DETAILED DESCRIPTION

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Overview

This page includes more detailed information about each of the 19 numbered stations within the Museum. The individual sections are linked from references in the list of symbols and also from the information in pages 6 and 7 of this guide. This information will be appended to the audio version of this commentary.

Note that links to this page from pages 4 - 7 will open in separate windows.

The Numbered Stations

1, Bessemer Converter
2, Town Guns
3, Crossley Gas Engine
4, Light Trades
5, Die Sinking Workshop
6, Tom Parkin's Workshop
7, Steam Hammer
8, Audio Visual Area
9, River Don Engine
10, Melting Shop, Soft Play Area
11, Hawley Collection
12, Crucible Shop
13, Stone Garden
14, Steel Works Railway Wagon
15, Little Mesters Lane
16, Brearley Room
17, Millowners Arms
18, National Fairground Archive
19, Charlesworth Transport Gallery

1, Bessemer Converter

The Bessemer Converter was a new way of mass producing bulk steel invented by Henry Bessemer in 1856. It meant that steel could be produced on a larger scale, at a faster pace, and at a cheaper cost. The conversion process turned molten pig iron into pure steel. The large cylindrical vessel was constructed mainly from melted iron plates. It was lined with heat-resistant material and the base was filled with bricks with holes in. The huge converter could be tilted to make it easier to fill with raw materials and pour out the finished steel. Molten pig iron was poured into the converter and hot air blasted through the base. A massive explosion took place when the iron reacted with the oxygen. This burnt the impurities away, leaving liquid wrought iron that was free from slag. The molten steel was then poured into a mould and forged down to make mild steel.

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2, Town Guns

The Town Guns are large bronze cast guns. They were made in 1795 by Francis Kinman, a brass founder of 7 New Street Square in London. The guns were made for the Sheffield Loyal Independent Volunteers, one of many volunteer companies set up at the end of the 1700s because of possible revolt and invasion. In 1821, the town guns were handed over by the volunteers to the Town Trustees. The Town Trustees were one of three groups who handled the administration of the town before the Borough and Corporation was created in 1843. The other two groups were the Church Burgesses and the Company of Cutlers in Hallamshire. Finally, in 1974, the guns went to Sheffield Museums and were stored at Kelham Island until the museum opened in 1982.

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3, Crossley Gas Engine

The Crossley Gas Engine is an internal combustion engine that drove a small steel rolling mill at George Clark’s on Penistone Road, not far from the museum. It was made by Crossley Brothers of Manchester in 1915 and is one of the largest single cylinder engines made by the company. For the display, the engine is powered by electricity.

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4, Light Trades

The light trades of cutlery and tool making are two of the industries that played a part in forging Sheffield’s identity and reputation on a global scale. In this area you can find out about the varied products that were produced, how they were made and the skills of the workers. The first Sheffield cutler was recorded in the town in 1297. At this time many towns made knives but few had the advantage of Sheffield’s natural resources. By harnessing the town’s rivers, Sheffield’s water-powered workshops gained a clear competitive edge over their rivals. The term cutlery means any tool used for preparing or eating food that has a cutting blade. Today we often think of spoons and forks as cutlery, but these are actually flatware!

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5, Die Sinking Workshop

This is a reconstruction of a die sinking workshop from James Dixon and Sons, Sheffield. The factory was in Cornish Place, near the museum, in a building that has since been converted into apartments. Dies are metal blocks that stamp out shapes from sheets of metal to make items such as trays, spoons and forks. The machines in the workshop were powered by line shafting. Power came from a large central source, such as a waterwheel, and was transferred from the shaft to the machinery by a system of belts and pulleys.

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6, Tom Parkin's Workshop

This is a reconstruction of a cutler’s workshop from Rockingham Lane, Sheffield, where the machinery was in use until 1968. Here the cutler received the ground blades, made and fitted the handles and gave the knives their final finish. This workshop reflects the traditional and simple technology that was used by the cutlery trade before mass production took over.

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7, Steam Hammer

Charles Ross of Sheffield built this steam hammer around 1900. It was one of the smallest steam hammers in use at the time. It was used at Eaton & Booth’s, who forged metal products. Their works was on Penistone Road. The steam hammer was invented by engineer, James Nasmyth. In the early 1800s, the ship-building industry started to use steel instead of wood, but the tilt hammers they used to shape steel were not big enough to make the parts for large ships like SS Great Britain. The Great Western Railway Company came to Nasmyth because he had a reputation for solving engineering problems. The SS Great Britain needed a wrought iron paddle shaft that was larger than any previously forged. Nasmyth invented a powerful new forge hammer driven by steam. The steam hammer was easily controlled so it was accurate too. It could make small items as well as large steel plates.

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8, Audio Visual Area

Here you can choose between three different archive films showing scenes of Sheffield’s industrial past. There are three buttons on the wall to the left of the screen.

The first film is five minutes long. It is called Steam, Birch and Steel. It shows the River Don Engine, the museum’s most famous exhibit, in action powering a rolling mill at the River Don Works in Sheffield.

The second film is seven minutes long and is called The River Don Engine: Stories from the Steelworks. It features people who used to work with the River Don Engine.

The third film is much longer than the other two films – 25 minutes. It is called Women of Steel and is about the experiences of women who took on jobs in the steel works during the Second World War when the men were away fighting.

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9, River Don Engine

The 12,000 horse power River Don Engine was built by Davy Brothers of Sheffield in 1905 for Charles Cammell, who owned an armour plate rolling mill in Grimesthorpe. The engine ran at Cammell's mill for almost 50 years before being moved to the River Don Steel Works (which is how the engine got its name). There is a piece of armour plate on display in the corner over there that will give you an idea of what this engine produced. At the River Don Works, the engine continued to drive a heavy plate mill, producing products like stainless steel reactor shields and steel plates for North Sea oil rigs. In 1978, the engine was ‘retired’ and transferred to the museum, where it has been ever since.

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10, Melting Shop, Soft Play Area

In this activity space, children up to 9 years old can find out how Sheffielders made, shaped and used steel. Through play, they follow the process of being melted, rolled and hammered in the factory. It is a fully immersive experience and particularly effective for visual and active learners. Children begin their imaginative journey in the furnace (a ball pool) as iron and become molten metal. They climb through the Bessemer converter to become steel and pour themselves down a slide to land as glowing red-hot ingots that change colour as they cool. From the ingot mould mat they roll themselves through a rolling mill and end up being hammered by a giant steam hammer.

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11, Hawley Collection

The Hawley Gallery opened in 2010 as the first permanent display space for the collection of one man, Ken Hawley. Ken started collecting tools and related objects in the mid-1950s. There are over 100,000 objects in the Hawley Collection, all relating to Sheffield’s tool and cutlery manufacturing industry. Inside the gallery there are lots of things to discover and explore including; a giant saw wall, an A-Z of Tools and other tactile displays.

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12, Crucible Shop

The Crucible Shop display is based in one of the few remaining Crucible Works in Sheffield. This building was a Crucible Furnace for Russell Works, owned by the saw makers, Wheatman and Smith. The theme of the display is ‘The Changing Face of Work in Sheffield’. It uses oral history recordings, images and artefacts to show what it was like working in Sheffield’s steel industry during three eras: the 1850s, 1950s and 2000s. In the gallery you can compare work wear, lunches, pay, training, and work-linked social activities.

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13, Stone Garden

The Stone Garden is an outdoor display of carved lettering, coats of arms and figures. These reliefs once had pride of place on the impressive factory entrances of historic Sheffield firms, including the Queen’s Road Tram Depot. The Stone Garden has been designed as a tactile experience for all, but is of particular value to visitors with visual impairments.

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14, Steel Works Railway Wagon

Railway wagons like this one were used to move massive ladles of molten steel between the different parts of the steelworks for casting. Hot liquid steel was poured into a mould and then allowed to cool and become a solid shape. The moulds for the liquid steel were made by pressing wooden patterns into sand. This left an indented shape or mould into which the molten steel could be poured. Transporting large amounts of molten steel around the foundries for casting could be dangerous. In the beginning workers had little protection. Today, following the Health and Safety at Work Act employees are better protected and are given equipment like ear plugs to protect them from noise and suits to shield them from the heat.

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15, Little Mesters Lane

Little Mesters Lane is a reconstruction of the kind of Sheffield street where self-employed craftspeople used to work. The Little Mesters were a network of people based in small workshops or from their own homes and had a reputation for skilled work and quality products. They were often described as the backbone of Sheffield’s cutlery and tool-making industries. Little Mesters were self-employed and specialised in different stages of the production such as forging, grinding or finishing and also worked particular products, such as razors, penknives or surgical instruments. Only a handful of Little Mesters remain in Sheffield today, but you can see some of them working in the museum.

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16, Brearley Room

This is the museum’s temporary exhibition space. Each year, we take the opportunity to showcase different parts of the collection, often presenting stories linked to anniversaries or other key events in Sheffield’s industrial history.

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17, Millowners Arms

The Millowners Arms display explains the growth of Sheffield’s brewing industry and the role that pubs played in quenching the thirst of hot and dusty steelworkers. Victorian Sheffield had over 1400 licensed premises at its peak. The gallery is named after its funders – the River Don Millowners Association. The Association was set up in the 1800s, at a time when waterpower was vital for Sheffield’s industry. Mills and works along the river needed water to power machinery, produce steam and provide cooling. The Millowners Association negotiated with the Sheffield Waterworks Company and town councils in Sheffield and Barnsley to make sure there was always enough water to power the mills.

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18, National Fairground Archive

This resource room explores how travelling fairs and circuses have developed alongside Sheffield’s industry. The displays cover several key areas, including local fairground families, the engineering behind the fun and the effect of wild animals in the city. You can also discover on a timeline display how the decorative arts of the fairground have evolved to reflect fashion and popular culture from 1850 – 2000. The National Fairground Archive is housed in the Western Bank Library, at the University of Sheffield. It is a unique collection covering the history of travelling fairgrounds and allied entertainments including the circus, sideshows and variety performers.

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19, Charlesworth Transport Gallery

This gallery explores the story of transport in Sheffield. The displays were made possible by the generosity of Tom Charlesworth, a Sheffield born engineer and steam engine enthusiast. As a major manufacturing centre, Sheffield needed a good transport system to carry raw materials and goods in and out, as well as for transporting workers and customers around the city. Sheffield has also made various forms of transport, from bicycles and cars, to railway locomotives, lorries and even jet engines. Some examples are on display.

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© 2014, Terry Robinson