Heritage Crafts

Cutlery and tableware making

The making or knives, forks, spoons and other table utensils (see also knife making).
Currently viable
Craft category
Historic area of significance
Area practiced currently
Origin in the UK
17th Century
Current No. of professionals (Main income)
Current No. of professionals (Side income)
Included in the above figures
Current No. of trainees


Sheffield was the British birthplace of commercial cutlery due its geographical location and natural resources of iron ore and coal. The town was built on hills, well connected by rivers which enabled flowing water to power the waterwheels. The craft began with the production of knives using traditional blade making techniques, before developing into the craft of making The production of knives morphed from blade making, leading to its introduction as kitchen cutlery. By 1640 cutlery production was a major British industry.

During the seventeenth century, cutlery evolved from being a rudimentary functional implement to a decorative item. Cutlery became patterned and shaped, and was sold as sets, with matching hollowware soon following. Sheffield’s cutlery industry peaked in the Victorian ear, but Sheffield remained dominant throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Sheffield was home to both mass-scale production companies and small workshops, and goods were sold nationally and internationally. In 1869 one company alone produced 36,000 table knives and 7,000 scissors a week, and by the turn of the century held 15 tons of ivory for handles.

Stainless steel was developed by Harry Bearley in 1913 and was used in commercial production by 1914. Today, cutlery is commonly ’18/10 stainless steel’ the first figure refers to the percentage of chromium and the second to the nickel content.


  • Forging
  • Forming
  • Pressing
  • Linishing
  • Polishing
  • Plating


  • Silver plating – over recent years many platers have closed and in Sheffield and there is only one known silver plater left.

Issues affecting the viability

  • Training and recruitment: finding skilled workers remains a challenge for the craft
  • Market issues: overseas cutlery makers are the biggest issues facing the craft.

Support organisations

  • Cutlery and Allied Trades Association (CATRA)

Training organisations


Craftspeople currently known

Other information

In the 1950s there were over 300 cutlery workshops in Sheffield which has dramatically reduced.


  • Steel City Cutlery, About Stainless Steel
  • Peter Machan, The Little Mesters: The Rise, Decline and Survival of Sheffield’s Traditional Trades, March 2023
National Lottery Heritage Fund
Swire Charitable Trust
The Royal Mint
Pilgrim Trust
Maxwell/Hanrahan Foundation
William Grant Foundation

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