The Cutlers’ Hall

The Cutlers’ Hall. Source: The Graphic 10 (28 November 1874): 517. Click on image to enlarge it.

The Cutlers’ Company and Feast

IN 1624 the Cutlers' Company was incorporated under an “Act for the good order and government of the makers of knives, sickles, shears, scissors, and other cutlery wares in Hal lamshire, in the county of York, and parts near adjoining.” The preamble of the Act declares that many of the cutlery works had refused to submit to the ordinances of the trade, and in the absence of proper authority were “thereby emboldened and do make such deceitful, unworkmanlike wares, and sell the same in divers parts of the kingdom, to the great deceit of His Majesty's subjects and scandal of the cutlers of Hallamshire, and disgrace and hindrance of the sale of cutlery and iron and steel wares there made, and to the great impoverishment, ruin, and over throw of multitudes of poor people.” The body corporate included a Master Cutler, two wardens, six searchers, and twenty-four assistant searchers, the other manufacturers in the company being termed the “commonalty.” Power was given to the executive to frame laws for the government of the trade, and inflict fines on those who broke them. The searchers had authority to seize all rubbishy wares turned out by unskilled workmen. For a long time freemen only were privileged to work at the cutlery business, but this exclusive policy was found to interfere so seriously with its development that this rule was rescinded by an Act of Parliament passed in 1814, which threw the trade open to all who chose to engage therein, and deprived the company of all its powers except the granting of trade marks, from which its income is mainly derived. These trade marks possess great value, for they are passports into the best markets of the world. In 1860 an Act was obtained, extending the benefits of the company to all makers of goods with “a cutting edge.”

The “Cutlers' Feast,” as an important social and political gathering, dates as far back as 1682. One hundred guineas is annually voted towards defraying the expense of the Feast, but it is well known that this sum only covers about a tenth part of the cost of the famous Banquet of the North. As showing the change in the social habits of the people we give the following quotation from a curious bill of the “settling-up” of the Feast in the year 1749 –“Rump of beef, 3s. 4d.; 6 fowls, 2s. 8d.; ham, 3s.; pies and puddings, 2s. 6d.; hare, 1s. 6d.; loin of veal, 1s. Iod,; bread, 1s.; butter, 2s.; roots, 4d.; ale and punch, 20s. 7d.; dressing, 4s.; total, 24, 2s. 9d. Collected by the company, 21s.; paid out of stock, 21s. 9d.” The Cutlers' Hall, shown in our sketch, is a handsome structure erected in Church Street, facing the Parish Church. It was built in 1832-3 at a cost of 6,500l. The Arms of the Company, which curiously enough are the same as those of the London Cutlers' Company, though there is no connection between the two, are placed outside, with the meaningless motto under neath—Pour farvenir a bonne foy. The Banqueting Hall is an elegant and spacious apartment, with a gallery at the north end for the ladies who grace the Feast with their presence, and a balcony on the east for the accommodation of the vocalists engaged to enliven the proceedings. The reception-room contains full length portraits of the Duke of Wellington, the first Lord Wharncliffe, the twelfth Duke of Norfolk, the late Earl Fitz william, and other notabilities of the town, while in the vestibule are placed on pedestals casts from Chantrey's busts of Sir Walter Scott, George Canning, James Watt, Professor Lyon Playfair, along with marble busts of James Montgomery, the poet, Mr. W. Jeffcock, the first Mayor of Sheffield, &c. The feast, which usually takes place on the first Thursday in September, did not come off till Thursday last, the 26th inst., when George Wilson, Esq., of Banner Cross, Master Cutler for the year presided. (523).

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”The Graphic Supplement Sheffield” and “Buildings and Industries of Sheffield.” The Graphic 10 (28 November 1874): 517, 520-24. Hathi Trust online version of a copy in the New York Public Library. Web. 2 July 2021

Last modified 2 July 2021