History and Landmarks

Hawley Gallery

The Hawley Building, housing the Hawley Gallery and storage areas, was created in the last unused building on the Kelham Island Museum site following a successful bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF). The building was formerly Wheatman and Smith saw works.

The £595,000 HLF grant, awarded in 2008, was used to refurbish the building at Kelham Island to create displays, storage and research facilities and move the Hawley Collection into the dedicated accessible storage. The Gallery was opened in March 2010.

Oral History Project

'Working with the Collector - the stories behind the tools', 2008-2009

The Ken Hawley Collection Trust successfully completed an 18 month Heritage Lottery funded project called 'Working with the Collector - the stories behind the tools'. The project started in September 2007 and completed at the end of February 2009.

The primary aim of the project was to create an oral history archive by gathering information and stories about the objects in the collection from the collector, Ken Hawley.

The project team achieved 199 recordings about specific object related information, as well as knowledge on the historical context of tool making in Sheffield.

We held three displays; at Sheffield Central Library, Clifton Park Museum in Rotherham and Kelham Island Museum in Sheffield.

The project team presented a range of four events over the course of the project; handling sessions for science week focussed on trade knives, an illustrated talk at Clifton Park Museum in Rotherham, an 'ask the collector event' and two family fun craft sessions at Kelham Island Museum in Sheffield.

An example of our work – the Aaron Hildick show case

This showcase is to display the range of light edge tools and joiner’s tools made by Aaron Hildick of Woodside Works, Rutland Road, Sheffield. They used the DIAMIC trade mark.

Ken acquired this showcase and the tools in about 1990. The tools had been removed for the baize to be replaced. Ken had to work out where the tools would have been placed. He worked out the likely layout from the position of the fixing holes and the orientation of the label on the tools. So now we have this splendid showcase for the collection.

Ken believes this showcase dates to sometime between the First and Second World Wars. This is based on the design and shape of the chisels looking at the octagonal bolsters with square shanks and the chisels with sloping shoulders.

Automated processes introduced after the Second World War, by firms such as Marples, made edge tools such as these out of fashion.

Hawley Collection – display case of chisels from Aaron Hildick

Exhibitions prior to move to Hawley Gallery at Kelham Island Museum

A Cut above the Rest, Millennium Galleries, Sheffield, 2003

This exhibition focussed on the specialist tools and knives that were made in Sheffield and exported all over the World, showing the history of the various trades and manufacturing processes, and the technological advances.  There are tools for growing food, preparing and eating it and knives that can help to make people better or kill them. There are tools for working with wood, metal, stone and leather, some highly decorated to display the craftsman's skill.

The exhibition was a tribute to the skill and inventiveness of craftsmen, past and present, who produced tools that were effective as well as decorative. There is an attention to detail with manufacturers always working to produce a high quality object at an economic cost.

‘A Cut Above the Rest’ exhibition, Millennium Galleries, Sheffield, 2003

Weights and Measures, Weston Park Museum, Sheffield, 2001

Measuring size and weight is an important part of everyday life: from buying fruit in the market, to manufacturing machine parts, measurements are essential. The display used objects from the Hawley Collection and the City of Sheffield Collection to explore the history of weights and measures over the past 300 years.

Differing standards of measurement - three folding rules showing the London inch (top), Turkish inch (middle) and the Chinese inch (bottom)

Standards are used to check the accuracy of weights and measures throughout the world. However, in the past, almost every nation had their own standard weights and measures, and this caused a lot of confusion. The metric system of measuring was introduced in France at the end of the 18th century, and has now become the standard measure in most parts of the world. In Sheffield and elsewhere, the Town Standards were used to make sure that stall-holders were not cheating their customers!

Change and Continuity, Ruskin Gallery, Sheffield, 1997

700 Years of Craftsmanship

This exhibition celebrated 700 years of Sheffield Cutlery. In 1297 Robert the Cutler was the first Sheffield person to be recorded as a cutler (in a tax return). This exhibition looked at the changes in the styles and manufacture of knives and tools with a cutting edge. Over the centuries there have been technological changes which have resulted in better steels and man-made materials. Social changes, such as people's eating habits and the DIY phenomenon, have resulted in new styles and new tools but there is still continuity. A knife is a knife is a knife.

‘Change and Continuity’ exhibition poster

Decorating Metal, Ruskin Gallery, Sheffield, 1996

The exhibition 'Decorating Metal' showed the processes involved in different kinds of decoration on metal; from the tools used, the pattern books, the trade catalogues and the finished articles.

The Sheffield manufacturers of cutlery, flatware and hollowware - in steel and in silver - displayed great skill and design ability in the decorations. The exhibition was a tribute to the thousands of Sheffield craftsmen and women who produced such decoration by engraving, chasing, etching and saw-piercing.

It was also a tribute to the tool manufacturers who made the tools to produce the stamped-out patterns, which often replaced the hand-work in many products.
Most of the items on display in the exhibition were part of the Hawley Collection, but items from the University of Sheffield and the Sheffield City Collection were also displayed. A small book produced in conjunction with the exhibition is now out of print.

‘Decorating Metal worked’ details of the backs of blades with decoration produced using files

Knifemaking in Sheffield, Sheffield, 1995

The exhibition on Sheffield's knifemaking traditions used the Hawley Collection to explore the methods of knife production, together with examples from the enormous range of knives which were once manufactured.

Dr Ruth Grayson was the Hawley Tool Research Fellow in the School of Cultural Studies at Sheffield Hallam University, 1994-95. Ken Hawley is an Honorary Fellow of Sheffield Hallam University.

‘Knifemaking in Sheffield’

The Cutting Edge, 1992, Ruskin Gallery, Sheffield, 1992

The first major exhibition of the Hawley Collection focussed on Sheffield manufactured edge tools.
It came as an eye-opener to many people in that it showed the diversity, craftsmanship and beauty of everyday tools. It demonstrated that Sheffield tools had once been crucial to so many trades at home and around the world.

This exhibition was the catalyst in forming the Ken Hawley Collection Trust which had the aim of preserving the Collection in Sheffield.

The Cutting Edge exhibition, Sheffield, 1992