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Richard Axe

The Waterfalls of Derbyshire & Sheffield

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Richard Axe

The Waterfalls of Derbyshire & Sheffield[1]

At least four male Waterfalls came to Sheffield from Derbyshire around the 1760s and 1770s: Thomas, John, Samuel and Joseph. Thomas is described variously as labourer and husbandman; John Waterfall was a file smith whose family lived in and around Sandygate and Carsick for several generations; Samuel was a blacksmith and Joseph a flax dresser. All four also had families in Sheffield. It seemed reasonable to suggest that some or all might have been related but the evidence seemed very likely to be complicated by surname variations between Waterfall, Waterford and Waterforth. What is helpful, however, is a mention of one John Waterford, son of Thomas Waterford of Ashford in the Water, Derbyshire, as an apprentice filesmith to John Hoyland of Sandygate, Sheffield. John was apprenticed in 1761 and gained his freedom in 1773[2].

Those few but useful details allow us not only to trace the family back one more generation but also identify the likely family links between most of the Waterfall members who came to Sheffield. The parish records from Ashford and Sheffield show some interplay between Waterford and Waterfall in a way that demonstrates the likelihood of there being only one family[3]. The one person for whom evidence is lacking is Thomas Waterfall: no obvious baptismal reference although the forename is lacking from any of those presumed to be Thomas of Ashford’s children. If Thomas Waterfall was a son of Thomas Waterford then he is likely to be have been an older child to judge by his marriage date.

Thomas Waterford of Ashford in the Water seems very likely to have married Catherine Rolly at Peak Forest, Derbyshire, on 10th September 1741. That location is not close to Ashford but the coincidence of the deaths of a Thomas and a Catherine, his wife, in the Ashford burial records allow for a connection to be made. Thomas and Catherine had a number of children, all baptised in Ashford: Elizabeth and John (1742), William (1745), another John (1747), Samuel (1749-50), Joseph (1750-1) and Martha (1753). The second John can be presumed to be the boy apprenticed as a filesmith as fourteen would be an appropriate age to be apprenticed; the first John is likely to have died young although no record of a burial has come to light yet.

As a family unit only Thomas would be missing from those four Waterfalls who made their way to Sheffield in the mid-eighteenth century – and there is certainly space in the sequence of presumed births for another child. There is another connection that increases the likelihood of close links: two Sheffield marriages between two Waterfall men (Thomas and Samuel) and two Charlesworth women (Jemima and Sarah) took place in 1768 and 1770.  Jemima and Sarah were sisters, baptised at Sheffield in 1745-6 and 1749 respectively, and daughters to David Charlesworth. It would be unusual in the circumstances were Thomas and Samuel not to be similarly related. The flexible nature of the surname is evident in the next generation: Thomas’ son Joseph was baptised as Waterford (6/7/1770) and buried as Waterforth (29/12/1770) in the records for St Peter’s, Sheffield. In 1773 Tommas Waterforth, son of Joseph the flax dresser, was baptised at Ecclesall, Sheffield, on 8th August.

The Waterfall family was clearly intent upon taking advantage of the opportunities that the cutlery industry afforded in Sheffield[4]. No fewer than seven members were apprenticed in some fashion between 1761 and 1802: five as knifemakers, one cutler and one filesmith. The apprentices were distributed between children of four men: Thomas Waterford, of Ashford; Thomas and Samuel Waterfall, of Sheffield, and Joseph, of Toadhole, Bakewell. Future generations would see some members grow in wealth and stature.


[1] Contributions made by Nicola Waterfall, of the Waterfall One Name Study website, are very much appreciated. http://www.waterfall.name/ for further details. Any and all errors in this piece are my own.

[2] The History of the Company of Cutlers in Hallamshire, Vol 2, by R E Leader, 1905, p387

[3] Of the four Sheffield marriages for the four Waterford / Waterfall men in the 1760s and 1770s, one was for John Waterford and the other three were for Thomas, Samuel and Joseph Waterfall. Joseph, son of Thomas Waterfall, was recorded as a Waterford in 1770.

[4] All in Leader, Vol 2

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