Be honest, how many times have you walked past the steel doors of the Cutlers’ Hall in the city centre and wondered what’s inside?
Despite standing on the same site since 1638, the striking building still remains a mystery to many Sheffielders.
But there’s no great secret, in fact outside of the many functions and events the hall holds, the public are encouraged to step inside and marvel at its grandeur as well as its extensive collection of cutlery, silver and grand paintings.
The Cutlers’ Hall was built by the Company of Cutlers, which celebrates its 400-year anniversary on 23 April next year, and serves as an example as to what has been achieved and what can still be achieved in the manufacturing industry.
The first Hall was built in 1638, with two later halls were built on the same site. The accounts show that the Company bought the land for the first hall for £69.12s.
This first hall was demolished in May 1725 and the site cleared for the building of the second hall. However, by 1827, the state of this second hall was causing a great deal of public concern. A letter appeared in the Sheffield Independent: “Its exterior appearance is unworthy of the Company to whom it belongs”. In 1832, following the demolition of the second Hall, the present Cutlers’ Hall, the third on this site, was built. It was designed by two architects, Samuel Worth and Benjamin Broomhead Taylor, who had both submitted plans, but when the Company was unable to choose between these plans, the two architects agreed to work together. The building cost the Company £8,846.12s.1d, with a further £1,092.3s.2d spent on furnishings.
In 1867, the Hall was extended to the rear, with the addition of the New Banqueting Hall on the first floor with the Hadfield Hall beneath and in 1888, the frontage was extended westward.
It is a Grade 2* Listed building, privately owned by the Company of Cutlers, and is considered to be one of the finest Livery halls in the country.
Inside the hall you’ll find extensive archives, which record the internal administration of the Company. But as the Company was so closely linked to the development of Sheffield and its core industries, these can also shed light on both local and family histories.
Perhaps more appealing to the passing public is the Hall’s silver collection, which features at least one piece of Sheffield hallmarked silver for every year since 1773, the year the Sheffield Assay Office was founded.
Much of the historical items were gifted to the Company by Stuart Goodwin (later Sir Stuart). He purchased a collection that had been assembled by Thomas Bradbury and featured some 500 pieces dating from 1773 to 1840. It wasn’t until 1999 that the run of silver, 1840-1944 was finally completed.
Alongside the silver collection sits the cutlery collection. Cutlery, in Sheffield manufacturing terms, means ‘things that cut’. This includes, knives, scissors, shears, edge tools, and so forth and the Company has a varied collection of knives, scissors and razors. Many of the knives have been given to the Company and survive from the 19th century, mainly because they are impressive with large blades and decorative handles. Typical of these are the ‘Bowie knives’.
Around 1914, Harry Brearley was a Sheffield metallurgist, endeavouring to produce a usable stainless steel for table knife blades. A framed group of knives, which shows his early experimental blades, was presented to the Company in 1936 by Harry Brearley.
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