Strategically located in the county of South Yorkshire, the 142-square mile city of Sheffield is a sight to behold. With the view of the hills of the Pennines and the valleys of Derbyshire, it’s one of the most scenic cities in England. Aside from the beauty this city has and the fact that its university specializes in metallurgical programs, there is a lot about the roots of Sheffield that is worth mentioning. This city is not only rich in metals but also rich in history.
First known as Escafeld, the name of the city of Sheffield is of Old English origin. “Shef” was believed to be derived from the name of the nearby River Sheaf, which meant to separate, and “field” from an Old English word “feld” meaning forest clearing. Between the 6th and 9th century, Anglo-Saxons built their settlements near the River Don and River Sheaf before the Norse came and settled in the area in the late 9th century. One of the remains of the Anglo-Saxon settlement is a shaft of a stone cross which was thought to be from the Sheffield parish church.
Due to the strategic location of the city and its natural abundance of ganister, coal, and iron ore, Sheffield became a boomtown and an industrial workplace starting as early as the 14th century when people started to convert their water wheels into small blade factories for knives. Not long after, in 1600, the city was to hold the crown of the major producer of cutlery in England next to London. By the early 1740s, different kinds of metallurgical alloys were invented and used for cutlery.
A Sheffield cutler, Thomas Boulsover, created a technique in 1742 that made the very first silver-plated copper through fusion, now popularly referred to as Sheffield plate. To make it, an ingot of copper is fused with a thin sheet of silver and then fired until the silver melts. The first Sheffield plate-made material was silver buttons, but with the help of Boulsover’s apprentice, Joseph Hancock, other equipment was produced as well.
Primarily, most of Sheffield plate materials are found in the kitchen such as eating utensils and other kitchen and tableware. Although the production of authentic Sheffield plates has ceased since the 1870s, this type of metal has become a popular collector’s item.
Sheffield incurred plenty of damage during the world wars in the 20th century. The city was forced to produce ammunition and weapons for WWII, thus making it the object of bombing raids, leading to more than 660 lives lost and hundreds of properties destroyed.
After the wars, a whole heap of changes affected the city. Housing schemes and new roads were constructed and even though the manufacturing industry weakened, the city tried to rebuild its city center through a series of projects called Sheffield One.