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Robert Eadon Leader

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The Following report first appeared in the Transactions of the Hunter Archaeological Society, Volume 2, p213 and is reproduced here in full by kind permission of the Society.

( http://www.shef.ac.uk/archaeology/hunter/index.html )

ROBERT EADON LEADER,

President of this Society.

AN APPRECIATION BY S. O. ADDY.

ROBERT EADON LEADER, the younger son of Robert Leader, Alderman and Town Trustee, and proprietor of the Sheffield and Rotherham Independent, was born at 2 Charlotte Street, Sheffield, on the 2nd of January, 1839, his mother being Eliza, daughter of John Eadon, who was related to John Eadon, the mathematician.

0n his mother's side his great-grandfather was John Smith, the well-known Sheffield bookseller. He was also great-grandfather of Mrs. R. E. Leader, she and her husband being second cousins.

The Leaders came from Broxted in Essex, where their house was known as Moor End, and the subject of this notice has given us a pedigree of his family, and also of the Eadons and Pye-Smiths, in Mr. T. Walter Hall's Sheffield Pedigrees.

It is probable, but not established, that the family are descended from the Rev. Thomas Leader, Prebendary of St. Paul's, and Vicar of Great Dunmow and Great Easton, 1671-78.

After graduating at London University, R. E. Leader in 1864 married Emily Sarah, second daughter of Ebenezer Pye-Smith of Hackney, surgeon, and sister of Rutherfoord John Pye-Smith of Sheffield, the accomplished and beloved surgeon.

Leader contested the Ecclesall Division of Sheffield in 1892, but was defeated by the late Sir Ellis Ashmead-Bartlett, who had held the seat since 1885.

In 1895 he contested the Bassetlaw Division, but was defeated by Sir Frederick Milner.

He would have made such a useful Member of Parliament that one cannot but regret that he was not returned. It must be remembered that on both occasions he fought a gallant fight against very strong Conservatives.

He went to live in London in 1893 , and died at his residence, North Mount, Whetstone a London suburb, on the 18th of April, 1922, aged 83. Here I propose to confine myself to an estimation of his work as a journalist, author, and antiquary.

The two sons of the proprietor of the Independent joined their father in the management and editorship of the newspaper. They were both endowed with literary tastes, and with an ardent zeal for historical research

It was to be expected that this zeal would show itself in the newspaper, and it did so for many years. A weekly column devoted to literature and antiquities appeared every Thursday under the editorship of John Daniel Leader, F.S.A., the elder brother, and lasted from about 1874 to 1878.

It was called Local Notes and Queries, and it contained many articles by Dr. Henry Bradley, now Fellow of Magdalen, Oxford, and Chief Editor of the New English Dictionary; by the late Professor Skeat of Cambridge; the late Dr. Henry Julian Hunter, son of the historian of Hallamshire; and many others.

Of this publication, R. E. Leader had a fully indexed copy, and there are a few others in existence. In addition to this weekly column was another called Spectator in Hallamshire, and printed on Saturday. Many of us took the greatest pleasure in these articles.

But the Independent was by no means a literary or antiquarian paper, strongly as it reflected the tastes of its owners. It was a great Liberal organ deriving much of its inspiration from John Arthur Roebuck, who represented Sheffield from 1849 to 1868, and again from 1874 to his death in 1879.

Roebuck was a master of vigorous and caustic rhetoric - a quality which earned for him the name of "Tear 'em."

He was by far the most eminent statesman who has ever sat for Sheffield and his great qualities were duly appreciated by the Independent.

It is possible that from him R. E. Leader acquired the half-veiled satirical manner for which he was sometimes unjustly blamed, for he was the kindest of men. It was really no more than the wholesome bitterness of the Saturday Review. He was not one of those who believed that "everything is for the best in this best of all possible worlds.”

Some politicians adopt the maxim Populus vult decipi: decipiatur, “The people like to be fooled: let them be fooled." I remember a discussion in the Independent on the question whether newspapers instruct their readers. The issue was doubtful. Better be mad with the rest of the world than wise alone. That may be the policy of the journalist. It is not the creed of the archaeologist who, if he be worth his salt, aims at the advancement of learning. It is not the creed of any conscientious man. It was not the creed of Robert Leader.

Down to 1855 the Independent, then a weekly paper, had been without a rival in Sheffield. But in that year the late Sir William Leng and Mr. Clifford founded a daily paper-The Sheffield Daily Telegraph. After a delay of six years the Independent also became a daily paper. Not only were the two papers on opposite sides in politics, but the Telegraph, by its enterprise, had forestalled the older journal.

Hence rose a long-protracted paper warfare. This strife was hushed many years ago, and it is well that it was. Nevertheless in politics, and in most forms of human endeavour, opposition is healthy and desirable, and the world is poorer without it. Much of Leader's work was put into his political articles, which were always incisive and piquant.

In 1875 Leader published his Reminiscences of Old Sheffield. A second edition was called for in 1876. Here he made a beginning of that minute chronicle of later Sheffield history which was to continue for many years. The book is in the form of a pentalogue (there are five speakers), and contains hundreds of glimpses of forgotten Sheffield life.

We are to imagine a few congenial friends, sitting in a room of Leader's house, telling tales of the men and women they remembered in the earlier years of the last century.

One of the company was William Swift, the genealogist who compiled so many pedigrees of Sheffield giving facts and dates from old records, and leading the back to days beyond their memories.

The Reminiscences has always been a popular book, widely read and talked about. And no wonder. The memory of the man in the short; it does not go further back than his grandfather's days, as when he speaks of "grandfather clocks," or calls a volume of pedigrees a "grandfather book.'' Leader knew this limitation. What he wrote was true history, gathered from the lips of living witnesses, and it will be valued more and more as time goes on. The speakers have all passed away, but we hear their voices still.

In 1897 our author published, through Edward Arnold, The Life and Letters of the Right Hon. John Arthur Roebuck, a large octavo volume of nearly 400 pages. He was then living in London, in touch with the great publishers, and with surviving friends of the statesman. It was unlike anything he had written before. He had entered the largior aether of the metropolis, and felt its influence. He had forgotten for a time the little world of cutlers, and in Roebuck and his friends he had a subject with which he showed himself very well able to deal. It is a charming piece of biography, and the biographer was in sympathy with his subject.

Roebuck was nothing if not original and independent, and soon made his mark on the world of intellect. In early life he became strongly attached to John Stuart Mill.The two friends took long walks together. On these occasions Mill would fill his pockets with sweet violet seed and scatter it in the hedges as he went along.

In this biography Roebuck's characteristic sayings and opinions are well brought out. He was far in advance of the general condition of humanity, but he tried hard to understand his fellows, and took the utmost pains over the great questions which engaged him. In this book we see the man as he was.

Sheffield in the Eighteenth Century, published in 1901, was a fitting sequel to the Reminiscences, and was at first intended to be incorporated with the second edition of that book. It is a careful and restrained piece of work, written with the dignity of the historian. It was necessarily not so popular as the former book, but works of this kind are not to be judged by their popularity.

The subject was one which our author had made his own. No other man was so well acquainted with the changes and troubles of this period, with the bitter

(and often unjust) songs of Joseph Mather, with the hard lives of the cutlers, and with their struggles for freedom. He had read everything available, except perhaps the wills at York and Somerset House, and had been a collector all his life. He paid little attention to the earlier centuries.

The work by which Leader will be best remembered is his History of the Cutlers' Company, 1905- a laborious undertaking occupying years of research and condensation. He entered on the task with joy. I remember meeting him at the Cutlers' Hall a day or two after he had begun. We sat together for hours in a large upper room, with a table covered with Apprentice and Freedom Books. He smoked a pipe, and chatted gaily, and he seemed to have reached the great ambition of his life. He had long been writing of Sheffield people in the last two centuries. Himself intimately related to old Sheffield families, the subject was dear to hirn. Did anybody want to know where Joseph Mather, the song-writer, was born? He had only to turn to the Apprentice Books to find it recorded that he was the son of Samuel Mather of Chelmorton, near Buxton, where he was born in 1738. That he was born in a Sheffield alley was an idle tale.

To undertake such a task required courage, and Leader went at it like a Trojan. It was necessary to extract the material parts of the Apprentice and Freedom Books, and to bring the whole into one alphabetical digest. Such a work required the utmost patience and care, when so many thousands of names and dates had to be verified.

By far the most valuable part of the book is the List of Apprentices and Freemen. It extends to 301 large folio pages, and embraces more than 24,000 names. Not only do we get the name, residence, and occupation of the father, mother, or guardian, but the age of apprentice. For the purposes of economic history and genealogy this document, so far as it goes -and it goes very far indeed- is of immensely greater value than the Parish Registers of Sheffield Ecclesfield. The Sheffield Register, though virtually complete, contains the scantiest possible details;,and we have only to compare it with that of the adjoining parish of Norton to see how unsatisfactory it is.

To a great extent the deficiency is made good by the records of the Cutlers' Company. 'Those records contain the names of well-known families, some of whom are little heard of now, but whose descendants may still survive. The younger sons of the Foljambes of Walton Hall, whose monuments are in Chesterfield Church, Shirecliffes, Fitzrandolphs, Seliokes, and other high-born families did not disdain to be apprenticed to "the art and mystery" of cutlery when that art was more ornate than it afterwards became, and when gold and silver, and even precious stones, were used in the decoration knives.

On the publication of this work a well-known Sheffield man, since deceased, said to-me: "What is the good of that List of Apprentices?" He did not see that it is something more than a "list"; that in each case it is the beginning of a biography. It was like the king who asked: "What is the good of bainting and boetry?" What was the good of The Registers of Westminster Abbey which the late Colonel Chester edited, and for which he received the Honorary D.C.L. of Oxford?

It might have been better to have printed the work in five or six handy volumes, even at the cost of sacrificing facsimiles. People say that such a work as this is "a labour of love''-a term which implies that money is the only thing worth writing for.A book which is not "a labour of love" is not worth having.

A few days after these lines had been written I happened to sit next to a lady at the British Museum on whose table was a pile of books, and who was evidently engaged in research. I felt certain that I knew one of the books by its binding, for it was exactly like one of own. I ventured to enquire if that was not Mr. Leader's Reminiscences. It was, and I told her I was writing a short account him. We got into conversation, and I asked her if she knew the History of the Cutlers' Company. She knew it well, and spoke of it with enthusiasm as of great value to her studies in economic history. Where else can be found a better source of materials for illustrating the old system of apprenticeship?

And here perhaps I may be allowed to say that I could not possibly have prepared a genealogy of my own family, on which I have lately been engaged, without the help of this work. It supplied links which were missing in other evidences. That would be so in hundreds of other cases if searches were begun.

Among the minute things which attracted Leader's attention was the history of old Sheffield inns. The interest which he took in this matter may have been in part derived from the fact that his brother, J.D. Leader, was the owner of the Black Swan in Snig Hill, as possibly his father was before him. I am not sure that he knew it, but this inn stands on the site of a house which in 1451 is described as Costnoght Place. This is the only house specified by name in Dalby's Survey of Sheffield in that year. It had doubtless belonged to the family of Costenot who lived at Wadsley, and were benefactors, as Pegge shows, of Beauchief Abbey.

In later years the name underwent some change, but in that change the connexion of the inn with Costenot (or Costnoght) Place is very plain.

An inn of which he has told us some curious facts is the King's Head in Change Alley, which formerly belonged to the Yeomans family, ancestors of a former Town Clerk of Sheffield.

If you want to see a good example of the author's style and way of looking at things, you should read again a lecture which he gave before this Society in 1915, entitled "Literature and Archaeology in Sheffield a Hundred Years Ago:" I had the pleasure of hearing this fine discourse.

To mention only a few names, literature was represented by Hunter, James Montgomery, Elliott, and Samuel Bailey, but the shafts of the speaker's irony were :directed against the poetasters and smaller fry. More than justice was done to Bailey, who died a rich bachelor. A new interest was given to this philosopher in the discovery that he had suffered from blighted love. In 1845 he had written an anonymous poem called Maro; a Poetic Irritability.

It was published by Longmans, but its authorship was unknown until two or three years after Bailey's death. 'It was not wonderful that he should have fallen in love; it was wonderful that he should have written verses on his great passion twenty-four years after the publication of his first book; it is more wonderful that he should have called his passion an "irritability." I have not seen Maro, but the Leader family , his relations, knew what had happened.

Our author had the pen of a ready writer, though he sometimes forgot Voltaire's dictum that the adjective is the enemy of the substantive. His letters to his friends show how kind and interesting he could be. His great collection of historical material was always at the disposal of others. He never failed to help a brother student if asked to do so. His collection was so well arranged that he could turn to facts at once, and he added bookbinding to his other accomplishments. In his chosen period he kept alight for many years the lamp Hunter had kindled.

Mrs. Leader's bibliography which follows includes an account the author's booklets and fugitive pieces:

BOOKS:

Judith Lee. A tale of Old Sheffield (about 1745). 1866.

Reminiscences of Old Sheffield, its streets and its people. 1875:

Do. do. do, Second edition, 1876

Life and Letters of John Arthur Roebuck, P.C., Q.C., M:P. 1897.

Sheffield in the Eighteenth Century. 1901.

History of the Company of Cutters in Hallamshire in the County of York Two volumes: 1905-6.

Peeps into the 'Past, being passages from the Diaries of Thomas Asline Ward. Introduction and annotations. 1909.

The Sheffield Banking Company Limited. An Historical Sketch, 1831-1916

A Century of Thrift. An Historical Sketch of the Sheffield Savings Bank, 1S 1919.

PAMPHLETS.

St. Bartholomew's Day. 1862.

A Run up the Nile.' 1872.

The Young Nonconformist's Union. 1876.

Corrupt Practices at Elections: 1883.

The Press and Corrupt Practices Bill: 1883.

Political history of Sheffield. 1832-1849. 1884.

do. do. 1849-1885.

Cruise in the Mediterranean: 1890

Imperial Federation: 1896.

Memoirs of Robert and J: D: Leader: 1885-1900.

Sheffield in 1902. From Past and Present.

Hendon Park Cemetery. 1903.

Surveyors and architects of the Past in Sheffield. 1903.

Ecclesfield Church. Journal of the British Archaeological Association: 1904.

Sheffield Cutlery and the Po1l-tax of 1379: Journal of the British Archaeological Association 1904.

Highways and Byways. 1906

Alien refugees and Cutlery Traditions. Journal of the British Archaeological Association. 1908.

Antiquities of Sheffield. Local Government and Cutlery and the Cutlers' Company British Association Handbook: 1910.

Sheffield and Silver. My story of early Electro-plate and Plating. Reprinted from the Sheffield Daily Telegraph. January 8th, 1914. 1914.

Origin of Nonconformity in Sheffield. Transactions of the CongregationalHistorical .Society. 1915.

Early Sheffield Banks and Bankers. Issued by the Institute of Bankers. ` 1917.

The Early History of Electro=Silver Plating. Journal of the Institute of Metals. 1919

Industrial 'Sheffield. Historical Introduction to The Chamber of Commerce Hand¬book 1919.

The following articles by Mr. Leader appeared in the H. A: S. Transactions

Greetings. Vol. i, p: 11.

The House at the Church Gates. vol. i, pp: 71, 73.

Joseph Jolley, a Forgotten Attorney. Vol. i, pp. 208, 405.

Literature and archaeology in Sheffield a Hundred Years Ago. Vol. i: p. 216

Talks of the Town; Place,, Parsons, Publicans and People: vol. i, p. 365.

Our Old Roads. Vol. ii, p. 7.

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That's a remarkable list of sources/books/[amphlets - are any available please ?

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I'm in process of OCR'ing the articles on The House at the Church Gates and Talks of the Town.

Notes on availability are in red.

Judith Lee. A tale of Old Sheffield (about 1745). 1866. (Just borrowed a copy from Central lending Library)

Reminiscences of Old Sheffield, its streets and its people. 1875:

Do. do. do, Second edition, 1876

Life and Letters of John Arthur Roebuck, P.C., Q.C., M:P. 1897. Copy available from Central Lending Library

Sheffield in the Eighteenth Century. 1901. Facsimile available from Kessinger Publishing

History of the Company of Cutlers in Hallamshire in the County of York Two volumes: 1905-6. Copies available for loan from City Libraries

Peeps into the 'Past, being passages from the Diaries of Thomas Asline Ward. Introduction and annotations. 1909.

The Sheffield Banking Company Limited. An Historical Sketch, 1831-1916

A Century of Thrift. An Historical Sketch of the Sheffield Savings Bank, 1S 1919. Reference copy available

PAMPHLETS. Local Studies Library has a bound volume of his pamphlets, but the online catalogue doesn't give details of the contents.

St. Bartholomew's Day. 1862.

A Run up the Nile.' 1872.

The Young Nonconformist's Union. 1876.

Corrupt Practices at Elections: 1883.

The Press and Corrupt Practices Bill: 1883.

Political history of Sheffield. 1832-1849. 1884.

do. do. 1849-1885.

Cruise in the Mediterranean: 1890

Imperial Federation: 1896.

Memoirs of Robert and J: D: Leader: 1885-1900.

Sheffield in 1902. From Past and Present.

Hendon Park Cemetery. 1903.

Surveyors and architects of the Past in Sheffield. 1903.

Ecclesfield Church. Journal of the British Archaeological Association: 1904.

Sheffield Cutlery and the Poll-tax of 1379: Journal of the British Archaeological Association 1904.

Highways and Byways. 1906 Just borrowed from Central Lending Library

Alien refugees and Cutlery Traditions. Journal of the British Archaeological Association. 1908.

Antiquities of Sheffield. Local Government and Cutlery and the Cutlers' Company British Association Handbook: 1910.

Sheffield and Silver. My story of early Electro-plate and Plating. Reprinted from the Sheffield Daily Telegraph. January 8th, 1914. 1914. Local Studies Library

Origin of Nonconformity in Sheffield. Transactions of the CongregationalHistorical .Society. 1915.

Early Sheffield Banks and Bankers. Issued by the Institute of Bankers. ` 1917. Available from Central Lending Library

The Early History of Electro=Silver Plating. Journal of the Institute of Metals. 1919

Industrial 'Sheffield. Historical Introduction to The Chamber of Commerce Hand¬book 1919.

The following articles by Mr. Leader appeared in the H. A: S. Transactions

Greetings. Vol. i, p: 11.

The House at the Church Gates. vol. i, pp: 71, 73.

Joseph Jolley, a Forgotten Attorney. Vol. i, pp. 208, 405.

Literature and archaeology in Sheffield a Hundred Years Ago. Vol. i: p. 216

Talks of the Town; Place,, Parsons, Publicans and People: vol. i, p. 365.

Our Old Roads. Vol. ii, p. 7.

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The Sheffield Banking Company Limited. An Historical Sketch, 1831-1916

A fine list of stuff, looking forward to any/all of it.

I own an original copy of Sheffield Banking Company Ltd; I will scan it - at some point.

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If any of these aren't available in blighty I can make PDFs available:

Reminiscences of Old Sheffield, Second edition, 1876 -- http://books.google.com/books?id=CR8vAAAAMAAJ

Life and Letters of John Arthur Roebuck, P.C., Q.C., M:P. 1897. -- http://books.google.com/books?id=ZpkNAAAAIAAJ

Sheffield in the Eighteenth Century. 1901. -- http://books.google.com/books?id=UGADAAAAMAAJ

Highways and Byways. 1906 -- http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancest.../highways1.html

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If any of these that aren't available in blighty I can make PDFs available:

Reminiscences of Old Sheffield, Second edition, 1876 -- http://books.google.com/books?id=CR8vAAAAMAAJ

Life and Letters of John Arthur Roebuck, P.C., Q.C., M:P. 1897. -- http://books.google.com/books?id=ZpkNAAAAIAAJ

Sheffield in the Eighteenth Century. 1901. -- http://books.google.com/books?id=UGADAAAAMAAJ

Highways and Byways. 1906 -- http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancest.../highways1.html

Thanks Jeremy, I've just obtained a copy of Highways and Byways with a view to scanning it - so a timely intervention!

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