Joseph Senior (1819-1892) - The Bard of Crookes (Sheffield)

I first came across when I was researching the history of Spring Hill, and more particularly out house. The original land title dated 1860 indicates that the land was owned by the Trustees of the Church and formed part of the Parish of St Thomas, Crookes, Sheffield

"A plot of land containing 1,790 superficial square yards or thereabouts formerly occupied as farm garden by Thomas Lee, Thomas Senior, Joseph Senior and Benjamin Senior with the various erections and buildings thereon"

This did not mean a lot to me but in 2005 I was informed that Joseph was to achieve some renown in later life as a blind poet and the author of "Smithy Rhymes and Stithy Chimes: Or the Short and Simple Annals of the Poor, Spelt by the Unlettered Muse of Your Humble Bard" (1882).

I put the information on one side, and promptly forgot about it for a few years!. But after posting the article on the local artist Joseph Hawksworth I remembered that I had some material on the poet Joseph Senior. In the interim no-one had posted on-line or written in print anything of value relating to his life and so I located my old notes and decided to put them in some coherent order

The first information is from the 1841 Census

1333/3 1 12a Ecclesall Bierlow Crooks Moor John SENIOR 55
1333/3 1 12a Ecclesall Bierlow Crooks Moor Esther SENIOR 54
1333/3 1 12a Ecclesall Bierlow Crooks Moor Joseph SENIOR 22
1333/3 1 12a Ecclesall Bierlow Crooks Moor Benjamin SENIOR 15

John and Esther are his parents and Benjamin his younger brother. In the preface to the 1882 edition of "Smithy Rhymes..." Joseph states that he cannot trace his ancestry back further than his grandfather but did state that he was a "pen and pocket knife blade forger" and that he brought his son John (Joseph's father) in the same trade. John joined the firm of Messrs Joseph Rodgers and Sons in the early 1820's. His sons John Benjamin  Samuel and Joseph in turn took up the same occupation, working from what Joseph calls the "old no 6 Norfolk Street". He mentions that on his mothers side (Esther Senior nee Stork), two generations also worked there for the same employers.

Joseph then goes on to remake that in his childhood there were no school boards and few schools. In fact his teacher was the same one who taught his mother and he then continues to lavish praise on his teacher
"In his day, and by his labours, he rendered good service to the locality; and, as an old scholar, 1 revere his memory, and many of the descendants of his old pupils will be interested in the following tribute to his memory. The " Local Register," under the date of January 12th, 1830, says:—" Decease of Mr. John Tomlinson, master of Crookes Endowed School, aged 73. To this school he had been licensed by the Archbishop of York
47 years. He \vas an upright and conscientious man, highly respected throughout the neighbourhood of Crookes, Hallam, Fulwood, &c., a great part of the inhabitants of which places were educated by him," Let me add to this that he was interred in what was then called Ecclesall Chapel yard, which has now become a fashionable burial-ground. The sacred spot contains no worthier dust than that of my old school-master."
 

Joseph in the same vein then pays  a glowing tribute to his parents and reminisce on a pleasant childhood

"The retrospect of the days of my boyhood is pleasant even now. If not surrounded with affluence, " My Father's Cot " was a home of domestic comfort, and John and Esther Senior were respected by their neighbours and friends, and were considered to be very " farrantly " people (good and amiable, worthy) ; and if their home was a lowly one, it was happy. The maxim of my parents is embodied by
the poet in these lines :—
Onward ' onward ' may we press,
Through the path of duty ;
Virtue is true happiness,
Excellence true beauty—
Minds are of celestial birth—
Make we then a heaven on earth....
It was the desire of both my parents to bring up the family to habits of industry and upright life and morals. 1 have already mentioned that we
went to Ebenezer and Ranmoor Chapels. The old Methodist hymns were sung with a heartiness that charmed me. These I often practised at home on my flute, some of the tunes being special favourites."

In 1851 Joseph has married and is living in Crookesmoor

Name Joseph Senior
Age 31 Estimated Year of Birth 1820
Relationship to Head of Household Head
Occupation Cutler (Pen Recives)
Address Crookes Moor Prospect Terrace 84 District Ecclesall Bierlow, Ecclesall Bierlow Parish
Administrative County Yorkshire (West Riding) Birth Place Crookes Birth County Yorkshire

NAME STATUS AGE REL OCCUPATION PLACE OF BIRTH
Joseph SENIOR Married 31 Head Cutler - Pen Knifes

Crookes, York, England

Mary A SENIOR Married 27 Wife   Sheffield, York, England
Amelia SENIOR Female 3 Daughter   Crookes, York, England

The 1861 census still has Joseph and his family living in Crookesmoor but I think it may be a different property

Name Joseph Senior
Age 42 Estimated Year of Birth 1819
Relationship to Head of Household Head
Occupation Blade Forger
Address Crookesmoor Road 121 Back District Ecclesall Bierlow, Nether Hallam Parish Nether Hallam Administrative County Yorkshire (West Riding) Birth Place Sheffield Birth County Yorkshire 

NAME STATUS AGE REL OCCUPATION PLACE OF BIRTH
Joseph SENIOR Married 42 Head Blade Forger

Sheffield, York, England

Mary A SENIOR Married 39 Wife   Sheffield, York, England
Amelia SENIOR Female 13 Daughter   Sheffield, York, England
Walter SENIOR Son 8 Son   Sheffield, York, England
Mary SENIOR Female 3 Daughter   Sheffield, York, England
Alice SENIOR Female 3mths Daughter   Sheffield, York, England

1871 sees the family moving to Crookes

Name Joseph Senior
Age 52Estimated Year of Birth 1819
Relationship to Head of Household Head
Occupation
Pen Blade Forger
Address 30 Crookes Road District Ecclesall Bierlow, Hallam, Nether Parish Hallam, Nether Administrative County Yorkshire
Birth Place Yorkshire Birth County Yorkshire

NAME STATUS AGE REL OCCUPATION PLACE OF BIRTH
Joseph SENIOR Married 52 Head Pen Blade Forger

Crookes, York, England

Mary A SENIOR Married 49 Wife   Sheffield, York, England
Mary SENIOR Female 13 Daughter   Crookes, York, England
  Female   Gdaughter    

Household Record 1881 British Census

Name Relation Marital Status Gender Age Birthplace Occupation Disability
Joseph SENIOR Head W Male 62 Sheffield, York, England Pen Blade Forger
George B. CARTWRIGHT Son In Law M Male 25 Sheffield, York, England
Accountant
Mary J. CARTWRIGHT Wife M Female 21 Sheffield, York, England
George S. CARTWRIGHT G Son Male 11 m Sheffield, York, England
Source Information:
Dwelling 30 Crookes Rd
Census Place Nether Hallam, York, England Family History Library Film 1342117 Public Records Office Reference RG11 Piece / Folio 4627 / 87 Page Number 24  

Joseph Senior holding a copy of his poetry - 1882

It was at this time that Joseph started to lose his sight. He mentions it in the preface to "Smithy Rymes" and it is something he finds very disconcerting. The loss of sight was quite rapid and it meant that Joseph could no longer vouch for the quality of work that he produced as a Pen Blade forger. In fact he goes on to say that he may no longer be able to work in this field such is the rate of deterioration. And this condition was also one of the reasons why he consented to the publication of the book. The other was that his many friends and acquaintances agreed to become subscribers in the printing and publication of the book. Joseph was in no position financially to do this on his own but the list of subscribers in the book reads like a "who's who" of Sheffield.

Below are the names of the poems that appear in the book

And two of the poems

I can't really comment on the style and quality of Joseph's poetry as I do not feel that I am qualified in that respect. But there is no doubt that Joseph was held in high regard by many people. The first letter is dated 20th June 1878 and is from one of Sheffield's leading politicians Mr A J Mundella

and the second letter is from no less a person than Alfred Lord Tennyson dated 11th April 1884

   

Joseph concerns about his health that he voiced in the preface to his book were to a certain extent unfounded. By 1884 he was referred to as a "blind poet" but he did in fact live until July 1892, ten years after the publication of his book. the burial registers for Crookes have the following entry

SENIOR Joseph 12 Jul 1892 30 Crookes Rd 73

The Sheffield & Rotherham Independent (Sheffield, England), Wednesday,July 13, 1892 gave a detailed account of his funeral

and a day later gave this fitting tribute to Joseph

 

In September 2011 I was obtained the following information from a descendent of Joseph's

"his only known living descendent is his great niece Dorothy Oldfield (neeSenior and daughter of John Robert Senior, his nephew, who was the last known pocker knife maker in Crookes/Sheffield and guildsman -after the family trade- who died in 1954). Dorothy is now 95 years and lives in a care home in Basingstoke"

Notes

Sources

Smithy Rhymes and Stithy Chimes: Or the Short and Simple Annals of the Poor, Spelt by the Unlettered Muse of Your Humble Bard" (1882).

UK Census

The Sheffield & Rotherham Independent (Sheffield, England), Monday, October 25, 1880; pg. 4; Issue 8125.

The Sheffield & Rotherham Independent (Sheffield,England), Thursday, July 14, 1892; pg. 5The Sheffield & Rotherham Independent (Sheffield, England), Wednesday,July 13, 1892

 

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This page was last updated on 04/01/12 11:10