Masters to Masters: A History of the Company of Cutlers in Hallamshire

Masters to Masters: A History of the Company of Cutlers in Hallamshire

Masters to Masters: A History of the Company of Cutlers in Hallamshire

Masters to Masters: A History of the Company of Cutlers in Hallamshire

Synopsis

Cutlery has been made in Sheffield for at least 700 years. This history of the Company of Cutlers in Hallamshire is a rare opportunity to investigate the changing role of an industry and its locality. Founded in 1624 as an exclusive craft guild, the Cutlers' Company originally controlled the whole of the cutlery trade around Sheffield by sanctioning trade marks and apprenticeships. Stripped of its power by parliament in the early 19th century, when it was seen as being too powerful, it has since played a crucial role in protecting trademarks and representing the interests of the cutlery and steel trades more generally. From Masters to Masters not only presents a history of the company and its role at the heart of local trade and industry, but also provides a detailed description of the Cutlers' Hall, one of Sheffield's best-known buildings. The book also includes details of the outstanding collection of cutlery and silverplate housed in the Cutlers' Hall. Rich in detail and drawing on archives held at the Hall, this book will be of great interest to economic and social historians, and those with a particular interest in cutlery and steelmaking in Hallamshire.

Excerpt

The publication of this history of the Company of Cutlers in Hallamshire exactly celebrates the passing of 700 years since the first documentary reference to a cutler working in Sheffield. It also marks the 700th anniversary of the grant of a town charter by the lord of the manor to Sheffield's burgesses. These medieval origins need to be stressed for Sheffield is a much older place than its present appearance suggests. It was known for its cutlery wares long before the incorporation of the Cutlers' Company in 1624, and long before it acquired an international reputation as the steel capital of the world.

Like most English institutions with a steady history, the Cutlers' Company can demonstrate many continuities with the past. The most visible of these is expressed by one of Sheffield's best-known buildings -- the Cutlers' Hall -- which stands on the site used since the early days of the Company's history. Part of the historian's task is to trace such links with the past. But the historian is also concerned with change and with charting and interpreting the ways in which old customs and traditions were gradually replaced by new ones. The present concerns of the Company are naturally very different from those of the seventeenth century, when the Master was a working craftsman and the Freemen made knives, scissors, files, edge tools, and shears. Much of the present character of the Company dates from the decision taken in 1860 to admit the manufacturers of steel. The leading steel men soon began to dominate the Company's affairs.

The Members and Freemen have always included individuals with a firm sense of their history. This has increasingly been reflected in generous gifts and a determination that their Hall should properly express what from the past might dignify the present. This has also been reflected in successive histories of the Company. These began early in the present century with R. E. Leader's massive compilation in two volumes. (History of the Company of Cutlers in Hallamshire, in the County of York, 2 vols. (Sheffield, 1905-6).) Not so much a coffee- as a conference-table production (it requires at least a Beadle to handle it), it remains an indispensable quarry for the Sheffield historian. But it is much more than an antiquarian's delight. Leader knew intimately what he was writing about. For . . .

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