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Reconstructing an Elizabethan community: Heeley Bridgehouses
The social geography of Elizabethan and early Stuart Norton

Chapter V

An Unfinished Journey

For many of us, interest in local history is focussed on the neighbourhood where we live - what was it like in centuries past ? What kind of people had their homes there in times gone by ? Because the Elizabethan registers from Norton so often included addresses, they can provide a starting-point for reconstructing the communities which made up the parish 400 years ago.

As an example of this, I have looked closely at what the registers have to tell us about the little settlement of "Heeley Bridgehouses"; and I have tried to give an idea of how the evidence from wills and inventories can be used in combination with the registers to build up a detailed picture of a community.

While the computer was searching my database for Heeley residents, it took very little extra work to do a full "sort by address" for the whole of Norton parish. In the second part of this chapter I have used this, somewhat hastily, as a starting-point for producing a "social geography" of Norton's communities.

Reconstructing an Elizabethan community: Heeley Bridgehouses

Along its northern edge, the ancient parish boundary of Norton followed the Meersbrook. Some of Heeley's older residents remember this being eight feet wide, a place where trout were caught and picnics taken. In earlier times it had provided enough water- power to turn a grinding wheel, but this is hard to imagine today. (1) For much of its course through Heeley the Meersbrook is culverted. Even in Upper Heeley at Cat Lane woods - setting for the fondest childhood memories of the brook - it has diminished to hardly more than a trickle. And yet this was a major administrative landmark in centuries past. It divided the manor of Sheffield from what was, until the Dissolution of the Monasteries, the territory of Beauchief Abbey; Yorkshire from Derbyshire, and the archbishopric of Canterbury from that of York. In much earlier times, it had also been the dividing line between the two powerful kingdoms of Mercia and Northumbria.

At the point where the Meersbrook flows into the Sheaf, the Elizabethan community of "Heeley Bridgehouses" straddled this boundary. You need to take a great leap of the historical imagination to envisage Heeley Bottom before the railway; before the rundown shops and the congested road; when the river Sheaf flowed faster and deeper. And however ancient and fragile the present Heeley Bridge might appear, it is not the original bridge which gave the settlement of Heeley Bridgehouses its name; nor is it on the same site. Until the road through Heeley was turnpiked in the mid-eighteenth century, the bridge was opposite the bottom of Well Road, a few hundred yards nearer the Meersbrook. In the sixteenth century, the bridge may have been closer still to the boundary with Norton: bridges, like houses and perhaps also waterwheels, were not always very permanent structures.

The eighteenth-century maps show how cottages and a mill were clustered around a horseshoe-shaped area bounded by the Sheaf and the Meersbrook. In 1637, when Sheffield Manor was surveyed by John Harrison, this was described as "Mill greene in Heeley"; there were four cottages and a smithy here, on the Sheffield side of the brook.

In sixteenth-century Heeley, the economic and personal networks to which people belonged very definitely stretched in both directions - Derbyshire and Yorkshire, Norton and Sheffield. Yet maps have a habit of "going blank" on one side or other of the boundary; and different collections of records were kept by different sets of officials in different ways - they effectively "cut off" one side of the community or the other. Sometimes a historian can forget that the Meersbrook was far from being a Berlin Wall; and we need to bear in mind that the Norton records make possible only a partial reconstruction of the community at Heeley Bridgehouses. Families living here were not always consistent over whether they patronised the parish church at Norton or at Sheffield; and the fact that Norton vicars tended to note it down in their registers too when a Heeley burial took place in Sheffield, might imply that the place was something of an administrative headache. (The ancient nickname of "Heeley Duffham" is part of Heeley folk-lore. People say it got its name because of the ease with which you could "duff" your creditors or slip through administrative nets, by the ploy of shifting from one side of the Meersbrook to the other.)

Map of Lower Heeley, 1775

The map above, dating from 1775, gives an idea of what Heeley Bottom was like in the late eighteenth century. It is especially useful to show how Heeley Bridge was relocated; it also suggests that the earlier bridge was intended for foot traffic, whilst wheeled vehicles would have to ford the river. You can see too that there was another bridge over the Sheaf behind Heeley Mill. The map below, drawn in 1770, helps to fill in the picture on the Derbyshire side of the Meersbrook. Looking at this, you can see very clearly the goit with a footway alongside leading into Heeley Mill dam; the river itself takes a large meander beneath what is marked as a "precipice". Today this stretch of the River Sheaf has been entirely by-passed, and the water runs directly along the route of the old mill goit; if you look up towards Abbeydale Road from Broadfield Road near the old Express Dairy works and Heeley Baths, you are looking towards the original course of the river, and you can still get some idea of what was meant by a "precipice". The stretch of land between the goit and the natural course of the river is known to longstanding Heeley residents as "t'Prim", or more formally, Primrose Meadows.

Map of Heeley Mill, 1770

"Zooming in" more closely on the 1770 map, it becomes easier to envisage the little community of Heeley Brighouses. The Sheaf runs up the right hand side, along the line of trees. The Meersbrook cuts a horseshoe shape through the cluster of buildings. Crossing the footbridge over the Meersbrook from Sheffield into Norton parish, to the right is the corn mill, and two other buildings. To the left a path runs to what look like two rows each of two or three cottages, perhaps a smithy or two, perhaps a cottage with a barn attached. In all there are probably homes for eight or nine families on the Norton side of the Meersbrook: no dramatic growth had taken place since Elizabethan times. Perhaps the cottage with the orchard, together with "Nearer Meadow" and "Far Meadow" behind, was Stephen Bamford's smallholding, 170 years before this map was drawn.

Close-up of Heeley Mill, 1770

The Norton records of Heeley residents are immediately striking for their lack of any families from the upper ranks of society - no gentlemen, and not even a yeoman. Out of the 15 men recorded here between 1560 and 1620, seven were metalworkers (4 cutlers, two scythe grinders and a shearsmith) and four were millers; there was one husbandman, one labourer, one carpenter, and a 'poynter' (about whom more later).

So this was a community of craftsmen, who had settled close to the water-power which, for most of them, was central to their livelihood.

The earliest resident to be recorded here - Thomas Swifte, carpenter - left only the entries for the birth of two children in 1562 and 64. A `Swifte wife of ---' was buried in 1565, and this was probably Thomas's wife. If so, he was left with two children under the age of three to care for; but we know nothing of what became of them. The Swiftes were not a well-established family network in Norton parish: the name appears only twice in the burials register between 1560 and 1653. But there were Swiftes living on the Sheffield side of Heeley: in the late 1550s Robert Swifte occupied a "messuage called Greeneyerd" in Heeley, and in 1609/10 a Robert Swifte, yeoman of Heeley, drew up his will. (2)

A little more can be pieced together about the Taylers. There was more than one branch of this family in Heeley by the mid- sixteenth century: in 1549, George Taillour held lands at Heeley Green, and in the 1560s Edward, son and heir of Thomas, had a smallholding just up the hill at Newfield Green. In 1554 James Taillour of Heeley in the parish of Sheffield drew up his will, and it is rather an interesting document. James had four adult sons - Robert, Thomas, George and James; and he made the choice not to leave all his property to the first-born.

This was a time when inheritance customs varied dramatically from one family to another, between areas and between social groupings. (3) "Primogeniture" - everything to the oldest male - was by no means universal, although it seems to have become the generally-established rule of things amongst the upper ranks by the Elizabethan period. But evidently this did not appeal to James Taillour's sense of fairness. He divided his farm equally between his oldest and his youngest sons, and even laid down that his six-roomed house should be split physically between the two of them. Robert was to have "his howse (4) and the over parlor and the overchamber and James the nether parlor and the nether chamber and the kitchen." The will also disposed of three grinding wheels, and it makes sense of the evidence if these were the three wheels or grinding troughs at Heeley Wheel - just a few yards upstream from the Meersbrook, where the disused Heeley Station now stands. (The use of the word "wheels" to describe both the grinding-wheels and the water wheel which powered them, is slightly confusing.)

Two of these wheels were willed to the youngest son James, but it was laid down that "Robert my sonne shall have one day gryndynge everye weeke and that the said Robert do gyve the said James warnynge on the Sonday what day he will have yt". The third wheel went to the second son Thomas, who, the will said, was "to fynd his parte of horse and harness for same." At first this made me think they must be talking about horse-powered wheels; but that was mistaken. It is in fact a reminder that the Lord of the Manor owned the river; and as part of the dues which he extracted from the craftsmen who harnessed its power, they were obliged to provide war service with horse and armour. The 1637 survey of Sheffield Manor describes how, on "sembly Tuesday", at least 139 horsemen mustered, "with horses and harnesses provided by the freeholders, copyholders and other tenants", "to appear before the Lord of the Manor or the Steward of the Court to be viewed by them, and for confirming the peace of our sovereign Lord the King." Joseph Hunter suggested that "the troop, some in military dresses and some in their labouring garb, must have cut a figure grotesque and ridiculous." (5)

Before leaving James Taylor's will, it provides another small glimpse into how this Elizabethan family of cutlers went about their work in Heeley. It laid down that the third son, George, should "suffer the said Thomas and James to gitt whitnynge stones for their own use to the said wheles as long as they live." The implication that these cutlers produced their own grindstones locally fits in with evidence which came to light recently in Heeley, when Prospect Road Autocentre excavated part of their site in the course of building work. Old quarry workings were revealed, with a number of discarded grindstones scattered around. This used to be part of "Cutler's Wood"; close by was Cutler's Walk, and the 1855 Ordnance Survey map shows Cutlers House close by, and another "Cutler's Quarry" adjacent to it.

It could well be that the Taylers were one of the first families to establish themselves in Heeley as cutlers using water-powered grinding; but they do not appear to have attained any long-term status in the community. "Partible inheritance" might be held to blame for this - it was a good deal more difficult for a family to establish itself on a firm footing, if the inheritance was divided up.

Exactly how the Robert Taylor of the Norton registers was related to James Taylor's family I am not sure. It is clear enough, though, that in the early 1570s when Robert married and set up house on the far side of the Meersbrook, he did so as part of a local family network of cutlers. And as with James Taylor, the evidence suggests that Robert's family was not one which was intent upon achieving social status or respectability.

The fortunes of two of Robert's children can be followed through the registers. Elizabeth, the oldest girl, had an illegitimate son Nicholas baptised in June 1595. The "reputed father" was Richard Barbour als Harwourth; and four weeks after Nicholas' baptism, they got married. Then in August 1596, the burial registers record the death of "Nicholas, infant son Richard Barber, als Harwourth, of Hielay Milne, miller." Whether Richard was the miller at Heeley Mill when he first got to know Elizabeth, whether their illicit liaison took place "on t'Prim" or in Cutlers Wood, who knows. But it would be wrong to shy away from speculation to the extent that we ignored the possibility that Richard Barbour als Harwourth, miller, was one and the same person as Richard "Barker als Hawksworth", wire-drawer of Bradway, whose daughter Ales had been buried in December 1584, at the age of four weeks. If so, he had had three other children between 1580 and 1586; and he was part of a family with other milling connections, too. There was Francis Barker, miller at New Mills between 1569 and 1582; and the miller at Bradway Walk Mill, who was buried in 1583, was also a Barker. This may have been Richard's father; and it is worth remembering that wire-drawing was a trade which used water-power - the technical know-how required to keep the wheels turning was much the same whether corn was being milled, blades ground, or wires pulled.

If these two Richards were the same person, we would assume that his wife had died between 1586 and 1595, leaving him with three children to bring up - a task in which he enlisted the aid of Elizabeth Tayler as stepmother. But proof of this link is missing from the registers; and after the death of young Nicholas, we hear no more about any of the Barbour family, or of Grace, Jane and Michael, the three Barker children.

Elizabeth's younger brother, Thomas, also raised his family in Heeley. In 1605, when he was 24, he married Marjory Davenport, probably the daughter of Thomas Davenport, labourer of Hollogate Head - or Four Lane Ends as it is today. At any rate she and Thomas Taylor were living at Hollogate Head when their son John was born, just three months after the wedding. By 1608, they had moved to Heeley Bridgehouses, and over the next ten years they had another four sons. When the fourth boy, James, was baptised in 1618, the registers described Thomas as a shearsmith; but four days later, when the baby was buried, they called him a cutler, as they had always done before. The variation is interesting, though, because it suggests that Thomas may have been someone who took whatever work he could get, rather than developing a highly specialised output.

Eighteen months later, the family was described as living at Woodseats, and they had a fifth son baptised - calling him James again, like the child they had recently lost as an infant. At last, in 1622, they had a daughter; by this time their address was Heeley Bridge once again. That is as far as I have managed to follow their lives.

Another of Heeley's Elizabethan cutlers was Richard Chapman. He was one of the earliest members of this family to be recorded as living in Heeley: right through from the sixteenth century to the twentieth, Chapmans have continued to live here. (6) For the most part they worked in the cutlery trade; in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the more substantial members of the family combined this with farming. Where Richard fits into the family picture is puzzling, though. There is only one entry in the registers relating to Richard Chapman at Heeley - in 1580, he is recorded as the father of Richard, illegitimate son of Frances Smythe. But it seems more likely than not that this would be the same Richard Chapman who had previously lived at Beauchief, working as a labourer and then as a smith; and who, in 1567, had fathered another illegitimate child - Alice, daughter of Jane Bowre. (This Richard had three more children baptised between 1573 and 1577, while he was living at Beauchief, but Jane Bowre was not their mother; she appears again in 1577, still with her maiden name, as the mother of another illegitimate child, whose father was recorded as "uncertain".)

It is also a possibility worth following up (worth it if you happen to be a Chapman interested in family history, at any rate!) that this could be the same Richard Chapman, cutler of Heeley, whose will dating from 1613 was preserved at York.

Four of the 15 men recorded as living at Heeley were described as millers - we have already met Richard Barbour als Harwourth, the first of these whose address was given as Heeley in the Norton registers. It is quite possible that a corn mill had been set up here well before the 1590s, but the records do not permit any certainty over this. We do know, though, that by the early seventeenth century, the Parker family of Lees Hall had a controlling interest in this mill, as they did in the operation of water power on the whole stretch of the Sheaf between Heeley and Smithy Wood. (7)

On what basis Richard Barber, or the later millers at Heeley mill, were employed, is not at all clear. We can be fairly sure that at the end of the sixteenth century, a corn mill serving the expanding community around Heeley Bridgehouses would have been a profitable concern; and the Lord of the Manor stood to acquire a sizeable chunk of those profits in the form of feudal dues. The millers who worked in Heeley were not necessarily independent craftsmen, with secure tenancies of their workplace: there was only the one corn mill at Heeley, and it is evident from the records that either there was more than one family group at a time who depended on it for their livelihood; or that the turnover of millers was very rapid indeed.

What had become of Richard Barbour and his family by 1604 is not known. By then William Charleworth was working here as a miller, but he, too, is an elusive figure. The birth of his son Henry in 1604 was the only occasion when he appeared in the Norton registers, and Charleworth never became an established local name. There is no way of telling whether he was still there when another miller, Thomas Milnes, came to work at the corn mill here: a man whose surname suggests that milling was his inherited trade. Thomas Milnes' death at Heeley was recorded in 1610; he had previously appeared in the Norton registers over a period of 10 years or so, as the miller at "New Mills". There is uncertainty over which this New Mill was, but I think it was at Smithy Wood, about a mile from Heeley Bridgehouses. (8)

In 1594 Thomas had married Katherine Brownell, one of a family who were well-established in Norton as scythesmiths. They had five children while they lived at New Mills - four girls and just one boy, Thomas, who died when he was two years old. When the senior Thomas Milnes and his wife Katherine died at Heeley Mill in 1610 - Thomas on 1st April and Katherine just five days later - Maria, the oldest girl, was only 15. How she and her three sisters - Dorothy 12, Anna, 8, and Jana, six - survived being so suddenly orphaned - or indeed if they all survived - may be impossible to tell. But Anna certainly seems to have done, and to have lived on in Norton - in 1630, an Anna Milnes was married there to Simon Evans. Perhaps something more of their lives could be found in the Sheffield records, if any of their relatives care to look.

Another miller at Heeley was Richard Revell, who died just five months after Thomas and Katherine: perhaps he took over after their death, or perhaps he had been working there for some time, maybe as an apprentice or an unmarried servant. There are no other entries concerning Revells in Norton, so the chances are that his family did not come from here. But there were Revells on the Heeley side of the Brook, and Richard was buried in Sheffield despite the mill being across the boundary in Norton - probably he was part of this family network. (9)

It was not only at Heeley Mill that the families making up this little community had to come to terms with the sudden death of their breadwinner in 1610. The same thing happened to Stephen Bamford, who left six children aged between five and 13 when he was buried in May of that year. Stephen was a "poynter" or "puncher" - somebody who made laces for bodices and similar items. He was married to Marjory Woodhouse, whose father - John Woodhouse als Daniel - was a husbandman working a smallholding at Heeley Bridgehouses. Marjory, born in 1576, seems to have been the only child; when she married Stephen sometime before 1597, they may have shared a home with her parents; if not they certainly set up home close by. Marjory's mother Alice was buried in 1602, and her father died the following year. So it makes sense to assume that Stephen and Marjory would have inherited the remainder of the lease on their smallholding, and this could well explain why it is that Stephen Bamford had sufficient property at the time of his death, to merit the drawing-up of an inventory.

The inheritance of a smallholding through his wife's family, combined with the assets of his own trade, must have made Stephen's economic situation a good deal sounder than most of his neighbours. Even so, when you remember that this was what a widow and six young children were left to support themselves with, the picture which emerges from his inventory is not a particularly comfortable one. The family had an adequate supply of pots and pans; a fairly basic supply of bedding for a large family, worth a little more than 7 (just one feather bed between them - the children would have slept on chaff mattresses); a few tools of Stephen's trade; a small supply of corn and "1 daie work of wheat and four days work and a halfe of otes" in the fields. Half a dozen hens scratched around the house; there was a small flock of eight sheep and four lambs, a pig, one horse, three kine,one heifer and one calf. The total value of agricultural stock was 22-10s; added to this the lease on the land was valued at 12, so taken together the farm represented over half the value of all his goods, which was estimated as 61-8-0. Despite representing such a considerable part of the family's assets, it does not sound like a smallholding which would produce anything much in the way of a cash surplus, although Stephen was owed small sums for the sale of a Capon and also a "ganner" - perhaps a gander. Most of the debts owing to the family at the time of Stephen's death were for sales to neighbours of "shillinge" - used for bedspreads or tablecloths; and from market sellers and mercers for laces and "points" ('tagged lace or cord for attaching hose to doublet, or for lacing a bodice'). (10) When Simon went to Chesterfield Market he may have also sometimes taken his neighbours' knives for sale: one debt was "an old man of Chesterfield for knyves, 4s."

Outweighing the total value of the numerous small debts owing to him (mostly for under 5/-), Stephen owed Mr Lancelot Butler 4- 19-0 for nine quarters of oats; we know from the Norton marriage registers that Lancelot was a local gentleman. He can hardly have needed the money as much as Stephen's "man", Richard Guilbethorpe, who was owed 2-10-6 for "wages behind and unpaid." (11)

Another death in 1610 was that of John North, a cutler and the son of one of the Norths who farmed in Bradway. It was May 20th when John died, just two weeks after Stephen Bamford and within the same couple of months which had also seen the deaths of Thomas and Katherine Milnes. This was a tiny community, almost certainly less than a dozen households, and it seems more than likely that this sudden cluster of adult deaths in the early summer of 1610, was due to an infectious disease. It is worth remembering the complaints of Sheffield petitioners in the 1550s, "representing to the queen that the 14 hamlets within the parish were never void of plagues and other evil diseases, which they attribute to the great number of poor and impotent persons inhabiting them." (12) The part of Heeley which lay on the Sheffield side of the Meersbrook was quite probably one of the hamlets about which they complained.

A slight mystery remains, though, over what became of the children if an infectious disease was rampant. One would have expected them to die in larger numbers than the adults in 1610, and yet no burials of children from Heeley are recorded in the Norton registers for that year. But as we have seen in Chapter IV, children's burials were not necessarily always entered in the registers, and perhaps they were still more likely to be buried without the formalities at times when a community, or a family, were particularly hard-hit by death.

Some of the adults who made up Heeley's population were almost as completely hidden from history as the children. Nothing emerges from the registers about Thomas Warberton, labourer of Heeley, except the fact of his burial in 1615: there were no other Warbertons in the registers, so it is unlikely that his family came from Norton. Nor did Richard Hodgson, described as both a shearsmith and a sicklesmith, appear to have any family roots in the parish. In 1616, he had married Anna Warriden - the surname is also recorded as Waridyne, Warrden, and Warrinder. She was almost certainly the second child, the oldest daughter, of John Warridyne, a labourer whose address was variously given as "Lees", "Norton", "Jordanthorpe" and "Maggerhay" when his children's baptisms were recorded. This suggests that he could have been one of a pool of local labourers who moved around the parish to wherever work (or perhaps housing) was available. John Warridyne died in 1612, when his youngest child, James, was five years old; Anna was 18 by then. By the time that James was 12, his mother Ellen was also dead. Meanwhile, in 1616 when she was 22, Anna had married Richard Hodgson; and in contrast to her mother, who had been heavily pregnant when she walked down the aisle, Anna did not give birth to her first child until 15 months after the wedding. Alice was baptised on 18th November 1617; on 19th November 1617, she was buried; and there are no further records of the Hodgson family.

We still have two other families at Heeley Bridgehouses to think about, both working in scythegrinding. Firstly, William Green. The Greens were a well-established family in Norton parish, and there were also Greens with Heeley connections in Sheffield parish. The Norton Greens made their livings as labourers, craftsmen and husbandmen; they were exceptional in that one member of the family managed to work his way up from labourer to yeoman status. (13)

The William who came to live at Heeley was very probably born in 1568, the son of Thomas, a husbandman at Himsworth. In November 1600, William married Anna Hall, servant of Thomas Hall from Moscar. He was working as a scythegrinder in Himsworth in 1603, and had then moved to Heeley, following the same employment, by the end of 1605. In 1611 William was still a scythegrinder, but he had moved from Heeley Bridgehouses up the hillside to Hollogate Head; five years later, he was still at Hollogate Head, but he was now described as a husbandman. (We have the satisfaction of being quite sure that these are one and the same William Green: the baptism registers entered Anna Hall as the mother in both 1611 and 1617.)

William and Anna's last child was baptised on 20th July, 1617; ten days later, Anna was buried. None of the children's burials are recorded, and nor is a second marriage for William, or his burial. There was also an Agnes Green living at Heeley, but there is no evidence to show how she was related to William. We know nothing at all about her, except that she was a widow and that she died here in 1608.

The other scythegrinding family whose address was given as Heeley in the Elizabethan Norton registers was that of Robert Barnes. By 1583, Robert had set up in business as a scythegrinder, at a wheel known as "Cliffield Wheel". Precisely where this was situated is not clear from the records. There is a Cliffield Road today, crossing over Derbyshire Lane at the top side of Meersbrook Park - this was built on the site of Cliffield House, which, by the late eighteenth century, was the main landmark to be identified with the "Cliffe Field" place name. But it seems fairly clear from field names used in documents between the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries, that Cliffe Field (or "the Cliffe Fields") was a name originally applied to a much larger area - to the whole stretch of fields along the Norton banks of the Sheaf, between Heeley Mill and Smithy Wood. The Norton registers suggest that Cliffield Wheel was in closer proximity to Heeley Bridgehouses than to any other settlement cluster. Robert Barnes' address was given as "Cliffield Wheel" in 1583; in February 1585 at his son's baptism, his residence was also described as Cliffield Wheel, but just three months later, when his son Thomas was buried, he was entered as Robert Barnes of "Hielay Brigge Whele". In 1589 and 1590, Robert was said to be living "near Hielay Brigge", at "Hielay-Biggen" and "Hielay- brigge" in 1593 and 95; and then Cliffield Wheel again in 1597. I think that the most rational explanation for this variation in address is that Cliffield Wheel was built on or near the site which was later occupied by Little London Wheel (just a few hundred yards from Heeley Bridgehouses) - but this is typical of the kind of minor mystery which local historians can spend hours, weeks, or even months attempting to solve with any degree of certainty. (14)

Robert Barnes had seven children whose baptisms were recorded; and another, Thomas, who appeared only when he was buried, in 1585. A puzzling number of his sons - no less than three - were christened Robert - one of these had died before the next Robert was baptised, but if a second Robert had been buried too, it went unrecorded. They also called another son Thomas after the first Thomas had died - this was very much the usual way of going about things. What it has to tell us of how parents thought about their dead children, I am not sure. Perhaps, though, it is a reminder of how little opportunity a family would have to dwell on their lost children as individuals in their own right. For all but the highest ranks, the constant hard work involved in providing a home and a livelihood could scarcely have allowed much time for reflection.

By the standards of their neighbours, though, Robert and his family did well for themselves. Robert had three sons who carried on in the family trade after he died in 1603. John, the eldest, was just 18 when his father died, leaving him in control of Cliffield Wheel. The following year, he found himself a wife: Dorothy Mawer, the daughter of Henry, a small farmer at Little Norton. They had no sons, and four daughters. Like his parents, John and his wife had to live through death in the family: their oldest two children, Maria and Elizabeth, died in 1607 within a couple of months of each other. Maria was aged 16 months; and the new baby just a few days old. Another daughter, Dorothy, was born the following year, followed by Troth in 1610. Troth and Dorothy both lived on in Norton, marrying there in 1631 - Troth to Thomas Stacie, and Dorothy to William Bate. (Neither of these two came from local scythegrinding families; the Stacies (or Stories) do not appear elsewhere in the registers, and the Bate family were mostly yeomen.)

As we have already seen in Chapter III, John Barnes left both a will and an inventory when he died in March 1642/3. The contrast between his house and Stephen Bamford's, which we looked into earlier, is immediately apparent. John Barnes had a great deal more furniture; and unlike Stephen, he had managed to acquire a fair number of luxuries in his life - glasses, a cithern, curtains and vallances on his bed, books, and silverware.

John had no sons to take over the business after his death, and his daughters do not seem to have married scythegrinding husbands. Quite possibly, John had given up doing the actual scythegrinding himself well before his death - it was heavy work for somebody in their 50s, and he was in a position where he could almost certainly afford to concentrate on the business side of his activities and leave the grinding to others. This would make sense of the fact that John Barnes' inventory itemises all the tools in the smithy, but nothing for the wheel: in all probability, he was renting it out by the time of his death. Perhaps this is why the wheel was known by then as "Garlicke Wheel" - it could well be that the tenant was Robert Garlicke of Heeley, who was described as a scythegrinder in a document dating from 1636. (14) John Barnes' inventory shows that Robert Garlick owed him 20/-, probably rent for the wheel. Another of his debtors was Roland Gillott, a scythegrinder who had lived at Cliffield Wheel since his marriage in 1613. He owed John Barnes 10/-, and this could also have been rent for wheel space.

In 1650, John's widow Dorothy married a William Vessey; he died three years later, and she lived on at the wheel until her own death in 1664. She left a will, but it sheds no further light on the history of the wheel - another indication that the family no longer controlled its workings. (15)

This is as much as Norton's registers, wills, and inventories have to tell us about the little settlement at Heeley Bridgehouses. For anybody living in Heeley, it is worth halting to contemplate the past as one crosses the footbridge over the Sheaf, between Saxon Road and Broadfield Road. Stopping at that point and looking right towards Broadfield Road, you are just in front of where the cornmill stood; from which those young Milnes children - or those who were still alive - must surely have been evicted after the sudden death of their parents in 1610. Looking left you would see a perhaps rather miserable group of cottages stretching along a small patch of green, with smithies built close to one or two of them, and probably with plots of land attached, varying in size from a garden to the smallholding on the Cliffield side of Heeley which was held by the Woodhouses and then the Bamfords. Turning to face Heeley Bottom, the cottages on the Sheffield side of the Meersbrook were clustered around where the railway bridge now stands. A few yards away towards Sheffield was the cutlery grinding-wheel, and in the Norton direction you soon came to the Barnes' scythegrinding wheel. The lives which were lived here were - with the possible exception of the Barnes family - fundamentally insecure. The main reason for this was the ever- present threat of sudden death, and the total disaster which, if the father or mother was struck down, this could spell for a household living at subsistence level.

The social geography of Elizabethan and early Stuart Norton

As we saw in the Introduction, the communities of modern-day Norton are tremendously varied in their social composition. The same was equally true during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries; and to a considerable extent the modern social make-up of these different localities conforms to a pattern which was already taking shape by Elizabethan times.

The relative size of the different settlements in sixteenth and seventeenth-century Norton, however, has little relationship to population distribution in the area today. While the settlement at Heeley Bridgehouses was only a few houses, it can be seen that Norton also included some much larger communities. By far the greatest concentration of population was not at Norton itself, but at Greenhill, with 107 adult men recorded here during this period. Next largest was Norton, with around 57 men recorded during this period; then Norton Lees with 55; Himsworth with 49 and Woodseats/Woodseats Dale with 46; Bradway 36; Lightwood 25, Little Norton 26, Jordanthorpe 23, and Mackerhay 19. 46 men had a Beauchief address, but here in particular, households were spread fairly thinly over a large area rather than being clustered together. In fact, the chances are that only Greenhill and Norton would have really had much of a "village-like" feel about them, with a clear nucleus to the settlement.

The 1882 Ordnance Survey map (page 83) helps to take us a little closer towards envisaging what the parish was like - although by this time it is clear that Woodseats, in particular, had grown beyond recognition since the Elizabethan and early Stuart period. Of particular interest on this map is the clear strip-farming pattern of enclosed open fields around Greenhill.

I have done no more here than to provide a starting-point for the reconstruction of Norton communities. In order to give some idea of what these communities were like in terms of relative size and social structure, I sorted the records of adult men by "address", and within that by occupation. The results are summarised here, and are listed in much the same order as I used in the Introduction when describing modern Norton: the journey continues from its starting-point at Heeley Bridgehouses to Cliffield - the neighbouring cluster of households on the Norton bank of the River Sheaf - and progresses from there through the parish.

Because of movement between occupations and localities, there is a problem over deciding how best to present this information. Below, each man is entered once only at each community, under the occupation with which he appeared most often - attention is drawn to those who changed their occupational status by the notes in brackets. However, some men appear at more than one community, and no attempt has been made to look seriously at the question of mobility within the parish, or of overlap between neighbouring addresses. There are also some men whose address was never given.

Cliffield (including Cliffield Wheel and Cliffield Yate)

Yeoman 1
Scythesmith/grinder 5 (including Robert Barnes, also listed at Heeley Bridge Wheel
Striker 1 (also husb, miller, lab at Hollogate Head and New Mills)
Cutler 3 (1 also labourer)
Labourer 4 (including 1 also nailer, 1 also husbandman)
Charcoal burner 1
Wheelwright 1
Unknown 1
Total men recorded 17

1 inventory: John Barnes, scythegrinder, 1642 (150-13-10)


Yeoman 1 (n.b. later than smelters)
Smelter/smith 5 (1 also labourer)
Striker 1 (also recorded at Smithies as labourer, nailer, and scythefinisher)
Unknown 1  
Total men recorded 8  

1 inventory: Christopher Thorpe, blacksmith, 1591/2 (14-4-0)

New Mills

Miller 5 (1 also recorded as striker and labourer)
Scythesmith 1  
Tailor 1  
Total men recorded 7  

3 inventories: Margaret Barker, widow, 1588/90 (18); Ann Blythe (1609); John Buckley, miller, 1591 (73)

Woodseats, Woodseats Dale

Yeoman 7 (1 also scytheseller, 1 also scythefinisher, 1 also husbandman, 1 also scythesmith/striker)
Husbandman 1  
Nailer 6 (1 also labourer)
Scythesmith 6 (2 also strikers)
Striker 4  
Cutler 5  
Labourer 3  
Pauper 1  
Misc non-metal crafts 7 (incl. 2 sheathers, 1 tanner)
Unknown   6
Total men recorded 46 (incl. 3 Allens, 9 Bartens)

9 inventories: 4 yeomen, 1 sheather, 1 nailer, 2 women, 1 cutler. Yeomen leaving inventories amongst poorest yeomen in parish - incl. John Allen, 1642/3 (19-17-0); John Barten, 1572 (3-4-3).

It is worth noting the number of yeomen at Woodseats who also appeared under different occupational descriptions - this also suggests that they may have tended to be rather "different in kind" from, say, the yeomen of Bradway or Lightwood.

Beauchief (including Walk Mill)

Gentleman 6 (1 with address also given as Grennell)
Yeoman 4 (1 also Keeper of Beasts)
Cutler 6 (including 4 Milwards)
Scythesmith 3  
Smelter 2  
Leadworker 2  
Charcoal burner 3  
Labourer 6  
Servant 3  
Misc non-metal crafts 4 (1 also husbandman)
Unknown 7  
Total men recorded 46 (incl. 6 Foxes, 3 of them charcoalburners)

3 inventories: 1 occ unknown, 1 woman, 1 cutler

The lack of husbandmen at Beauchief was probably connected to the extent of gentlemen's estates in this part of the parish.

Bradway (including Bradway Moor, Bradway Mill)

Gentleman 2  
Yeoman 5 (including 1 also husbandman)
Husbandman/farmer 5  
Miller 4  
Scythesmith 1  
Wire drawer 1  
Cutler 1  
Misc non-metal crafts 3  
Labourer 4 (2 also husbandmen)
Pauper 1  
Unknown 9  
Total men recorded 36 (incl. 6 Norths, 3 Owtrems, 4 Poyntons)

8 inventories: 1 yeoman, 5 husbandmen, 1 miller, 1 unknown. 5 of these 8 Bradway inventories are for members of North family.


Gentleman 5 (1 also yeoman)
Yeoman 17 (2 also husbandmen, 1 also scythefinisher)
Husbandman 5 (1 also ironsmith)
Scythesmith/finisher 8 (including 4 scythefinishers)
Striker 6  
Cutler 2  
Leadworker 2 (1 also labourer)
Misc non-metal crafts 26 (including 3 surgeons, 4 charcoal-burners, 4 carpenters/joiners, 3 slaters/wallers, 2 coopers, 2 tailors)
Labourer 22 (1 also pauper)
Other 2  
Unknown 12  
Total men recorded 107 (incl. 11 Bullockes, 6 Kirkes, 5 Mores, 4 Penistons, 5 Cammes, 3 Darcies, 3 Ellyses)

16 inventories for Grennell: (incl. 2 Bullockes, 2 Cammes, 2 Hunters, 3 Mores, 2 Poyntons). 2 gentlemen; 4 yeomen; 3 husbandmen; 1 charcoal burner; 1 carpenter; 1 wheelwright; 1 widow; 3 occupations unknown.

Norton (including Lydgate)

Gentleman 2
Yeoman 4
Husbandman 2
Labourer 10
Scythesmith/finisher 11
Striker 10
Misc non-metal crafts 7
Vicar/clerk 3
Pauper 1
Unknown 7
Total men recorded 57 (incl. 5 Bullockes, 3 Brownells, 3 Malams)

10 inventories: 1 gent, 2 yeomen, 2 husbandmen, 1 scythesmith, 1 clerk, 3 occupations not given.

Little Norton

Yeoman 9 (1 also husbandman, 1 also husb/miller)
Husbandman 2  
Scythesmith/finisher 4  
Misc non-metal crafts 6  
Servant 1  
Unknown 4  
Total men recorded 26 (incl. 3 Biggens, 3 Mawers, 4 Parkers, 3 Rollinsons)

12 inventories: (incl. 2 Mawers, 2 Parkers, 3 Rollinsons). 6 yeomen, 1 husbandman, 1 weaver, 1 joiner, 1 tailor, 2 women.


Yeoman 3 (1 also husbandman/salter)
Husbandman 4  
Labourer 6 (1 also pauper)
Scythesmith/finisher 3 (1 also striker)
Striker 1  
Charcoal burner 1  
Unknown 1  
Total men recorded 19  

1 inventory: George Brownell, scythesmith (1633/4)


Yeoman 2  
Husbandman 1  
Scythesmith 1  
Joiner 1  
Unknown 1  
Total men recorded 6 (including 5 Parkers)

1 inventory: John Parker, yeoman, 1575/6 (40-19-10)


Yeoman 6 (1 also husb/scythesmith)
Husbandman 3  
Scythesmith 3  
Striker 1  
Cutler 1  
Misc non-metal crafts    
Servant 1  
Labourer 3  
Pauper 1  
Unknown 2  
Total men recorded 23 (incl. 3 Bates, 5 Hollands)

10 inventories (incl. 4 Bates, 3 Hollands): 4 yeomen, 2 scythesmiths, 1 husbandman, 2 women, 1 unknown.


Gentleman 5
Yeoman 1
Servant 1
Slater 1
Unknown 1 (Godfrey Selioke - presumably gent)
Total men recorded 9

2 wills/inventories: George Gill, yeoman, 1622 (312-15-2); John Selioke, gent, 1560.

Lightwood (including Povey)

Yeoman 7  
Husbandman 1  
Scythesmith 3  
Striker 2  
Misc non-metal crafts 5  
Labourer 4  
Unknown 3  
Total men recorded 25 (incl. 4 Gills, 4 Urtons)

8 inventories (incl. 2 Gills, 5 Urtons): 2 gents, 5 yeomen, 1 husbandman.


Yeoman 3  
Striker 3  
Labourer 1  
Total men recorded 7 (incl. 2 Cowleys, 2 Parkers)


Yeoman 3  
Husbandman 1  
Scythesmith 1  
Misc non-metal crafts 2  
Pauper 1  
Unknown 3  
Total men recorded 11 (incl. 2 Rollinsons, 2 Urtons)

One inventory: Robert Rollinson, yeoman (1648)


Yeoman 1  
Scythesmith/finisher 4  
Striker 4  
Cutler 1  
Misc non-metal crafts 2  
Labourer 2  
Total men recorded 12 (incl. 2 Biggens)

2 inventories: 1 scythesmith, 1 yeoman


Gentleman 4  
Yeoman 4  
Husbandman 12 (4 also labourers, 1 also sheather, 1 also weaver)
Scythesmith/grinder 2  
Striker 1  
Cutler 2  
Nailer 1  
Sicklesmith 1  
Misc non-metal crafts 5  
Labourer 11  
Pauper 1  
Unknown 5  
Total men recorded 49  

14 inventories: 3 gentlemen, 3 yeomen, 2 husbandmen, 1 tailor, 1 joiner, 1 bookmaker, 1scythesmith, 2 unknown

Lees, Hollogate Head, Four Lane Ends

Gentleman 4  
Yeoman 7 (2 also tanners)
Husbandman 5 (1 also scythegrinder, 1 also charcbnr)
Cutler 7 (1 also scytheseller)
Scythesmith/grinder 8  
Misc non-metal crafts 8 (1 also labourer)
Servant 2  
Labourer 8  
Unknown 6  
Total men recorded 55  

10 inventories (incl. 3 Blythes): 1 gent, 4 yeomen, 1 scytheseller, 1 scythegrinder, 1 cutler, 3 unknown

Other addresses given:

Carwood: 4 adult men: 1 cooper, 1 weaver, 2 unknown

Morrislands: 3 adult men: 1 striker, 1 shepherd, 2 unknown

Gleadless: 6 adult men: 2 dish-turners, 1 nailer, 1 weaver, 1 joiner, 1 pauper. (Gleadless was a large settlement in the neighbouring parish.)

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