TitleMarsh Brothers and Co Ltd, Steel Manufacturers, of Sheffield
AdminHistoryThe history of the Marsh cutlery family has been traced to 1631. By the late eighteenth century, the family had settled as spring knife cutlers in the Park district of Sheffield, where William Marsh & Son was listed in a directory in 1774. William Marsh (1737?-1780) had been granted his Freedom in 1758, when he acquired a mark featuring a Maltese Cross and the letter ‘y’, surmounted by a crown. This had been granted in 1713 to Samuel Shepherd – a family with which the Marshes became linked. William’s widow, Hannah, took over the business for a time, before her son, James Marsh (1761-1841), began expanding the business.

James Marsh & Co was established in 1810. It moved from Park to Castle Hill in about 1815 and then in 1822 to 3 Porter Street. James retired in 1819, when his firm’s capital was £10,000. He had already brought his sons, by his wife Margaret – William Marsh (bapt.1789-1860) and John Marsh (1791-1858) – into the firm. Also involved was James’s son-in-law, Thomas Shepherd (c.1806-1845). The latter became the senior partner and by the mid-1820s the firm was styled Marshes & Shepherd. Its products were particularly in demand in the USA, where another son of James – James Marsh (1792-1878) – was the agent in Philadelphia. The firm was concerned with the manufacture of table knives, pen knives, and other species of cutlery.

In 1828, Marshes & Shepherd moved to Ponds Works, Forge Lane. This was near Baker’s Hill (now the site of Ponds Forge sports centre). It was a typical courtyard-style factory, with house and garden, warehouse, counting house, forge, old waterwheels, crucible steel furnace, rolling mill, grindstones and engine house. In the 1830s, the firm erected converting furnaces for blister steel, at nearby Navigation Works. By the end of the 1840s, it had steelmaking capacity at Columbia Works, which had been vacated by John Brown.

Between 1828 and 1837, capital rose from £28,000 to £58,000, as the firm began to market steel, saws, files, and many different types of edge tools. In 1838, it acquired the tool business of James Cam (Cam & Birks). The company’s name could be found on pocket knives, table cutlery, butchers’ and palette knives, scissors, and razors. Many of these products were commissioned from outworkers. Further trade marks were acquired, including ‘ROXO’ (which was granted to Thomas Shepherd in 1833 and used on razors) and the ‘BEAVER’. In 1927, the marks of Hargreaves, Smith & Co were also purchased.

In 1850, Marshes & Shepherd was dissolved, and Marsh Bros & Co was formed by William and John Marsh. The firm displayed at the Great Exhibition (1851), where it won an Honourable Mention, and the New York Exhibition (1853). By 1862 – when Marsh Bros won a medal at the International Exhibition (1862) for a ‘good assortment of tools and cutlery’ – about 250 workers were employed. American trade continued to be a major factor in the firm’s expansion in the 1850s and 1860s. The firm had resident agents in Philadelphia and New York (besides connections in New Orleans and Boston), and these were often Marsh family members. For example, Theophilus Marsh (1826-1881), the son of John, lived in New York. In America, additional partners were recruited, such as William Newton Woodcock (who died on 11 August 1869 at his residence in Ravenswood, Long Island).

The decline of the firm’s cutlery business after the 1880s (caused partly by American tariffs) prompted Marsh Bros to abandon cutlery production, apart from razors (which were subcontracted to J. & W. Pitchford). It decided to concentrate on making tool steels and engineers’ tools (becoming ‘Ltd’ in 1907, with £30,000 capital). Marsh Bros & Co Ltd continued to trade as a steel and tool maker until the 1960s.

[Source: Hawley Collection/Hawley Sheffield Knives 27 Nov 2020].

The following records are from Catcliffe works:

DescriptionRecords up to the re-forming of the company in 1907 as a limited company, 1810-1959 (MARSH/1).

Records relating to the firm after its becoming a private limited liability company in 1907, 1810-1966 (MARSH/2).

Additional documents deposited in June 1976 by Mr Philip Marsh per G.L. Willan, 1845-1896 (MARSH/3).
Extent404 items
RelatedMaterialSheffield City Archives:

For earlier gifts and deposits of Brittain and Company and Marsh Brothers documents (from various sources), see, LD314.

‘Letters, etc., of S.S. Brittain and Company, F. Brittain and Marsh Brothers’, 1840 - 1915 (Reference: MD1484-1486).

'Sketches of men who were in the public life of Sheffield from 1900 to 1930' (collection of notes made by Sir Willliam Edward Hart) including Harry Parker Marsh (former Lord Mayor, Justice of the Peace and head of firmMarsh Brothers)’, [c. late 1930s] - 1940 (Reference: X655/2/11).

‘Alderman Harry Parker Marsh (1857 - 1933), Lord Mayor of Sheffield, 1907 - 1908, he was a director of the firm Marsh Brothers Company Limited, Pond Steel Works, Sheffield’, 1908 (Reference: MD7313).

‘Deeds relating to property in Crosspool, Sheffield: includes 2. John Parker Marsh, Sheffield, Manufacturer and 3. Harry Parker Marsh, Sheffield, Manufacturer’, 1927- 1928 (Reference: X609).

‘Endcliffe Edge Papers (Willcox Collection): Includes Marsh Family, Lands in Upper Hallam, Amalgamated estates of : Eyre - Bell Hagg; Bower - Clough Field at Hagg Common; Marsh - Lydgate Hall Estate, Crookes, Glossop Road, 1721-1927 (typescript list pages 262-315)’, 1568 - 1933 (Reference: MD8139).

‘Marsh Brothers and Company Limited, Manufacturers of Steel Files, Twist Drills, Saws, Razors etc., Ponds Steel Works, Shude Lane, Sheffield’, 1848 - 1942 (Reference: MD6773).

‘Sheffield City Council Minute book: Marsh Brothers Limited, Communication from, page 719’, Dec 1931 - Nov 1932 (Reference: CA-MIN/70).

‘S. S. Brittain and Company, steel converters and refiners and tool and saw manufacturers, Sheffield’, 1845 - 1875 (Reference: LD266).

‘Sheffield City Council: Health Committee Signed and Draft Minutes and Reports: Marsh, Theophilus, letter from as to cleaning out pond's dams, page 111’, Nov 1849 - Oct 1856 (Reference: CA-HEA/1/2).

‘Three Centuries of Sheffield Steel - The Story of a Family Business: Marsh Brothers and Company Limited, 1907-1954, includes Table 1 - Pedigree of the Marsh Family’, 1954 (Reference: 83/1996).

Sheffield Local Studies Library:

‘Brief outline of the history of Marsh Brothers and Company Limited’, 1954 (Reference: 380 S VOL.3. 1954-1955 bound in The Hub June 1954 page 13-15).

‘History of Marsh Brothers and Company Limited’, 1957 (Reference: 380 SQ article in Quality of Sheffield volume 4 Number 3 March 1957 page 69-70).

‘Marsh Brothers and Company Limited’, 1954 (Reference: 380 SQ volume 1, bound Historical article in Quality of Sheffield Jun 1954 page 24-26).

‘Marsh Brothers and Company Limited: brief history’, 1975 (Reference: 380 SQ bound In Quality of Sheffield Volume 22 Number 2 Mar/Apr 1975 page 37-38).

‘Marsh high speed steel oil hole drills- Morse taper shank, Marsh Brothers and Company Limited’ (Reference: TRC MARS).

‘Marsh Brothers and Company Limited catalogue’ [1970s] (Reference: TRC MARS).

‘Tools and steels for industry, Marsh Brothers and Company Limited’, [1950's] (Reference: TRC MARS).

‘Price list for high speed steel twist drills, Marsh Brothers and Company Limited’, 1971 (Reference: TRC MARS).

‘Local Studies Collection of Billheads: Steel, Metals and Engineering’, (Reference: MP FOLDER 34).

‘Local Studies Collection of Billheads: Cutlery and Edge Tools’, (Reference: MP FOLDER 28).

‘Marsh Brothers and Company Limited catalogue: Camlock’, [1960s] (Reference: TRC MARS).

‘Marsh Brothers and Company Limited catalogue: Marsh-Pera* Reamer in 18% Tungsten H.S.S’, [1960s] (Reference: TRC MARS).

‘Marsh Brothers Tools Limited catalogue: Maufacturers of Special Cutting Tools’, [1970s] (Reference: TRC MARS).

‘Marsh Brothers Tools Limited catalogue: Pera Reamers in M2 H.S.S and Tungsten Carbide’, [1970s] (Reference: TRC MARS).

‘Marsh Brothers and Company Limited catalogue: Export list prices of standard high speed steel reamers, fractional and metric sizes’, 1964 (Reference: TRC MARS).

‘Marsh Brothers and Company Limited catalogue: Catalogue of high speed steel twist drills’, 1964 (Reference: TRC MARS).

‘Steel city: entrepreneurship, strategy, and technology in Sheffield 1743-1993’, Tweedale, Geoffrey, 1995 (Reference: 338.4 S and 338.4 SST).

‘Three Centuries of Sheffield steel: the story of a family business’, Pollard, Sidney, 1954 (Reference: 338.4 S and 338.4 SST).

‘The Osborn Group’, Samuel Osborn and Company Limited, [197-?] (Reference: 338.4 SST).

‘A Roll of honour: Sheffield Chamber members who have existed in business for a century or more’, 1957 (Reference: PAMP 93 SQ).

'Men of the period : England. the records of a great country illustrated with views of British national edifices. Portraits and pen pictures of leading men’, 1896 (Reference: 920.04274 SQ).

'Melting Stock Specification List - Vacuum Melted High-Purity Dental Alloy’, G.L. Willan Limited [194-] (Reference: TRC WILL).

'G.L. Willan Limited: brief history’, 1975 (Reference: 380 SQ bound in Quality of Sheffield volume 22 Number 2 Mar/Apr 1975 page 37-38).

'G.L. Willan Limited: new alloy vacuum melting plant’, 1957 (Reference: 380 SQ bound in Quality of Sheffield volume 4 number 10 October 1957 page 24-26).

'Alloy Steel Castings, G.L. Willan (Castings) Limited’, (1950s) (Reference: TRC WILL).
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