384th Master Cutler installed in Sheffield in historic ceremony

A new Master Cutler has been installed in a Sheffield tradition which stretches back nearly 400 years.

Tuesday, 1st October 2019, 16:02 pm
Members of the clergy joined the procession.

Nick Williams is the 384th head of the Company of Cutlers in Hallamshire in an unbroken line of succession dating back to 1635.

The ceremony at the opulent Cutlers’ Hall on Church Street was attended by several hundred Freemen and Friends of the Company.

The Master then led a rain-soaked procession headed by top-hatted members to Sheffield Cathedral for a service before returning to the hall for lunch.

Guests of the new Master Cutler head to Sheffield Cathedral for a service. Picture Scott Merrylees

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The Cutler’s Company, which is made up of around 450 Freemen, was founded in 1624 to ensure the proper training and treatment of apprentices, for registering marks and to devise regulations to ensure the quality of workmanship.

Its Freemen, traditionally those who had served a recognised apprenticeship and who had been granted a mark or freedom, are owners, directors or senior executives of organisations engaged in manufacturing or technology within Sheffield City Region.

The company is governed by an elected Master who holds office for one year, two wardens, six searchers (who originally had the right to enter property and search out badly or illegally made goods) and twenty-four assistants and is a permanent body, referred to as ‘members’.

They act as chairman and a board of directors. Assisting them is a small permanent staff headed by the clerk, who is responsible for the day-to-day management of Company business.

Installation of Nicholas Williams, left, as the new Master Cutler. Picture Scott Merrylees

As the face of industry in the region since 1624, the Company promotes and supports local manufacturing with the Master Cutler acting as its ‘ambassador’.

More recently, the Company is one of the organisations leading the development of the Manufacturing Forum, which is chaired by the Master Cutler, with a focus on innovation, education and skills.

Nicholas Williams, TD DL, was born and raised in Sheffield and educated at Elizabeth College in Guernsey, before taking a diploma in management at Sheffield Polytechnic.

He began his working life with GKN Ltd in Birmingham and Cardiff, he then joined his family engineering business in Sheffield on the shop floor and worked his way up to works director, with works in Walsall and Sheffield.

A family fall out in 1993 saw him move to GT Tubes Ltd, a manufacturer of steel structural hollow section, as general manager. He became managing director on their acquisition by Australian National Industries Pty which had sister plants in Brisbane and Chicago and headquarters in Sydney.

In 1998, international company politics, excessive travel and acquisition by Smorgon Steel, saw him leave to acquire his own engineering business and form the SMP Group of Companies - a group of small metal finishing and manufacturing firms in Sheffield.

Now semi-retired, he still maintains his interest in steel and manufacturing as a “Little Mester”, manufacturing a select few products, including the stainless steel “Presto Egg Opener” (the only way to cut the top off a raw or boiled egg), first produced by John Watts Ltd, a Sheffield company dating back to 1765.

He spent many years in the Territorial Army, commanding 75 Engineer Regiment between 1992/5 and completing his TA career as deputy commander 42 (North West) Brigade in the rank of Colonel.

He lives in the Peak District of Derbyshire and is married to Susie, with three grown up children.

He has been a Freeman of the Cutlers’ Company since 1987 and a Member since 1993. He succeeds Nicholas Cragg as Master Cutler.