Master Cutler gets to see a real Bramah

Master Cutler Bill Speirs enthroned on the rare Bramah flush lavatory, discovered during restoration work at Butcher Works. Similar closets are still working in Osborne House, Queen Victoria's home on the Isle of Wight.
Master Cutler Bill Speirs enthroned on the rare Bramah flush lavatory, discovered during restoration work at Butcher Works. Similar closets are still working in Osborne House, Queen Victoria's home on the Isle of Wight.
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Master Cutler, Professor Bill Speirs, saw how old and new can be merged successfully when he officially opened an exhibition celebrating 200 years of scissor making by hand in Sheffield.

The Cutting Edges exhibition is housed in Butcher Works, a former Little Mesters factory in the Cultural Industries Quarter, where scissors, blades, tools and cutlery were once made by William Butcher, who was Master Cutler in 1845.

Prof Speirs also got the chance to inspect another link with the Cutlers’ Company that he represents, when he saw one of the few remaining WCs designed by Joseph Bramah, the 18th century South Yorkshire inventor, whose descendant, John Bramah, was Master Cutler in 2002.

Similar closets are still working in Osborne House, Queen Victoria’s home on the Isle of Wight.

Opening the exhibition, the Master Cutler emphasised the importance of learning from what has gone before.

“This is a very special place linking the past and the present,” said Prof Speirs.

“This site also houses Freeman College, which works with students with special learning needs, and the Academy of Makers which is made up of artists and craftspeople who not only produce some wonderful things but who also run workshops and classes for the students.

“So this is not just a museum. It is part of our heritage, nurturing not only manual skills but also the desire to work which is essential for the growth and future development of the city.”

Among those attending the opening ceremony was Cutlers’ Company Freeman Philip Wright, grandson of the founder of Ernest Wright and Son, the last surviving scissor maker in Sheffield.

Mr Wright recalled working in the factory in the 1960s, when the weight of the machinery in the grinding workshops, on the upper levels, was so great that arched ceilings of fireproof brick up to one metre thick were needed to prevent the building from collapsing.

n Joseph Bramah was born at Wentworth in 1748 and was credited with patents for a number of inventions, including the flushing toilet, beer pump, the unpickable Bramah lock, rotary engines, fire engines, machine tools and a press for printing and numbering bank notes.

He also developed a hydraulic printing press, which was used for making Ordnance Survey maps and was first installed in the Tower of London in 1806.

The press was moved from London to the Kelham Island Industrial Museum in Sheffield and restored several years ago with help from the Bramah family.