Sipelia Works

Sipelia Works on Cadman Street is closely tied to the history of steel making and the cutlery trade of the 19th and 20th centuries. Built for Eyre, Ward & Co between 1850 and 1855 it represents not only the industrialisation of Sheffield , but also the development of a city, the growth of the nations in North and South America and the movement from rural to urban life.

The works is a later part of the Sheaf Works, which was built by William Greaves & Sons in 1825 and was the first integrated steel works in Sheffield . It was a revolution in the process of making cutlery and edge tools.

William Greaves began his business at Burgess Street in 1775. The company moved twice during the next 46 years as they became established not only as manufacturers but also as merchants. The demand for their products grew so much, particularly in the American market, that when the Sheffield Canal was opened in 1819, Sheaf Works was built beside it and opened in 1825. Swedish iron bars, coal and other materials were offloaded directly onto the site. The production of table knives, razors and edge tools was integrated on the site from processing the raw materials right through to finishing, making the works amongst the most efficient in the world. The finished products were exported by canal.

In 1849 the company started production of railway springs but shortly afterwards in 1850 the company closed. The cutlery line was taken over by Eyre Ward & Co. who built Sipelia Works a hundred yards or so on the opposite bank of the canal. Edge tool production was taken over by Thomas Turton & Sons.

The growth of the American market was the spur for the expansion of the Sheaf Works and the building of the Sipelia Works, but at the same time, the disruption of the business at this time led to the emigration of a large number of skilled employees from these works to Pittsburgh in the USA where their skills contributed, in large part, to the expansion of the American industry and the eventual loss of a large part of the City's lucrative North American export market.

In the 1930's the works were acquired by the Sipel brothers (hence its present name). The Sipels were German Jewish cutlers who escaped persecution in their home country. This family firm, which was headed by the daughter of one of the original brothers following their retirement, continued to trade until the mid 1970's when, like many Sheffield firms they became unable to compete with the cutlery industry of the far east.