From The Neolithic To The Sea: A Journey From The Past To The Present
George Barnsley & Sons
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South Yorkshire
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Derelict
1836
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George Barnsley and Sons is located in Sheffield, South Yorkshire. They were a leather and shoe tool manufacturer.

George started his apprenticeship with Thomas Wing, file maker, lasting seven years. He established George Barnsley's 1836 in Wheeldon Street with the help of his brother Charles, who was a cutler, selling files and cutting tools. Later, in about 1850, they acquired the Cornish Works on Cornish Street. They went on to become a leading manufacturer of tools for the shoe making and leather workers trade. George believed that success was dependent on quality and traveled up and down the country, it is thought he also traveled aboard to show case his products and gain new customers.

Georges son, George was born in 1837 and in 1850 he became an apprentice in the firm. A year later he was following in his fathers footsteps as a traveling salesman opening up markets in Scotland and Ireland as well as London and other large cities in England. In 1958 he was made a partner in the firm and it became George Barnsley and Sons. George Barnsley Senior died in 1879 aged 69

As the demand for cutting tools made at George Barnsley & sons grew, it became impractical to make them by hand. In 1860 new machinery was bought into the factory replacing skilled men, much to the dismay of the workers. At first it was thought that these machines could not produce files at a high enough quality but this was soon proven to be un-founded. George continued to update with modern machinery as it appeared. He is quoted in 1883 at the Cutlers Feast saying 'the need to adapt ourselves to the requirements of the world.....and we shall keep our ancient prestige'

George Barnsley became a local council man representing St. Philips Ward and in 1884 and 1885 he was on the Watch Committee, responsible for law and order, lighting of streets and the markets. He died in 1895 aged 58.

In World War II the chimney of the Cornish Works was destroyed in November 1940 killing three men when a steel cable from a barrage balloon became entangled. Efforts to free the cable caused the chimney to collapse, killing the men. After the war steel was in short supply but it wasn't until the late 50's that steel became plentiful.

The 1960's brought stiff competition from Japan and India, the machinery in the factory was in desperate need of modernising as they were still using the victorian machinery installed by George Barnsley Jnr. The foreign tools could be imported and bought for less money than George Barnsley's could buy the raw materials to make the same tool. George Barnsley's took over James Oxley knife manufacturers in 1968.

In 1973 the company ceased making files as they were no longer profitable with the loss of 60 jobs. It was a hard decision to make as George Barnsley had started the company by making files. Files were bought in at first and sold on but this was soon stopped. The decline of George Barnsley and Sons was beginning.

The next 30 years were hard for the company with more imports and the competition becoming more fierce. Sadly the company closed in 2003 and the buildings sold. These now sit empty and almost forgotten with an uncertain future.