Sheffield’s proud cutlery industry is based on the work of the “little mesters”, small – often one-man – crafts businesses that divided up the multiplicity of tasks involved in creating tableware, kitchenware and cutting tools. Some of these businesses prospered and grew, sometimes into very large, ultimately world-famous enterprises such as Mappin & Webb [http://www.mappinandwebb.com/content.asp?coid=27].
Around the original town centre there remain tall tenement blocks, often now converted to apartments or offices, which bear the names of long-gone enterprises which imprinted the phrase “Made in Sheffield” as a mark of quality on the best cutlery in the world. These are areas very like the better known Birmingham Jewellery Quarter. There is an excellent account of these characteristic Sheffield buildings in Nicola Wray, Bob Hawkins & Colum Giles, One Great Workshop: The buildings of the Sheffield metal trades (English Heritage 2001) [http://www.amazon.co.uk/One-Great-Workshop-Buildings-Conservation/dp/1873592663/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1353486144&sr=8-1].
One such was George Ellis (Silversmiths) Ltd. George Ellis (1863-1944) began working in 1895 in a little mesters’ shop in John Street, gained his own hallmark from 1912 and formed a limited company in 1932. The works on Arundel Street – in what was originally an eighteenth-century house – ceased trading around 1971.
Now, after some encouragement from Gordon Ramsay, the building is Silversmiths [http://www.silversmiths-restaurant.com] , a very modern restaurant with an emphasis on regional food, which in Sheffield includes the resolutely local Henderson’s Relish [http://www.hendersonsrelish.com/history.htm], the work of another kind of Sheffield “little mester”, Henry Henderson.
My friend Paul, who suggested we visit, was present when Gordon Ramsay gave his encouragement. This apparently involves lots of cameras, lights and theatricals.
We happened upon Pie Night, with Yorkshire pudding served – as it should be – as a starter with Henderson’s Relish gravy. The pies were excellent, with chips like miniature house-bricks. And there was gooseberry fool.
The inimitable Yorkshire journalist, Stephen McClarence, had a less favourable experience of Silversmiths, so – much as I admire Steve’s writing – I’ll draw a veil over his review. You can find it if you know where to look.