Galvanize Sheffield

Galvanize Sheffield

Blacksmithing at Abbeydale Industrial Hamlet

The last month has seen the forth Galvanize Sheffield festival hit the city, featuring nearly sixty events to celebrate Sheffield’s steel heritage.

Thousands of people have joined in the events, which aimed to celebrate contemporary metal design and showcase the city’s metal trades. 

The festival, which ran from 24th March – 24th April, included events such as Pewter Live, which was held at The Cathedral, showcasing the work of skilled pewtersmiths from around the country.

There was also a Jewellery Exhibition at Bank Street Arts, a Kinetic Water Sculpture at the Winter Gardens, and a Metal Walk, which toured the famous work places of the 18th and 19th Century, including Kelham Island, and Beckett’s Saw and File Works.

Festival manager Sara Unwin said: “The tour side is incredibly popular. People want to go in to factories to see what happened. They also want to go into artist studios and talk to them face to face about what they do and how they do it.

“This is part of what we do, we try to demystify a bit of that, and show the processes and techniques people use.” 

One of the festivals biggest events was the blacksmith forge in at Abbeydale Industrial Hamlet, which saw forty members of the British Art Blacksmith Association working together to produce a piece of public art.

The event gave children and adults the opportunity to have a go at blacksmithing, and help contribute to the final art piece, which will be displayed at the Winter Gardens in the summer.

Spectators also had the opportunity to go on a guided tour, in which living historians took on the roles of people based in 1851, and told the story of the famous site.

“You could go on a tour of the hamlet with an actor, being either the owner of the place, or the other was a worker,” Sara said. “So depending on which tour you went on you got a different perspective.

“It was fantastic. It gave it a nice lively edge and animated the place hugely.”

Abbeydale Industrial Hamlet specialised in the production of scythes from the mid 19th century up until the 1930s. It was one of the first places where virtually every step of the manufacturing process was undertaken on site, from melting crucible steel, through to the grinding of the cutting edge.

Local historian, Chris Corker, said: “The site provides an ideal backdrop for the festival’s blacksmiths event. Virtually unchanged since the mid-nineteenth century through to its final closure and donation to the city in 1935, the site offers a unique glimpse into the history of the steel industry in Sheffield.”

The festival is now preparing for 2013, which marks 100 years since the invention of stainless steel by Harry Brearley.

Sara said: “Galvanize has got to come back in 2013 with an all singing and all dancing celebration of all things steel, and we have some great ideas for that.”

Learn more about Galvanize Sheffield with festival manager Sara Unwin as she talks about the months activities, and the event at Abbeydale Industrial Hamlet.

By Phil Corker


About Philip Corker

Journalist, Musician, and Blogger
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