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default A visit to Kelham Island

Post by Chilli-head on 11th June 2012, 2:23 pm

Maybe this is not what "Heritage crafts" means to everyone, but as some of you may know, I was born in Sheffield. My father was (is !) a metal worker, and his father worked first in the coal mines that fed the furnaces of Sheffield, then in one of it's many foundries. So Sheffield steel, and the tools made from it are a part of my heritage. Yesterday I took my DS to see something of that.

Along the main road into Sheffield, the view over the rust stained water of the Don to the red brick factories and gas holders which I remember from childhood has now largely been replaced by car showrooms and fast food outlets. Turning off towards Alma Street is like taking a 100 year step back in time to works labelled with names like Tyzack. Kelham became an island when waterways were diverted to supply the needs of steelworking, and you know when you've found the museum by the sight of the huge Bessemer converter which stands outside. Inside is a treasure trove of industrial heritage, including the most dramatic exhibit, the River Don engine, a steam engine whose three 40 inch cyclinders generate 12000 horsepower for rolling steel armour plate. It still runs to or three times a day, and is an awesome sight.

The other thing that I enjoyed, being a tool nut, was the Hawley Collection. I am just old enough to remember the wonderful Hawley's tool shop just off the Moor in Sheffield, where you could buy almost any conceivable tool. Well, proprietor Ken Hawley is still with us, and some of his tool collection is on display. Cabinets of tools by Sorby, Aaron Hildick, Marples and other famous Sheffield names. All still looking shiny and new !! I could not help drooling for a while Very Happy

One final thing that made an impression on me is just how much Sheffield is still shaped by the steel industry. When I was a teenager I became very aware that Sheffield is blessed with a good collection of breweries. Not till yesterday, though, did I realise the reason; lifting crucilbles of white hot steel is thirsty work, and ale was needed to quench the foundrymens' thirst ! Imagine the health and safety issues of that ! Less obviously, the woods around Sheffield still have a lot of SIlver birch - this was planted to provide birch twigs, which were thrown onto the hot steel as it was rolled to remove scale.

Anway, a great little museum !

Kelhan Island museum
The Hawley Tool Collection
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Post by Dandelion on 11th June 2012, 5:50 pm

It sounds like a really good day out CH. (It took me back to my school days, having to do endless cross-section drawings of Bessemer converters...)

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The richer we have become materially, the poorer we have become morally and spiritually. We have learned to fly in the air like birds and swim in the sea like fish, but we have not learned the simple art of living together as brothers and sisters.

-Martin Luther King, Jr.
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Post by freebird on 11th June 2012, 6:48 pm

Oooh. I will have to put the man onto this (actually, maybe he already knows about it and just never thought to tell me). He is from Doncaster, and although we live in SE England, his mother still lives up there. He apprenticed as a boiler maker with British Rail back in the 60s, does metal work and welding when he gets the chance and loves tools. Whilst not directly part of his own history, I think he would really enjoy a visit. Thanks for that, CH.
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