Howarth (1811-1891) was the son of William Howarth, an edge tool
maker, and his wife, Hannah. James’ uncle, John, had been
involved in Mottram & Howarth, an edge tool manufacturer, which
had been listed in a directory in 1811 in Bridge Street.
In 1823, James had joined his father as a 12-year-old second
hand or striker (forger) at another edge tool maker, Mitchell
Bros, in Furnival Street. James ‘soon learned how to make a good
chisel … and by the time he reached the age of 22 he had gained
so much of the confidence of his employers that he was entrusted
with the duties of manager’ (Sheffield Independent, 31 July
In 1835, James Howarth launched a business in partnership with
Henry Taylor. They were listed in directories at No. 121
Fitzwilliam Street as manufacturers of edge tools, and
engravers’, die sinkers’, silversmiths’, and all kinds of
turners’ tools, and cast steel drawers. James’ father, William,
was also listed at No. 107 in the same street as an edge tool
In 1842, Taylor & Howarth was dissolved, though James continued
in Fitzwilliam Street. By 1851, he employed fourteen men and an
William died at Fitzwilliam Street on 8 March 1851, aged 72,
‘after a painful illness of eleven days, born with Christian
meekness and fortitude … he was a consistent member of the
Wesleyan Society for upwards of 40 years’ (Sheffield
Independent, 15 March 1851). He was buried in St Paul’s
churchyard. William did not live long enough to see his son’s
prize-winning display at the Great Exhibition in London. It
engravers and print cutters, comprising gravers, burnishes,
and scrapers. Mariners’ compass, needles, and gunsmiths’
stocking tools. Turning and engraving tools. Edge tools –
light, comprising chisels and gouges. Edge tools – heavy,
comprising adzes, axes, and garden tools. Tool chests for
botanists and tourists, containing rake hoe, two-prong
garden fork, three-prong fork, garden trowel,
pruning-chisel, weed-hook, Dutch hoe, spud-hammer and
hatchet, pruning-saw, chisel, pick and spike, with long and
short handles (Great Exhibition, Official Descriptive and
Illustrated Catalogue. London, vol. 2, 1851).
1856, James relocated his business to larger premises at Broom
Spring Works, Bath Street. In 1840, he had married Anne Booker,
the daughter of a farmer.
They had five sons – James Jun.
(c.1838-1899), William Henry (1842-1904), Samuel (1847-?), Edwin
(1853-1937), and John Charles (1856-1942) – who eventually
joined the business. It was styled ‘& Sons’ in 1863.
In the late nineteenth century, the business expanded steadily.
It won further prize medals at exhibitions in Paris (1855) and
London (1862). James Howarth told the Census that in 1861 he
employed 33 workers; by 1881 that number had doubled.
of Howarth’s appeared in The Illustrated Guide to Sheffield
(1879), which was accompanied by a fine engraving of forging and
grinding at the factory.
Besides the workshops in Bath Street, by the 1880s Howarth’s
operated a foundry at Sykes Works in Eyre Street. Its product
line was extended to include skates and metallic-framed joiners’
braces, which became a speciality.
According to Reg Eaton, The
Ultimate Brace: A Unique Product of Victorian Sheffield (1989),
Howarth’s brace was ‘mechanically the best, and with its
graceful lines was the finest of all the Sheffield framed
braces’. New markets for these products were found in the
Colonies, especially Australia, where Howarth’s exhibited at
Melbourne in 1888.
By then, however, Howarth’s and other Sheffield tool makers were
feeling the impact of foreign competition.