Ruskin once suggested that the name Sheffield came from the words 'Sheaf-field' (Works
, 28, p. 448).
A correspondent later set him right, indicating that 'The town, in all probability, took its name from the river "Sheaf," which flows into the Don'.
Although Ruskin never lived in Sheffield, he took a personal interest in its culture and geography. This is reflected in the range of his local involvements, which extended far beyond the limits of his experiment at Walkley.St George's Farm, Totley
The Guild of St George purchased a farm in the Totley area not far from Sheffield. Cook and Wedderburn explain the background to this purchase of 'Thirteen acres of garden and field, with farmhouse and buildings':
'The land was bought by Ruskin in response, as he relates in Fors
, to a request from some of the working men of Sheffield for allotments. Some of the men, it seems, were shoemakers, and Ruskin looked forward to the experiment with hopeful interest. He was not able, however, to give personal direction at the start, and the shoemakers seem to have had ideas of "vote of the majority" which gave him uneasiness. The proposed allotments had a short and, I believe, somewhat stormy career, and Ruskin fell back upon the favourite resource on occasions of this kind; that is to say, he called his old gardener, David Downs, to the rescue. Already in the Report
for 1879 a new purpose for the Totley estate is announced: it was to be put "under cultivation, with the object of showing the best methods of managing fruit-trees in the climate of northern England; with attached green-houses and botanic garden for the orderly display of all interesting European plans" (p. 20). But "the climate of northern England" had views of its own, antagonistic to Ruskin's schemes. The rare plants and the fruit-trees remained only a beautiful vision; but the land was "brought into heart" to supply strawberries, currants, and gooseberries to the Sheffield markets "at a price both moderate and fixed" (p. 49).' (Works
, 30, p. xxvii)
The farming experiment at Totley was the subject of a radio programme called 'Making History'
Exterior view of St George's Farm, Totley, n.d., Collection of the Guild of St George, Museums Sheffield