The Early Settlers
Records show that some of the earliest Italians arrived in Sheffield as early as the 1850’s. The Cassinelli family were to become a prominent family in the community and also play a big part in housing new immigrants to the area.
Antonio Cassinelli born 1831 in Genoa Italy, records show him on the 1851 census living at Millsands near West Bar in the household of Dominico Devoto an Italian labourer, Antonio was aged 19, unmarried and working as a street organist, with him was his younger brother Angelo age 16. There were sixteen other people all living in the Devoto household all Italians, all unmarried and all street organists. We assume that the head of the household Dominico Devoto was probably the Padrone of these immigrants. Padrones arranged immigrants documents, work and accommodation within the community for the newly arriving immigrants. The Padrone system was met by hostility as most Italians were thought to be poorly skilled. Padrone (meaning boss) was also thought to be linked to the Mafia bosses. Most Italians immigrants had nothing to do with the Mafia but it was assumed that they did. The stereotype has lasted for decades.
Antonio Cassinelli married Elizabeth Williams (from Worcester) on July 9th 1854, over the next few years Antonio was witness at several other Italian weddings. Antonio and Elizabeth had children several of whom died in infancy.
In 1861 Antonio was living at 2 Smithfield West Bar where he was head of the household. Still shown as an organ player, also shown on the census is his wife Elizabeth and children Joseph 11 months and Rosa 7 years, also living in the house are 25 people mostly Italian but also shown is a 7 piece German Band.
In 1871 Antonio is now living at 30 Smithfield West Bar he is shown as organ music builder, with him is wife Elizabeth and five of his children, again on this census there are 5 Bavarians street musicians and 23 other Italians. This would indicate that Antonio Cassinelli became the padrone to other immigrants.
Sadly Elizabeth died in 1876. But in 1881 Antonio was still surrounded by six of his children and 12 Italians lodgers, amongst them is shown a general servant called Angela Spinetta aged 21 who later became the second wife of Antonio.
The 1881 census also shows Dominico Rebori, who became one of the popular Ice Cream Sellers.
In 1891 Antonio is still at 30 Smithfield with wife Angela and some of his children and again we see there are also Italians borders 11 in total. These included my Great Grandmother Louiggia (Louisa) Lagoria.
Antonio died in July 1895 aged 66 not long after him Angela died April 1896 aged 43, both are buried at the city road cemetery.