Long history of pride and trust in cutlery business

Edward Pryor and sons 'Operations director Simon Dunn
Edward Pryor and sons 'Operations director Simon Dunn
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Pryor Marking Technology can trace its history back more than 165 years to a mark making company called William White.

The original Edward Pryor had been an apprentice at the firm and, after completing his apprenticeship, his father, George, a scissor grinder in Walkley, bought the business for his son.

Tweedale’s Directory of Sheffield Cutlery Manufacturers 1740-2013 locates Edward’s business in a courtyard off West Street.

After Edward died in 1894, aged 64, his son, George Albert, ran the business, moving it to Rockingham Street and laying the foundations for the company’s reputation for innovation by turning it into the first business in Sheffield to invest in precision marking equipment.

George Albert handed the reins over to his son, G Ronald Pryor, in 1930, and it was Ronnie Pryor who turned it into a limited company in 1936, acquiring a new factory three years later.

By the 1950s, Pryor had expanded its Egerton Street operations and the number it employed peaked at 200.

As the cutlery industry declined, Pryor’s survived by continuing to innovate.

Ronnie and his wife, Kathlene, had no children to hand the business on to, but they didn’t want the business to be sold off or become part of a large corporation, so they set up the charitable foundation that owns the business to this day.

“It prevents hostile takeovers and has given the company a stable base,” says business development manager Alastair Morris.

“It means a lot of money goes back into the company and, when it can, the trust distributes any dividend to local charities.”

Operations director Simon Dunn believes being owned by the trust creates pride in the company and motivation in addition to bringing benefits in the shape of long-term stability and planning.

“I’ve never seen any complacency,” says Simon, who joined the company as an apprentice.

“At the end of the day, this organisation lives and sells on its performance. If we don’t perform as well as or better than other companies, it has a direct impact on jobs.

“If anything, being owned by a trust creates more pride in the company and people are motivated by that.”