The Company of
Cutlers in Hallamshire Since 1624

The Master Cutler,

The Master Cutler,
2020-2021  *

Nicholas D O Williams TD DL

Nick was born and raised in Sheffield, a proud Yorkshireman.  He was educated at Elizabeth College in Guernsey, Channel Islands and Sheffield Polytechnic (Diploma of Management Studies).

Starting his working life with GKN Ltd in Birmingham and Cardiff, he then joined his family engineering business in Sheffield on the shop floor and worked his way up to Works Director, with works in Walsall and Sheffield.

A family fall out in 1993 saw him move to GT Tubes Ltd, a manufacturer of steel structural hollow section, as General Manager.  He became Managing Director on their acquisition by Australian National Industries Pty (ANI) which had sister plants in Brisbane and Chicago and head quartered in Sydney.

In 1998, international company politics, excessive travel and the likelihood and subsequent acquisition by Smorgon Steel, saw him leave to acquire his own engineering business and to form the SMP Group of Companies – a diverse group of small metal finishing and manufacturing companies in Sheffield.

Now semi-retired, he still maintains his interest in steel and manufacturing as a “Little Mester”, manufacturing a select few products, including the ubiquitous stainless steel “Presto Egg Opener” (The only way to cut the top off a raw or boiled egg), first produced by John Watts Ltd, a Sheffield company going back to 1765.

He spent many years in the Territorial Army, commanding 75 Engineer Regiment between 1992/5 and completing his TA career as Deputy Commander 42 (North West) Brigade in the rank of Colonel.

Currently maintaining his links with the Reserve Forces as Chairman of the North West of England and Isle of Man Reserve Forces and Cadet Association.  He is also National President of St John Ambulance

He lives in the Peak District of Derbyshire and is married to Susie, with three grown up children.  His interests are split between the summer when he can be found or rather heard as a commentator at Horse Trials throughout England and winter when, having given up active refereeing, he is a Rugby Union referee advisor and assessor.  He is also a keen supporter of all country sports.

September 2019.

*As a consequence of the current Covid-19 crisis, the Cutlers’ Company has decided the re-elect the 2019-2020 Company for a further year.  This is not the first time such a re-election has happened.  It also happened during the two World Wars.

Link to the Cutlers’ Company for 2020-2021

The Company in difficult times

Following the disruption to his year in office, the present Master will serve a second year, and this has prompted a search of the records for other occasions when Masters served more than their initial year. There have been several Masters, who for a variety of reasons, extended their time as Master or were called back for part of a year when the succeeding Master died in office.

The 1624 Act of Incorporation states that the Company must be elected each year, in August – a Company consisting of a Master, two Wardens, six Searchers and twenty-four Assistants. Each Company elects the following Company, drawing on Freemen who can be elected to replace any retiring Company Members. The records for the 18th century, it shows that men were elected for a few years, then left the Company and perhaps to be re-elected sometime later. In the 17th century, there are a number Masters with the same names, but it is impossible to know if they are the same men.

If a Master died during his year, it was usual for the Immediate Past Master to resume duties. This happened, for example, in 1741, when Past Master Richard Kent took over when Thomas Rose died and again in 1779, when Josephus Parkin completed John Rowbotham’s year in 1780.

However, in 1838, George Wostenholm, was elected but did not take the oath, telling the Company he was going to America, and so was excused.  Samuel Hadfield, Master in 1837, stepped in. Wostenholm again refused to take office in 1842 and was fined £30 – almost £3,000 purchasing power today.  He eventually became Master in 1856.  It was not so unusual in the 19th century for elected Masters to refuse, or defer their year, as many were involved in building up their businesses, especially in overseas markets.

Mark Firth was Master from 1867-1868, but stepped in for David Ward, who was elected in 1868, but was fined for refusing to serve.  When Ward eventually took office in 1877, having been on and off the Company for a number of years, the Company discovered that he was not actually a Freeman.  Embarrassment all round!

William Ellis was elected at the start of the First World War.  Few Company meeting were held and, because the Senior and Junior Wardens were on active service, Ellis was again elected in 1915. Although Ellis didn’t want to have another Installation, the Company insisted.  With no idea how long the War would last, it was decided to keep the same Company for the duration. William Ellis eventually served from 1914 to 1917.

During the Second World War, William Wood, who had been Master in 1924-1925, was re-elected as Master from 1940-1944.  The Hall was again used for recruiting purposes and several rooms turned over to war work, as had happened during the First World War.





The Company of Cutlers in Hallamshire
The Cutlers' Hall
Church Street
S1 1HG

Tel: +44 (0) 114 272 8456