Scissor firm’s sharp focus

Nick Wright of Ernest Wright & Sons at the visitor centre on Broad Lane, Sheffield
Nick Wright of Ernest Wright & Sons at the visitor centre on Broad Lane, Sheffield
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ONE of Sheffield’s oldest companies has celebrated its 110th anniversary by opening its first-ever shop and visitor centre.

Ernest Wright & Son, established in 1902, was once among more than 60 scissor manufacturers within a square mile of central Sheffield. Now it is the only one.

But managing director Nick Wright, great-grandson of the founder, has set up the new centre to preserve part of the city’s steel heritage.

It opened on Tuesday at the company’s new home, Endeavour Works in Broad Lane.

The premises can be identified from outside by the giant scissors hanging in the window. Inside, visitors will find a mix of old and new.

A wall-to-wall viewing gallery shows the workshop and craftsmen at their benches.

A wooden display cabinet – it served as the works canteen table for 20 years - tells the story of Ernest Wright and the scissor-making process, while next to it are pieces of ancient equipment including the firm’s old weighing scales and a hardness testing monitor.

Meanwhile, an old oil bath now showcases a pair of giant working scissors, made as an exhibition piece half a century ago. And a seating area features two leather armchairs inherited by Nick from the original Ernest Wright.

On the opposite side of the room, a corner cupboard has been turned into a quirky showcase, lined with yellow plastic scissor handles and topped with a scissor-inspired sculpture by local artist Simon Wigglesworth-Baker.

A series of contemporary display cabinets are filled with items for sale: pewter, jewellery, cutlery and artwork, all made by local craft workers. Above them, a sheet of laser-cut steel bears the legend ‘Sheffield Makers’ Emporium’.

This is the start of what Nick hopes will be a new era for the family firm.

The company had been struggling with huge overheads, an ageing workforce and outdated premises at its former home in Kelham Island.

Now Nick’s father has retired, the new works is in full production and the team of staff has been expanded to include a shop manager, a customer services manager and – crucially – three new apprentices, taken on as part of a council-backed scheme.

“I’ve been working ten hours a day, seven days a week, for the last few months, but it’s really exciting now we’ve got this far,” says Nick.

“We hope this will inspire fresh interest in this traditional craft, as well as offering a new outlet for Sheffield-made crafts.”

The new centre is being filmed by the BBC next week as part of a new series, Paul Martin’s Handmade Revolution. It will be officially opened on September 25 by council leader Julie Dore.

The shop and visitor centre, at 58 Broad Lane, is open Monday to Saturday, 10am-6.30pm.