A to Z of interesting facts


Brief descriptions of facts about the Company and its collections.  Click on the image to enlarge it.

We will changes the facts from time to time.  We have a lot of them.

 a for apprentices A is for Apprenticeships One of the prime functions of the Cutlers' Company was the control of the number of boys being trained up, to prevent too many men flooding the market. The Company has the records of almost 25,000 boys, from 1624 to 1814.
 b for badge B is for Badges Officials of the Company wore ceremonial badges of office. The oldest is the Beadle's badge, with a London hallmark of 1714. The oldest Master's badge in the Company’s collection was for William Hutchinson, Master in 1857.
  c for coat of arms C is for Coat of Arms The coat of arms is based on that of the London cutlers. Cross daggers signify cutlery, the elephant for ivory and the band of green from the Sheffield coat of arms.
  d for dish D is for Dish This dish was designed and made by David Mellor to celebrate the bi-centenary of the Sheffield Assay Office, 1773-1973. It has 201 individual silver strips engraved with the year.
 e for elephant E is for Elephant The elephant motif occurs all over the Hall and stands for ivory - a material used for high-quality cutlery handles. T.W. Ward, steel manufacturers, did have an elephant during WWI to pull wagons. It was called 'Lizzie'.
Cutlers' Feast Menu, 1923 F is for Feast Since 1625, the Company has held an annual dinner, with increasing opulence and importance, inviting influential people from local society, the government and commerce.
 g for guests
G is for Guests Having an impressive Hall as the venue for its prestigious Feast, the Company has invited Royalty, Prime Ministers, Admirals, Generals and Ambassadors, in order to showcase Sheffield's industry.
  h for the third hall H is for Halls The Cutlers' Company has had three Halls on the same site  since 1638.  The present Hall was built in 1832 and extended in the 1860s and 1880s.  It is a Grade II listed building and is privately owned by the Cutlers' Company.
  I is for Installation
The Cutlers' Company of 33 members is elected annually, which is followed by an installation ceremony. The Installation takes place in the Cutlers' Hall and is then followed by a church service, in the Cathedral opposite
J is for Joint Awards The Company has been involved with training and education since its incorporation in 1624. Today, one aspect of this is the Joint Awards scheme, organised by the Company and the Worshipful Company of Armourers and Braziers in London.
 k for knives
K is for Knives 'Cutlery' means 'things that cut'. Sheffield knives have been made in a huge range of styles and materials, for a wide variety of functions from table knives to trade, pocket and hunting knives.
 l for London
L is for London Until the mid-18th century, London was the premier centre for high-quality cutlery, and sought to protect its wares by striking a 'dagger' mark on blades.  But Sheffield gradually overtook its leading position, and more local firms had London agents and outlets.
 m for mace M is for Mace The Company mace was designed by Walter Belk and made by the Sheffield firm of Roberts and Belk in 1896. It is unusual in having a tapered stem, which is surmounted by an orb and an elephant's head.
 n for norfolk knife N is for Norfolk Knife Joseph Rodgers made this impressive knife for the 1851 Great Exhibition, showing Sheffield's craftsmanship in blade forging, etching, engraving and pearl carving.  The Knife is on loan from the Egginton Group of Companies.
 o for olympic
O is for Olympic The 'RMS Olympic', sister ship to the 'Titanic' was dismantled in 1936 and this beautiful light fitting from the first class lounge was purchased by the Company, together with some carved panelling.
  p for portrait P is for Portraits
The Company has over a hundred portraits - most are Masters Cutler, but there are also other local notable people as well as national figures, which were often commissioned by public subscription
 Q for Queen
Q is for Queen
The Company has portraits of HM Queen Victoria and HM Queen Elizabeth II. Queen Victoria never visited the Hall, but Queen Elizabeth attended a gala evening during her Coronation Tour of Sheffield in 1954.
  r for razors R is for Razors
The Company has over 2,000 open razors (not cut-throat) in its collections.  The forging and especially the hollow grinding of the blades were  highly skilled crafts.  The scales which make the handle were often made of exotic meterials, carved and inlaid.
  s for scissors S is for Scissors
Scissorsmiths were a specialist group of craftsmen making scissors as opposed to shears.  Scissors have two blades which pivot on a pin to bring the blades together.  Shears have blades connected at one end, either with a rivet or a springy strip of steel.  So.. strictly speaking, you would trim your garden hedge with 'scissors'!
 t for turtle
T is for Turtle
In 1773, a Liverpool merchant sent a live turtle to the Company. It was killed, cooked and eaten and this began a tradition of serving turtle soup at the Cutlers' Feast. The shell was presented to the Master or principal guest.
  u for university U is for University Mark Firth, Master Cutler in 1867-69, gave money to found Firth College, the forerunner of Sheffield University. Since then, many Masters and Company Members have played a role in the University's organisation and in making donations
 v for visits
V is for Visits
The day after the Cutlers' Feast, the Master Cutler would take his principal guests on visits to his and other factories, showing off the capabilities of the Sheffield steel and cutlery industries.
 w for wine cooler
W is for Wine Cooler
Wine coolers are decorative and functional pieces for the dining room. These are made of Sheffield Plate - a method developed in the 1740s by Thomas Bolsover for fusing thin sheets of silver to copper.
 x for cross
X is for a cross
The Company archives contain hundreds of examples of documents where people signed with a cross, indicating that the person had not learned to write their own name.
 y for year piece
Y is for Year Piece
The Company has at least one piece of silver hallmarked in each year since the Sheffield Assay office began in 1773. Almost all are gifts to the Company and most are significant pieces made by local silversmiths and students.
  z for z hallmark Z is for 'Z' hallmark
Silver is marked with the year of assay, by working through the alphabet. In Sheffield, the various styles of the letter 'Z' have been used in the years 1796, 1821, 1843, 1867 and so on

The Company's Silver Collection


The Company acquired most of its magnificent collection of silver as a result of the generosity of Sir Stuart and Lady Goodwin, who, during the middle years of the twentieth century, purchased Frederick Bradbury's collection which they then gave to the Company of Cutlers. The Company is now the proud owner of over 900 pieces, which include a Sheffield marked piece for every year since the establishment of the Sheffield Assay Office in 1773.

The Company's Archive Collection

The Company archives span the years from 1614 to the present day and provide a wealth of information about the development of the cutlery industry; the men who made the cutlery and the gradual overtaking of this industry by steel manufacture.  The Company's records relate only to its own activities and include minute and account books, photographs, letters, charity contributions as well as involvement in transport links in the 18th century.  Anyone wishing to consult the archives should contact the Archivist, via the Contact Us page.