With Sheffield’s official nickname as “Steel City” and its motto translating to “with God’s help our labour is successful”, it’s no wonder that Sheffield’s history is centred around the industrial revolution and steel.
As a company who works extensively with steel, we feel it’s important to learn about our roots and how generations before us have influenced our city today.
Before anything, Sheffield was known for the production of cutlery and evidence of this dates back around 700 years. This was particularly noted when the Sheffield knife was mentioned in Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales back in the 14th century. For a long time, Sheffield was the main manufacturer of cutlery in England (outside London).
The steel industry was a slow one for Sheffield though. The first positive record of steelmaking was in 1692, but only two furnaces were documented in Sheffield nearly 40 years later in 1737. It wasn’t until the 1740s that Sheffield saw a major change in the steel industry.
In the 1740s, Sheffield local Benjamin Huntsman discovered a new way of steelmaking called crucible steel (also known as cast steel). Made by melting pig (cast) iron, iron and steel, sand, glass, ashes and other materials in a crucible, crucible steelmaking along with the cementation method proceeded to dominate Sheffield’s steel production industry for years to come. Even Sheffield’s famous theatre, the Crucible Theatre, is named after its steel heritage.
The demand for Huntsman’s steel increased rapidly, meaning he had to upgrade his factories and less than a century later, they were responsible for 40% of total steel produced in Europe.
19th Century and Beyond
Coming to the mid-19th Century, the production of steel in Britain was at 50,000 tonnes and around 85% of this was produced in Sheffield. With the Crimean War looming in 1854, the demand for iron and steel rose and contributed to producing weapons, equipment and new railways. Additionally, Sheffield steel saw the experimentation and production of some of the early form of weapons of mass destruction.
But the 19th Century saw the imminent growth of superpower nations Germany and the USA overtaking Sheffield’s steel industry. This didn’t hinder Sheffield’s steel production – with the Great War and World War II, the steel factories were manufacturing weapons and ammunition for the war effort. As a result, the city became a huge target for heavy bombings, particularly the 1940 Sheffield Blitz.
DH Scaffold Services – Steel Scaffolding in Sheffield
Being but a humble and brief history of Sheffield’s steel, we understand if you’re itching to know more. If this is the case, pop along to Kelham Island Industrial Museum which covers the entire story of Sheffield’s industrial past.
Many businesses owe a lot to the steel industry in Sheffield over the centuries. This, of course, includes us at DH Scaffolding as we work with steel and aluminium scaffolding. To learn more about the services we offer in and around Sheffield, visit our website today.