It was little more than geographical good-fortune and old-fashioned hard work that saw Medieval Sheffield transform into one of Europe’s leading industrial centres.
Situated on the edge of the jagged crags and fast-flowing waterways of the Peak District National Park and surrounded by its seven famous hills packed with ores aplenty, Sheffield held the ideal location for hydropowered industries to develop.
In the early days, some water wheels were used to mill corn, but many more were used in the manufacturing of blades. Sheffield’s notoriety for knife production can be seen as far back as the 14th century, as this extract from Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales demonstrates:
"And of a swerd ful trenchant was the blade.
A joly poppere baar he in his pouche;
Ther was no man, for peril, dorste hym touche.
A Sheffeld thwitel baar he in his hose."
By the 1600s, Sheffield had become the cutlery capital of England. Remnants of water-powered blade and cutlery workshops from this era exist in the form of popular industrial museums including the Abbeydale Industrial Hamlet, Shepherd Wheel Workshop, and Kelham Island Museum.
In the 1740s, Sheffield local Benjamin Huntsman is credited with inventing the modern crucible steel making process, where superior hard grade steel was manufactured using clay pot crucibles. Today, Huntsman lends his name to a popular city centre pub, whilst one of the city’s most renowned theatres is named after his process.
Over the years, blade making pioneers honed their skills in the production of scythes, knives, scissors, cutlery, axes and practically every other edged-tool imaginable, leading to the construction of the first modern straight razor blades in the 18th century.
As the blade and cutlery trade continued to grow, Sheffield became one of the main industrial centres in Great Britain. Even Birmingham - the city that drove the industrial revolution in this country – chose not to compete with the master craftsmanship of Sheffield bladesmiths.
In 1912, Sheffield offered another great advancement in the industry as city native Harry Brearley discovered Stainless Steel at the Brown Firth Laboratories in Sheffield.
This rich history of innovation helped Sheffield to establish worldwide recognition in the production of edged instruments, and grew the small town of 7000 inhabitants in 1736 to a modern conurbation of 451,195 in 1901.
Today, Edwin Jagger looks to uphold the tradition, heritage, and quality of Sheffield manufacturing in the production of all its razors and shaving products, proudly displaying the city’s name on every piece of packaging.
Edwin Jagger – forged in Sheffield.