Old Handsworth

Handsworth History notes. From ‘A Guide to Historical Handsworth’ by Mark Oates.

Handsworth is an Anglo-Saxon name meaning ‘the land enclosed around Hand’s farmhouse’. It was recorded in the Domesday survey of 1086 as Handeswrde and was joined to Whiston as a single Manor. At the time it would only have been a very small village surrounded by farmland and extensive woodland. Under Norman rule the parish of Handsworth prospered and grew to include Darnall, Gleadless, Richmond and Woodhouse. Today of course, Handsworth is just an area of the City of Sheffield – a city made world famous by its cutlers and steelmakers. In 1380 the medieval poet Geoffrey Chaucer referred in his Canterbury Tales to a knife from Sheffield. However, in a survey in 1379, there were nine smiths and perhaps one cutler in Sheffield; but Handsworth had thirteen smiths and three cutlers. Clearly the ancient parish of Handsworth has its own identity and history, every bit as proud as the city into which it has become absorbed….

The parish church of St Mary’s was built about 1170. It was founded by the Norman Lord William de Lovetot, or his father Richard, and the foundations were planned by William Paynel. In the 1220’s St. Katherine’s Chapel was added, probably by Maud de Lovetot, so that prayers might be offered for the soul of her husband, Gerard de Furnival, and perhaps her son Thomas de Furnival as well, who died on a crusade to Jerusalem. By 1472, the Fabric Rolls of York reported that the church was in a ruinous state, although in the process of being rebuilt. It was the Earls of Shrewsbury who repaired much of the damage. In 1698, the Church spire was destroyed by lightning. A new steeple was built which was so small and squat it was nicknamed the ‘Handsworth Stump’. This was replaced in the 1820s by another new tower, which was also struck by lightning in 1978.

Famous Handsworth people include: Mahlon Stacye, Benjamin Huntsman, Thomas Dunn and William Jeffcock.

Fisher, Son & Sibray, nurserymen and market gardeners once owned extensive parts of Handsworth and employed many people. They were famous for growing varieties of holly and there is an ornamental Handsworth Holly.

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