Retro: Beehive mark on quality knives - 105 Arundel Street and beyond

Slater's Venture Works

Slater's Venture Works

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The building itself doesn’t really reveal just what was produced here by the Slater brothers.

To start their story we have to go back to the 1850s when Warrington Slater and his brother Walter started the business. They were the offspring of John Marriot Slater and Ann Warrington.

The firm seems to have started in Eyre Street as Slater Brothers just a stone’s throw from 105 Arundel Street.

They produced every kind of knife that you could think of, pen, pocket, sportsman’s etc., their trademark consisted of a domed beehive and the words Venture Y Not.

This mark was actually bought from a George Ward.

The firm was soon named the Beehive Works and was on Fitzwilliam Street.

The business started off slowly but after 50 years or so they had made a large fortune, by then they had a factory at 94 Scotland Street, making cutlery, razors and scissors.

Warrington by then was into property and he had built a vast amount of houses in and around Crookes.

Warrington Road and Beehive Road give a clue to who built the houses on these roads.

Growing too quickly, Warrington soon got into financial trouble in 1900 and was taken to court for fraud. The case was settled out of court but just three years later he was bankrupt. He died at his residence at 210 School Road on May 5, 1907.

His eldest son, Herbert Marriot Slater (his other son Warrington had died aged 31 in 1896 before his father) rescued the firm and named it after himself.

It was now situated in the Venture Works in Arundel Street.

Under the leadership of Herbert’s son and grandson (both named Warrington!) the firm prospered and they bought up old business names and marks.

By researching Herbert you could see that the more successful the business was, he moved to a better house.

In 1905 he was living with is father, in 1911 he’d moved to 323 Crookesmoor Road and by 1925 he was living at 71 Lydgate Lane.

Herbert did have personal tragedies in his life.

In February 1890 his three-month-old son John Marriott died and death called again in April 1905 when his son Herbert Marriott died at 27 Powell Street aged 11 months.

Both children were buried in City Road Cemetery.

With the guidance of Herbert the firm thrived but when his son and grandson joined the firm, they too kept the firm producing quality goods.

Even during the war years they made springs and blade blanks for other firms in the city but by the 1980s they stopped making knives on the Venture Works.

Most of their products leading up to the eighties were made by out-workers, namely Stan Shaw and Graham Clayton, both men synonymous with quality and today knives made by these two craftsmen are in demand all over the world.

In the 1990s Denis Slater finally sold the business and put his feet up and retired. Today the firm is as we see it, a refurbished building and turned into offices.

All you can hear now on entering the building is the tap, tap of keyboard keys and chatter by people who don’t realize that they are working in a piece of Sheffield’s history.

It was not unusual for firms to rent out unused shops, even Slater’s seemed to have done this as at the same address was a certain Mr Thomas John Varah.

In fact, it could may well be that Mr Varah was in the firm before Slater’s, as he was living and working at 201 Granville Street in 1852 and moved to the Venture Works as his business grew.

He was a horn turner and was described in trade directories as a brooch manufacturer.

Just before the turn of the century his firm was renamed as Thomas Varah & Sons and was now making more products – imitation jet, horn door knobs and finger plates.

He is also mentioned as having a workshop or a firm at 26 Soho Works.

Now I cant be sure just where this works was situated but I think it may have been at 23 Arundel Lane.

The family, like the Slaters, also lost young children, Thomas Henry February 21, 1870, aged just 14 months at No 11 Howard Street, William, February 14, 1869, just two weeks old, at 26 Arundel Street.

Then they lost Jessie Beatrice on February 15, 1880, aged seven months, at their home on Arundel Street, seems the cold winter weather didn’t help them.

Thomas died at 2 Smilter Lane? on February 14, 1920, a sad Valentine’s Day for his wife. He was buried in City Road Cemetery.

It seems the Varah family were very astute when it came to making money as he had sons who are described in trade directories as clockmakers and pawnbrokers. Messrs Dawson and Sorsby bought their holiday ensemble from them.

Arthur had his shop at 595 and 597 Attercliffe Road and George Varah had his business at 19 and 21 Main Road, Darnall.

On researching the names in this article I studied the 1880 to 1912 Sheffield quarter sessions and I found that a Mary Marsden aged 30, a wife, was charged with stealing a pair of trousers from Arthur Varah on April 13, 1892.

Emily Remy, aged 27, an agent, was caught attempting to break and enter a shop with intent to steal from Arthur Varah on October 5, 1910 and finally an engine tenter (tender) was charged with stealing 26 pocket knives from Warrington Slater and appeared before the bench on July 13, 1892.

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