Unrivalled collection has some of world’s rarest tools

It`s been a busy few months at the Ken Hawley Collection Trust, probably the largest collection of items relating to light tools and cutlery industry in Sheffield and the world. We estimate that we have over 100,000 objects and we are approaching the milestone of cataloguing 40,000 items.

Tuesday, 5th November 2019, 10:00 am
Updated Wednesday, 6th November 2019, 11:51 am
One of the discoveries was a pocket knife with 104 blades

For over fifty years Ken collected the tools, the ‘tools that made the tools’, catalogues, photographs and information connected with the Sheffield tool, cutlery and silversmithing industries. During his working life, including thirty years selling tools in his own shop in Sheffield, he acquired an unrivalled knowledge about Sheffield’s industrial heritage.

It was Ken Hawley’s wish that the Hawley Collection stay in Sheffield to provide exhibitions, displays and information for the people of Sheffield and visitors to the city. He saw the collection as a tribute to the craftsmanship, skills and excellence displayed over the centuries by Sheffield firms and workpeople.

Sadly, Ken died in 2014 but the collection continues to grow.

Hawley Collection, which is housed at Kelham Island Museum, received a grant from The Heritage Lottery Fund

2019 has seen the successful Heritage Lottery Bid `Name on a Knife Blade`, the acquisition of a major collection from the south of England, the launch of a major exhibition on Joseph Bramah, good links with local industry and American tool collectors. A series of talks and visits opening up the collection .

The `Name on a Knife Blade Project, has accessioned over 1,000 Sheffield table knives, all of which bear the surnames of Sheffield families. The next exciting phase of the project is the development of an interactive feature.

This will allow families to type in their surname and see if they have their name on a knife blade (available January 2020). A series of free talks are now available on Wednesday November 13, 2pm a chance to explore old tool and cutlery catalogues . An extra talk has been slotted in on Thursday, November 7, 2pm as a result of the discovery that a major breadboard industry was also significant in Sheffield.

Several more talks are programmed for the New Year. A bit of research turned up some interesting stories. In the early `30s Proctor and Gamble were trying to break into the English market.

Is your name on a knife?

They ordered a million bread knives from A.E Thompson and gave away vouchers for washing powder with the knives. One aim of the knife project is to collect significant items and memorabilia that is still sitting with Sheffield families. We recently had some fabulous pearl items from George Saville, a former pearl carver.

Another recent acquisition at Hawley is the loan of the Toolbank collection that adorned their boardroom.

The collection arrived in fifteen pallets that have been carefully unpacked by volunteers. One of the discoveries was a pocket knife with 104 blades. It was disappointing that none of the blades bore a Sheffield company name , but a chance visit with said knife to the eagle-eyed 92-year-old `Little Mester ‘ Stan Shaw revealed a small scratched mark of a golfer, the mark of Sheffield Cutlers Dickenson and John Blyde .

It is fantastic when a museum can come to the aid of Sheffield Industry. A couple of weeks ago an employee of Thomas Flynn turned up to ask if we could help find a saw pattern to allow them to meet an American order for logging saws. We were able to find the exact match of the saw they needed , allowing them to fulfil an export order.

Pearl Items from George Saville a former Pearl carver

A recent visit from some prestigious tool collectors from the USA highlighted how rare some of the items in the collection are. We have some of the rarest tools in the world and our visitors made a significant donation to support the collection's work .

At the moment we have a major exhibition of the work of Joseph Bramah, a local inventor of toilet cisterns , padlocks, hydraulic presses and fire engines (one currently on display kindly loaned from Barnsley museum).

If you wish to visit the collection it is open at the usual Kelham Island Museum opening times Sunday to Thursday 11am until 4pm . For further details of the talks programme and other information available at www.hawleycollection.com or Name on a Knife Blade Facebook group

Exact match of the Saw needed allowing them to fulfil an export order
Ken Hawley founding collector of the Hawley Collection
Pictured is Ken Hawley founding collector of the Hawley Collection,which is housed at Kelham Island Museum,who have received a grant from The Heritage Lottery Fund