What Happened to the Sheffield Tool-Makers?
After growing-up watching well-known tool factories close, fall into dereliction and be redeveloped I decided to track down the fates of at least the Big Boys. As with the steel industry, it’s easy to assume that the Sheffield tool industry is now part of history but that isn’t the case. It is smaller than it was but certainly not dead. As old firms vanished a few new ones started-up, Clifton and Crown being obvious examples.
Atkinson-Walker Taken over by Sheffield Industrial Saws in 2018.
James Chesterman Merged with John Rabone of Birmingham in 1963 to form Rabone-Chesterman. Taken over by Stanley in 1989 who closed the factory and dropped use of the name. More recently they have resurrected the Rabone name however.
Dormer Still going as Dormer-Pramet from premises in Chesterfield.
Eclipse This has always been a James Neill brand so is now a Spear & Jackson one. Who actually makes the products and where is anybody’s guess but odds-on it’s in the Far East.
Thomas Flinn & Co Took over E Garlick & Son in 1999 and Clifton Planes in 2014. They now claim to be the UK’s last traditional saw-maker, which is probably true if you discount individual artisans. This being the case they also make saws for other companies to put their names on.
Footprint Were doing well and in 2008 invested in a new factory. Then the Credit Crunch happened and they went bust. Luckily the owning Jewitt family managed to retain control of the name and salvage enough from the wreck to start again manufacturing a much smaller, though slowly expanding, range of tools as Footprint Sheffield Ltd, rather than the former Footprint Tools Ltd.
E Garlick & Son Taken over my Thomas Flinn in 1999 who still use the name.
Joseph Marples Still going and independently owned by his descendants.
William Marples & Sons Sold in 1963, half to Record and half to William Ridgway. The Hibernia Works site was sold off and Marples moved to a new factory in Dronfield. For later fate see Record-Ridgway.
Moore & Wright Owned by Spear & Jackson and still going.
James Neil Group Known as Spear & Jackson since 1995.
Presto Still going from premises in Chapeltown, Sheffield.
Record Merged with William Ridgway in 1972 to become Record-Ridgway.
Alfred Ridge & Sons Bought by the Jewitt family in 1932. In 1968 they merged all their companies into a single one called Footprint Tools Ltd.
Record-Ridgway/Wm Marples Still exist as names owned by Stanley-Black & Decker via their acquisition of American Tool Corp Inc which are applied to tools made by other people.
William Ridgway & Sons Merged with Record in 1972 to become Record-Ridgway.
I Sorby/I & H Sorby Became part of Wm Marples.
Robert Sorby Owned by Spear and Jackson and still going.
Spear & Jackson Taken over by the James Neil Group in 1985. In 1995 the group renamed itself Spear & Jackson and the name is now applied to a wide range of tools, and other things, made by other companies.
Stanley Obviously an American multi-national rather than strictly a Sheffield firm but worth a mention. Their Sheffield factories were closed in 2008 and operations moved to a new one in Hellaby, Rotherham which is still operating.
W Tyzack, Sons & Turner Taken over by W A Tyzack in 1988.
W A Tyzack Went bust in 2008.
Woden Actually a Black Country company but became part of Record in 1961. Record simply stuck the Woden name on some of their own products until the 1970s. They did however add Woden’s version of the 78 Duplex Rebate Plane to their line as the Record 778. This is still available with the Record name on.