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Sheffield History

Sheffield History Team
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About Sheffield History

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  • Birthday 22/01/1971

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    https://www.sheffieldhistory.co.uk/

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  1. Apple Street

  2. There has been an Assay Office in Sheffield since 1773, when local silversmiths, who resented the inconvenience of having to send their wares to London for hallmarking, joined with Birmingham petitioners to ask Parliament for their own Offices. Despite fierce opposition from the London Goldsmiths' Company, an Act of Parliament was passed, granting Sheffield the right to assay silver. Because the Select Committee which considered the petition had uncovered so many abuses by the existing Assay Offices, Parliament made sure that the new ones were more strictly controlled. The Act appointed thirty local men, including Thomas, the 3rd Earl of Effingham as 'Guardians of the Standard of Wrought Plate within the Town of Sheffield' to supervise the work of the Office. By restricting the number of Guardians who were silversmiths to fewer than ten, Parliament made sure that the Office was run for the benefit of the consumer rather than the manufacturer. The day to day running of the Office was entrusted to an Assay Master who had to take his oath before the Master of the Royal Mint and enter into a Bond for £500. The Office was to be non-profit making, and its running costs were to be met by the hallmarking charges paid by the manufacturers. More than two hundred years later, the Office is still funded in exactly the same way. Originally, Sheffield had the right to mark all silver goods produced within a twenty mile radius of Sheffield. After the second Sheffield Act of 1784, the office also had the right to keep a Register of all makers' marks on plated silver wares made within one hundred miles radius - which of course included Birmingham. From 1836 this Register unfortunately fell into disuse, but before then Sheffield and Birmingham frequently quarrelled over Sheffield's monopoly, and Sheffield occasionally threatened to prosecute Birmingham makers for using unregistered marks. Possibly this explains why more Birmingham platers than Sheffield registered their marks. The 1773 Act empowered Sheffield to use a Crown for its town mark. The story goes that this was because the Birmingham and Sheffield petitioners for the Act met at the 'Crown and Anchor', an inn situated off The Strand in London, and that each town adopted one of these signs as its mark. Certainly the inn existed - but whether there is any truth in the story is unknown. After 1903, when Sheffield was finally allowed to assay and mark gold as well as silver (the result of a clause in the Sheffield Corporation Act), Sheffield was unique in having two town marks - the Crown for silver and the Yorkshire rose for gold. For the first eleven years the Office struggled to survive, borrowing heavily from local silversmiths. By using mass-production methods for stamping out thin silver, Sheffield made very light wares which competed strongly with heavier London-made goods. Assaying, however, was charged for by weight. Over 100 knife handles could be marked for only 5p - a price which did not reflect the time and effort involved. The only way to make ends meet was to increase charges. The Act of 1784 charged for small articles by count instead of weight. As a result, the Office's fortunes revived. The first Assay Office was a rented house on Norfolk Street and the first Assay Master a Londoner, Daniel Bradbury. The Office only opened on Mondays and Thursdays, though Mr. Bradbury was allowed to open on a third day for private assays. In 1774 the Office moved to a court off Norfolk Street "lately occupied by Thomas Boulsover" - the inventor of Old Sheffield Plate. By 1795 the Office had moved again, this time to a brand new building on Fargate. In the nineteenth century, Sheffield became a major manufacturing centre with an international reputation for its silver and cutlery. Production continued to grow rapidly and it became obvious that the Office could no longer cope unless its opening hours increased. When, in 1880, the Fargate premises were needed for road-widening, the Guardians acquired a new site in Leopold Street and remained there until 1958. By this time, however, the demand for silver goods had fallen dramatically and the building was much too large. Before the War 1,250,000 ounces of silver passed through the Office each year. By 1958 this had fallen to 300,000 ounces. Many large local firms closed and it seemed as though the only people still making silverwares were skilled craft-workers. The Office moved again, this time to a much smaller building in Portobello Street. After the Hallmarking Act was passed in 1973, the nature of the work submitted to the Assay Office changed. No longer were the main customers the traditional Sheffield silversmiths producing large pieces of hollow-ware. Goods from all over the United Kingdom and abroad came in to be assayed, and foreign gold (especially 9ct gold chains) became very important. The extra workload involved by this increase in smaller articles necessitated re-development - initially within the existing building, to streamline the laboratories and make more marking space. In 1973, Jack Cheetham made some cufflinks in which the hallmark was a necessary and important part of the decoration; Jack Spencer adapted this idea and used the largest size of hallmark as decoration on a range of gold and silver jewellery. A cheaper alternative then appeared, in which the mark was placed vertically down a rectangular block to make 'dog-tag' pendants, and these, especially when they incorporated the Special Mark to celebrate the Queen's Silver Jubilee, became phenomenally successful. The income from this extra work was used in alterations to make the Goldsmiths' Wing to create more marking space, and the foundation stone was laid by Ian Threlfall, Prime Warden of the Goldsmiths' Company, in October 1978. More space for marking was created by renting office space elsewhere in the town and converting the existing offices into marking rooms. Meanwhile, the Office bought the former 'Willow Tree' public house next door and fitted it out for offices and marking. By now the British Hallmarking Council was pressing for an expansion of hallmarking facilities in Britain, so the Office bought the Charleston Works on Orange Street adjacent to the 'Willow Tree' to give better access to customers and more off-street parking, and to allow room for more building. In March 1983 Sir Frederick Dainton, then Prime Warden of the Goldsmiths' Company, laid the foundation stone of the Guardians' Hall. The new building was completed in 1985 and officially opened by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in December 1986. It provided extra space for offices, laboratories, staff facilities, Board Room and Library. The Hallmarking Act of 1973 removed many restrictions on marking and consolidated many earlier Acts. It was based on the Trade Descriptions Act and made it an offence to sell almost anything as gold, silver or platinum unless first assayed and marked. For the first time, all the Offices adopted the same date-letter and alphabet. After 200 years, Sheffield lost its Crown mark for silver and used the Yorkshire Rose on both gold and silver. Platinum was not assayed in Sheffield until June 1975, mainly because of the cost of the equipment needed, but testing and marking were finally introduced to meet local customers' demands. The Office has continued to adapt to customers' needs. Recent internal alterations have created more laboratory space and streamlined the hallmarking process. In 1997 laser marking was introduced for hollow articles such as necklaces, watch-cases and bangles, which would have been damaged by traditional methods. Over a quarter of a million of such items were marked in 1999. Other services, such as nickel-free testing for jewellery and mercury-screening for occupational exposure, complement traditional assaying and hallmarking. January 1999 saw the introduction of additional (lower) standards for gold, silver and platinum to enable free competition within the European Community. For the first time the date-letter became voluntary rather than compulsory, and the sterling lion mark and crown gold mark also became optional. Now all goods are marked with their standard of fineness in parts per thousand, and it is no longer possible to distinguish between British and foreign-made articles. The effect on British manufacturing remains to be seen. However, an additional special mark for the millennium was also introduced, to be used on any item made between January 1999 and December 2000, at the manufacturer's request. This captured the imagination of the public, and increased the sale of precious metal wares. In the 21st century the workload has continued to grow. 2001 was the busiest year ever in the Office's long history. Over 12.9 million articles were assayed and marked in Sheffield. More staff were taken on, and the building extended yet again, this time to create a new top floor for Guardians' Hall, providing comfortable staff accommodation, whilst the old staff room was converted to make more room for marking. The extension was opened on April 11th 2002 by HRH the Duke of Kent, KG, the third Royal visitor to the Office in 30 years. Another special mark, to commemorate H.M Queen Elizabeth II's Golden Jubilee, was used for one year only in 2002. Initially, any profits made by the Office had to be used solely for prosecuting those who broke the law on hallmarking. However, by the beginning of the twentieth century when the local silver industry was at its height, the Office was making a large profit. As a result, a new Act was granted in 1906, permitting some of the surplus to be spent on providing a collection of books or objects relating to the silver and gold industry, to promoting technical education in Sheffield especially for the silver and gold industry and to charitable donations. Since then, the Office has built up a large specialised library and a collection of silver, mainly made in Sheffield. In addition, the Office has sponsored various competitions to encourage local craftsmen, and, most recently, financed a fully equipped workshop unit at Persistence Works for metalwork and jewellery graduates starting out in business. In addition, the Office is a corporate member of the Millennium Galleries, where the splendid Millennium Punch Bowl is on display. This ongoing commission was the result of collaboration between four local designers; Alex Brogden, Chris Knight, Brett Payne and Keith Tyssen. A new cup is to be added each year, commissioned by the Assay Office from a modern designer.
  3. Hunters Bar School

    Hunters Bar School circa 1965 Recognise anyone you know? Anyone remember the teachers names there?
  4. The C&A Building on High Street near Fitzalan Square opposite The Marples Pub. Have a look at the cars and the trams in this one too!
  5. Fitzalan Square in Sheffield City Centre
  6. Headlong Into Pennilessness

    The Front Room - chapter from Michael Glover’s acclaimed ‘Headlong Into Pennilessness - lessons in life from ‘50s Sheffield’ If you had opened the door which separated the kitchen from the bottom of the stairs, you would have seen another door, just beyond the overloaded coat pegs you could always hide behind for a game, which led into the front room. This was the room which overlooked the street, the front room, the room reserved for best. Best of what though? Best of almost nothing. Very little happened in this room until I was a teenager. At that point a gas fire replaced the old fire grate, and the grandmother clock - a wedding present for my mother - which had always stood in the corner, and which was the closest this house ever came to owning an object of value that, in future years, might even mature into an antique, moved upstairs onto the landing outside my uncle's back bedroom. That clock sits in my sister's house in Holymoorside now, proudly maturing away. Like the bedrooms, this front room was miserably unheated, and therefore uninhabited for the most part when I was very small. Except on social occasions. At Christmas, hazel nuts and walnuts and brazil nuts, all patiently waiting to be cracked open, would appear in a special bowl on a small side table, together with the nutcrackers, so that my grandfather could do his manly work of cracking them open. One of his other manly jobs, as I think I've already mentioned, was to expertly carve every joint of beef that ever entered the house to make slices thin enough to see the light through. There would also be a box of dates, and a bottle of sherry. This bottle of sherry never cut much of a dash. I felt that it was there on sufferance, as a nod in the general direction of what usually happened, in most families, at this time of year. My mother Dorothy wholly disapproved of drink, and I seldom saw anyone actually opening this bottle or sampling the dangerous stuff. I do not remember it ever being surrounded by sherry glasses either. What were sherry glasses any road? It merely stood there, a stiff, defiant, ever present testimony to the fact that, well, this was Christmas, wasn't it, and any great feast such as this one generally entailed a modicum of alcohol. And then there was the old upright piano, Dorothy's world. On the top of this piano, at the far end on the left - I can still nearly touch it - there would be the special Christmas trifle in a high-sided, circular, faceted glass bowl, inches deep with tinned strawberries and tinned mandarins and custard, all mixed up together, and topped with thickly foaming whipped cream. Looking through the thick glass of that bowl, down and down through the various layers of deliciousness, was a bit like swimming underwater, open-eyed, at the sea side. Except that trifle tastes a thousand times more delicious than salty sea water, ugh. 45 Coningsby Road, second on the right past the shop Yes, if there was any ritual in that house, any rite which brought us together - and there was very little - it pivoted about the old upright piano, which Dorothy had been taught to play from childhood on, and which had been brought down from Crimicar Lane. And how she did play on these occasions! Never for very long though. It would not have done to go on for too long. The sheet music would be kept inside the piano stool on which she sat, and out it would come, each double page spread held open on its fragile wooden rack attached to the back of the piano, with tiny spikes of metal that swung from side to side - if you made them do it - like car windscreen wipers. Dorothy would play her favourites - Chopin's waltzes or Rachmaninov - with tremendous gushes of emotion, flinging her arms up and down the keyboard with uncharacteristic abandon, almost frightening in its intensity. It was as if, at last, she was being swept up into the romantic cinematic dream of a lifetime, some yearned for tryst with Robert Mitchum, as far away from the humdrumness and the dreariness of Coningsby Road as it was humanly possible to be. We would all sit there, marvelling. Kenneth would be hunched slightly forward, gently stroking his moustaches or, from time to time, sniffing at his nicotine-stained finger ends. He was a bit of a smoker in those days. Not later though. Dorothy always played the same tunes, in exactly the same way, and we always marvelled at her, and clapped her furiously when she had finished. And she always laughed, quite flightily, quite dismissively too, as we did so, as if to say: there's loads more where that came from, but you're not necessarily getting it. What else was there in this room? Precious little. I remember it as featureless, odourless, a place generally lacking in human love and human attention. There was a built in cupboard beneath the window which, when opened, smelt powerfully of damp. It was here that we kept, unloved, neglected, the only book which contained photographs of works of art I ever remember having been in that house. It was quite a grand book, red and leather-bound, large in format, but its cover and its damp, ripply-warped pages smelled of mildew. Occasionally, intrigued by its presence there, I would leaf through its pages, some half glued together by the damp, of black-and white reproductions of sentimental Victorian narrative scenes. The world of art seemed so sad and so old-timey distant. And then, at a certain point in the early 1960s, the character of that front room changed. It was no longer the cold place it had always been, set apart, seldom visited, used on ceremonial occasions only. What made all the difference? Gas and television. A gold-coloured gas fire was installed with a gridded front through which you poked, at about seven o'clock in the evening, and even earlier if you wished to catch the evening news, sputtering Captain Webb Safety Matches while, simultaneously, twisting the metal key in the centre of the gas pipe that snaked along, dangerously, at floor level. All of a sudden, it would flame up and out with a mighty roaring BOOMF, and you would jump back, instantly warmed if not scorched - and delighted. What an astonishing thing this was, instant heat that could be turned on or off at a metal tap! And then, as if encouraged by the prospect of comfort, there also arrived a big, saggily comfy sofa in front of which to enjoy a small, heavy television, with a twelve-inch screen, which would give us programmes until such time as they stopped, quite abruptly, and we all stood up, stretching and yawning, with Uncle Ken looking at his watch, which he always wore facing the inside of his wrist. And then he would turn it off, and we would all watch the display shrink down to a tiny, mesmerising white dot. One of the favourite rituals of my later teenage years was now in place, to sit there with my family, all happily bunched up together in the semi-dark, and watch Steptoe and Son, Hancock's Half Hour and Brian Rix's farces beamed directly to us, in north-east Sheffield, from the Whitehall Theatre, London. Marvels indeed.B ‘Headlong Into Pennilessness’ available from Amazon for just £9.95 - http://amzn.to/2HqYbav
  7. Victoria Train Station and Blonk Street in Sheffield

    Ps here's Victoria Station in it's heyday - looks fantastic!
  8. Victoria Train Station

  9. Penistone Road Hillsborough Sheffield

    Penistone Road Hillsborough Sheffield
  10. Sheffield Wednesday Football Club 1966 Team

    Sheffield Wednesday Football Club 1966 Team
  11. Penistone Road with the flags from the 1966 World Cup games
  12. Sheffield Wednesday Football Club 1966 Team
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