Portland Works to launch worldwide search for Sheffield cutlery

Portland Works is to launch an international search for cutlery made at the Sheffield factory in the last century.

By diana stannard
Tuesday, 11th May 2021, 1:43 pm
Updated Tuesday, 11th May 2021, 1:45 pm
Part of the silversmiths workshop in the basement at Portland Works, probably photographed in the early 1900s (details enhanced by Bert Housley)  www.carlwhitham.com
Part of the silversmiths workshop in the basement at Portland Works, probably photographed in the early 1900s (details enhanced by Bert Housley) www.carlwhitham.com

In 1914 Portland Works – then known as Mosley’s - became the first place to make stainless steel cutlery.

Its Rusnorstain cutlery became famous, was exported from Sheffield around the world, featured in international trade shows and was probably carried by families emigrating to the New World.

It continued to be made at the works until the 1960s.

The portico entrance at Sheffield's historic Portland Works which dates back to 1879 www.portlandworks.co.uk

Now Portland Works wants to track those pieces and create a map showing their locations and the journey they have made from the City of Steel.

This search will be launched at the Portland Works Open Weekend from May 21 to 24. This series of virtual events is designed to introduce people to the works in anticipation of its re-opening to the public when restrictions allow.

Events will include an update on the building renovation and the dramatic completion of the building’s famous tall chimney. There will be an online exhibition of previously unseen images of Portland Works, a showcase of work carried out by architecture students at Sheffield University and a series of short talks about Sheffield history and personalities. All the events are free to view and join.

Portland Works is often referred to as the birthplace of stainless steel cutlery manufacturing. It was saved from residential conversion in 2013 by a social enterprise of more than 500 community shareholders and since then, this grade 2* listed building has been reborn as a centre for small manufacturing, independent artists and craftspeople, housing more than 30 small businesses.

Portland Works finishing room around 1908 showing the great range of cutlery and silverware being produced (details enhanced by Bert Housley) www.carlwhitham.com

Dr Chris Corker, business historian and lecturer in management at the University of York, was recently appointed chair of Portland Works’ board.

He said: “We’d love people to search their cupboards, drawers and lofts to see if they have any items made by R.F Mosley or other manufacturers at the time including Alexander Clark (marked “Welbeck”), George Gill, William H. Green, John Thomas, Johnsons & Sons, W. Mammatt or E. Atkinson & Sons Ltd.,”

“We’ll be asking them to send us photographs along with any details they may have, such as a name stamp, silver or EPNS marks and anything else about the item's history. It will be so exciting to see where items made on Randall Street in Sheffield have ended up around the world.”

A collection of antique cutlery manufactured at Portland Works, on display in its Mosley Room museum www.portlandworks.co.uk
An early drawing of Portland Works believed to date from the 1880s and probably from publicity material at the time www.carlwhitham.com