The Blind 'Fiddlers' of Sheffield

For around fifty years, in the adolescence of the Industrial revolution, the small town of Sheffield nurtured a musical phenomenon. Amidst the scream of grindstones and grinding poverty, the townspeople supported and took pride in their blind musicians. Known locally as the ‘famous’ blind fiddlers, these men judged prima facie were once thought to be itinerant buskers like their counterparts in other towns. Closer examination of their activities, through the eyes of their contemporaries and parish records, reveals something more. Through the dimness of the past can be discerned an organisation of musicians which supported whole families whilst fostering musical standards well above the norm for players in this condition. Whilst others with equal disability languished in the parish workhouse, these men built careers and reputations which are still spoken of in the modern city of Sheffield.

The writer, Mayhew, describing street musicians in London in the same period says that there were two types, ‘the skilled, and the blind’. In Sheffield they were one and the same. The creator of this phenomenon was one Samuel Goodlad, publican by trade and violinist by inclination. He organised and taught the blind musicians of his day giving to them both dignity and a quality of life not enjoyed by their peers in other towns. Goodlad’s legacy lasted into the mid 19th century some 60 years after his death and laid the seeds for Sheffield’s unique commitment to the blind.

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17 Paradise Square,

The ‘Q’ in the Corner – now an accountants office – once HQ of the ‘Blind Fiddlers’