New Pieces

Here, we will show the New Pieces on display at The Cutlers’ Hall.

Sir Albert John Hobson (1861–1923)

By Ernest Moore (1865–1940)
Oil on Canvas
On loan from The University of Sheffield Heritage Collection

Albert John Hobson Esq. was born in 1861 and was the second son of John and Thyrza Hobson who lived at Tapton Elms. John Hobson was an established businessman and Alderman and a prominent local figure

Albert was born lame and walked with difficulty using a stick. This in no way prevented him from leading a full and active life; he was a brilliant swimmer and yachtsman as well as a business, religious, and civic leader. He was educated privately and at the age of 21, he joined the family firm at Arundel Street. After seven years, he amalgamated the business with that of Joseph Rodgers & Sons, where he was director until in 1893.

He then joined his brother, Wilfred in buying the Suffolk Works of Thomas Turner & Co. Ltd. The pair later acquired two other local firms, Wingfield Rowbotham and Haywood’s, and the new group made a big impact with the production of saws, files, and scissors, razors and table and pocket cutlery. He moved into steel in 1891 with his election to the board of William Jessop & Sons, of which he later became Chairman.

Albert held the title of Master Cutler in 1902, which is when this portrait was painted. The portrait shows Albert sitting at his large oak desk, caught in the middle of his work, signing important documents. The crest of the Cutlers’ is located in the top right corner to indicate that this portrait has very strong links to celebrate Albert’s position as Master Cutler.

This is evident from the plaque on the frame which mentions that this portrait was specially commissioned and presented to Albert on behalf of his staff and workers at Suffolk Works in commemoration of his position with The Company of Cutler’s of Hallamshire. This also shows how well respected Albert was by his workforce and what a prestigious role he had received.

Albert’s other achievements include serving as Lord Mayor in 1911; President of the Chamber of Commerce both nationally and locally; Pro-Chancellor of Sheffield University from 1916- 1923; and a Town Trustee from 1917- 1923. He was knighted in the New Year’s honours of 1922, little more than a year before his death. During the First World War, the Government called upon him as an adviser in economics. He was truly one of the great characters who dominated the Sheffield Scene in the late 19th century and the first two decades of the present century.

As much as Albert’s life had its successes, his personal life however was marred by tragedy; he married his wife Maude in 1890 and they had two sons, Alan and Leslie, born in 1893 and 1896. Maude died in childbirth when Leslie was born; she was just 26 years old. Albert outlived both of his sons who lost their lives within one year of each other in the First World War. Alan was killed in Belgium in 1915 at the age of 19, and Leslie in France in 1916 (age 23). Albert died in 1923.

Some of Albert’s legacy was bequeathed to The University of Sheffield; he built the Norton Pavilion with a memorial dedicated to his two sons. The medals for Major Alan, who was awarded the Distinguished Service Order (DSO), and Lieutenant Leslie Hobson, were given to the university, along with this portrait to the University of Sheffield Heritage Collection as part of the Hobson legacy.

The ‘Master Cutler’ train

A display of models of the Master Cutler train and carriages have recently been given to the Cutlers’ Company by Chris Hanby.

In 1947, the Chairman of the London and North Eastern Railways (LNER) was Sir Ronald Matthews, who had been Master Cutler in 1922.  As it was a custom to give names to the more important trains, he suggested the 7.40am train from Sheffield to Marylebone, returning at 6.15pm, should be named “THE MASTER CUTLER”.

This was agreed by LNER and the Cutlers’ Company.  In 1947, the Master Cutler, the Hon. R A Balfour, later the 2nd Lord Riverdale, rode on the footplate of the inaugural train.

In October 1958, name THE MASTER CUTLER was transferred to a diesel Pullman train travelling to London via Retford.  The crescent-shaped head-board was presented to the Cutlers’ Company by British Railways (Eastern Region) and Firth Vickers Stainless Steels Ltd., on 21 April 1959.  It is displayed with the model train in the entrance of the Cutlers’ Hall.

Naming trains continues.  The Master Cutler, Mrs Pamela Liversidge, named a train ‘THE CUTLERS’ COMPANY’ at Sheffield Station, 2012


The principal guest to the 1963 Feast was the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Reginald Maudling and at that time, the Master Cutler paid for the guests’ refreshments on the London train.

Unfortunately, the train bringing the guests from London broke down and was delayed.  The Master Cutler was, apparently, shocked to discover how much Cabinet Ministers could drink.  Interestingly, another guest at the Feast was Dr Beeching.  He had chosen not to travel by train.

Sheffield played a huge part in the development of railways, both in the UK and around the world.

  • In 1848, for example, John Brown, invented and manufactured a highly successful conical steel spring buffer for railway wagons.
  • In 1860, he was the first Sheffield steel-maker to adopt the Bessemer steel-making process, becoming the leading UK manufacturers of Bessemer steel, especially for rail manufacture.
  • By 1865 Brown was producing about one-half of UK rail requirements and was the largest rail-maker in the world.
  • By 1870, because of the demand for armaments and railway engineering, John Brown & Co. Ltd. covered a 21-acre site, with some 4,000 workers and had a turnover of nearly £1 million.

Another spin-off from train travel, was the increased demand for cutlery by caterers on trains, at stations and in hotels !