Sorby Tools


William & Samuel Butcher - Sheffield, UK

  William and Samuel Butcher: Tool, Cutlery, and Steel Manufacturers of Sheffield by Geoffrey Tweedale

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2.  W. & S. Butcher

In the early nineteenth century, William and Samuel Butcher formed one of the most successful partnerships in Sheffield.  Their business interests spanned steel, file, edge-tool, knife, and razor manufacture. 

Both men were born in Sheffield: William in about 1791 and Samuel in about 1796.  They were the sons of James Butcher, a cutler in Charles Street, who had died in 1801, when his sons were still children.  Little is known of the brothers’ early lives, though Samuel was apprenticed for seven years to Richard Nayler, a razor maker.

An establishment date of 1725 was claimed in later advertisements, but the partnership of William and Samuel did not begin until the next century.  The elder brother, William, apparently took the lead.  In 1819, he launched an edge tool manufactory on a small plot of land in Eyre Street.  By 1822, as the small works expanded, he began melting crucible steel. 

No business records have survived for Butcher and the early history is sketchy.  According to one account, a friend gave William £100 credit in cast steel to launch the business, with another backer offering the same (Sheffield Independent, 1 February 1873).  In the local directory of 1822, William was listed as a manufacturer of a wide variety of edge tools and as a steel converter and refiner.  Export markets were already dominating the firm’s business, with shipments of plantation tools to the West Indies and Brazil.  Plane irons and chisels were other specialties, which have survived in some number in the hands of collectors and museums.  They are often marked ‘W. BUTCHER. WARRANTED CAST STEEL’.

Another firm appeared in the directory of 1822 – Wade & Butcher – which traded from Arundel Street (on the other side of the Eyre Lane block).  One of the principals was Robert Wade, who had been listed as a razor manufacturer in Arundel Street since 1816.  He was apparently the son of Robert Wade, a maltster and corn factor, and Eleanor.  He became a captain of the local Volunteers, then a razor maker.  When he started with Butcher, they had only two hearths for making razors (Sheffield Independent, 25 January 1873).

After 1825, Wade & Butcher disappeared from Sheffield directories – apparently because Robert Wade had died.  An individual of that name, aged 54, was buried in St Paul’s churchyard on 8 December 1825, though no details appear to have been reported in the local press.  The partnership with Butcher ended.  In 1828, only Mrs. Robert Wade was listed as a razor manufacturer in Arundel Street (in one directory, the listed name was Jane Wade).  Finally, the local press reported that Mrs. Robert Wade, the relict of Mr. Wade of Arundel Street, had died near Sheffield on 14 July 1829 (Sheffield Independent, 18 July 1829).

In 1826, William and Samuel launched a new partnership.  This was Butcher, Brown & Butcher (with John Brown as the extra man).  The firm produced the same range of tools and steel from Eyre Lane and Charles Street.  In 1830, that partnership was dissolved and henceforth the firm became ‘William and Samuel Butcher’ (or more simply, ‘W. & S. Butcher’). 

Between the 1830s and 1850s, the business expanded steadily, as the Butchers acquired steel-making capacity, workshops, warehouses, and steam grinding wheels in Furnival Street and Eyre Lane.  In the 1840s, the brothers also invested in tilting, rolling, and forging capacity at Philadelphia Steel Works, Neepsend, which was close to the River Don.


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W. & S. Butcher

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