeared only at the baptism or burial of a child, or, in one case, only at his marriage. This suggests that they were likely to be men who moved out of Norton parish during their working lives, most probably to live closer to the major centre of cutlery production at Sheffield.

The fact that cutlery was not a strongly rooted local specialisation in Norton parish is clearly indicated by the presence of just one cutler in the registers between 1560 and 1579; and this lack of local roots for the trade very probably explains why it is that none of Norton's largest family networks were employed in it: not one Bullocke, Barten, Blythe or Parker appears as a cutler. The Milwards were the only family with more than two cutlers recorded; and there were just three families with two cutlers (Bore/Bower, Rose, and Tayler: the Roses as well as the Taylers had family links with cutlers settled on the Sheffield side of Heeley). Eight of the cutlers were either the only men with that surname in the registers, or the only ones whose occupation was recorded; of the remaining 22 who can be placed in a family context, 17 had no relations listed amongst the yeomen or gentry. Of the five who did have yeoman or gentleman connections in the parish, only one of them had links with a yeoman family of any substance (Gervase Poynton); and one, Sampson Foljambe, was the illegitimate son of Godfrey Foljambe, gent, of Morewood Hall.

Of the seven cutlers who are shown by the registers to have made occupational shifts during their working lives, one was later a scythesmith,one was later a scytheseller, one had progressed from being a labourer and then a blacksmith; one was also described as a shearsmith, and three descended to the ranks of labourers.

There are wills and/or inventories for three cutlers dating from this period: Richard Cowley of Norton Lees (1625), Robert Milward of Walk Mill (1624) and Robert Wildsmith of Woodseats (1615). Richard Cowley was tenant of the cutlers wheel at Smithy Wood, and Robert Milward was from the family who held Walk Mill: their control over the grinding wheels made their situation rather different from that of most Norton cutlers, and would be likely to have gone hand-in-hand with a greater level of prosperity. As usual, wills and inventories cannot be taken to be representative.

Robert Milward left goods valued at 75-1-8; Richard Cowley's were worth 62-13-4; and Robert Wildsmith's, 41-8-3. All of them had a smallholding, and agricultural stock worth a good deal more than their trade stock. Robert Milward's and Richard Cowley's houses had house, parlour and kitchen downstairs, with two chambers upstairs; Robert Wildsmith's was not itemised room by room. Robert Milward had farm stock worth 27 10s: it consisted of corn and hay, three cows and a heifer, three horses and a foal, and some manure. His trade stock comprised "Bellies (sic) and stithys and other furniture for his trade praised to 3", together with a supply of steel. His household goods included a good stock of brassware and beds, with linen sheets, but no "luxury items" such as books, musical instruments, or glassware.

Richard Cowley's farm stock consisted of agricultural tools, two cows, a heifer and two calves, together with corn, hay and straw in the barn, and 2 worth of corn sown on the ground: in total worth around 20. His tools for the smithy were valued at 4 in all, and in the house chambers there were "knives drest & undreste steele and Oliphante" (presumably ivory) worth 1-9-0. Richard Cowley had no children, and his home was relatively well-equipped for a couple with no dependants. His household goods were valued at 18 8s in total: there was the usual "self-sufficiency" clutter of vats, wool wheels, salt beef and bacon and yarn in the chambers, but there were also feather beds, with plenty of bedding. The remainder of Richard Cowley's assets consisted of debts due to him, totalling 13-5-0.

Robert Wildsmith was a young man when he died: his widow Rosamund was five months pregnant, and had a 20-month old son as well. There is no record of her remarriage, nor of a Wildsmith family network who could offer her any support. (The only other Wildsmith appearing in the registers was Alice, whose illegitimate twins, fathered by Godfrey Reresby, gentleman of Ickles, were baptised and buried in September 1604.) Rosamund inherited the lease on a smallholding, and livestock consisting of four cows, a heifer, a horse, four hens and four geese. There were also supplies of oats, barley and hay; the total value of farm stock was around 14. The items in Wildsmith's smithy included just one pair of bellows and one stithy, with a stock of four dozen knives and nine dozen knife blades: his trade stock was worth about 6 in all. Household goods, including stores of barley and wheat, looms, churns and so on, were valued at about 20; the one "luxury item" was a Bible worth 8s. The major problem facing Rosamund would no doubt have been that although Robert had been owed 19 when he died, his creditors were owed 54 17s 8d in total. (These included 12s owed to George Oxspring, a cutler who was very probably Rosamund's brother - they were the only two adults with this surname in the registers.) Presumably Rosamund must have lived on in Norton, because one of her sons was buried here in 1629: the lack of evidence as to how a woman in her position would have lived her life is thoroughly frustrating.

6. Blacksmiths, Smelters and Leadworkers

The 13 men in this occupational grouping include five iron smelters working at Smithy Wood between 1568 and 1601, (three of them were also sometimes described as blacksmith or ironsmith); and two lead smelters at Beauchief, to whom we shall return shortly. Two blacksmiths and a horseshoer lived at Grennell - as did Thomas Camme, a husbandman described on one occasion as an iron-striker. (This concentration of "general jobbing blacksmiths" at Grennell fits in with the impression that this was the largest and most "village-like" community in Elizabethan Norton - see Chapter V.) Finally, there was another blacksmith at Himsworth, and a smith at Beauchief.

As a rule these men do not appear to have come from well-established local families: Thomas Camme was the only one of the 13 who had a surname from the "Top 50". Eight cannot be placed in the context of any family network: either they are the only adult man with that surname, or any others did not have occupations recorded. Two were members of the Peniston family, to whom we shall return when leadworkers are considered in more detail. As far as occupational mobility is concerned, two smelters were also described as labourers during their working lives; and Richard Chapman, recorded as labourer and smith in 1576 and 1577 while he was living at Beauchief, was very probably one and the same as the Richard Chapman who was a cutler at Heeley in 1580. (It would be too much of a coincidence if there were two Richard Chapmans both given to fathering illegitimate children during this period - Chapter IV deals with this more fully.) Thomas Camme, as we have seen, was primarily a husbandman; one of the Grennell family who were described variously as husbandman, yeoman, farmer, and "possessor of land".

John Wigfall of Himsworth was the only blacksmith to leave a will or inventory: he had always been called a blacksmith in the registers, but when he drew up a will before his death in 1595, he was described as a husbandman. John had only married four years before his burial, and left his widow Alice with two young children; she was an Urton, and perhaps it was through this family connection that just recently, in the "36th year of Elizabeth", he had acquired a lease on some land from one of the Urton family at Lightwood. It seems likely that Alice kept on this smallholding: when she remarried in 1598, her new husband (Alexander Wilkinson, a cutler), moved from Sheffield to live with her at Himsworth.

The community of iron smelters at "Smithies" - between Cliffield and Woodseats - is worth looking at in some detail. We know the occupations of all seven heads of household who were recorded here between 1560 and 1620:

Smelter 2 Smelter/ironsmith 1

Smelter/blacksmith 1 Smelter/blacksmith/labourer 1

Scythe finisher/labourer/nailer/striker 1

Yeoman 1

The fact that an inventory was left for one of these smelters, Christopher Thorpe, suggests that he could well have been better-off than his neighbours; but there were no signs of luxury in his list of possessions. The total value of his goods was 14-4s, made up as follows: three cows, two pigs, hay and manure worth a total of 6-15-0; his clothes and ready money 1; bedding 2 1s; cooking equipment, dishes etc., and domestic fire tools 1 15s; other household goods 2-14-0. No working tools or stock were listed amongst Christopher's goods: it is quite possible that these were owned by the smithy's landlord, probably at this point in time the Parkers of Norton Lees.

Christopher Thorpe was not an old man whose working days were over when he died; he left his widow Anna with seven children under the age of 12 to bring up on her own (unless some had already died without their burials having been recorded). If the inventory provides an accurate account of their household goods, they had just three mattresses between them to sleep on, and no furniture worth mentioning except one cupboard valued at 10/-.

The entry for Anna Thorpe's burial in 1607 shows that she lived on at Smithies without remarrying. In contrast, the story of another smelter's family at Smithies demonstrates the speed at which remarriage so often took place in Elizabethan Norton. It also shows the devastating way in which death could sweep through a household. In December 1589 John Sharpe (smelter, blacksmith, then labourer) died; in October 1590, his widow Alice married Hugh Hallam, who set up home with her at Smithies and found work thereabouts as a scythefinisher, a labourer, a nailer, and then a scythestriker. In 1601 tragedy struck the family. First, Alice's son John by her first marriage died in January. Hugh Hallam followed him to the grave in April, and in May Alice was buried too. And then in July, the burial was recorded of "Hallam inf., son Hugh, lately of Smithies, deceased." What happened to their other children - four had been baptised between 1592 and 1601 - we do not know; the registers provide no further clues.

The yeoman with Smithies as his address was Robert Eyre; and it seems that by the time he had settled there, iron smelting had ceased in the area. He first appeared in the registers at the baptism of his daughter in 1604; the last time a smelter (or blacksmith or ironsmith) was entered in the registers at Smithies was 1601. Documents in the Jackson Collection relating to the lands between Heeley and Smithy Wood would appear to confirm that smelting had ceased here by 1608-9; reference is made at that time to "one tenement or house of foure bayes and an outshoote heretofore used for a bloome smythie (my emphasis); Robert Eyre's house was known as "the Smythies", so he could well have moved in after the smelters had moved (or died) out.(15)


There were four men described as leadworkers in the registers. Three were members of the Peniston family: it looks as if three brothers, Robert, Thomas, and Ralph, must have settled here in the late 1580s. The fourth was Robert Owtrem, brother of Thomas, yeoman of Bradway - if he was directly employed in the extraction of lead, this seems an unusually unpleasant and hazardous trade for a man with good family connections. (There was an inventory for his brother Thomas, who died early in 1599, six years after Robert: his agricultural stock included six big oxen and was valued at 140 in all, so he was amongst the most substantial of Norton's yeomen.) In addition to these four, it seems apparent that William Evance of Beauchief, described simply as a smelter, would have been working with lead - there are no other suggestions of any ironsmelting activities in this part of the parish.

All these five had addresses given as either Grennell or Beauchief - these are neighbouring parts of the parish, and it seems likely that leadsmelting was taking place at one particular location here. Apart from William Evance, who was described as a smelter here in 1611, the other leadworker entries are concentrated between 1589 and 1597. In 1590, the burial registers recorded the death of John Holland, killed by the fall of a mass of lead while he was working as an apprentice to Christopher Chapman, yeoman of Grennell: possibly this was one and the same working.

Between 1597 and 1600 one of the Penistons, Thomas, ceased being described as a leadworker and was thereafter known as a labourer; it is possible that William Evance made a more surprising change of occupation. In 1621 a William "Evens" of Bradway was buried: an inventory was drawn up for him, where he was described as a miller. In any shape or form Evans was not a local name; on balance they are likely to have been one and the same person. No other inventory was left by a leadworker, and the one for William Evens is considered amongst the millers.

7. Nailers

11 nailers appear in the Norton registers during this period: six lived at Woodseats, and two nearby at Cliffield and Smithies; there were two from Norton, and one who lived just over the parish boundary at Gleadless. Three were members of the Barten family - the second largest of Norton's family networks, who mostly lived in the Woodseats area. The lowliest member of the Bate family - six out of eight of whom were yeomen - was Richard, a nailer. The other nailers included three of the five Friths who appear in the registers: one other Frith died a pauper, and the occupation of the fifth was not recorded. Then there were two Hallams - the other two Hallams in the registers were Thomas, a labourer who died a pauper; and John of Woodseats, whose occupation was not given. Finally, there was Christopher Bennett of Norton, one of the few men in the parish who was prepared to marry the mother of another man's illegitimate child; and John Cowper of Woodseats, who was working as a nailer between 1582 and 1587, but from 1589 to 1598 was described as a labourer. The three nailers who also appear with different occupational descriptions moved only to other unskilled or semi-skilled work: William Frith was also a labourer; George Hallam was also a striker; we met Hugh Hallam at Smithies, described within a seven-year period as a scythefinisher, then a labourer, then a nailer, then a striker.

The Bartens were a family with a number of husbandmen and yeomen amongst the Woodseats branches, and it is almost certainly no coincidence that the one nailer to leave an inventory was a Barten - one suspects that his life might have been a little different from that of the Friths, the Hallams, or Christopher Bennett. Christopher Barten was buried in 1604: he was fortunate enough to live until his children were grown up. It is clear from his inventory that despite the fact that he was always described as a nailer, he was one of the true cases of a "dual occupation" - his farming interests were well above the level of self-sufficiency. He farmed land at Woodseats as well as Bolehill - there were one and a half days work of hard corn and three days work of oats at Bolehill, and 11 days worth at Woodseats. His trade stock was not large - "Bellows anvils and implements belonging to nailing 3-6-8", together with some smithy iron; but his feather bed and his four silver spoons suggest that he had achieved a standard of living well above that of a husbandman with a similar amount of agricultural stock.

8. Non-Metalworking Craftsmen

Taken in all, 103 men are recorded in the variety of trades which have been grouped together in this section - this amounts to 22% of the men with known occupations. There was virtually no crossover between one craft and another: the occasions when occupational shifts took place involved craftsmen also being described during their working lives as husbandmen, yeomen, or labourers. I have not attempted to look at all of their lives in the same amount of depth as Norton's metalworkers: but their presence in the parish as a substantial proportion of the working population should be appreciated nonetheless.

Carpenters, woodmen and joiners

15 men were described as carpenters or woodmen - the terms appear to have been genuinely interchangeable - and a further five were joiners: the level of consistency over usage here demonstrates that their trade was clearly distinguishable from that of the carpenters.

One carpenter was also described as a wheelwright (his name, incidentally, was Robert Cartwright); one, Leonard Norris of Himsworth, we met amongst the husbandmen. But these were the only two occasions when any of the woodworkers also appeared under other occupational descriptions: as with most of the non-metalworking craftsmen, the general pattern was distinctly one of occupational stability through a working life. Only one carpenter family, however, provides clear evidence of having carried on the trade from one generation to the next: there were three Roses who were woodmen. But the five joiners included two sets of fathers and sons: Richard Morten snr and jnr, and the two Nightingales.

11 of the 20 carpenters and joiners had surnames from outside the "Top 50"; eight cannot be placed within any family context. Of the 12 who can, nine came from family networks where nobody was recorded as having attained the rank of yeoman or above; the three whose relatives included yeomen were an Allen, a Barten, and a Parker.

Inventories were left by two of this group: John Rose, carpenter of Grennell (1615), and Richard Nightingale, joiner of Himsworth (1632). Both lived in houses similar in size to most of the metalworkers who left inventories, although Richard Nightingale's was a cut above John Rose's: his rooms were described as house, parlour, chamber over parlour, chamber over house, buttery and workshop, whereas John Rose had house, kitchen, chamber over house, and chamber over kitchen. Richard Nightingale's goods were valued at 66, and John Rose's at 33-13-4d. Richard's agricultural stock was valued at 38, and included three horses, two cows, two calves, and a stock of corn "in the house and outdoors" worth 10. The fact that his house included a well-equipped buttery could very well suggest that Richard's wife Alice ran a little dairy business as part of the family economy: one problem about describing a craftsman like Richard Nightingale as pursuing a "dual occupation" is of course that it overlooks the major part played by women in the work of the household, and ignores the likely divisions of labour between husband and wife. Between them, Richard and Alice were able to furnish the house with a reasonable degree of comfort: their household goods, excluding the equipment in the buttery, were valued at about 20 and included two feather beds. By the time that Richard Nightingale died, his children - at least those who had survived to adulthood - were all aged over 30; this family was fortunate in that both parents lived to a fairly old age.

Unless some of them had already gone to their graves unrecorded, John Rose left his widow Elizabeth with four young children aged under 15 to bring up - the youngest was 3. Their livestock consisted of three kine and a calf, a pig and three sheep, worth 10 in all; no corn was recorded. Along with the beds, there were around 2 10s worth of carpentry tools and "bits for a pump" in one of the chambers, and the other contained pitchfork, staffs, and a flitch of bacon. The kitchen was used for cheese production as well as general preparation of family food; but the 'house' suggests a degree of refinement in these cramped quarters. Its furnishings included a "little drawing table", and a pair of virginals were amongst the other items.

Charcoal Burners

Other craftsmen included four coopers and two wheelwrights; more significantly, there were also 12 charcoal burners (or wood colliers, as they were alternatively known), who drew their employment from Norton's woodlands. These included at various times four at Grennell and three nearby at Beauchief, with another two at Lees and one at Lightwood; but at least four of them moved from one part of the parish to another during their working lives. Two families were prominent amongst the charcoal burners: all three Byrkenshawes appearing in the register were charcoal burners, and so too were four of the seven Foxes. The other three Foxes were a labourer, a tailor, and a waller/slater; and no charcoal burner came from a family network which included yeomen amongst its local members.

The only charcoal burner who was entered in the registers under more than one occupational description was Richard Smithe of Lees, who was described as a husbandman in his earlier appearances. In addition John Hunter of Grennell, buried in 1585, was entered as a charcoal burner in the registers, but as a husbandman when an inventory was drawn up. There was also an inventory for Robert Hunter of Grennell, probably his son, who died in 1621: he was one of the men whose occupation was not given in the registers, but the inventory described him as a wood collier. His goods were valued at 44, but 16-18-6d of this was debts owing to him. 16 of the remaining 27 was accounted for by his agricultural stock: four kyne, two calves, one horse, one swine, and a few poultry, together with corn worth nearly 4. His house was not itemised room by room, and the goods, valued at 6, were basic. The pewter and brass, together with a frying pan, accounted for 2, while "Two beddsteeds and all the bedding in the house" were worth in total 33s 4d. The only other household items were fire tools, storage containers, looms and 10s worth of flax and yarn, two chairs and six cushions.

It seems quite possible that there were two distinct lifestyles amongst Norton's charcoal burners: some, like the Hunters or Richard Smithe, may have had a settled home in one part of the parish and thus have been able to keep a smallholding of a very humble kind in combination with their charcoalburning activities. The others probably shared a lifestyle which was usual amongst wood colliers throughout the country(16): living in hut encampments in the woodland, and, presumably, unlikely to have held the lease on any ground. It may well be that the parish registers are 'skewed' as a source when it comes to estimating the size of this occupational group, in particular: they are perhaps amongst the most likely to have 'slipped through the ecclesiastical net' when it came to recording the vital events in their lives.

Sheathers, tanners, shoemakers, weavers and tailors

Another group of craftsmen whose work was directly related to the metalworking trades were the sheathers, seven of whom appeared in the registers during this period. These included one, John Anderton of Woodseats, for whom an inventory was drawn up after his death in 1629. The rooms in his dwelling consisted of a firehouse, parlour, kitchen, chamber, and little chamber, together with a shop and a barn; his goods were valued at a total of 42, and his farm stock consisted of two cows and four swine, together with oats, hay and meal in the barn.

Another sheather, Edward Malam, was entered as a husbandman on the eight other occasions when he appeared in the registers. Then there was Anthony Barten, who was described as a sheather at his marriage, but less than a year later as a husbandman, and afterwards a yeoman. Anthony Barten was not alone amongst his family in working as a craftsman, and then establishing himself with yeoman status. Two other Bartens, Thomas and Godfrey, made the same progression, in their cases from tanner to yeoman. Thomas was consistently described as a tanner, first at Woodseats and then at Lees, at the baptisms and burials of his children between 1581 and 1590, but at his burial in 1621 he was entered as a yeoman. His son Godfrey was a tanner at Lees when he first appears in the baptism registers in 1610, but by the following year he had established his status as that of a yeoman - this did not have to wait until the death of his father. In all there were just four occasions when non-metalworking craftsmen started out in life with a trade and progressed into the yeomanry: it is significant that three of these were members of the Barten family, one of Norton's three largest family networks and, out of all the larger kinship groups in the parish, the one which shows the most equal balance of family occupations between crafts and farming.

Thomas and Godfrey Barten clearly ran the major tanning operation in the parish at Lees: the only other tanner in the registers was Thomas Tricket, who was also working at Lees in the first decade of the seventeenth century. The other Trickets in the registers whose occupations were recorded were two servants and two labourers: one was the servant of Thomas Barten, and it seems likely that Thomas Tricket would also have been an employee of the Bartens.

We will pass over the two shoemakers and one "worker in leather" entered in the registers, except to mention that they were a Barten, a Bullocke, and a Green; and that Thomas Bullocke, the worker in leather at Grennell, was also described as a husbandman. I am also going to say less than would be possible about Norton's ten weavers. Amongst them were Richard Atkin, whose father Godfrey had been a weaver before him, and never described as anything else in the registers. Richard was a weaver during the years between 1598 and 1601 when his first three children were born, but on all occasions over the following 18 years when he brought the latest of his 14 children to be baptised, he was described as a yeoman. (As we shall see in the following chapter, Richard Atkin was one of very few Norton men to father anything like this number of children.)

One of the ten weavers (Henry Nall), and two of the parish's seven tailors left wills or inventories. These included Thomas Holland, tailor of Little Norton, who drew up a will before his death late in 1582. (This was just nine years after his marriage, and his widow Ellen was left with four children under the age of seven to bring up: the youngest was only eight months old.) He was almost certainly the same Thomas Holland who was entered in 1579 in the baptism registers as a husbandman at Jordanthorpe, which adjoins Little Norton; and we have seen that two scythesmith members of the Holland family also left wills and/or inventories, and that they both appear to have aroused some local confusion as to whether they should be described as craftsmen or husbandmen.

If the small number of wills and inventories left by craftsmen (both metalworking and non-metalworking) came from anything like a random selection, we would certainly not expect to find as many as three of the eight Holland men amongst them. It is significant that in combination with their disproportionate presence amongst the craftsmen leaving wills and inventories, the Hollands are also disproportionately represented amongst those whose shifting occupational descriptions provide an indication that they are likely to have pursued a "dual occupation". They account for three of the 12 cases where craftsmen - metalworking and non-metalworking - were also described as husbandmen either in the registers, wills, or inventories, and where it looks as if this could have been due to confusion amongst contemporaries as to how they should be entered. It is also significant that in five of these 12 cases, wills or inventories were left. Clearly these were the craftsmen most likely to possess agricultural stock of any value; and equally clearly, the evidence does not permit us to regard them as typical.


One might have expected the miller to be a stable pillar of the local community, but the 15 millers recorded in Norton during this period suggest a very different picture. Only two had surnames from the "Top 50". Five appeared in the registers on one occasion only, three appeared twice only, with a maximum interval of three years between the two appearances; two appeared once only as a miller, but were also recorded with different occupations. Another, Thomas Milnes, moved in the course of his working life from one corn mill in the parish to another: from New Mills to Heeley Bridge.

Four of the 15 were recorded at Bradway, five at New Mills, and three at Heeley: a clear indication of where the parish corn mills were sited during this period. There are wills and inventories which enable us to look particularly closely at one of these mills. The "two corn mills under one roof" which were known by contemporaries as New Mills, and the cutler's wheel nearby, were almost certainly at Smithy Wood.(17) Francis Barker was the first miller to be recorded here in the registers, with children baptised between 1569 and 1582. He must have died between 1582 and 1588, although this was not entered in the Norton burials. When his widow Margaret died in 1588, she left seven children aged between six and 19. An inventory shows that she had 18 worth of possessions to divide between them: the most precious items were three cows, valued at 6 in all, and in her will she carefully allocated every item, down to the last pot and pan. Her will is of interest, because it throws a little light on the relationship between herself and John Parker the elder of Lees, the major landlord in this part of Norton parish. She appointed him supervisor of her will, "requesting him also to continue his accustomed favour towards my said children, according to my special trust reposed in him": a reminder, perhaps, of the vulnerability of an orphaned family.

The second miller to appear here in the registers was John Buckley, who died in 1591; he also left an inventory. His goods were worth 73, of which over half was the lease of the farm and mill, valued at 40. The rest of his possessions comprised:

10 couples of sheep, three kyne, cow and

calf; two days' work of hardcorn and

two of oats; manure 18-00-0

Clothes and money 4-10-0

Bedding 4-10-0

Cooking equipment etc. 2-05-0

Stocks of meat and corn in the house 1-05-0

Other household items 2-10-0

Like Francis Barker, John Buckley left behind a young family: his daughter Katherine was just seven months old when her father died. After two years as a widow, Katherine's mother Ellen married a tailor, Hugh Foxe, who moved in with her at New Mills. They may have moved on soon afterwards, though, since they do not appear in the registers again after the baptism of a daughter in 1594. Quite possibly they sold the lease of the mill to Thomas Milnes, who was recorded as the miller there from 1595 until he moved to Heeley some time between 1604 and 1610. In 1610 the miller at New Mills was Edward Rodes, who appeared just once in the registers at the baptism of his son. John Saunderson, also of New Mills, brought his son to be baptised on the same day, and on this occasion he too was described as a miller: in previous register entries he had appeared as a striker, and on a later occasion he was a labourer, so it would seem likely that he was an unskilled assistant at the mill.

Bradway Mill also appears to have seen a rapid turnover of millers in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. Robert Shepphearde was entered as miller there at a baptism in 1596, and then Thomas Meller at baptisms in 1597 and 1600. (It is worth noting that two Norton millers, Thomas Milnes as well as Thomas Meller, had occupational surnames.) The following year, when William Shawe was buried, he was described as miller of Bradway.

Two millers, Thomas Hall of Beauchief and Anthony Mawer of Little Norton, were described in later register entries as husbandmen; on one occasion Anthony Mawer was also called a yeoman. A more surprising occupational shift may have been made by William Evans, described as "late of Bradway, miller" when an inventory was drawn up after his burial in 1621. Although his only livestock consisted of two cows valued at 3, he was owed nearly 38, and there were two feather beds and four pairs of linen sheets in the parlour: altogether, household goods were worth around 14. Was this the same William Evans who had been a smelter in Beauchief when his daughter was baptised ten years earlier? It was not a local name, and taken in combination with the evidence which suggests that the corn-miller was not such a firmly-rooted figure in the local community as one might expect, the possibility cannot be dismissed.

Other craftsmen

Another fairly sizeable group of craftsmen in the parish were the slaters and wallers, 12 of whom were recorded during this period. It was probably common for the same men to work as both slaters and wallers: four of the six whose occupations were given more than once were described as both. Nine of the 12 had surnames from the Top 50, and they included three Bullockes amongst their numbers. One - Peter Slater of Haslebarrow - had an occupational surname. Five lived at Grennell, with the others distributed throughout the parish. The two slater/wallers who appeared in the registers with other occupational descriptions were both also labourers, and no slaters or wallers left inventories.

The remaining craftsmen included Henry Henlocke, a musical instrument maker; James and Roger Clayton, two dish-turners from Gleadless who both married Norton women; and Stephen Bamford, a "poynter" or "puncher" who we will meet at Heeley.

None of Norton's non-metalworking craftsmen attained a level of wealth which was comparable to John Barnes, scythegrinder of Cliffield Wheel. But otherwise, the inventories of the elite who left them suggest a standard of living which was much the same as emerges from those left by metalworkers; and the proportion of non- metalworking craftsmen leaving inventories or wills is similar to that of metalworkers. (A total of 110 men were described as metalworkers of one kind or another at their last entry in the registers, and there are 14 metalworkers' wills and/or inventories. 92 men were non-metalworking craftsmen the last time they appeared in the registers, and 12 left wills or inventories.) It seems apparent that some of the non-metalworking crafts were more humble than others: the slaters and wallers, none of whom left an inventory and two of whom were also described as labourers, were perhaps the lowest-ranking. Apart from them, there was remarkably little crossover between non-metalworking craftsmen and labourers - far less than there was amongst the metalworkers, as the following section shows.

9. Labourers

In Norton during this period, 82 men - more than one in six of all those with known occupations - were described at some stage in their working lives as labourers. 50 of these were entered only as labourers, but 32 of them also appeared in other occupational categories, mainly amongst the husbandmen and the metalworkers.

In all 17 men shifted between being described as labourers and metalworkers. The main impression appears to be of downward mobility: 10 of these were metalworkers in earlier register entries and labourers in later ones, two were labourers first and metalworkers later, and the other five moved back and forth between being described as metalworkers and labourers. The 17 included eight who were also strikers, four also cutlers, three nailers, two blacksmiths, and a leadworker. One of them, Hugh Hallam, was entered as a scythesmith, a striker and a nailer as well as a labourer; two more of the striker-labourers were also described on occasion as scythesmiths, but there were no scythesmiths who were also described as labourers without being entered at some stage as strikers as well.

10 labourers were also described as husbandmen during their working lives: one of these was John Saunderson, who had a uniquely varied set of occupations. He always lived in the same part of the parish: his address was given on different occasions as Cliffield Yate, Hollogate Head, New Mills, and Woodseats. On the five occasions when his occupation was entered in the registers, he was described twice as a striker, once as a husbandman, once as a miller and once as a labourer. Of the other labourers also entered as husbandmen, two were labourers the last time they appeared in the registers, while seven were labourers first and husbandmen later - we have already met them amongst the husbandmen. Just three labourers were also described as non-metalworking craftsmen of any kind: two of these were slaters, and one a tanner. Finally, the labourers whose "occupational" description changed during their lives included three who died as paupers - Thomas Hallam of Mackerhay, Robert Hey of Grennell, and John North of Norton.

Only 10 of the 82 labourers came from family networks which included yeomen or gentry. Three of Norton's five largest family networks - the Blythes, the Bartens, and the Parkers - included no labourers at all amongst those whose occupations were recorded, whilst amongst the Bullockes - the most extensive family network of all in Norton - there was only one labourer. Despite this scarcity of labourers from the largest and most successful of Norton's families, it would be wrong to think that they were almost all rootless "incomers" to the parish. 47 can be placed in a family context of two or more adult men sharing the same surname, and half of them had surnames from the "Top 50". But there were no sizeable family networks which, as far as the registers tell us, were comprised mainly of labourers. This was in clear contrast to the yeoman families; and, for instance, to the Barnes, the Biggens and the Brownells amongst the scythesmiths, and the Byrkenshawes and Foxes amongst the charcoal-burners. Often there were two labourers with the same surname: Allen, Barker, Browne, Chapman, Cooke, Darcie, Greaves, Green, Hallam, Hill, Kirkby, Morten, North, Townend, Tricket, Waridyne (or Warrinden) and Willye. The only surname shared by more than two labourers was that of Rose: three Roses were labourers, but another three were carpenters.

The largest concentration of labourers in Norton parish was at Grennell, with 17 recorded there: Chapter V gives a full picture of their distribution. A considerable number of Norton's labourers appear to have moved to different parts of the parish during their working lives: out of 59 whose address was recorded more than once, 23 made a "significant" change of address at some stage. (In other words, to a location which was not adjacent to the part of the parish where they were previously recorded as living.) The contrast with the yeomen is quite apparent: out of 62 yeomen whose address was recorded more than once, only four made a significant change of address.

Almost certainly, this amount of movement amongst the labourers reflected a situation where many of them were working for day-rates, and shifting from one employer to another. On the other hand, there were the 36 labourers who were always recorded with the same address, and who might perhaps have spent their entire working life in the employment of one master: we have to recognise the variety of experience which was likely to have existed within this occupational grouping. This was also true in terms of the kinds of work which labourers in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Norton would have done: in a community where metalworking and related activities played such an important part, by no means all of labouring work would have been agricultural. Coal and ironstone needed to be mined, stone quarried and transported, dams and watercourses excavated, and so on. Nobody resident in Norton during this period was described as a miner, a quarryman or a carrier, nor was there any early equivalent of a "navvy". All this work was done by men who were defined by the general description of labourers: no doubt some of them were primarily farm workers, others were mainly employed in industrial labour, and still others shifted between one and the other.

In the entire collection of wills and inventories for Norton parish - not just those dated between 1560 and 1650 - the 300 Norton residents whom they represent include none who was described as a labourer in these documents. In those dating from our period, just one relates to a parishioner who appeared at any stage during his working life as a labourer. John Green, buried in 1635, had been consistently entered in the registers as a labourer of Cliffield Yate at the baptisms and burials of his children between 1599 and 1609; in 1612 he was still living at Cliffield Yate, but he was now described as a husbandman. His occupation was unrecorded in the burial registers, but when his inventory was drawn up the appraisers called him a yeoman. A further inventory survives in the neighbouring parish of Beighton for George Jessop, who appears to have moved back and forth between Himsworth and Beighton during his working life: he was entered in the Norton registers as a labourer at his marriage early in 1610, then a husbandman at the end of that year, then a labourer again between 1613 and 1617. He died in 1639 and was buried at Beighton: the appraisers described him as a labourer when they drew up his rather extraordinary inventory. It read as follows:

Purse & apparell 2-0-0

Debts upon bond 6-2-0

In ready money 36-0-0

Huslements in parlour 0-5-0



Less desperate debts 3-6-0

& funeral expenses 1-7-0



With possessions other than money valued at just 5s, it seems as likely as not that George Jessop was an archetypal miser.

The lack of wills or inventories for the rest of the 82 labourers who lived and died in Norton parish during this period is clearly significant: if it had been normal for a labourer to possess agricultural stock at anything like a smallholding level, we can safely assume that at least some of them would have figured in these documents. Those who moved around the parish were unlikely to have had access to more than a garden plot, and perhaps enough space for a pig and some poultry; those who were more permanently settled in one part of Norton, and most particularly those who were later described as husbandmen, may have been able to go a little further towards providing for their own needs. It is frustrating that there is so little evidence to give us any insights into how labourers' families would have lived their lives during this period: but we can be sure that their standard of living was no higher than that of the poorer husbandmen who left inventories, and we have seen the extent to which their homes were lacking anything in the way of creature comforts.

10. Male Servants

There were numerous types of servant in Elizabethan and Stuart England. The gentry and more substantial yeomanry would keep farm servants "living-in" until they were in a position to marry, after which they were most likely to continue their working lives as agricultural labourers. The inventories of yeomen and gentlemen sometimes provide insights into how these young men would have lived: chaff beds in a "chamber over the stables" were perhaps the most usual accommodation. There were non-agricultural servants engaged on a similar basis: it must have been unmarried servants or apprentices who slept in such places as "an old bedd with the clothes thereupon" in the smithy of Thomas Hudson, yeoman; and when William Blythe of Norton Lees died in 1631, his possessions included chaff beds and bedding at Heeley Mill, and at "William Kent's smithy". Another indication of where servants might be placed appeared in the inventory for Robert Milward, cutler of Walk Mill: he owed 20s 4d "to his servants for wages" at his death in 1624. Stephen Bamford, poynter/puncher of Heeley, also owed wages to Robert Guilbethorpe "his man" when he was buried in 1610. And George Tricket was described as a servant to Thomas Barten of Lees - the tanner/yeoman - when he married in 1603.

The gentlemen of the parish, and the wealthiest yeomen, may have employed some of those described as servants on a rather different basis from the young men who lived in. Hugh Green, servant to Nicholas Strelley, gent, had a daughter buried in 1593 - presumably he was a married man, since the registers do not suggest otherwise. It is possible that the men described as "husbandmen" included some who, rather than farming their own smallholding, were employed to run an estate farm. When George More, gent, drew up his will in 1621, he bequeathed 6s 8d "to my head husbandman that shall dwell with me at the day of my death" (the others "serving him at husbandry" were to receive 3s 4d each). A generous bequest was made by John Parker, gentleman of Himsworth, who died in 1607: his servant Leonard Norris was to receive five marks and 20 nobles, "both which somes I will shall be payd to him in good sort." This seems to have been the same Leonard Morris who appeared in the registers between 1577 and 1589 as a husbandman at Himsworth, then once as a yeoman, then a carpenter(18); if so he would presumably have been something like an estate manager to John Parker. Edward Gill, yeoman of Norton, also bequeathed 20 nobles to his servant John North when he made his will in 1609: given the size of the bequest, and the fact that the Norths were primarily a husbandman family, it seems likely that he too would have been to all intents and purposes a farm manager.

Despite the fragments of evidence which suggest that a considerable number and variety of men were thought of as servants, those described as such in the registers were largely of one particular type. Seven of the 10 were the servants of gentlemen, and appeared in the registers only when they were buried: it was the manservant in the large house who, in contrast with farm servants, was most likely to remain unmarried and unchanged in status until his death.

11. Paupers

10 men described as paupers were entered in the registers during this period: nine when they were buried, and just one at an earlier stage in his life, at the baptism of his child. The only paupers who appeared under another occupational description in the registers were the three who had earlier been labourers. Two others - both of whom had surnames (Clarkson and Haslam) appearing nowhere else in the registers - were noted to be "strangers" in the parish. Robert Hey, pauper and old man of Grennell, shared the surname only with his wife Alice, who had died six years earlier in 1595. Two paupers came from families which, although they appear to have put down roots in Norton, included no members who had risen much above the level of the unskilled: the Friths and the Hallams. Both John Frith and Thomas Hallam were described as old men in the burial registers, and Thomas Hallam was also blind. Three paupers came from families numbering amongst Norton's "top 22" - John Bullocke of Grennell, John North of Norton, and Richard Urton of Herdings Lane. Finally there was Thomas Fanshawe of Bradway, who one must assume had some connection with the gentleman family which was resident at Fanshawe Gate in Holmesfield. One wonders whether some family disgrace might explain the pauper status of these last four.

The men who were described as paupers were by no means the only inhabitants of the parish who were unable to maintain themselves without assistance. The wills left by Norton parishioners during this period show that the poor were a constant presence, and that it was regarded as a duty for those in less straitened circumstances to provide for them. "Itm for that which shalbe given to the poore of Norton parishe I reffer to the discrecon of my Executors", said John Urton, yeoman of Lightwood when he drew up his will before his death in 1630: it sounds as if he was under an obligation to provide something. The gentlemen of the parish left sums varying between 1 and 5; yeoman contributions ranged from the mere "8d to the poor man's box" left by John Parker of Okes in 1575, to 40s left by Edward Gill of Norton in 1609. Husbandmen may not have been in a position to contribute quite so consistently, but those leaving wills often gave something. William Allen, husbandman of Himsworth, left some of his clothes to the poor; John Wigfall, husbandman and blacksmith, left 3s 4d. Craftsmen and metalworkers also played their part, although one might perhaps feel that the 3s 4d which John Barnes of Cliffield Wheel left to be distributed, was a little ungenerous in relation to the level of comfort he had attained himself.

There were two main ways in which it was directed that these bequests to the poor should be used. Simple handouts appear to have been fairly common: in 1631 Henry Mawer of Little Norton directed that 4d each should be given to "everie poor cottinger inhabiting within Norton parish"; three years earlier Anthony Poynton of Grennell made a similar gift of 6d each. The William Blythe of Norton Lees who was buried in 1620 left annuities to the poor widows of the parish, but when gentlemen or the wealthier yeomen contributed large sums, they normally specified that it should "remain in stock". Edward Gill, yeoman, instructed that 40s was to be paid "into the stocke for the poore of the parysh of Norton and shall bee imployed in such maner and forme as suche like gifts heretofore given to the said stocke". The "stocke" may perhaps have consisted of livestock which were hired out to parishioners who had fallen upon hard times. When Robert Bate, yeoman of Jordanthorpe died in 1573 he left goods worth a mere 6 5s 4d, an amount which was precisely matched by what he owed. The debts which the appraisers set down included "To the Church of Norton for two kyen 53s 4d", and "To the said church for the hier of the sayd kyen 8s." The idea seems to have been that the parish stock should yield a profit as well as providing a service for the poor: Edward Gill directed that the yearly increase or profit from the 40/- he had bequeathed to the stock should be given annually to the poor by the directions of his brother, his sons, and the churchwardens. Similarly in 1612 Frances Bate, spinster of Little Norton, directed in her will that the "increase and benefit" which accrued from the 20s she had left in stock for the poor was to be dispensed annually.

The inventory drawn up after the death of Lyon Spencer, husbandman of Norton, gives an idea of how seriously these bequests to the poor were taken. In 1610, Lyon had married Anna, the widow of George Bate, a yeoman who had died just nine months before, leaving his wife pregnant. Anna's second marriage was to last just a year before she was a widow once again, with a young son to bring up. But the appraisers of Lyon Spencer's inventory - responsible members of the Norton community - were not going to overlook one particular debt for which he was liable: "to the poore of Norton parish by a legacie given by George Bate late husband to the wife of the said Lyon Spencer 10s."

12. Women

Many of the poor who had no means of support except the parish were women. But the registers remind us that there were a large number without a husband to share the burden of securing a livelihood, and it is clear that not all of them relied upon charity to keep alive. Widows or spinsters were often described in the burial registers as "mother of ... ", or "sister of ...", and it seems likely that their nearest relations would have contributed as far as they could towards their welfare. On occasion, a family may have taken in a homeless female relative in the capacity of a servant. John Green, labourer then husbandman of Cliffield, was married to Elizabeth Cowper; in 1599 Anna Cowper of Cliffield, "widow, servant of John Green" was buried. Girls taken on as live-in servants also were likely to include relatives: in 1600 William Green, scythegrinder, married Anna Hall, servant of Thomas Hall of Moscar.

Whereas the majority of adult men servants appearing in the registers were in the employment of gentlemen, this was only the case for two of the 11 women servants. Another two were servants to yeomen; out of the remaining five where the master's occupation can be ascertained, one was servant to William Foxe, charcoal burner of Mackerhay; another was servant to John Wainwright, scythesmith. John Rose, woodman of Woodseats, married his servant Ellen Barker when she was eight months pregnant, and Thomas Bullocke of Grennell, almost certainly the Thomas Bullocke who was a scythe seller, fathered the illegitimate child of his servant Margaret Newton in 1597.

Only two of these women described as servants appear to have been taking the role of housekeeper in a home where the husband had been widowed; others in the households of craftsmen were presumably general domestic dogsbodies, working alongside the wife. As with the men servants, the registers do not provide any accurate reflection of the numbers of women who were employed as servants: the central role which they are likely to have played in many a household is largely hidden from history. Wills occasionally include bequests to women servants, but there is none to match the generosity of John Parker, gentleman of Himsworth, to his servant Katherine Norris; the unusualness of his provision is clear from how it was worded.

She was to receive 40, together with a featherbed and bedding, and a young mare "All which and more I think shee hath well deserved havinge bine in my service neare fyftie yeares and kept my self and famylie in good order whereby my goods have bine greatly increased and my houses better furnished." John Parker went on to say that Katherine had refused all preferment "for which cause I desire all my friends and especially my children that they respect her according to her [desert?] towards me." (Another of his servants, Beatrix - also one of the Norris family - was left five marks, "uppon condicon that she marry not without consent of her father".)

Apart from the women described as servants, there was only one other occasion when a woman (or, more probably, girl) was given an occupational description in the registers. In 1618 the burial was recorded of Marya Medley, "chimney sweeper"; she was the only Medley to appear in the registers.

14 widows or spinsters left wills or inventories during this period: they were certainly not representative in any sense, but they help to provide a little more insight into how women without a husband might have survived. Half of them are for women who left goods worth under 20: where the occupations of their deceased husbands can be established, they were husbandmen or craftsmen. Margaret Bore, mother of Thomas Tricket, described as a labourer and a tanner, left goods worth 13. 8 of this was accounted for by her farm stock: a cow and two heifers, four sheep, oats, hay and manure. Out of Ellen Fleare's goods, valued at a total of 17, 14 was livestock: two cows, some sheep, and "half of three young beasts". When an inventory was drawn up for Elizabeth Morten after her death early in 1562, the sum total of possessions listed were one oxe, one cow,one pot,one coverlet, and 'other hustlements' worth a few shillings. Amongst the poorer of those women for whom inventories exist, it seems clear that one or two cows were the most important possession: selling dairy produce would have been a means of producing a cash income with which many women were familiar.

At the other extreme amongst the women who left wills or inventories were the widows of yeomen or gentlemen. Dorothy Bate's husband James had probably left her with the standard widow's portion of one-third of his goods on his death in 1609: his possessions were valued at 247, and at Dorothy's death three years later, she held livestock worth nearly 80 and 20 in ready money. Dorothy and James' youngest daughter Frances died unmarried the following year at the age of 29: even though she was one of 13 children, her will shows that she was in possession of considerable sums of money, and "angells of gold". Despite her wealth she showed the usual care over willing beds, bedding, household goods and clothing to other members of her family. Her sister in law Grace was to receive "one good hatte which was my mothers; and Ellen Urton was left "my best hatt next unto that which was my mothers".

It seems that Norton's gentlemen and yeomen followed a clear set of conventions when it came to providing for their widows and daughters. The bluntest statement of a husband's control over the family's property appeared in the will of William Rollinson, yeoman of Little Norton: he bequeathed to his wife Marjory "the goods that were hers, at the day of our marriage". But one-third to the widow and two-thirds divided between the children was the standard practice; although it was also necessary to ensure that daughters were left with generous "portions" or dowries. When John Parker of Little Norton drew up his will before his death in 1638, he made a point of noting that he had already given his eldest daughter Anne Eyre "fower score pounds for her preferment"; John Urton, gentleman, ordered that at his death in 1645 sufficient of his lands should be sold to provide his three daughters with 150 each.

Even the poorest women for whom wills or inventories survive were likely to have been fortunate by the standards of the day. There are no sources which can give us a reliable picture of the lives of the propertyless majority; but when records from the baptism, marriage and burial registers are combined, we can begin to see a little more of Norton women at the lowest end of the social scale. The evidence is of a very different kind, but nonetheless it can provide us with some sense of the quality of their lives.

13. Men whose occupations were not recorded

Before moving on to consider the social patterns emerging from the registers, brief mention needs to be made of the 267 men appearing in the registers whose occupation was never recorded. This amounts to over one-third of the total, so we need to establish whether or not their presence in the database has any significance in terms of how it might relate to the occupational analysis of the community which we have just completed.

46 were entered only at their marriage, and therefore may never have lived in Norton parish. A further 40 numbered amongst the fathers of illegitimate children: 35 of them appeared in the registers once only at the baptism of the child, and it seems fairly certain that most of these were non-resident in Norton. More is said about illegitimacy in the following chapter. Out of the remaining men with unknown occupations, the vast majority - 129 of them - appear in the dabatase only at the burial of themselves or their wives. Of these 129, 25 were buried before 1580: given that the registers do not start until 1559, and that it was only the baptism registers which consistently recorded father's occupation, the lack of information relating to them is not surprising. A further 83 of the 129 were burials recorded after 1620. In the family reconstruction database I had included adult entries in the burials registers up to 1650 in order to follow families through more fully: but an unsatisfactory side-effect of this was inevitably to include some men who were not yet adults, or who were not living in the parish, between 1560 and 1620 - the period which this study had set out to cover. The 83 men with unknown occupations appearing only at burials after 1620, are a clear reflection of this.

The underlying question which led to this analysis of the men with unrecorded occupations, was whether or not they represented some kind of "underswell", a rootless workforce moving in and out of Norton parish during this period: if so, their presence in such numbers would have added an important dimension to any picture of the community. But closer inspection does not appear to bear this possibility out. Large numbers of incomers there certainly were, and as the following chapter suggests, many of these may not have established a permanent settlement in Norton parish. However, the men with unknown occupations do not constitute a significant extra group which needs to be taken into account.

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