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Apprenticeship in steelworks specializing in Cutlery and Tools

My Grandfather Alan Hobson B1876 did the abovementioned apprenticeship after he left Sheffield Grammar School. So somewhere between 1888-1891 Im guessing. Just wondering if there is a list or register of apprentices at the time. in 1891 census he was a table blade grinder cutler..
thank you

His father Tom was a glass cutler so he wasn't apprenticed to him.

thanks for any help

Ada from Australia

Re: Apprenticeship in steelworks specializing in Cutlery and Tools

Official apprenticeships controlled by the Cutlers Company ceased around 1814. After that there could be individual apprenticeships organised for deprived children by the Poor Law Union, but there is no list. Others would be ad hoc and certainly no list.

Re: Apprenticeship in steelworks specializing in Cutlery and Tools

Hi Ada,

Just a few observations for you to have another look at.

It struck me as odd that back in the late 1800's a Grammar school boy would be a cutler?

On the 1891 census Alan was 14 years old and a Grinder..... Table Blade & Cutler were added later. He would have left school recently and an apprenticeship would have been for seven years usually taking them to 21 years of age.

I have followed his father Tom back on all the census to 1941 and Tom is a GLASS CUTTER.
Toms father Simon was also a glass cutter and both from Worsboro Nr Barnsley. Simon was however born in Hunslet, Leeds.

Hope this helps in your research.

Elaine in Ottawa.

Adding latest find.

GRO Reference: 1876 J Quarter in ECCLESALL BIERLOW Volume 09C Page 392

His age on the 1891 census is(14y)soon to be 15.

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Re: Apprenticeship in steelworks specializing in Cutlery and Tools

Thanks for replys:
Elaine, my grandfather won a scholarship to attend the Sheffield boys grammar school.
He married at 22 years of age
then in 1901 his job was listed as a Frame Machinist
by 1905 he started at Rowntrees where he stayed until his retirement. This was a big change of job. At rowntrees he was employed as an advertising inspector. (His job was kept for him during war service) . This involved setting up window displays in shops advertising rountree chocolates and maintaining the display. We have the watch, that was engraved with his work details, that he was presented on his retirement from Rowntrees.
I have his birth marriage death certificates etc and his parents and grandparents before him.

I was just hoping to add a little more to his story if I could find anything on his apprenticeship etc. Where he may of worked etc.


Re: Apprenticeship in steelworks specializing in Cutlery and Tools

Hi there,

Do you have any paperwork with the name of the Grammar School he attended?

The reason I ask maybe Sheffield Archives would have more on the school.
King Edward Grammar School comes to mind but I have forgotten the names of others.
NOT that many as I recall.

Elaine in Ottawa.

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Re: Apprenticeship in steelworks specializing in Cutlery and Tools

Morning Ada,

I wonder..........

I have been reading up on Rowntrees of York...... which all Brits know about.....

Is it possible that the apprenticeship he served was actually sponsored by Rowntrees?


**Philosophical and political views: Joseph Rowntree was a supporter of liberal values, and was anxious to improve the quality of life of his employees. He provided them with a library, free education, a works magazine, a social welfare officer, a doctor, a dentist and a pension fund.**

Alan may have been noted as a bright child and a sponsor was looked for. The reason I offer this story is that my husbands grandfather was sponsored by a benefactor and sent away to a boarding school where he received a A1 education. The letters he wrote as a 10 year old to his mother are amazing.

Have you contacted Rowntrees maybe they have records for him.

Elaine in Ottawa.

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Re: Apprenticeship in steelworks specializing in Cutlery and Tools

There was once a Sheffield Royal Grammar School on Collegiate Crescent.
It merged with the Wesley College in the King Edward VII school.
The old Grammar school buildings were later used as a teacher training college.
There are images of it on


Re: Apprenticeship in steelworks specializing in Cutlery and Tools

Hi Ada et al,
On the 1891 Census(Family Search website) the Hobson family were at Nicholson Road, Heeley. Alan Hobson is described as a grinder at age 14.
It is interesting to note they have a lodger named Frederick Lamb, age 21(B:1870/71) who is a fork grinder,(most likely just finished his apprenticeship).
Frederick comes from a family of fork grinders and Frederick's death recorded on Sheffield Indexers, excellent website, shows him dying in 1944 at 2 Herries Road, his occupation is a cutler.
A possible theory here is, in 1891, Alan Hobson received some kind of apprenticeship with Frederick Lamb (who possibly was running a little Mester's operation) and maybe Fred received a reduction in his rent, who knows..?? Alternatively Fred and Alan may have worked for the same cutlery manufacturer and Alan was Fred's apprentice..?

Also on this site are Alan Hobson's marriage details (1898),which records him as being a Packing case maker.
Just a few thoughts....
HAPPY HUNTING:sleuth_or_spy:

Re: Apprenticeship in steelworks specializing in Cutlery and Tools

Hi Wendy,

That's food for thought.........All these little snippets might put a better light on this couple.

The 1901 census they are in London (they seem to have stayed there) and he is a Frame Machinist.

Could that be something to do with packing cases?

This may not be helpful but at the back of the Empire Theater (1940-50's) I am sure there used to be a packing case company. That would be very close to where they were living on Earl St with St Simon being on Eyre Lane.

Elaine in Ottawa.

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Re: Apprenticeship in steelworks specializing in Cutlery and Tools

Food For thought indeed:
In 1891 Alan is a 14 yr old Table Knife Grinder born and living in Heeley
There is no doubt that in 1898 when he married in Sheffield on 28 may 1898 he was a Packing Case maker, that is he made things out of wood.
They quickly moved to London because, on 8th September 1899 his only child, a son Austin, was born in Leytonstone (Reg District West Ham).
In 1901 the family is in Poplar. Alan 24 is a (W Carv) Frame Machinist and they have a lodger, 24 a Sawyer born in Heeley. So Alan is still working in wood and he has a woodworking lodger who is the same age and comes from the same town of Heeley (and coincidentally seems too have been a cutler in 1891).
In 1911 the family is in Stratford, West Ham and Alan is a Traveller in the Advertising business
In 1932 Alan’s wife Ada died in Romford
In 1939 Register Alan is a widower in Dagenham, a commercial traveller, and his married son Austin is a CARPENTER’s labourer in Ilford
Add in that there is Alan’s retirement watch which shows he started with Rowntree in 1905 and describes his work as TRAVELLING and MAINTENANCE of ADVERTISING DISPLAYS.
This link shows a Rowntrees advertising display of the period

It is a large Glazed Wooden Cabinet ADVERTISING Rowntree Chocolates. This must be what he was responsible for around the country. Building , repair and maintenance of these cabinets.
As well as his skills in woodworking, he presumably called on his early experience with his father, a GLASS CUTTER.
It looks like he gained his woodworking skills then got the job with Rowntree while he was working in wood, presumably making cabinets, in London in 1905.
What happened to the 14 yr old Table Knife Grinder of 1891?
In 1890, in USA, William McKinley introduced massive protective US import tariffs on mass produced cutlery items. This effectively took away the Sheffield cutlers’ biggest market and led to massive job losses in Sheffield. A young grinde, would be one of the first to lose his job. Very many more experienced men in the cutlery trade retrained in very different jobs in the early 1890s. I have many examples in my tree.
The bit that does not make sense is a grammar school boy becoming a knife grinder. That stand alone statement lacks credulity.
In 1891 he was a Grinder, not an Apprentice, so presumably he had already been working as a grinder for several years. The school leaving age was not raised to 12 until 1899. Therefore Alan could leave school in 1886 and go to work, provided he had acquired a minimum level of literacy. If he achieved a higher level he could consider secondary education, and a scholarship would eliminate the cost of that. But if he went to work he could bring in money to the family. If he took on the secondary education it would be 4 years of not earning, ie until 1890. In the late 1880s the mass produced cutlery industry in Sheffield was in boom.

Re: Apprenticeship in steelworks specializing in Cutlery and Tools

Thank you all for the thoughts and ideas for further investigation.
As a matter of fact I have contacted Rowntrees to see if they can provide me with further information on my Grandfathers employment with them. Perhaps they did provide the scholarship and later the apprenticeship/training. I'm waiting patiently (well trying to be patient) to hear from them.

One of Alans elder brothers Herbert was a Wood sawyer and case maker on the 1891 census
then on 1911 census he was an advertising agent cocoa inspector. This was also with Rowntrees as I have distant cousins recollections of how he would bring the family a selection of chocolates for Christmas.

Another brother George Edgard was also a timber sawyer on 1901 census before moving into the grocery business.

Like you said he has a boarder who was a woodworker. Again thank you for the information on the economy at the time and the imposed import tariffs. It does provide an explanation to the change of jobs.

Thank you for the link to the Rowntrees display case. With his experience in metal and then wood working it falls into place see the cabinet and his ability to maintain them.
I'm also considering that my father may of used the term Apprenticeship when it was perhaps only work experience??? could you become a Grinder just from work experience without it officially being an apprenticeship. However Dad was not one to use terms loosely

I'm afraid I don't know exactly which Grammar school he attended. In my naivety I thought there would only be one. My father told me his fathers education was unusual in that because he won this scholarship he attended school longer than most of his generation. I have just notations saying he attended Sheffield Grammar school. (didn't know what further questions I should of asked him at the time) If only hey.... !
My assumption, and correct me if I'm wrong, is that at 10 years of age 1886 he would of started at the Grammar School and attended for 2 years.

My grandparents Alan and Ada had 5 children in total. Austin B1899 being the eldest, a child Alan B1909 who died, Herbert B1912 (my father), Ernest B1914 and Maud B 1919. Dad said his first recollection of his father was this soldier in uniform coming into the house who turned out to be his father. Alan was in the royal flying Corps. I can see reference to his service on ancestry but can't get to his actual service records. (not sure why full service records are available for some people and not for others.) He also said his brother Austin was like a father figure (given the big age gap) to him and his brother Ernest in his fathers absence. Austin used to give them a penny each Saturday until they were 14 years of age.

Again thank you all for the information and thought processing now going through my head.
I'm going to be away from my computer for 4-5 weeks so if anymore posts are entered and you don't get a response from me that is the reason. I am truly appreciative of information given.


Re: Apprenticeship in steelworks specializing in Cutlery and Tools

Wow Dave,

You certainly put it altogether for her. Job well done........

The schooling is still confusing but he maybe went to "the" grammar school earlier than one would expect i.e. 11 years.

Ada, I dont think you realize how large a city Sheffield is and was.

**The area known as Sheffield was probably founded in the second half of 1AD in a clearing by ... By 1600 Sheffield was the main centre of cutlery production in England ... In 1736 Sheffield and its surrounding hamlets held about 7000 people, in 1801 there were 60,000, and by 1901, the population had grown to 451,195.**

Its been interesting and glad we were able to help.

Elaine in Ottawa Canada.

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Re: Apprenticeship in steelworks specializing in Cutlery and Tools

Alans papers are available in Fold3 in Ancestry. I am afraid you have to pay extra for that. I think you can do a free seven day trial.
The secondary education after age 10 would be FOUR years. It would involve great emphasis on Latin and possibly Greek. I can imagine an intellectual like Alan, who was clearly practical and hands on, not liking that and dropping out early.
His apprenticeship would be on the job training, at first acting as gopher to the grinder who had to rent time on a powered grindstone. Gradually he would iearn the skills until he was good enough to justify renting another stone. The grinder was paid on a piece work basis. The grinder/apprentice relationship only worked if the net result was more money coming in than going out. It was simple economics.

Re: Apprenticeship in steelworks specializing in Cutlery and Tools

Hi Ada et al
Just a thought about the grammar school. Could it be that Alan attended the Sheffield Central School that opened in 1880 on Leopold Street? It was made up of infants, juniors plus a Higher school to give a secondary education without actually admitting to it as I believe the school board did not have legal powers to offer secondary education.
The Central school operated on Leopold Street until 1933 when it moved and became High Storrs Grammar School. The old boys/girls association was called The Old Centralians until a few years ago.
The Leopold Street site later became City Grammar before it moved out to Stradbroke.
It may be it was a secondary education but not a grammar school education Alan received but the buildings have been linked with a grammar school for so long that is how people have referred to it.