I first visited Sheffield
in 1978, when I was a student. I stayed with friends and
visited the local studies library, hunting for a likely
subject for a thesis on economic history. In those days,
the first sight that greeted visitors outside the
railway station was blackened forges and streets of
Sheffield seemed like any
other dreary northern industrial town that had seen
better days. I’d never taken much interest in cutlery or
tools, either. But slowly I became captivated by the
skills and artistry of Sheffield’s craftsmen (and
women). I began to appreciate the impact of those skills
around the world, especially in America.
I wrote books and articles
on the Sheffield steel and cutlery industry (and on
other subjects), while pursuing a university career as a
business historian. In that time, Sheffield has been
transformed. Many of the old factories have been
demolished or renovated. Sadly, the number of
traditional craftsmen can now be counted on one hand.
But not all Sheffield’s
industrial past has been effaced. And its history
continues to fascinate me. My most recent project has
involved the compilation of the individual histories of
over a thousand Sheffield cutlery and tool makers.
profiles are intended to foster an appreciation of craft
skills and a way of life that has almost disappeared. I
am delighted that Wiktor has given me the opportunity to
publish a selection on his site.
Last Solo Pocket