What is the Company of Cutlers in Hallamshire, and what do they do?
Established by a Parliamentary Act of Incorporation in 1624, the Company of Cutlers in Hallamshire has, for almost 400 years, promoted and maintained the quality of Sheffield’s steel manufacturing, cutlery production and international reputation.
The Cutler’s Company strives to both uphold Sheffield’s rich heritage and highlight modern innovation in the region, combining the best of Sheffield manufacturing’s past, present and future.
The original Act of Parliament provided the Company of Cutlers in Hallamshire with jurisdiction over:
“all persons using to make Knives, Blades, Scissers, Sheeres, Sickles, Cutlery wares and all other wares and manufacture made or wrought of yron and steele, dwelling or inhabiting within the said Lordship and Liberty of Hallamshire, or within six miles compasse of the same”
Surviving accounts of these early Company iterations reflect a guild focused on recording apprenticeships and registering the identifying marks of qualified craftsmen, ensuring that the blades were properly made and that Freemen were indeed selling their own goods. This stringent dedication to quality and protection of the city’s name was to be a focal point of the Company for the next nearly 400 years.
The aforementioned jurisdiction was extended to include other trades, most notably steelmakers, in 1860. The Cutlers were therefore in the position to maintain the high levels of quality Sheffield’s steel products had become known for. As we’ve discussed in previous articles, Sheffield’s distinctive reputation for quality was born from its pivotal role in the Industrial Revolution, where inventors such as Henry Bessemer created new processes for mass producing steel.
In 1860, the Company was given the right to veto the use of ‘Sheffield’ in any limited company within the United Kingdom, providing the authority to protect the city’s valuable reputation. With the motto Pour Y Parvenir a Bonne Foi, or, ‘To Succeed Through Honest Endeavour’, the Company sought to not only endorse the high standards of Sheffield manufacturing, but also the robust moral code of honest, respectable work.
Based at the Cutler’s Hall in central Sheffield, the Company has maintained its place at the heart of the city, in both the literal and metaphorical sense, since 1638. The Hall is used for a variety of different purposes, including local business award ceremonies and formal functions.
A Master Cutler is elected each year by the freemen within the Company, a position which lends its name to the Master Cutler Challenge, a fundraising initiative which our manufacturing group, OSL Group, take part in regularly.
In 2011-12, Pamela Liverside was elected to the position, marking the first woman to hold the position in a historic event.
Ken Cooke, Master Cutler from 2017-18, took his installation to the position as an opportunity to extol the virtues of both Sheffield and the manufacturing sector, reflecting on his own journey and the opportunities provided to him by the city.
“I am a great believer in education, training and apprenticeships so they will be close to the top of my agenda. In manufacturing and industry there should be a place for everyone to develop.”
Now, in 2022, Dame Julie Anne Kenny is serving as the second Lady Master Cutler in the Company’s history. Her strong entrepreneurial background, as well as her ongoing roles in both charity and business initiatives within Sheffield earnt her a Damehood in 2019, as well as a number of other awards and commendations.
Amongst the range of different initiatives within the Company of Cutlers in Hallamshire, Freemen within the organisation supports the Sheffield City LEP (Local Enterprise Partnership) and strives to develop homegrown talent in the manufacturing industry with ‘Better Learners Better Workers’ and similar projects.
Looking ahead, the Company continues the mission set out by its predecessors, to support and uphold the strong manufacturing reputation of Sheffield, to maintain the high standards of industry and to continue embodying their 400-year promise;