Phoenix Works, High Lane

The Staniforth and Hutton Families are without a doubt the two biggest names when it comes to Sickle and Scythe Smithing in the area around North Derbyshire and South Yorkshire.

Throughout the 19th and 20th Centuries the two families world and competed alongside each other selling their tools to countries around the world, with the Hutton’s operating out of the Phoenix Works at High Lane, Ridgeway and the Staniforth’s operating out of Hackenthorpe (With other branches of the family operating grinding wheels in Ford and Mosborough). In the mid 1800s, Thomas Staniforth paid Huttons £1000 so that they could sell their tools in the south of Ireland, and the Huttons would take the north, the border being a line between Dublin and Galway.

It is however interesting to note that it was the Staniforth family that passed on their skills to the Hutton family. In 1678 a Richard Hutton, son of Henry Hutton, a farmer of Swinton was apprenticed to Thomas Staniforth of Sloade Lane as a Scythesmith. This Thomas Staniforth was the son of William Staniforth and Dorothy Monk. Thomas’ brother William Staniforth moved from Sloade Lane and established the Sicklesmithing family in the neighbouring village of Hackenthorpe.

The late historian T.L Platts researched the Hutton’s of Ridgeway extensively, and it is to him we are indebted for the following research:

Richard Hutton gained his freedom in 1704 and was granted a mark. He also worked as a weaver as a bye trade. Richard had four sons in total, Joseph, baptised 29th July 1699. Joseph married twice, firstly to Sarah, the widow of John Booth, another Sicklesmith, and secondly to Elizabeth Micklethwaite of Brightside. His other sons were George, Charles and John, all of whom moved to Mosborough and have many descendants in the area.

Joseph had two sons with his first wife, Thomas Hutton, baptised the 2nd of September, 1731, he died young, Joseph Hutton baptised 13th June 1728, and Elizabeth Hutton. Elizabeth went onto marry Edward Girdler, a farmer of Park, Sheffield and Joseph Married Elizabeth Inkersall of Inkersall House, Hackenthorpe.

Joseph and Elizabeth had three sons and one daughter, Joseph Hutton, a Sicklesmith, William, an Edge Tool Maker who married Ann Mullins of Birley Hay and who went onto have a son, Joseph Hutton as well as two daughters Elizabeth and Sarah. Ezra Hutton, the final son of Joseph and Elizabeth was baptised 29th March 1769, he married Mary Jermyn of Drake House. They also had a daughter Elizabeth, wife of Thomas Slagg of Ford.

It would be Joseph and Ezra Hutton that partnered together in 1791 to run the Sickle and Scythe smithing business. Ezra and Mary built Ridgeway House, more commonly known as Lion House in 1781. Their earliest premises was the Palais Royal, which later became the Queen’s Head Pub. When Ezra passed away in 1802, the work was relocated to the Phoenix Works at High Lane. Joseph Hutton died in 1823 and his two nephews, Thomas and Joseph, Ezra’s sons (Listed below) took over the business.

Ezra Hutton and Mary Jermyn married on December 11th, 1791, the couple had the following children:

Ezra, baptised 19th October 1797, Thomas, baptised 29th August 1799, Joseph, baptised 22nd July 1802, Elizabeth, baptised 1st November 1792, Mary, baptised 12th February 1794, Sarah baptised 28th October 1795

Thomas married Ann Slagg, his cousin, the daughter of his aunt Elizabeth Hutton and Thomas Slagg.

Staniforth Works, Hackenthorpe

Due to this marriage, the Hutton’s were able to acquire the mark of Thomas Slagg ‘BY’. By the early 1800s the Hutton’s were operating on a number of local Grinding wheels including the Never Fear Wheel, the Chapel Wheel, as well as sharing the Lower Sickle Wheel with Thomas Staniforth’s of Hackenthorpe. When Joseph Hutton passed away, Thomas was the sole operator of the business, he took over the Birley Hay Works in 1836 as well as the Skelper Damn and Works.

Thomas and Ann had a number of children, namely James Russell (Died in 1915 France), Thomas Hutton and John Jermyn Hutton, baptised 12th November 1824, he married Elizabeth Ardren.

Thomas would form a partnership with his son John Jermyn Hutton, and nephew Edward Newton in 1845, with the company becoming Hutton & Newton. They purchased another trademark during this period, one that was popular in Poland, the Bird’s Eye trade mark, which they bought for £250 from Mark Webster. Thomas Hutton died in 1849, and John Jermyn Hutton and Edward Newton continued to operate under Hutton & Newton during the 19th Century. John Jermyn Hutton died in 1867, and the business was carried on by his widow.

John Jermyn Hutton had a son named John Jermyn Hutton, born in 1859, he married Anna Sophia Simmons of Woodhouse, they had son Joseph Gilbert Jermyn Hutton, born in 1894, and he married Mabel Grant Beattie. They also had a daughter Jessica, born 1887.

When John Jermyn Hutton Jr. was of age, in 1883 he took control of the business from his mother, and it is due to him that the Phoenix Works adopted steam power in 1885. In 1902 a Machine Shop was built, and in 1911 the trade mark ‘RK’ was purchased from J. Haslam and Sons.

John’s son Joseph Gilbert Jermyn Hutton fought with the 6th Battalion of the Sherwood Foresters during World War I, and after roughly a decade following the war, his father John Jermyn Hutton passed away on March 30th 1927. His funeral took place on Sunday 3rd April at the village church where a new family vault had to be constructed due to the old one being full. Beginning at The Newlands, the funeral cortege passed Kent House where it was joined by representatives of various local organisations. The service itself was brief and no hymns were sung. Within the church itself, all 600 seats were occupied with approximately 200 mourners standing at the rear. Outside another 200-300 people assembled, making it almost certainly, the largest funeral that the village had seen.

Following his death, John was replaced by his son Joseph Gilbert Jermyn Hutton as the head of the company. Under his leadership steam power was replaced by Oil power in 1928 and seven years later, the old boiler and chimneys were removed,

Joseph passed away in 1947 and the company was taken over by his nephew Peter Clegg.

In 1988 the Phoenix Works closed, and was at the time the final remaining scythe and sickle works in Britain. It was taken over by Hand Tools of Dronfield. Today the name lives on under the firm Sorby Hutton based in Sheffield.

Another interesting link between the Hutton and Staniforth:

Ridgeway Methodist Church holds the grave of Ruth Staniforth of Ridgeway, the memorial reads:

‘Sacred to the memory of Ruth Staniforth of Ridgeway, who died July 21 1842 aged 81, she was an upright and honest housekeeper to the late Joseph Hutton Esq upwards of forty years. O’ Reader watch! For death is ever near; and pray then his approach you need not fear.’