Steel City: Entrepreneurship, Strategy, and Technology in Sheffield, 1743-1993

By Geoffrey Tweedale | Go to book overview

1
Determinants of Steel City

The factors which have led to [ Sheffield's] remarkable progress, in competition with other districts in situations apparently more favourable to expansion, are not obvious at a first glance, and a more detailed examination shows that a purely material explanation is insufficient, and that certain human and social elements have to be taken into account in the discussion.

Cecil H. Desch, "The Steel Industry of South Yorkshire: A Regional Study", Paper read to the Sociological Society, 24 Jan. 1922, 131.

In the special crucible steel trade Sheffield has natural advantages which . . . no other town in the world possesses. It is easier in Sheffield to start the manufacture of crucible steel than it is anywhere else in the world. You have everything at hand. You can hire a furnace. You do not want much capital. You find the workmen there. You find the material--all that you want--and you find a market.

BLPES, Tariff Commission Papers. Charles W. Kayser, Evidence to the Commission, 4 May 1904, 7.

Situated approximately four miles south-west of the centre of Sheffield is one of the city's industrial museums--Abbeydale Industrial Hamlet.1 Donated to the city in 1935 by the local scythe-makers Tyzack Sons & Turner and lovingly restored over the decades as a monument to Sheffield's craftsmen, the museum is an integrated eighteenth- and nineteenth-century edge-toolmaking complex. The setting, at the bottom of the steeply wooded valley of the River Sheaf, is idyllic. The attractive grey stone buildings nestle amongst the trees, which (in the summer at least) conveniently hide twentieth-century intrusions, such as the mainline railway to London. A millpond with ducks, a slowly turning water wheel and the sound of falling water evoke a world that moved to a different industrial rhythm than our own.

At Abbeydale, visitors can tour the counting house, with its ledger- books and rows of gleaming scythes on the wall; there is a forge, with its swing-chairs on which the tilters rocked back and forth passing their blades beneath the water-driven hammers; and there is a grinding hull, where the workers sat on their 'horsing', holding their scythe blades

____________________
1
Janet Peatman, "The Abbeydale Industrial Hamlet: History and Restoration", Industrial Archaeology Review, 11 (Spring 1989), 141-54.

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