Tradition has it that the name ‘Levick’ came from the Low Countries, when immigrants from Holland settled around Eckington as scythe smiths (though possibly the name is simply the local pronunciation of Levitt). Either way, this cutlery family made its mark in several ventures, which can be traced to the late eighteenth century, when John Levick & Son was listed in 1787 as a pen and pocket knife cutler. The location was Pond Lane; the trade mark was ‘LEVIK MERIT’. John Levick died on 15 October 1794, but the business was continued by his son Joseph Levick I (1753-1840). He appeared in the directory (1797) as a pen and pocket knife cutler in Pond Street. In the early nineteenth century, the firm became Joseph Levick & Son, after Joseph Levick II (bapt. 2 March 1787-1855) had joined his father. They joined other Levick enterprises (Ann Levick & Co, James Levick & Co), which traded in Pond Street during the 1820s. Joseph and his son marketed and manufactured table knives, forks, razors, pen and pocket knives, fruit knives, pocket combs, and magnets. Joseph Levick & Son is listed as a table knife manufacturer at 84 Pond Street in the New General Commercial Directory of Sheffield and its Vicinity published in June 1825.
Apart from a passing comments in the diary of Asline Ward, these Levicks apparently rate no mention in the standard chronicles of Sheffield, yet they were pioneers in the colonial trade and amassed considerable wealth. In Pond Street, they partnered the Wasnidge family, who were cutlers and haft and scale pressers (William Wasnidge). In 1818, Michael Wasnidge was listed as a pen and pocket knife maker in Pond Street (curiously, using the ‘MERIT’ mark). Between 1822 and 1828, Levicks & Wasnidge was listed in Pond Street as a manufacturer of table knives, pen and pocket knives, and razors, and general dealer. The partners were the Levicks (father and son), Michael Wasnidge, and (until he withdrew in 1819) John Fenton. Possibly, the partners planned to develop the North American trade. Michael Wasnidge and his eldest son, William, later became hardware merchants in Canada. Michael died in Montreal on 18 March 1835, aged 48; William in Toronto on 6 January 1836, aged 25 (Sheffield Independent, 9 May 1835, 23 January 1836).
The Levicks were also interested in South Africa. Joseph Levick II began visiting the country in the early nineteenth century (one visit is documented in 1818). Joseph Levick & Co became established in Cape Town’s Burg Street as a general merchant and ironmonger, which sold a wide range of imported colonists’ hardware. Joseph was briefly in partnership with Lawrence H. Twentyman (1783-1852), who was a prominent silversmith in Cape Town. That arrangement was dissolved in 1830. Joseph had religious interests in South Africa, too, and assisted United Brethren missionaries, who were proselytizing among the ‘heathen’. By the 1830s, Joseph Levick II had an agency in Sydney, Australia. An office and warehouse were opened in partnership with Charles Younger (Levicks & Younger), which was dissolved in 1845 (after Younger withdrew). The agency then became Levick & Piper (with Frederick Piper). In Sheffield, Joseph II was a JP and Town Trustee and lived at Sharrow House with his family. Joseph Levick II had married twice. His children from his first marriage to Hannah (d. 1828) were Joseph III, James, Henry, and Lucinda. By the late 1830s, Joseph III (1813-1871) and his brother James (1815-1883) had joined their father. The firm was styled briefly Levick & Bros, but after about 1838 Joseph II began to relinquish his interests in favour of his sons.
Joseph Levick I, ‘senior gentleman’, died on 10 November 1840, aged 86, and was buried in St Paul’s churchyard. His grandsons, Joseph III and James, formed Levick Bros. Their Australian business increased. Levick Bros maintained a Sheffield warehouse/office in Pond Street. But in 1844, James sold his house and possessions at Claremont Place and left for Australia, so that he could concentrate on the family’s export business (Sheffield Independent, 14 December 1844). An advertisement by James & Joseph Levick in The Sydney Morning Herald, 30 September 1847, gives an idea of the range of hardware from a single large shipment. It included items as diverse as sheet window glass, wigs, agricultural machines, guns, strike-fire knives, Levick’s celebrated razors, silver-plate, saddlery, and tomahawks (for New Zealand). In 1850, James returned to England. In the Census (1851), he was a ‘colonial merchant’ in Clay Hill House, Epsom. This residence housed at least seventeen occupants (family and various visitors). His wife was Averilda (the sister of Robert Newbold, who was later a director of Joseph Rodgers & Sons), whom he had had married in 1839. Joseph Levick II died at his son’s residence in Epsom on 29 January 1855, aged 67. His was one of the last burials in St Paul’s churchyard, Sheffield, after the cemetery’s enforced closure. The burial apparently only took place because the grave was private property containing other members of the family (Bell, 1909). Levick memorial inscriptions are listed in Samuel Roberts’ Memorial (1862), which documented links between the Roberts family and the Levicks. In 1858, James acquired Hookfield House, Epsom, which he demolished to build a larger mansion, Hookfield Grove, on the property.
In the 1860s, the Levick brothers continued to expand in Sheffield, London, South Africa, and Australia. Levick Bros, Pond Street, continued into the early 1860s under an agent, John Gregory (who may have been Hannah’s father). Levicks & Sherman operated in Cape Town: and Levick & Piper in Australia. The latter was dissolved in 1861, after the death of Frederick Piper, and began trading as James Levick & Co. An outlet in Melbourne was opened. In the early 1860s, Joseph III spent time in London. He became a director of the London & South Africa Bank and the London & South Africa Steamship Co. In the 1860s, however, James lost a fortune in an unwise investment (apparently in sugar plantations in Fiji). Averilda died at Hookfield Grove on 9 August 1867, aged 48. In the following year, James sold the house to a family of London stockbrokers (the Braithwaites) and moved to another large mansion, Hill House, overlooking Streatham Common. He remarried in 1870. He suffered another loss, when his brother Joseph III died at Homburg, Germany, on 19 September 1871. He was buried in Highgate Cemetery, London, leaving under £18,000.
After his second marriage, James returned to Sydney – this time permanently. He continued to manage James Levick & Co in Sydney and Melbourne. He died at Hunter’s Hill in Sydney on 12 November 1883, aged 68. He was buried in Ryde Anglican Cemetery, Sydney, where his grave monument can still be seen. He left a photographic album of his early travels (presently held by Macleay Museum, University of Sydney) and a journal (which has been transcribed by Bernie and Diane Crumpler – the former a Levick descendant).
A full family history, including family photographs, can be found on the Epsom and Ewell Explorer website at http://www.epsomandewellhistoryexplorer.org.uk/Levicks.html