Aug 14 2015
Project Manager Sarah Rawlins talks about how she’s been putting Sheffield cutlery on the map as part of the Cutting Edge project:
Heading up the Cutting Edge Project and helping to create the Sheffield Cutlery Map has become quite a passion project for me. Growing up in Sheffield I’ve always understood that cutlery making was a central part of the city’s story, from hazy memories of going to visit my granddad in a backstreet workshop to school trips to Abbeydale Industrial Hamlet or Kelham Island. Mentions in Chaucer and in a sixteenth century schoolmasters manual that ‘a right Sheffield knife is best’ reflect the long history that Sheffield has for making quality cutting blades.
Museums Sheffield has a huge range of cutlery which tell the story of the city and the development of the industry itself. It was exciting to have the chance to research and digitise these objects, even though it seemed almost impossible to select about fifty objects to pin to our map to begin with. Even the thought that the Sheffield Cutlery Map was updatable and we could keep adding more objects and manufacturers was not much comfort- how would we choose?
In the end we decided to start with objects from many of the largest cutlery manufacturers of the nineteenth and early twentieth century. This is because so many of our enquiries come from members of the public wanting to find out about cutlery which came from these big firms, such as Joseph Rodgers & Sons, George Wostenholm & Son, and Walker & Hall.
Not all cutlery in Sheffield came from such large manufacturers; in fact most were made by the Little Mesters, who worked on their own or with only an apprentice or journeyman to help. If you search on the cutlery map, you’ll find many named individuals, past and present, and some of the beautiful objects that they made.
To collect together a complete record of the maker with historic images we have been working with the Assay Office, the Company of Cutlers in Hallamshire, the Local Studies Library and Sheffield Archives, and Sheffield Industrial Museums Trust. Sharing knowledge from different organisations in the city has been a great way to pull together a variety of information and images about each maker and manufacturer, which can be accessed by the public in one place.
One of the most exciting features of the resource are the historic maps from the 1890s and 1930s. These maps enable you to find the location of the manufacturers with links to detailed information and images. You can also use the maps to fade between the streets of Sheffield today and the historic map you have chosen- it’s amazing to see how much the city has changed, with street layouts altered or widened to make way for dual carriageways and roundabouts, or simply the number of markets that have now become a memory to most.
Visit the Sheffield Cutlery Map here.
Top: Visitors exploring the Sheffield Cutlery Map at our Celebrating Sheffield Cutlery Day event. © Andy Brown
Bottom: Examples of Sheffield Cutlery at our Celebrating Sheffield Cutlery Day event. © Andy Brown