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British Industrial History

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Thomas Boulsover

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Thomas Boulsover (1704–1788), Sheffield cutler and the inventor of Sheffield Plate

1704[1]Born in what is now the Ecclesfield district of the city of Sheffield.

1720 Apprenticed to a maker of scythes and sickles

1727 Boulsover completed his apprenticeship and gained his freedom of the Cutlers Co

He made a fortune from manufacture of shovels, saws, sickles, and garden tools.

c1740 Set up his own workshop on the corner of Tudor Street and Surrey Street in Sheffield's city centre.

It was at these premises that, in 1743, he discovered (by accident it is said, while repairing the handle of a knife) that silver could be relatively easily fused onto copper and that the resulting "sandwich" could be fabricated effectively, by hammering and rolling, as one material while maintaining the outer appearance of pure silver. This material became known as Sheffield Plate and Boulsover, in partnership with fellow Sheffielder Joseph Wilson, began to manufacture buttons, buckles, spurs and small boxes of the material. The business was funded by Strelley Pegge of Beauchief.

Subsequently he moved on to making sheets of plated metal.

By the early 1750 Boulsover is thought to have ceased making silver-plated objects apart from metal sheet.

Joseph Hancock, one of Boulsover's apprentices, subsequently also began to make artistic pieces, especialmente dishes and trays and holloware such as coffee-pots, seeing the possibility of producing silver-plated goods to compete with those produced by silversmiths.

1757 Bought Whiteley Wood Hall and 100 acres of land from Strelley Pegge, where he built a mill. This was intended to be for paper production, but this failed because of excessive ochre in the water.

He then decided build a forge and rolling mill for the production of saws - see Whiteley Wood Forge

1765 He legally conveyed the forge and mill to his son-in-law Joseph Mitchell.

1772 Thomas' wife Hannah died; she was buried in St Paul's Church Sheffield.

1788 September 9th. Thomas died at his home at Whiteley Wood Hall, on the River Porter and was buried alongside his wife.

There are two monuments in Sheffield erected in memory of Thomas Boulsover, one in Whiteley Woods on the hillside between Wire Mill Dam and Porter Brook, and the other in Tudor Square, in the city centre.


See Also

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Sources of Information

  1. The Times 20 Feb 1934
  • Wikipedia
  • The Times 20 Feb 1934
  • "Water Power on the Sheffield Rivers" edited by Christine Ball, David Crossley and Neville Flavell, 2nd Edition: South Yorkshire Industrial History Society, 2006

[1]Tilt Hammer website