Holloware Industry

Die Sinkers and Culters Workshops Kelham Island Museum

In addition to cutlery Sheffield was also internationally noted for its skills and craftsmanship in producing fine tableware and decorative items.

There were two main industries; Britannia Metal and Old Sheffield Plate. Old Sheffield Plate was a method of fusing silver on to copper which allowed the production of cheaper items which looked like silver. The method was invented by Thomas Boulsover in 1742. Of particular interest are the methods developed to mass produce the tableware and decorative items such as die stamping, spinning and fly piercing all now used all over the world as mass production methods.

The Britannia Metal industry's introduction to Sheffield was attributed to James Vickers in the 1760s. The metal was similar to pewter but easier to stamp and could be polished to a silver sheen. Sheffield became a centre for its manufacture and shipped goods all over Britain and exported goods to Europe and America. Electroplating and modern pewter manufacture largely superseded both Britannia Metal and Old Sheffield Plate after the 1850s.

Sheffield Galleries and Museums Trust has a collection of Old Sheffield Plate of international importance which is unequalled in its range and the largest collection of Britannia Metal of any museum in Britain (part of the designated Metalware Collection). Sheffield Industrial Museums Trust seeks to complement this by collecting products related to the manufacturing process of holloware. The collection is estimated at 500 items and includes buffing and chasing tools, dies and die making machinery, burnishing tools, engraving tools, punches and hammers.

On display in the main gallery at Kelham Island Museum is a complete Die Sinker's workshop from the famous company James Dixon and Sons of Cornish Place in Sheffield. Dixon's were famous for producing Britannia metal, silverware and cutlery. The die-sinking workshop was used to produce dies for the manufacture of silver and plated holloware and flatware.