the 1980s, I photographed many of Sheffield’s old steel, tool,
and cutlery works. Among them was Globe Works. It is not
easily overlooked. It is set in the heart of one of
Sheffield’s oldest manufacturing districts, which includes
Kelham Island, Neepsend, and Philadelphia.
These areas have something in common – the River
Don, which winds its way past some of the most famous names in
steel and tools: Samuel Osborn, James Dixon, John Bedford, and
George Barnsley. Some of these firms had factories that
were bigger than Globe Works, but none had such a distinctive
frontage. Its classical stone facades and arched windows
even today strike an incongruous note of grandeur amongst the
grimy factories in the district.
Globe Works was not only a factory; it was also
a home, with a stylish entrance and well-appointed residential
wing for the owners. It looked towards St Philip’s Church
– long since demolished – but the gravestones can be seen in the
foreground of the photograph.
Who were the
The early history of Globe Works was intertwined
with the Ibbotson family. This was a relatively common
name in Sheffield, so untangling the history of the factory is
difficult – especially so, since few business records have
survived from the firm’s early years.
According to an advertisement, Ibbotson Bros was
established in 1809. The family came from Hathersage in
Derbyshire – a village about ten miles from Sheffield that was
known for its pins and needles and its Methodism.
The Ibbotson genealogy is complex. A pedigree
was compiled and published in 1915, but it is incomplete.
The early Ibbotsons were farmers and landowners
at Carr Head, Hathersage. One of them – William Ibbotson
(c.1766-1818) – moved to Sheffield and became a partner in Eyre,
Ibbotson & Henzell. This was listed in Green Lane after 1814 as
a factor, and fender and edge tool manufacturer.
William’s partners, besides Edward Eyre and
Isaac Henzell, included his son Henry Ibbotson (1797-1849).
William died on 1 December 1818, aged 52, and was buried in
William also had a daughter, Mary (1794-1867),
who in 1813 had married her cousin, William Ibbotson
(1789-1852). The latter was the son of Samuel (1753-1816), who
was a brother of the father of William of Carr Head. This
complicated family link has been explained as follows:
On the opposite side of Broad Lane, in the
first house above St Thomas’s Street, lived Mr [William]
Ibbotson, the late father of Mr Henry Ibbotson, and uncle to
the late Mr William Ibbotson, who married his cousin Miss
Mary, the daughter. Mr William was consequently
brother-in-law as well as cousin to Mr Henry; and they took
to the old gentleman’s business, which I believe was the saw
trade, and entered into partnership as ‘Messrs Ibbotson
Brothers’ (Sheffield Independent, 18 October 1872; Leader,
After the dissolution of Eyre, Ibbotson &
Henzell in 1819, Ibbotsons & Roebuck (the immediate forerunner
of Ibbotson Bros) was listed in 1821 as a merchant and
manufacturer of saws, stove grates, fenders, scythes, and steel.
It was sited at Bower Spring, near Kelham Island. Jonathan
Roebuck (1789-1848) was one partner; the others were the
‘brothers’ William and Henry Ibbotson.
Complicating this picture is William & George
Ibbotson & Co, which made a similar range of products and had
forging capacity at Wisewood Forge. It was listed in nearby
Bridge Street between 1797 and the late 1820s.
This firm was probably run by the descendants of
another William Ibbotson (1738-1825?) from Hathersage. George
Ibbotson, of Coulston Croft, who died on 5 January 1830, aged
52, was apparently one partner and presumably the son. George
was buried at St Paul’s churchyard in Sheffield; possibly his
father was, too, in 1825. After 1830, the Bridge Street business
seems to have passed to William Ibbotson Horn, who was the son
of Mary (the daughter of the William Ibbotson, born in 1738).
the 1820s, Ibbotsons began feeding America’s almost insatiable
demand for crucible steel, saws, files, edge tools, and knives.
The trade and profits were so good that in 1825 – when much of
the district was still fields and gardens – Ibbotsons and
Roebuck built Globe Works. In 1827, Roebuck left to start his
own business and William and Henry continued as Ibbotson Bros.
In the Sheffield directory (1828), both William & George
Ibbotson and Ibbotson Bros were listed. The latter’s trade mark
was ‘GLOBE’ (word and picture).
Like Sheaf Works of William Greaves & Sons (on
the other side of the town), Globe Works was an integrated steel
and tool making complex (though it also had tilting and rolling
capacity at Middlewood, in one of the valleys near Sheffield).