© Andy Brown

Made in Sheffield

Sheffield has a long and proud history as a producer city. It became famous for products with a cutting edge, which have been made in the areas surrounding Sheffield for a very long time.

The first official reference is a tax return of Robert the Cutler, which was filed in 1297. The area was ideally suited to the production of items with a cutting edge (the original definition of the word cutlery).The valleys with streams gave access to water power, the crags overlooking the Hope Valley provided the grit stone for producing grinding wheels, and the availability of iron ore provided the basic raw material.

By 1624, the date of the original Act establishing the Company of Cutlers in Hallamshire, there was a thriving industry producing cutlery (knives), edge tools (items such as wood chisels) and agricultural implements (e.g. scythes and sickles). Most of these were produced for markets outside the immediate vicinity. Thus began Sheffield's reputation for supplying quality products to worldwide markets.

Moving on through the centuries, Benjamin Huntsman invented the crucible process for making greater quantities of better quality steel. This was followed by developments such as the Bessemer Converter, which enabled Sheffield to keep pace with the burgeoning demand for steel during the mid-19th century, when 70% of the European steel was Made in Sheffield with the growth of the Empire and the expansion of international trade during the Victorian era and the discovery of stainless steel by Harry Brearley in 1913 and its subsequent application and  commercialisation throughout the twentieth century.

As global competition grew, the city leaders recognised the value of the words "Made in Sheffield", and the likelihood that other parts of the world would seek to emulate Sheffield's success by misusing the word Sheffield.

Therefore, in the early 1900's, the Sheffield Defence Committee was formed, possibly the first example of a partnership organisation in the city, comprising the Cutlers Company, the Chamber of Commerce and the City Council. This committee was charged with defending the good name of Sheffield throughout the world. In many countries the word Sheffield was registered as a trademark, to ensure that it could not be usurped. 

To bring us up to the present time, a great deal has changed since Robert the Cutler filed his tax return, but Sheffield remains at the forefront internationally in metals and metal products and in materials related technology.

It is home to many companies which are probably better known internationally than they are in Sheffield, and world class in their own fields. Whilst Sheffield's dominance of the mass cutlery and tool fields is long behind us it remains home to high quality producers like Taylors Eye Witness and HD Sports to a host of smaller skilled makers, from hunting knives to jewellery. 

It is also home to a number of new industries in the medical and bio-science fields, including the employee-owned Swann-Morton, which is a world leader in the manufacture of surgical blades, creative and digital industries  and much more besides.

It is said that our past shapes our future. Thus In 2005 the Sheffield Defence Committee launched the “Made in Sheffield Mark” as a Global Mark of Origin for local manufactured products. The Mark itself is intended to encourage locally based companies in the producer sector to utilise the undoubted strengths of the "Sheffield" brand and in so doing build on the past for the benefit not only of the present generation of Sheffield businesses, but also Sheffield companies of the future.

Charles Turner is the person who sits at the heart of this wonderful and unique initiative. His role in business puts him close to the subject matter, but it’s his belief in and passion for working with others in the city for collective good that has seen this project blossom and reach a worldwide audience.

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