Unique saw returns to Sheffield after 160 years

Millions of saws have been produced in Sheffield factories over the centuries and Sheffield craftsmen continue to produce high-quality saws today.  But none of them can match the extraordinary saw which has gone on display at the Hawley Tool Collection at Kelham Island Museum in the heart of the city – the Princess Victoria saw.

In 1858 Queen Victoria and Prince Albert’s eldest child, Victoria Adelaide Mary Louisa, married the Crown Prince of Prussia, Frederick William, in the chapel of St James’s Palace in London.  Among a huge number of gifts, the couple received a special saw made by the Sheffield firm of Taylor Brothers.

This saw is unique: nothing like it had ever been made in England, nor was ever made again.  It brought together the supreme skills of the saw maker, the ivory carver, and the designer and etcher.

The steel blade is etched in bas-relief with the royal arms, and with the inscription: May God’s Blessing attend the Marriage of his Royal Highness Prince Frederick William Of Prussia With her Royal Highness the Princess Royal of England.  The decoration includes the two national symbols of oak leaves and laurel leaves, and the toe, or end, of the blade is cut out in the form of a swan, symbolising marital constancy.

The elaborately carved ivory handle includes a symbolic cornucopia, or horn of plenty, and a dolphin, and is attached to the blade by two nickel-plated screws.  The brass back is engraved: Presented By Messrs Taylor Brothers, Saw Manufacturers, Adelaide Works, Sheffield.

It is believed that the saw left the ownership of the royal couple’s family sometime in the 20th century and became part of a collection of ornamental tools owned by the Swiss collector Luigi Nessi.  After his death in 2012, the saw was bought by an Austrian dealer, from whom the Ken Hawley Collection Trust acquired it as the result of a public appeal.  The largest part of this funding came from the Arts Council England, the Victoria & Albert Museum Purchase Grant Fund, the JG Graves Charitable Trust, the Freshgate Trust Foundation and many individual donors in Britain and across the world.

“The Trust is deeply grateful to all of these donors,” said Trust Chair Keith Crawshaw.  “Their support has made it possible for us to bring back to its birthplace one of the most remarkable objects ever manufactured in Sheffield.”

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