Metalwork in Sheffield

Cutlery in Sheffield

The city of Sheffield has a globally renown collection of cutlery. At the heart of the collection are pieces made in the city, which have been gathered since the museum was founded in 1875.


Sheffield has been known for making blades from the Middle Ages. In The Canterbury Tales, poet Geoffrey Chaucer describes one of his characters as wearing a good quality 'Sheffield thwitel' (knife). With the advent of water-powered machinery in the Fifteenth Century, Sheffield was well placed to develop its metalworking industry, as it had many fast flowing streams, as well as sandstone for creating grinding wheels.


Making their Mark

The Worshipful Company of Cutlers in Hallamshire was established to unite the Sheffield cutlery industry, in 1624. From this point on cutlers' marks were recorded. Each mark was different and allowed people to identify who the maker was and when the piece had been produced.


By 1700 Sheffield was making new products like spring folding pocket knives and forks. Although cutlery was still being made in London, Sheffield was now the most important cutlery making centre in Britain.


From 1740 to 1914 Sheffield cutlery was exported to Britain's overseas colonies, as well as the United States and many parts of Europe. Sheffield cutlery could be bought from the shops as far afield as Capetown, Karachi, Bombay, Calcutta, Adelaide, Sydney and Montreal.


Glossary:

Advent - beginning of

Establish - officially set up

Exported - moving goods overseas to sell them

Colony - a country or area ruled by another country

Cutler - someone who is involved in making cutlery

Cutlery - utensils, usually knives and forks, used to cut or eat with

Renown - famous, widely known


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Document icon Learning article provided by: Museums Sheffield: Millennium Gallery | 
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