See the historic home of iconic Sheffield cutler, Abraham Brooksbank

The drawing room window in the clue picture can be seen on Park Elms house on Park Lane

Tuesday, 22nd January 2019, 12:52 pm
Updated Tuesday, 22nd January 2019, 12:58 pm
Elms Park Lane in 1862 was the home of Cutlery Manufacturer Mr Abraham Brooksbank

In 1862 Mr Abraham Brooksbank was living here with his family.

An advert placed in the Sheffield Independent on the August 23, 1862, read: “To be let with early possession, the commodious dwelling house “Park Elms” Broomhall Park, now occupied by Mr A Brooksbank.

Abraham Brooksbank knives

“The house contains dining, drawing and breakfast rooms, with a kitchen on the ground floor, four chambers and a dressing room, a water closet and convenient store closets, with cellars and wash kitchen on a level with the yard.

“The house is fitted throughout with gas and is well supplied with water.

“For rent and particulars apply to Messrs Pye Smith and Wightman, 3, Hartshead, Sheffield.“

So Abraham didn’t own the property. A similar advert appeared in the same paper only one month before, on July 29, 1862 for the very same property, but this time the occupant was listed as a Mrs Keturea Bradbury, wife of Thomas Bradbury II Electro Plate manufacturer.

Abraham Brooksbank knife

Mrs Bradbury vacated the property for Abraham but it seems it didn’t suit Abraham, hence the advert.

Like many successful business men living in Sheffield during the Victorian era, Abraham was not born in Sheffield. He was originally from Bermondsey, in south London, where he was born on February 27, 1822.

His family were in the leather trade, and he himself was apprenticed to hardware, and came to Sheffield to work when his indentures were ended.

In 1847, when Williams Hoole's business in Malinda Street fell on evil times, Abraham stepped up and bought it, and the firm of Hoole & Brooksbank was formed.

Mr Hoole, however, went to London, and Mr Brooksbank remained in Sheffield working alone, conducting a local business as general merchant.

Later he was joined by his nephew, Mr Bryant Turner, the firm taking on the title of Abram Brooksbank & Co.

By 1849 Abraham was listed as a merchant and maker of steel, files, saws and cutlery.

As Geoff Tweedale’s writes in his directory, the company specialised in table knives, and folding cutlery, such as lamb foot knives.

His mark was a cannon with the word Defiance written below it.

The firm obtained a silver mark in 1895 and, in the 1851 Great Exhibition, they exhibited files and rasps.

By 1861 the firm had grown and had around 100 workers on their books. In the 1861 census, it showed that Abraham employed a cook and a housemaid at Park Elms, so life was good for him and his wife Kate at that time.

In 1865, the Dale Dyke Dam burst which resulted in Abraham claiming £5.7s. 5d. Which he did successfully. By the 1880s, the firm started to make and sell machine knives, farriers knives, also pen and pocket cutlery. At this time, Abraham went into partnership with Benjamin Patey Tregenza who lived at 46 Ashland Road. He was a commercial traveller and very experienced too and, with Benjamin joining the company, it was re-named Abram Brooksbank & Co.

Sadly Benjamin Treganza died on September 30, 1885, aged just 52 years.

By the 1890s Abraham’s Ipswich-born nephew, Bryant Turner joined the firm. He was a fully trained merchant clerk, so Abraham saw him as an asset to the firm. It was widely noticed in the town that Abram had a brilliant brain for business and acquired a respected reputation among his peers.

In 1874 his municipal activities began; he had placed his business on a sound footing, and was quite ready to devote some portion of his life to the service of the town of his adoption.

The two representatives of St. Philip's, Messrs. Gamble and J. H. Andrew, were retiring in that year, the latter resigned, and Messrs. Gamble and Brooksbank were unopposed.

In 1877, Mr Brooksbank retained his seat, defeating Mr Reuben Clark, and in 1880 he was again honoured by an unopposed return to the council. In that year he allowed himself to be put forward as a candidate for the Mayoralty, the Liberals then championing Alderman Michael Hunter, but Mr Brooksbank was returned by 31 votes against 26.

In the following month Mr Mark Firth died, a vacancy thus arising on the Aldermanic Bench, and Mr Brooksbank, then Mayor, and Mr J. W. Pye-Smith were nominated for the vacancy. A tie resulted, and the Mayor, Mr Brooksbank, gave his vote in favour of Mr Pye-Smith.

Previously that year, on November 9, there had also been a tie, between Alderman Robert Leader and Mr J. W. Pye-Smith, and then the Mayor, Mr Brooksbank, gave his casting vote in favour of Mr Leader.

While staying at the Victoria Hotel during a visit to London, he died suddenly on April 21, 1890 aged 68. He was brought home and buried a couple of days later in the Ecclesall churchyard.

He left quite a tidy sum, totalling £71,333. His Bryant and Douglas Turner became partners up to 1910 when Bryant became the sole owner.

The firm continued to produce goods on Malinda Street. In 1932 the order book and assets were bought by Needham, Veal & Tyzack of Milton Street, I can safely say that Brooksbank was still producing at the Brucut Works on Boston Street in the late sixties, and they are listed in the 1974 Whites Directory still at the same site.

I once visited the works in the late sixties. The Brooksbank name is very rare in the Sheffield cutlery trade and this is why I'm sure this was the last place they produced cutlery prior to them closing.

Most of the information in this article is due to Geoff Tweedale’s Directory of Sheffield Cutlery Manufacturers. I thank him for giving permission to refer to this directory, plus thanks to Edmund from Ramsbottom for the census and the advert information.