From its beginnings in the early part of the 17th century, the Cutlers’ Company has played an integral role both in the expansion of the major local industries of cutlery and metalworking and in the growth of Sheffield.
When the Company of Cutlers in Hallamshire was incorporated by an Act of Parliament in 1624, the local cutlery industry was already over three centuries old. In 1297, a man called Robert the cutler appears in a tax return, the earliest surviving evidence for the local cutlery trades.
The ancient administrative unit calledia 'Hallamshire' is centred on the mediaeval parish of Sheffield, with the adjoining parishes of Ecclesfield and Handsworth. Hallamshire was the southernmost shire of Anglo-Saxon Northumbria and its boundary separated Northumbria from Mercia.
Surviving 16th century records show that the powerful Earls of Shrewsbury, who were the Lords of the Manor of Hallam, had taken an active interest in the local trade, but on the death of Gilbert, Earl of Shrewsbury in 1616, the cutlers of Sheffield were left without any guiding control over their affairs and so petitioned Parliament for an Act of Incorporation in 1624.
The Cutlers' Company of Hallamshire took over the responsibility for binding apprentices, admitting Freemen, registering marks and devised regulations to ensure the quality of workmanship. Remarkably, almost four hundred years of archives detail the cutlery industry developments; as well as the Company’s contributions to the life of Sheffield through its Masters Cutler and Freemen.
The Company is also justly proud of its collections of silver, cutlery and the portraits of many of its Masters - all held at the Cutlers' Hall.
The Yorkshire Film Archive has an amatuer film 'Made in Sheffield', filmed in 1954 by the Master Cutler WB Ibberson. The silent, black and white film shows the processes of forging, grinding and hafting in the Sheffield cutlery trade. There is also a brief view of the inside of the Cutlers' Hall at the beginning and end of the film.
Other films of Sheffield, Masters Cutler and local manufacturing were made by British Pathe News and previews of some of these can be seen by following the links below.