History & Buildings
History & Buildings
The fast flowing water of Sheffield’s streams, together with ready availability of raw materials, resulted in Sheffield's industrial development from an early date, water being the main source of power for the early cutlery industry for which the city became world famous.
During the heyday of water-powered sites between the 17th and 18th centuries, Sheffield’s rivers supported over 160 mills, many continuing to operate into the 19th century. They were gradually eclipsed by the steam engine and arrival of the railways which moved the centre of industry away from the rivers and their rural setting into the town and nearer developing transport routes.
Abbeydale Works was one of the largest water powered sites on the River Sheaf. Crown scythes, forged under tilt hammers, and patent riveted scythes were the main products manufactured here along with agricultural edge tools such as grass hooks and hay knives.
The earliest known records for the site date back to 1713 but it’s possible the site has been occupied prior to this. In the 13th century the monks of nearby Beauchief Abbey had a smithy in the vicinity and in 1685, Hugh Stephenson rented ‘New Wheel’ which can be traced through the rent books as the same site. The Works remained in continuous occupation until 1933 when production ceased.
In 1777 the dam was enlarged during the Goddard family’s tenancy bringing on a period of expansion. The Tilt Forge was built in 1742, the Worker’s Cottage by 1793 and present day Grinding Hull in 1817. By the 1830s the site included a Crucible Steel furnace of the type invented by Benjamin Huntsmen in 1742, a number of hand forges, warehouse and offices.
The Manager’s House, built in 1838 and the Coach House and Stables about 1840, were the last buildings to be erected apart from the first story warehouse over the Blacking shop added in 1876.
During the 19th century Abbeydale had its share of industrial problems. In 1842 the Grinding Hull was blown up with gunpowder, the Grinders Union registering its disapproval of Dyson employing non-union labour.
Joshua Tyzack, joint manager of the works in 1862 was shot at 5 times and two other explosions of accidental nature also occurred. In 1870, the central heating boiler in the blacking shop blew up killing 2 men and in 1912 a grindstone burst in the Grinding hull killing a scythe grinder.
In 1933 the firm of Tyzack Sons and Turner who were tenants from 1849 ceased production concentrating their manufacturing at the Little London Works down river. During the Second World War the Crucible Furnace was re lit to produce high quality steel for the war effort.
The site was purchased by the Alderman J G Graves Trust in 1935 and donated to the City of Sheffield. It was restored by the Council for the Conservation of Sheffield Antiquities and developed as a museum by the City of Sheffield Museums Department who opened it to the public in April 1970.
The site was transferred to Kelham Island Museum Trust in the late 1990s and is now managed by Sheffield Industrial Museums Trust.
Copyright Sheffield City Museums.