The Hallamshire cutlery trades in the late 17th century : a study of the Hearth Tax returns and the records of the Cutlers' Company
This thesis records the research into aspects of the late-17th century Sheffield cutlery trades. The key research resources are the 1672 Ladyday Hearth Tax returns for the parishes of Sheffield, Ecclesfield and Handsworth in the Scarsdale Hundred and the records of apprentices and freedoms of the Cutlers' Company in Hall=shire. These documents, which provide correlating evidence for the numbers and distribution of cutlers and other cutlery craftsmen, have been combined with data from probate inventories, parish records, leases and rentals. This particular Hearth Tax return is important because it had separate listings of the smithy hearths, because of local opposition to the tax. Although work has been done into the size of the late-17th century Sheffield cutlery industry, it has not previously been possible to show the occupations of the taxpayers. By correlating these two contemporary sets of records, the cutlery craftsmen have been identified and located, revealing that numbers of craftsmen did not own a smithy hearth and that some craft groups generally had multiple hearths. These factors, men with multiple smithy hearths and men without one, all indicate a manufacturing organisation more complex than the simple system of a master involved in all processes, assisted by his journeyman and apprentice. This research has refined earlier descriptions by locating the craftsmen more accurately and linking their distribution with geographical features, such as the available waterpower, or with the social influence of an existing community dominated by core families. The research presents data, which shows that by 1672, the trades were fragmenting, and many men were probably specialising in one or more manufacturing process. The reconstruction of the communities, based on the Hearth Tax returns, has shown that expansion during the 18th century was often based on the characteristics developed in the previous century and that 19th and 20th century work practices had their roots in the 17th century.