James Howarth & Sons

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James Howarth & Sons, Broomspring Works, Bath Street, Fitzwilliam Street, the business commenced 1835 joined by his sons in 1863. A leading manufacturer of edge and joiners tools, also hammers, skates, augers. In 1922 acquired by Robert Sorby Tools.

James Howarth was born on the 19th of December in 1811 intoa typical hard-working family. At the age of 12, he began working as a “second hand,” or “striker,” alongside his father William who was employed as an edge toolmaker by Mitchell Brothers in Furnival St. Sheffield. Howarth was clearly a devout Christian, as by his 19th birthday, he is recorded as being a lay preacher at his local Wesleyan Methodist chapel.

In 1832, Howarth was promoted to works manager and two years later formed a partnership with Henry Taylor in establishing the business of Taylor and Howarth in Fitzwilliam Street, Broomhall, Sheffield. The company became principal manufacturers of light edge tools, restricted in the first instance to the home markets, but the trade of the firm rapidly extended until they had direct business connections with leading continental states such as Canada, Australia, China and other distant markets. The partnership with Henry Taylor was dissolved in 1842.

James Howarth and sons went on to become exhibitors at the London Exhibitions 1851 and 1862, and in Paris in 1855, and received on each occasion prize medals of the first class. The Universal Society for the encouragement of Arts and Industry founded in 1851 reported on the goods exhibited at Paris. This society awarded its first-class prize medal to Howarth for excellence of his tools and elected him an honorary vice president of the society – an honour paid to no other British Manufacturer.

In 1857, joiners’ tools were added to the company’s line after it had moved to Bath Street at Broom Spring Works, Sheffield. In 1863, the firm became James Howarth and Sons, and it set up a steel division in Eyre Street, Sheffield, that enjoyed an excellent reputation for its steel quality. James Howarth and his sons were all practical men and personally supervised all departments of their manufacture, giving close attention to the general workmanship as well as to setting and finishing their products. The edge tools they made were from some of the best iron and steel available, while joiners’ tools such as squares, bevels, spokeshaves, gauges etc., were made chiefly of ebony and other expensive woods combined with brass and or steel. The company produced hammers from 1 ounce to 25 pounds, in an infinite variety of shapes, to meet the most varied requirements. The manufacture of skates was also one of the special features of Howarth’s business.

Using the very best materials and employing the most skilled labour, James Howarth and Sons produced goods of the very highest standard and had a reputation for excellence in the most distant markets. Upon the death of James Howarth, the firm was managed by his four sons James, Samuel, Edwin and John Howarth.


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