Portland Works History

140 Years of Heritage

Portland Works history began in the 19th century with the construction of the building on Randall Street in the ‘John Street Triangle’, now a heritage conservation area. The Works is one of the last remaining working examples of a purpose built metal trades factory, most other similar buildings having being demolished or converted into flats and offices.

Commissioned in 1876 and completed by 1879, the building is little changed since then, only the showroom area and some extensions being added later. In 1914 Mosley’s became the first place to make stainless steel cutlery, in a collaboration between Harry Brearley and works manager Ernest Stuart.  ‘Rusnorstain’ cutlery became famous and continued to be made at the works until the 1950s.

Today, some of the metal trade businesses that operate within the works still use original machinery and tools that have been there since the beginning. Andy Cole Tools (formerly Wigfull), Stuart Mitchell Knives, Shaw Engravings, PML Plating and Pam Hague Engineering continue to use and preserve these elements of the Works.

Since 2013 a volunteer team have been renovating the building, sadly ravaged by half a century of neglect. It’s a tribute to the original builders that much of the fabric can be rescued.

History Articles

Robert Mosley Revealed

When she was researching the story of Robert Mosley a couple of years ago, Anna de Lange was hugely disappointed that she couldn’t find a photograph or a portrait of him. Through a long chain of circumstances, that has been…
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Secrets of “The Works”

When one of our new tenants was replacing a section of ceiling in their unit, they uncovered something between the joists of the unit above. It turned out to be over twenty items of old cutlery that seemed to have…
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The Birth of Portland Works

Portland Works is situated on Randall Street close to Bramall Lane (“The Blades” as Sheffield United FC is known) at its junction with Hill Street and forms part of an important enclave of 11 surviving nineteenth century industrial buildings. Commissioned…
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Portland Works and the Invention of Stainless Steel

One of eight siblings born into poverty near the Wicker, Sheffield, Harry Brearley (1871-1948) could be considered an unlikely individual to make a revolutionary metallurgic discovery. At the age of twelve he was taken on as a ‘cellar boy’ at…
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Portland Works’ Grade II* Listing

Portland Works was awarded Grade II listed status by English Heritage in 1995 and subsequently upgraded to Grade II* listed status in 2007 following an updated survey of Sheffield’s historic metal trades sites. Grade II* is the second highest listed…
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industrial history of integrated works

The History of “Integrated Works” Buildings

In order to contextualise the history of Portland Works it is necessary to provide the reader with a brief introduction to Sheffield’s industrial past. The city’s industrial heritage is rooted in the production of steel and the manufacture of ‘edge…
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Timeline of Portland Works’ Occupation

Since the creation of Portland Works in 1879, a number of businesses have occupied the building. While this is not a comprehensive list, we are able to know the details of each businesses that paid a subscription to be entered…
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The Campaign to Save Portland Works

January – December 2009, early days By Julia Udall Architectural Researcher Portland Works is a place that captures people’s imagination. Throughout the campaign I have had the pleasure of inviting numerous people to the Works- and each one leaves wanting…
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Portland Works Celebrates Eight Years Since Being Saved

It’s eight years since a community effort saved the dilapidated cutlery factory at Portland Works in Sheffield. On February 28, 2013 the building was bought by a social enterprise of more than 500 community shareholders. Since then, this iconic grade2*…
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Do you have a piece of Sheffield history?

Portland Works is to launch an international search for cutlery made at the Sheffield factory in the last century. In 1914, Portland Works (then known as Mosley’s) became the first place to make stainless steel cutlery. Its “Rusnorstain” cutlery became…
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