Name on a Knife Blade: Sheffield Heritage Lottery-funded project establishes 'biggest-ever' archive

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A heritage project has confirmed the pride that Sheffielders have in their industrial heritage and has established what is thought to be the biggest archive of the city’s table knives in the world.

Since its inception, the Name on a Knife Blade Project funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, located in the Hawley Collection at Kelham Island Museum has catalogued over 2,500 table knives by over 1,200 different companies.

The digital archive has been visited over 85,000 times by over 70,000 different users from all round the world and two terminals at the museum have also proved popular.

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One of the aims of the project was to fill in the gaps in the history of some of the companies and to collect memorabilia of Sheffield cutlery industry before it is lost. Volunteers have been overwhelmed with donations over 600 items of cutlery, numerous photographs, company records and catalogues.

Nick Duggan at Kelham Island MuseumNick Duggan at Kelham Island Museum
Nick Duggan at Kelham Island Museum

Nick Duggan from the project told how people’s family history had been revealed: “We have created the opportunity for Sheffielders to share the story of their ancestors or to uncover if their family name is on a knife blade. We have a Facebook group Name on a Knife Blade where people have been able to tell us the story of their ancestors.

"Julia’s Uncle Albert was the designer of the BBC Sports Personality of the Year trophy when he worked for Walker and Hall. Stan Shaw’s son was able to tell us how his dad has restored the Joseph Rodgers Year Knife, one of the greatest knives in the city.”

Nick added that some existing manufacturers, Legacy Silverware and Granton Wragg, which are still making products in the city, had been in touch and David Mellor would be donating a full place setting to the new museum knife display.

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“One of the most unusual donations was made by one of our volunteers Lily who found out that her next door neighbour Clare had an archive of one of Sheffield’s finest pearl cutters,” he said.

Nick Duggan at the Hawley CollectionNick Duggan at the Hawley Collection
Nick Duggan at the Hawley Collection

“Monica gave us a collection of old catalogues, always really useful when we are trying to identify an object.

“Richard and Jim have kindly donated over 100 table knives and are still out looking for makers we haven’t got.

“Peter came up trumps with a blade with his name on it and sent it to us all the way from Australia.

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“Graham who used to work for Richards the company that inherited the IXL and Rodgers brand, had managed to rescue some of the company records for us along with some of sale pocket knife displays.”

Some of the knives which are part of the projectSome of the knives which are part of the project
Some of the knives which are part of the project

A recent photograph donated to the project shows one of the earliest cutlery merchants in the city in 1912 and one of Ken Hawley’s legacies is the large film archive of some of the city’s greatest crafts men and women.

Nick said: “We have continued that film making tradition – adding another dozen online talks, available to view on The Ken Hawley You Tube Channel. At one of these talks a chap told us about how scary it was as a young man to enter a room of Buffer Girls and leave with your dignity intact.

“The official project is close to its end date but we are now looking at our collections of razors and pockets knives. We are still happy to take donations and memorabilia relating to the cutlery industry and still have the challenge of over 500 companies where we have some history but no knife.

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"Only last week Andrea brough us in a razor with the name Shemeld on it and a picture of a knife with that name on.”

To view the knife archive visit or visit the the museum, which now has free entry, for a chat.

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