Edward Carpenter and his circle – in Totley, Bradway and Holmesfield

by Sally Goldsmith

As a young woman in London in the 1970’s, fresh out of University and alight with political zeal, I attended a WEA class in Social History in a dingy basement. There I learned of a remarkable Victorian movement of early socialists and feminists – people never found in history books – apart, perhaps, from William Morris – and I only knew him as a designer of wallpaper and stained glass.

 

The person who really drew me though was a writer who had been rediscovered by our lecturer. This Victorian upper middle class man believed in the simple life, had an interest in eastern religions, supported feminists, theorised about homosexuality, was vegetarian, believed in freeing the body of restrictive clothes, was anti-pollution, favoured manual labour and living your politics. He also lived openly with his male lover at the time of the Oscar Wilde trial.  He was the writer, poet, libertarian socialist and bearded sandal wearer Edward Carpenter (1844 – 1929). Maybe he was like us, we thought! He had written many books and pamphlets and a socialist hymn - strangely still to be found in Songs of Praise, called England Arise, once evidently as popular as the Red Flag. He was teased by Bernard Shaw and later pilloried by George Orwell as  “a creeping Jesus.” And of course, as many local readers will know, he famously set up home at Millthorpe near Holmesfield, where he grew potatoes, sunbathed in the nude, kept his piano in the kitchen and entertained many of the prominent writers and thinkers of his day – E M Forster, William Morris, Havelock Ellis, Olive Schreiner, among others.

 

Edward Carpenter in 1905

When my partner Rony Robinson and I met we discovered a shared interest in Carpenter.  As a child, Rony’s mother had been taken by her Independent Labour Party father to meet Carpenter. Rony had a signed picture. He had given a paper on him while a history undergraduate at Oxford in the 1960’s. He had even written two plays about him for the early Crucible Theatre.  And he too had met Sheila Rowbotham, that WEA lecturer (now a Professor at Manchester University), who had taught me in the 1970’s - and who is now the author of a prizewinning biography – Edward Carpenter – A Life of Liberty and Love. Soon, Rony and I met Sheila again, renewing our friendship and our shared curiosity about Carpenter.

 

Later, having moved to Totley and stimulated by the publication of the biography, I started to research Carpenter’s connections with our local
area – Bradway, Totley and Holmesfield. I found houses and places that were part of his story, houses other than the well known mecca at Millthorpe. This article is my story of that search.

 

When this Brighton born, Cambridge educated, ex-curate first came to Sheffield as a young man, he was already looking for ways to mix with ordinary working people and was a travelling lecturer for the University Extension Movement – the WEA of its day. He travelled around northern cities teaching astronomy and mathematics and living in lodgings. I learned from Sheila Rowbotham that, while in Sheffield, he was invited by a student of his, Albert Fearnehough, a scythemaker, to visit him and his family in his Bradway cottage on the farm of another student - a freethinking farmer called Charles Fox. In 1879, Carpenter decided to lodge with the Fearnehoughs and to write there - drawn by their humble rural life – a remarkable thing for a man of his background at this time. Sheila didn’t know the whereabouts of the farm and we all took to prowling around Bradway looking for it. Then, while idly looking through the Sheffield Telegraph Property Section, I saw a cottage at Fox Hall on Fox Lane for sale. I’d found it! We discovered that a Mr Fox still lived at Fox Hall – a descendent of the original Charles Fox – who knew of Carpenter and who kindly showed Sheila and me his family tree. The house is now almost hidden by the Low Edges Council Estate, but was then surrounded by open country.

 

I learned too from Sheila, that Carpenter had moved briefly with the Fearnehough family to Totley until a larger cottage could be found to accommodate them all at the Bradway farm. The address was Woodland Villas. One Sunday, taking our dog, I set out to find it. I knew of Woodland Place at the top of Queen Victoria Road. Maybe “Villa” signified a Victorian house? Nothing there - but coming down the hill into Queen Victoria Road, a pair of stone semis with, chiselled above the ground floor, the name Woodland Villas and a date in the 1870’s. Which of the pair Carpenter and the Fearnehough family lived in I don’t know. They were originally small two up, two down houses of the common Sheffield terrace design, but with substantial outhouses – perhaps a convenient writing place for Carpenter. I asked Sheila to look up the original correspondence with the poet Walt Whitman from which she had found the address. This was dated 1st July 1880 and the letter confirmed that this was indeed the house:

 

Woodland Villas, Queen Victoria Road

I am living with a man – the best friend I ever had or could think to have – an iron worker, scythe maker and his little family. He often says I wish Walt Whitman would come over here. Below my window here is a little wooded bank running down to some water and beyond about two miles off the hilly undulating line of the Derbyshire moors from which there comes a broad fresh breeze – like being near the sea.

Whitman is revered as the man who freed up American poetry, who celebrated the new democratic spirit of a young country and its people and who also famously celebrated the body and his own ambiguous sexuality. Carpenter had travelled to America in 1877 to meet Whitman and was inspired by him and other American writers, like Emerson and Thoreau, to turn his life around, to live – as we might say now – lightly upon the earth. While with the Fearnehoughs at Totley and Bradway he wrote Towards Democracy – a long book of somewhat dubious poetry modelled on Whitman, but which was a touchstone for many an early socialist some of whom even carried pocket editions to the front in the First World War. We therefore catch Carpenter in Totley and Bradway at a turning point in his life – when he throws in his lot with working people, begins to be involved with the infant socialist movement and just before he builds his rural house at Millthorpe in 1883, which was to be a model of a new way of life for many “progressives” of the time.

 

From our bedroom window in Lemont Road in Totley, we look south across a track up to Woodthorpe and Holmesfield – locally known as the White Lane. This was probably the very track Carpenter, Shaw, Forster and all those writers, theorists, gays, anarcho-socialists, food reformers, feminists, simple lifers, nude sunbathers, pagans and sandal wearers must have taken on their way from Dore and Totley Station to Millthorpe - and which we walk almost daily with our dog.  It was probably also the track where George Merrill, eventually Carpenter’s life partner, first followed him home from Dore and Totley Station.

Beyond this track we look over to the Holmesfield ridge and church. On one of our walks, we discovered another George – George Hukin, the kind
socialist razor grinder and really the great love and life-long friend of Carpenter, buried there in the church yard under a hedge. The other side of the ridge lies Millthorpe, Carpenter’s house which drew so many keen to
witness and learn from the strange life style of this man.

 

This side of the ridge sits St George’s Farm, bang in the middle of our window view. This was the site of a slightly earlier utopian experiment
involving the Victorian cultural thinker and writer, John Ruskin. Ruskin financed the purchase of the farm for some “communist” Sheffield working men and their families to collectively grow fruit. After they had all fallen out and the experiment failed, Carpenter suggested a socialist farmer, George Pearson, to Ruskin as someone who might take on the farm. There are still Pearsons farming and working in the area today.

 

No wonder Rony jokes that we live on a socialist ley line!

 

I learned more about George Hukin, the razor grinder, from Sheila’s biography.  George married a woman called Fanny in 1887 – and though he was generous to them, giving them a bed and being a witness at their wedding, Carpenter appears to have sunk into a deep depression due to his great love for him.  However, Hukin remained a life long friend and a wise and loyal diplomat when relationships between Carpenter and other friends sometimes became strained. Hukin, I learned from Sheila, lived for a while in Totley - again whereabouts unknown. In the 1901 census I found him living with Fanny in Brook Terrace, just around the corner from us on Mickley Lane - near where Laverdene Avenue meets it now. This terrace was demolished in the 1950’s. I knew that Harry Brearley, the inventor of stainless steel, had also lived as a newly married man in this terrace - he was on the census too as a neighbour of the Hukins. Through a local resident interested in Brearley, I discovered that Brearley learned how to mend all the family’s shoes from yet another George. This was George Adams, a working class man and would be artist who lived with his family at Carpenter’s Millthorpe house, taking on the smallholding and Carpenter’s sandalmaking venture. I surmise that Harry Brearley, the inventor of stainless steel must therefore have met George Adams and Edward Carpenter, the men who introduced the sandal as the mark of radicalism in Victorian times, through his neighbour in Brook Terrace, George Hukin.

 

Brook Terrace, Mickley Lane

We learn from Sheila’s biography that George Adams and Carpenter later fell out very badly, Adams and his family moving from Millthorpe where
they had kept house (as well as making sandals), to a house called Adamfield on Fox Lane near Millthorpe. On a walk, I discovered this lovely old house, lying conveniently next to a public footpath.

Adamfield, Fox Lane, Millthorpe

However, quite unexpectedly, when reading Chantrey Land, the book by Harold Armitage about the Norton area of Sheffield (then in Derbyshire), I discovered that George Adams was a friend of the author and had lived for a while at another wonderful old property – then a rather dilapidated farm – Fanshawe Gate Hall. The Hall and the family connected to it – the Fanshawes - has a long history as many of you will know. Lady Ann Fanshawe was married to a famous Royalist in the Civil War and wrote her memoirs about him. These memoirs were republished in the early 1900’s and Armitage in Chantrey Land, says that George Adams drew the house to be included in this publication.

 

I contacted Cynthia and John Ramsden, the present owners of the house but they had not heard of Adams or his tenancy there. But John said “Wait
a minute” and brought out of the house a copy of the 1906 reprint of Lady Anne’s memoirs – and when we looked, there was Adam’s drawing with a tiny signature in the corner dated 1904. I found George Adams and his family indeed living at Fanshawe Gate in the 1901 census. In the dovecot at Fanshawegate the Ramsdens have old photos of the farm and these give an idea of it at the time that the Adams were there. In fact, they must only have lived there for a while before moving to the new Letchworth Garden City (designed by Raymond Unwin, a Chesterfield socialist and another friend of Carpenter’s) where George became sandal maker in chief to an assortment of Victorian socialists and new agers.

Lady Ann Fanshawe’s Memoirs: drawing of Fanshawe Gate Hall by George Adams

Recently Judith Vernier wrote in Dronfield Local History Miscellany about the Victorian novelist Robert Murray Gilchrist and the mystery of his photograph. Gilchrist lived at Cartledge Hall – his family being tenants there. It may interest readers to know that Carpenter was friendly with him too and not averse to nipping over from Millthorpe for a whisky when George Adam’s children were getting too noisy!

 

I know from residents in the Cordwell Valley that despite his lifestyle and beliefs, Carpenter was by and large well respected by local people.
Everyone remarked on his generosity, his charisma, the eyes which tended to draw people to him. I think he appears to have had gravitas – for although he may have been unconventional, he still exuded something of the upper middle class curate. George Merrill, his eventual life partner was evidently a bit more of a rough diamond, not averse to having a few too many down at the Royal Oak!





Sources:

 

Sheila Rowbotham: Edward Carpenter, a Life of Liberty and Love, Verso 2008

 

Edward Carpenter Collection: Sheffield City Archives

 

Edward Carpenter: Towards Democracy (Manchester and London: The Labour Press 1883. Reprint of complete edition, George Allen and Unwin, 1921)

 

Edward Carpenter: My Days and Dreams (London, George Allen and Unwin, 1918)

 

Edward Carpenter: The Intermediate Sex (London:, 1908. Reprint, George Allen And Unwin 1918)

 

Edward Carpenter (ed): Chants of Labour (London: Swan Sonnenschein, 1888)

 

Harry Brierley: Knotted String, Autobiography of a Steel-maker, 1941

 

Harold Armitage: Chantry Land(Sampson, Low, Marston & Co. 1910)Fanshaw

 

Ann Fanshawe: The Memoirs of Ann, Lady Fanshawe, Wife of Sir Richard Fanshawe, Bart., 1600-72 (reprinted 1906)

 

Latest News

Our first meeting in the new year will be on Wednesday 24th January when we welcome back Chris Corker whose talk is called The Shell, Armaments and Munitions Production Crisis, 1915-1916. The wartime demand for armaments lead to the Shell Crisis of May 1915. Chris examines the effect that the formation of the Ministry of Munitions, under the guidance of David Lloyd-George, had on Sheffield's armament companies and its industry as a whole.

A recently discovered box of WWII correspondence reveals the story of how a small group of ladies from Dore and Totley recruited knitters from the west of Sheffield and how their efforts made them the country's greatest provider of Comforts for the Minesweeping crews of the Royal Navy. The story is told in Knit For Victory, a new book from Totley History Group. Written by Pauline Burnett, it has 82 pages and many illustrations. It is on sale in Totley Rise Post Office and local shops. Also available in Dore at the Village Store or direct via our website.

Since 1875 when there was only a Rolling Mill and Chemical Yard alongside the river a mile from Totley, the area has changed beyond anyone's imagination  This book by Pauline Burnett tells the story of how it was named and grew into the community we know today. The Rise of Totley Rise has 94 pages including a useful index and is profusely illustrated throughout with many previously unpublished photographs from private collections. 

The story is told in Totley War Memorial WW1 of the ten men from our village who gave their lives in the Great War. Written by Pauline Burnett, Jim Martin and Dorothy Prosser, a chapter is devoted to each of the soldiers with a family tree followed by as much information as could be discovered about the men and their families. There is also information about their military careers and the actions in which they lost their lives. The book has 64 pages and is illustrated throughout with photographs of the men, their families and the houses where they lived.

The Tyzack family are well known in our area for owning iron and steel trades at Walk Mill, Abbeydale Works, Totley Rolling Mill and Totley Forge. This article covers the history of the family from the late 18th century when William Tyzack the founder of the company was born until the early 20th century when Joshua Tyzack farmed at Avenue Farm, Dore.  

Walter Waller Marrison moved to Totley around 1897 with his wife and their two young sons. He was a house builder who constructed properties around Totley Brook and Greenoak before ill health forced him to take up less physically demanding work. In 1904 he took over the tenancy of the grocers and off licence at number 71 Baslow Road. After his death in 1908, his widow Kate and later their eldest son Jack continued to run the business until it was sold in 1934.   

Ron Wijk of Nieuw-Vennep in the Netherlands has sent us two scanned images of drawings of old cottages made by the celebrated Dutch painter, Anton Pieck (1895-1987) simply annotated "Totley", and wondered whether we could identify their locations.

We would like to thank Christopher Rodgers for bringing to our attention this fascinating log of the 85th Sheffield (St. John's and Totley Orphanage) Wolf Cub Pack for 1927-45. The log is published jointly by Sheffield Scout Archives and Totley History Group as a free PDF download. It is illustrated by no fewer than 92 photographs and is supported by a comprehensive index and biographies of some of the main participants.

Following our Open Meeting event on School Days, Roger Hart, Howard Adams and John Timperley have each written to us with their memories of Norwood School, which was located in the rooms attached to the Dore & Totley United Reformed Church on Totley Brook Road. 

On 22nd July 1909 the children of Dore and Totley Schools celebrated by a pageant the union of England under King Ecgbert which took place at Dore in AD 827. The pageant was devised and written by Mrs Sarah Milner and her daughter Marjorie and performed in a field close to Avenue Farm in front of a large audience. Photographs of the event survive together with a fragment of the script.

John Edward Greenwood Pinder had lived all 46 years of his life in Totley but on census night, Sunday 2 April 1911, he was not at home; he was in Derby Gaol serving a sentence of three months hard labour. From the age of 20, John had been in and out of local courts for a series of minor offences including drunkenness, assault, wilful damage and night poaching. Finally he was sent to gaol for cutting down and stealing 86 small trees which he sold in Sheffield market for Christmas.

We have already transcribed the census returns for Totley, Totley Rise and Dore. Now we have transcribed Census Strays. These are people who were born in Totley but are missing from our earlier transcriptions. They may have been living, working or studying elsewhere or just away from home on the night the census was taken. Two people were in prison. Others were in Union Workhouses, hospitals and asylums. Fully indexed strays from the 1851, 1861, 1881, 1891, 1901 and 1911 censuses are available now. 

We wish to thank Gillian Walker for allowing us to digitize an archive of material about the 1st Totley Scout Group. Most of the material was collected by Arthur Percival Birley in the period 1949-51 and there are many interesting documents pertaining to the building of the scout hut on Totley Hall Lane. In addition four Newsletters survive, two from the 1940s and two from 1971.

We are grateful to Angela Waite and All Saints' Parish Church for giving us access to baptismal and kindergarten birthday rolls dating from 1926 to 1941. We have transcribed the names, addresses, birthdates and baptismal dates and created an alphabetical index of entries for you to search. 

Edmund Sanderson, a Sheffield estate agent, aquired the land on either side of the old drive to Totley Grove in 1874 and divided it into plots for development. He called it the Totley Brook Estate. But before many houses were built, the estate road was severed in two by the building of the Dore & Chinley Railway line. The eastern end of the road became the cul-de-sac we now call Grove Road

John Roberts was born in Sheffield in 1798. He became a partner in one of the leading silversmiths firms in the city before moving to Abbeydale Park in 1851 and extending the house in Victorian gothic style. He paid for the building of St. John's Church and was believed to dispense more in charity than any other person in the neighbourhood including his protege Ebenezer Hall.

The Coke Family owned the Totley Hall Estate from 1791 to 1881. With the aid of a family tree to guide us, Josie Dunsmore takes us through the story of their tenure. 

When the Rev. D'Ewes Coke inherited the Totley Hall Estate in 1791 it had two farms. Josie Dunsmore tells the story of how the two farms were combined under the tenancy of Peter Flint with the aid of field maps drawn by Flint himself and later by the Fairbanks family.

Do you think you recognize this face? More than sixty photographs of the girls and teachers at Hurlfield Grammar School for Girls in the 1940s were given to Totley History Group by Avril Critchley, who was herself a student at the school. The collection includes fifteen form photographs from June 1949. There would have been a number of girls from the Totley area attending the school in those days.

Christine Weaving tells the story of her 2 x great uncle George Edward Hukin, a Totley razor-grinder, and his life-long friendship with the academic, poet, writer, and free-thinker Edward Carpenter.

Eric Renshaw (pictured here on the right with Bob Carr) grew up and lived in Totley from 1932 to 1960. Many of his memories are of a sporting nature.

We are very grateful to Gordon Grayson for giving us this splendid sale document for the Norton Hall Estates, following the death in 1850 of Samuel Shore. The estates included a large part of Totley and the document has maps and illustrations, plus schedules of land and property with the names of tenants. We have also added a transcription of the entries for Totley and Dore. 

Watch this Youtube video of the talk given by Dr. Mark Frost and Sally Goldsmith on Ruskin, Totley and St. George's Farm. The talk was hosted by Totley History Group on 20th May 2015 as part of the Ruskin in Sheffield programme. Also enjoy a video of the outdoor performance Boots, Fresh Air & Ginger Beer written by Sally.

When Jacqueline A. Gibbons became interested in what made her father tick, it began a journey through WW1 archive records and led to her flying from Toronto to visit the house and village where he lived and the countryside that he so much enjoyed. Jacqueline reminds us that in the early 20th century Sheffield was a driving force of industry and that Totley was the place where many of its remarkable people lived and where they formulated their ideas.

Edgar Wood was the designer of The Dingle, 172 Prospect Road, built in 1904 for Rev. William Blackshaw, the founder of the Croft House Settlement. The house, together with its western terrace and boundary walls, has now been awarded Grade II listed building status. 

What was probably "the most perfect little garden railway in existence" in 1910 was to be found in the grounds of Brook House, Grove Road, the home of its designer and constructor, Guy Mitchell. Look at some wonderful photographs and read reports in newspapers and a full appreciation in Model Railways magazine. 

We have now completed our transcription of Totley School's Admission Records for the period from 1877 to 1914. There is also a useful index to the names of the scholars and to their parents or guardians. We are very grateful to Sheffield Archives and Local Studies Library for allowing us to transcribe and publish these records and for permission to reproduce the photograph of a specimen page of the register.

On 8, 9 and 11 November 2014 Totley History Group held an exhibition at Dore & Totley United Reformed Church to commemorate the centenary of the First World War. Below are additional links to some of the photographs we were lent and stories we researched especially for the exhibition.

 

Oscar Creswick was a local farmer who served with the Army Service Corps in Salonika and who after the war returned to Totley to become the innkeeper of the Cricket Inn and a member of the village's successful tug of war team.

 

Walter Evans was a market gardener who also ran a small grocery shop on Hillfoot Road when war broke out. He fought with the Machine Gun Corps at the fourth battle of Ypres. After the war, Walter ran a grocers shop at the top of Main Avenue.

 

Fred Cartwright was another Totley soldier who survived the Great War. He fought in France and Belgium and although he wasn't wounded he was gassed and was home on sick leave when his daughter was delivered by Nurse Jessop during a snowstorm in January 1917.

 

Maurice Johnson joined the Yorkshire Dragoons, a territorial unit, on 1 Jan 1914 and so was called up at the very start of the war. He fought throughout the war on the Somme, at Ypres and at Cambrai. After demobilization in 1919 Maurice returned to his old occupation in the steel industry.

 

Bill Glossop lent us a letter written by his father, William Walton Glossop to his wife describing life in the army during training in the north east of England and asking her to keep him in mind with the children.

 

The photo above provides a link to an album of photographs taken of WW1 Hospitals at St. John's, Abbeydale and the Longshaw Estate.

 

Nora Green, of Chapel Lane, was only 14 when war broke out. In 1914 she was ill with diphtheria and was sent to the isolation hospital at Holmley Lane, Dronfield. Nora recovered and wrote a letter of thanks to one of the hospital staff and the reply she received survives. 

 

We have collected together on this page the names of local men who appear on various War Memorials and Rolls of Honour in Totley, Dore, Abbeydale, Norton, Holmesfield and Dronfield.

 

Unfortunately we were unable to identify all the photographs we were lent of Totley Soldiers. Please take a look at this album to see if you recognize any of the missing names.

This walk visits locations that have strong associations with Totley during the First World War. It includes the homes of the ten soldiers from the village who lost their lives, the auxiliary hospitals, war memorials, and even the rifle range on which the soldiers trained. Take a look at the first draft of a new walk by the authors of "Totley War Memorial WW1 1914-1918"

As we have nowhere to exhibit memorabilia and artifacts, we have decided to create a Virtual Museum instead, starting with old bottles that were found under the floor of the Old Infant School. Please contact us by email if you would like to see the real thing or have things that you own and would like to see added to the virtual museum.

We wish to thank the Trustees of Cherrytree for giving us permission to publish transcriptions of the Cherrytree Orphanage Admissions Book entries for the years 1866-1929. There is also an alphabetical index for you to look at.

With more people having access to faster broadband and mobile networks, we have uploaded seven full and unedited oral history recordings and also added more short excerpts for you to listen to.

Our transcriptions of local trade directories have been expanded to cover the 95 years from 1837-1932 and have also been indexed. From the days when there were a handful of farmers, stone masons, saw handle makers & scythe grinders to the wonders of the Totley Bridge Garage Company, Betty's Boudoir and The Heatherfield Shopping Centre.

We continue to add to our Totley Newspaper Archive. Recent entries have included several about John Roberts and the building of St. John's Church. There are several about the history of Brinkburn Grange and its first occupier, John Unwin Wing, an accountant who later lived at Totley Hall before being convicted of forgery and fraud and sentenced to 7 years imprisonment in Pentonville gaol. There are more than 50 articles from the 1880s and 1890s about Joseph Mountain and the Victoria Gardens, and twenty on the construction of the Totley Tunnel and the Dore and Chinley Railway.

Totley Church of England Parish Magazines for the years 1922-1939 and 1948-1967 with notices of births, marriages and deaths and accounts of spiritual, educational, charitable and social matters in the village. 

Around 90 photographs taken by Stuart Greenhoff for his thesis A Geographical Study of Dore and Totley including several of Totley Moor Brickworks. Superb!  

Chronologically ordered snippets of information recorded by Brian Edwards during his many years of research into our local history.

Read the inscriptions on more than 600 gravestones in  the churchyard.

 

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