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.
DescriptionThis collection comprises:

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

Partnership accounts, 1810 - 1906 (Marsh/1/1)
Trading (foreign), 1819 - 1894 (MARSH/1/2)
Trading: General Correspondence (British), 1836 - 1848 (MARSH/1/3)
Production and costs, 1828 - 1927 (MARSH/1/4)
Wages books, 1887-1906 (MARSH/1/5)
Partnership deeds, patents, and legal business (including some relating to the family estate), 1828 - 1907 (MARSH/1/6)
Insurance Policies, 1847 - 1899 (MARSH/1/7)
Agreements and other business with agents, 1864 - 1905 (MARSH/1/8)
Formation of Limited Company, 1810 - 1908 (MARSH/1/9)
Miscellaneous items relating to other companies, 1883 - 1911 (MARSH/1/10)
Family and Miscellaneous, 1866 - 1959 (MARSH/1/11)
Catalogues and Price Lists, 1845 - 1854 (MARSH/1/12)
Printed price lists, catalogues, etc of other firms (including some taken over by Marsh Brothers), 1827 - 1913 (MARSH/1/13)
Photographs and Plans, 1864 - [1907] (MARSH/1/14)
Additional, 1857 - 1925 (MARSH/1/15)

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

S.S. Brittain and Company Limited, St. George’s Works, Shoreham Street, 1832 - 1925 (MARSH/2/1)
Marsh Brothers and Company Limited, Sheffield, 1810 - 1966 (MARSH/2/2)
G. L. Willan Limited, 1910 - 1966 (MARSH/2/3)

Additional documents deposited in June 1976 per G.L. Willan, 1845 - 1896 (MARSH/3):

Trading, 1846 - 1874 (MARSH/3/1)
Ponds Works, 1853 - 1861 (MARSH/3/2)
Price Lists and catalogues, 1845 - 1867 (MARSH/3/3)
Miscellanea, 1852 - 1896 (MARSH/3/4)
Date1810 - 1966
Extent404 items
RelatedMaterialSheffield City Archives:

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

Marsh Brothers and Company Limited, [Stock book], 1848; Prices and patterns, 1849 - 1864; and Drill Department, time books, 1942 (MD6773)

Three Centuries of Sheffield Steel - The Story of a Family Business: Marsh Brothers and Company Limited, 1907-1954 (Sidney Pollard, 1954) (POLL/BUS)

Sheffield Local Studies Library:

Marsh Brothers and Company Limited, trade catalogues [c. 1950s - 1970s] (TRC MARS)

Three Centuries of Sheffield Steel: The Story of a Family Business: Marsh Brothers and Company Limited, 1907-1954 (Sidney Pollard, 1954) (338.4 S)
AcquisitionSourceThese records were received in March 1976, some from the works at Catcliffe and some from Shude Lane. A later deposit was made in 1984 by Peat Morwick & Mitchell, Leeds. The following records are from Catcliffe works: MARSH/1/1/1-6. MARSH/1/1/8-9. MARSH/1/1/12-13. MARSH/1/2/1-2. MARSH/1/2/5. MARSH/1/2/8. MARSH/1/2/12-13. MARSH/1/2/15. MARSH/1/4/2-8. MARSH/1/4/10. MARSH/1/6/2-6. MARSH/1/6/9-11. MARSH/1/6/13-14. MARSH/1/6/18. MARSH/1/6/23-24. MARSH/1/6/26. MARSH/1/6/30-35. MARSH/1/6/45. MARSH/1/7/4. MARSH/1/7/8-9. MARSH/1/13/1. MARSH/1/13/3-5. MARSH/1/15/1-3.
ArchNoteTypescript catalogue retro-converted by Benjamin Longden, Jun-Jul 2020. Reviewed by Peter Evans, December 2023.
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