Sheffield is steeped in history when it comes to steel production. It is therefore only fitting that the city operates a full-fledged steel museum on Kelham Island, a man-made island diverting the River Don. The multifaceted exhibition takes you back as far as the 14th century, when Geoffrey Chaucer, in his “Canterbury Tales,” referred to a knife as a “Sheffield thwitel.” Kelham Island Museum documents the unparalleled transformation of a small rural town into a world-class center of metals excellence.
The River Don Engine—a steam engine—is a giant of a machine. It was made by Davy Brothers in 1905 to power the mill of plate-producer Grimesthorpe Works.
In the 1900s, smoothing and polishing metal objects such as spoons and teapots was the most common occupation for women in Sheffield’s metals industry.
The steam hammer was invented in 1849 and made workers’ lives dramatically easier. Charles Ross of Sheffield built the unit on display at the museum around 1900.
This armor plate was used in the U.K.’s first iron warship to set out to sea. The plates used for the HMS Warrior were five meters long and 90 centimeters wide.
The Crossley Gas Engine, powered by “town gas” made from coal, was used until 1970 to run a rolling mill at George Clarke Ltd. It produced rods and bars.
This slightly ominous-looking apparatus was employed to cut steel into shape. Highly skilled operators were required to properly and safely run the machine.
“Little Mesters’ Lane” is a faithful depiction of what a typical street of craftsmen would have looked like. The “little mesters” were quality-focused specialist toolmakers.
Here, we get to peek into the shop window of one of the “mesters.” They did jobs such as scythe grinding, file hardening, and handle finishing—all with precision.
In the era of electric vehicles, this may come as a surprise: this “milk float” is an early example of the battery-powered cars that were used to deliver milk in the 1940s.
Different shaped dies were fixed into this press to stamp out cutlery and small tools. The operator put a piece of metal between the two dies and squashed it into shape.
This hydraulic press was made in the early 1800s. From 1806 to 1874, the British army used it at the Tower of London for one of its responsibilities: map making.
Sheffield’s Simplex Motor Works was the first British car company to include an electric starter motor in its designs—in 1913. Only U.S.-based Cadillac did so earlier.