Treeton Local History Group

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March meeting report

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‘Knives and Vicars’ or the Church and the Steel Industry, a talk by Trevor Page

Trevor gave a very interesting talk about the growth of Sheffield from a Borough of 2000 people – most of these living in poverty – in 1616, to a population of 250,000 plus in 1881.

This was down to the production of steel for which Sheffield became famous throughout the world.  Sheffield was well placed for this industry having water supply from two major rivers, iron ore and coal under the ground and grit stone for grinding.

He took us to the eighteenth century, when Barker’s Pool was a pool in the centre of Sheffield which was released periodically to wash the town’s streets clean of the filth that had built up in the open drains.

The vicar at that time was James Wilkinson; he became vicar at the age of 23 and was vicar for 51 years. He was a bit of a character, as he was a big strong man and thought nothing of using his strength to enforce law and order.

The steel industry at this time consisted of ‘Little Mesters’ self employed knife makers.

As the steel industry grew so did the church. The connections between them were particularly marked by the Master Cutler Company an organisation established to maintain the standards and quality of Sheffield cutlery, but grew to include all steel production. Trevor who was at one time Chaplin to the Master Cutler told us that, each year a new Master Cutler was installed and a great procession of dignitaries walked to the Parish Church to perform the religious ceremony. He told many stories of Sheffield people, the steel industry and the church; these were delivered with wit and humour making it a very enjoyable evening.



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