Totley History Group
Totley History Group

George Edward Hukin

George Hukin George Hukin

The first Sheffield Socialist?

by Chris Weaving

Christine is a teacher with a passion for family history, especially American history, Victorian society and the Merchant Navy.


Ruskin's experiment
An art critic's failed co-operative

It was John Ruskin, England's most famous art critic (1819-1900), who began the seeming flow of a new age of enlightenment to Totley, then an isolated farming village in Derbyshire on the outskirts of Sheffield. According to Ruskin, Sheffield was a "dirty picture in a golden frame", being surrounded as it is by magnificent hill country. He admired skilled craftsmanship and disapproved of the immorality and ruthlessness of capitalistic machine-based industries, which, he argued, simply created a national debt. The only way to help the poor, he believed, was to remove them from the blighted urban areas into healthier places where they could work on the land, manufacture on a small scale and receive mental instruction. By a mutual exchange of products the poor would become independent and not ruled by the factory owners. In an attempt to prove this theory he bought St George's Farm in Totley for his communist experiment of forming a co-operative. Unfortunately, Animal Farm-like, it failed. Edward Carpenter sent £2 to his fund.

A statue is soon to be erected in the centre of Sheffield to commemorate the life and works of academic, poet, writer, and free-thinker Edward Carpenter (1844-1929), considered by many to be a founding father of British socialism. In 1886 my 2x great-uncle George Edward Hukin started to form what was to become a lifelong close friendship with Edward. It led my ancestor from his working class life as a ferociously independent razor grinder in the Chartist tradition into a diverse world of writers, artists, suffragettes, politicians and social activists. The pair’s many letters - housed in the Sheffield Archives - accounts in books and records on Ancestry reveal how George became both observer and participant in the Labour Party’s birth.


In her book Edward Carpenter: A Life of Liberty and Love, Sheila Rowbotham
describes George as a man with “a conscience and strong sense of justice” as well as having “considerable organisational skills and steadiness of judgement”. These qualities ensured he became the linchpin of the small group of Sheffield socialists passionately endeavouring to eradicate the inequalities of working life in the late 1870s in, as the writer George Orwell described it, “the ugliest town in the Old World.


Unlikely Friend
Edward Carpenter, by contrast to my ancestor, was an upper middle class Cambridge graduate and the considered first choice of royalty as a maths tutor. Yet, as he reveals somewhat apologetically in his book My Days and Dreams, he was a young man eager to escape the confines of his opulent life in Brunswick Square, Brighton with its grand balls and dinner parties filled with “amiable nonsense” and defiantly gave away his dress clothes in exchange for the warmth and freedom of Sheffield. By 1886, in these early days of socialism, he and George became firm friends and together experienced their aspirations of turning the ‘trickle down’ Victorian world upside down, for working men and women were beginning to hear their own voices of protest.


As the distress of mounting unemployment persisted in Sheffield during 1886, the small band rented the former debtors’ jail in Scotland Street in the centre of Sheffield where they established the Commonwealth Cafe and the Sheffield Socialist Society. Here in one of the poorest areas of the city they formulated their progressive plans. Each day they offered food to the pale-faced, skinny children and each night speaker after speaker cultivated their purpose. The kindness to the children unfortunately waned as they were “tearing each other pieces” in order to gain admittance. Yet the group’s political principles waxed, the designer and socialist William Morris added impetus when he came to speak at their lowly meeting place and their influence steadily grew. Crowds of up to 300 soon joined their open air meetings beside the monolith in Fargate as the adjacent foundations for the new town hall - a Victorian symbol of power - were laid. Despite thiis, enthusiasm for change within the populace started fade, forcing the realisation on the friends “that making Socialists was... arduous”. It would take another 40 years for victorious Labour councillors, the first in the country, to enter the town hall’s hallowed walls, a triumph George would sadly never experience.


Totley today
The Sheffield suburb that belies its past

It's perhaps hard to imagine Totley today as a Victorian and Edwardian cauldron of progressive thought, and possibly other contemporary residents are unaware of the political history hidden in every nook and cranny. In George's day it was officially in Derbyshire but the boundaries have changed and it's now in the outer reaches of Sheffield, with ancient buildings interspersed with new, and the Peak District still forming its backdrop. I've lived in Sheffield all my life and in Totley itself for over 20 years, yet my research into my father's side of the family was a complete revelation. I had no idea Ruskin carried out his co-operative experiment so nearby, that relatives George and Fannie lived a stone's throw away or Edward Carpenter lived just across the hill in Millthorpe. But as I stare at George Edward's photo (a name bequeathed to my grandfather and father), the likeness to my nephew, born 118 years later, is uncanny. The joy of family history...


Yet, in the 1880s, they persevered, for Edward had friends in high places. American poet Walt Whitman was a confidant, as were writers EM Forster, Edith Nesbit, Olive Schreiner and Oscar Wilde. Together the friends represented the “new society which was arising and forming within the structure of the old”. Edward pressed for a clean air act in Sheffield (which would take 60 or so years to resolve) and protested against the Duke of Rutland’s enclosure of land surrounding Sheffield. As an environmentalist and socialist Edward’s lectures and writing progressed, and the sound considerations of his friend George Hukin were always available. Edward’s father died in 1882 and with his substantial £6,000 inheritance he bought seven acres of land in Millthorpe in the beautiful Cordwell Valley, nine miles from Sheffield. Here he built his own substantial cottage and simplified his life into a blend of reason and manual labour. His home became a honey pot for progressive thinkers including, as always, my relative. After a day’s walking in the Peak District followed by a simple supper, George, Edward and other guests would settle down to a discussion by the roaring fire, George with his cigar and Edward with a cigarette. They explored the stars, read, talked and occasionally listened to the strains of Chopin, Beethoven and Schubert played by Edward on the piano in the kitchen, all the while contemplating the wretchedness of capitalism with its “worship of stocks and shares”, imagining a fairer, independent world of mutual exchange of produce and one in which women wouldn’t be so cruelly barred from every “natural and useful expression of their lives”. In 1889 George married fellow socialist Fannie Bright in the registry office in Sheffield. The certificate bears Edward’s neat signature as a witness. According to the census they soon moved to the fresher air of Totley in the far south-west of Sheffield, as the inevitable grinder’s diseases of asthma and bronchitis were taking hold. George’s health improved in their terraced cottage on the edge of the Peak District. just a pleasant three-mile walk from Millthorpe. He nevertheless, intermittently, continued his razor-grinding duties with my greatgrandfather, William Hukin.


Grinder's disease
When George Hukin was born in 1860 few razor grinders in the centre of Sheffield lived beyond 31 years. They paid the ultimate price for the long hours spent hunched over their grinding stones, inhaling the irritating particles of stone and red hotel metal. George's decision to move to Totley with its great sanitary agents of fresh air, light and unpolluted water added precious years to his life.


By 1910 George’s deteriorating health demanded complete retirement and he and his wife moved even closer to Millthorpe where he saw Edward often. His life was now spent enjoying gardening and photography as Britain began a period of great unrest, for, as Lenin declared the workers “have learned to fight”, and strike after strike hit. As World War 1 erupted George spent his days tranquilly at home taking photographs of the villagers to send to their loved ones on the front line and in Edward's company, visits were made to the Royal Oak in Millthorpe where a good old sing song, with Edward centre stage at the piano, was interspersed with intellectual argument. And so the days passed until, after a visit to Millthorpe to see an ailing Edward, George suffered an asthma attack on the steep walk home. A heavy snowstorm stopped Edward from visiting but two days later he managed the trek and found his friend unconscious. George passed away at 10pm on 22 March 1917. A devastated, weeping Edward read the eulogy at his funeral while gazing beyond the cemetery, perhaps half expecting to see his great friend striding once again over the hills with his dog. For Edward life in Millthorpe would never be the same and he returned south to Guildford. On his 80th birthday in 1924 all members of the newly elected Labour cabinet signed his birthday album, as did all his friends including George's widow Fannie. His health slowly faded and with the Labour Party, under the leasership of Ramsay MacDonald, having gained power for the second time, on 5 June 1929, Edward Carpenter passed peacefully away just 23 days later. 


July 2015

Latest News

Coming Soon

The first meeting after our summer break will be on Wednesday 25th September when we welcome back Dr. Chris Corker who will be giving us the third in his series of talks on Sheffield in the Great War. The focus now turns to the final years of the conflict, the innovative ideas which emerged during the war, the supply to the US Navy of projectiles in 1917, the continuing role of women workers in the munitions factories, and an attempt to recount what Sheffield made for the war effort. The talk concludes with the effects that the Armistice had on Sheffield in November and December 1918. The meeting will be in Totley Rise Methodist Church starting at 7.30 p.m. Please note this is a change of venue.


On Wednesday, 23rd October we welcome back historical clothes expert Janet Stain with a light-hearted talk called Ration Book Fashion. Janet will be telling us what made fashion tick during and immediately after World War II when resources were scarce and creativity and improvisation the order of the day. Clothes were rationed between June 1941 and March 1949 and the Ministry of Information issued the 'Make Do and Mend' pamphlet, providing useful tips on how to be both frugal and stylish. The event begins at 7.30pm in Totley Library.


On Wednesday, 27 November we will be holding another of our popular Open Meetings when everyone is invited to share memories of Christmases Past. What are your favourite memories of Christmas? How has Christmas changed since we were children? Do we idealize those earlier Christmases or were they really different from today? The meeting will be held in Totley Library starting as ususal at 7.30 p.m.

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.

Ellen Topham was born in 1889 in Nottingham. Her parents had been living together since 1862 but had never married so it was most unusual that, after their deaths, Ellen was accepted into Cherrytree Orphanage. Even more so since her father, Snowden Topham, had been acquitted somewhat unexpectedly in a widely reported manslaughter trial. Ellen remained at Cherrytree until her death from pulmonary tuberculosis at the age of 15.

Mabel Wilkes was a resident in Cherrytree Orphanage between 1897 and 1905. Her granddaughter Sally Knights sent us these images of a book presented to Mabel as a prize for her writing. Sally also sent us some personal memories of her grandmother and a photograph of a locket which contains portraits of Mabel and her husband Septimus Gale.

John Henry Manby Keighley was living at Avenue Farm when he enlisted in 1916. He fought in France with the Cheshire Regiment but after home leave in early 1918 he went missing. The Army were unable to determine whether he had deserted or returned to the front and been either killed or captured by the enemy. In August 1919 he was formally presumed killed in action but it appears he did not die but returned home to his family.

Horace Ford was admitted to Cherrytree Orphanage on 26 October 1888 at the age of six. He left at the age of 14 to become an apprentice blacksmith and farrier. Soon after his 18th birthday Horace enlisted in the Imperial Yeomanry to serve his country in the war in South Africa. His letter home to his Orphanage mentor tells of the lucky escape he had in battle.

Pat Skidmore (née Sampy) lived on Totley Brook Road from 1932 to 1948 before her family moved to Main Avenue. In this short article she remembers her time at Totley All Saints School where she was a contemporary of Eric Renshaw and Bob Carr.

As we have nowhere to exhibit memorabilia and artifacts, we have created a Virtual Museum instead. The latest addition to our collection is this double-sided Totley Rise Post Office oval illuminated sign which was on the wall of 67 Baslow Road before the Post Office business transferred to number 71. Please contact us by email if you have things that you own and would like to see added to the virtual museum.

Conway Plumbe was a man of many talents who came to live in Totley Rise around 1912. As a young man he had poems published by Punch magazine and is remembered in modern collections of WW1 poetry. A number of his paintings were accepted by the Royal Academy. An engineering graduate of London University, he joined the Civil Service where he rose to a high level as a factory inspector, publishing two books on the subject and giving a series of talks on workplace health and safety on BBC radio during WW2. In retirement he wrote a philosophical-spiritual work called Release From Time.

Inside Totley Rise Methodist Church there is a Roll of Honour commemorating the soldiers from its congregation who served their king and country during the Great War. For all but one of the 28 names the soldier's regiment is recorded in the next column. The exception is David Cockshott for whom 'killed in action' is written alongside yet he appears on no war memorial in our area and no record of a mortally wounded soldier of that name is to be found. We think we have solved the mystery.

Mrs. Kate Plumbe moved from Mansfield to Totley Rise with a number of her family in 1913 and became closely involved with the Totley Union Church. Her daughter Winifred became a missionary and headmistress in Calcutta for over 38 years following which she returned home to live with her sister Hilda on Furniss Avenue. Hilda had also been a teacher, missionary and, like her mother, a volunteer at St. John's VAD during WW1.

Thomas Glossop was a cutler and razor manufacturer who was well known amongst cricketing and gardening circles. Despite going blind, he was able to continue his hobbies with remarkable success

The Totley Union Cycling Society Prize Giving and Fete was held on the fields near Abbeydale Hall on 18 July 1914. Anne Rafferty and Gordon Wainwright have named some of the people in two wonderful photographs of the event. Can you identify any more for us? 

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"

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 The Plumbe Family, Thomas Glossop and accidents during the construction of Totley Tunnel.

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 700 gravestones in  the churchyard.


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