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Tyzack Family

from 1849

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This article is an extract from :

Glass, Tools and Tyzacks


Don Tyzack

It is reproduced here by kind permission of the author.


William Tyzack

dyson letterhead In 1849, probably encouraged by his son Ebenezer, William Tyzack entered a tenancy of Abbeydale. He took over the tenancy from the Dysons, who had been struggling with arrears in rent. They had sustained substantial uninsured losses when their grinding shop was blown up by members of the grinders' union in 1842. The Abbeydale freehold was then owned by the Fitzwilliam estate.[1]

So began the Tyzack's long tenancy of the Abbeydale works, now known as the Abbeydale Industrial Hamlet.

One of their developments on the Abbeydale Hamlet site was the building of a first storey warehouse over the Blacking Shop in 1876.

Abbeydale Works added six acres to the space occupied by Tyzack premises at Rockingham Street. The Hamlet contained a small crucible steel melting furnace, a water driven forge, a grinding wheel and small workshop, as well as blacksmiths' shops and warehouses. With the greater capacity of the additional site, the Tyzacks were able to increase their output from £8,744 in 1849 to £66,587 in 1876.

Tyzack Billhead

Meanwhile land was bought in Trafalgar Street in 1846 and the Tyzacks decided to start a new venture. They judged that the market for files was one they should tackle. So a file shop was added to the Rockingham Street site by 1851.

This is what the Tyzack Centenary Souvenir said about filemaking in 1912:-

The process of filemaking is complex. First the ingots are melted in a furnace and then cogged or hammered. They are rolled into long lengths of between fourteen and twenty feet. Depending on the sizes of the files they are cut into length and forged under the power hammers. This is followed by annealing so that the teeth can be cut.

Next it is grinding and from the grinders they return to be divided into hand or machine cutting. Following cutting, they go to the hardening shop. First they are coated with a special composition so that when heated the oxygen in the atmosphere does not raise scale and so destroy the teeth. Files are then dipped hot into large baths filled with salt and water. Next they're scoured and sand blasted and emerge clean and sharp.

Following this they are oiled and the tangs are softened by a special lead process. All files are then thoroughly examined and tested on tempered steel.

It seems surprising that in the 1851 census, with such a large business, William(2), the son was living in the manager's house at Abbeydale. Not by himself but with his wife, Fanny, two children and brother Joshua. If you visit the hamlet and go around the house, you will see how cramped that would have been. Fanny died a year later, perhaps not surprisingly!

In 1855 a steam engine was installed at Abbeydale and this was used as well as water power.

In 1858, William Tyzack, the founder, died.

Surprisingly this seems to have had little effect on the running of the company. William Tyzack left a will, which included a legacy of £2,000 for his daughter, Sarah. £1,000 was to be paid two years after his death.

This need for so much ready cash to be paid from the business caused the brothers some thought. It resulted in a marriage settlement[2] for her when she married Thomas Binks of Frisby, in Leicestershire. A trust was set up for her. It was signed by Ebenezer, William, Joshua, and brother-in-law Benjamin Turner.

Around that time Tyzacks bought Totley Rolling Mill from James Sorby. Many of the products made by the Company were fashioned from steel plate so their own rolling mill would be a great asset. Later when Messrs. Charles Cammell & Co. gave up the Borussia Steel Works they were purchased by the Company.

An apprentice indenture for one Alfred Wolstenholme as a Patent Scythe Maker was signed in 1854 by William the elder, and by Ebenezer, William jnr., and Joshua his sons. They all sign as carrying on business in copartnership together in the firm William Tyzack and Sons.

In 1862, the co-partners all signed the contract for the sale of their freehold in Rockingham Street. [3]

The freehold of Smithy Wood Tilt, a scythe works, was also added to the Tyzack's assets in the 1870s and probably it was used on a sub-tenant basis before that. A Tilt hammer was a much used tool which continued in use for many years. It was a power forge tool, which throughout the nineteenth century found no equal. All Crown or solid forged scythes were made in such a forge. Efforts made to forge scythes by means of other types of hammers were unsuccessful.

Ebenezer the son of William the elder, died in 1867 and there was a division of the company business between the other sons and the nephews. This Sheffield family had by then become large, and it was inevitable that the one business would not provide support for all the family's different branches.

As a result the activities were split up into three separate businesses, all with the name of Tyzack and all in the Sheffield tool trade. Ebenezer's brother William(2) jnr., took a partner in 1870, named Benjamin Turner.

William jnr. had an elder sister, Ann, who had been born on 29th January 1814. She married Benjamin Turner and they had three children Mary Emma, Sarah Ann, and Thomas. So Benjamin had been a member of the family for many years.

Their company then became known as W. Tyzack, Sons and Turner.

William Tyzack, Sons and Turner

A directory shows William Tyzack of Abbeydale as tenant of Old Hay Wheel on the Sheaf in 1875. This is about one and a half miles south-west of Abbeydale. Tyzacks also operated the next wheel, Totley Forge.

This period saw the invention of reaping and mowing machines. W. Tyzack, Sons and Turner was the first English firm to make the knife sections for them. So we can see that following enclosure it became more economical to use a reaping machine behind horses than it was to use men with scythes. Gradually the scythe gave way to the machines and to the straw and hay knives. With binders and balers using machine knives, the army of little mesters making scythes gave way to the bigger workshops making machine knives.

This effect on the metal industry paralleled the run down in the numbers reaping the corn and hay on their own smallholdings. However with the great growth of sales to the Commonwealth and elsewhere abroad, the sales of scythes continued to hold up very well.

The Heeley Corn Mill was purchased in 1876. This was to be a momentous decision, because a plan was also implemented to move the headquarters to a site in Heeley, adjacent to the Little London Dam.

This site was then practically in the country, with fields and woods on three sides of it and in front across the railway the beautiful park of Meersbrook, a large portion of which has since been purchased by the town. Twelve acres of this land were taken, and upon it were erected works as substantial, as well arranged, as commodious as any of the kind in the country. The firm knew from long experience what departments they wanted, and how they should be arranged so as to secure the greatest economy of time and labour, and practically acting as their own architects, the Little London Works sprang into existence.[4]


Most of the commercial development of W. Tyzack, Sons and Turner after 1876 was at Little London, at the Heeley site.

Whilst the forge was retained in use, most of the other buildings were demolished and the site redeveloped. New buildings erected housed a larger and more modern crucible steel melting furnace, and a large 60 hp steam engine around which were built four grinding wheels, a forge, and general machine shops. A large block included some workshops, all the warehouses, packing shops and offices parallel to the main Sheffield to London railway line.

crucible steel

The layout of the factory was by the standards of 1870s, very efficient. An ingenious system of line shafts around the central steam engine, gave adequate power throughout the factory. This was at a time when labour was cheap.

Considerable thought went into the layout for easy flow of the work in progress. The trade mark of the firm, the Elephant, formerly stamped almost exclusively on their scythes, was now put on other articles made by them. In some districts the scythes were known as the Elephant scythes, typifying their strength and durability.

Elephant Trade Mark

A period of decline set in after 1876. First the main drive shaft in the tilt forge at Abbeydale, broke down and required replacement. A replacement was estimated at £150.

Then the company experienced competition from two sources. Overseas manufacturers, notably in USA and Germany were challenging on both price and quality. More galling was the competition from a company set up by Ebenezer's eldest son, William Alexander. Turnover declined during thisperiod. From £66,587 in 1878, annual sales during the years 1880 to 1895 averaged only £50,000.

Several times the Tyzack's considered closing Abbeydale in favour of Little London. From 1880 to 1881 they cut prices, cut wages and salaries, sold the Rockingham Street premises, sold land at Heeley Mill, and sold Totley Rolling Mill. All this enabled new capital plant to be bought. They bought a new eighteen hole crucible furnace, another large Davy Brother's steam engine and the first file cutting machine at Little London. Tyzacks retained Abbeydale but the use of Abbeydale diminished in favour of Little London works, downstream.

1885 was the time when they tried to counter their falling home sales by expanding overseas. Members of the family travelled to France, Germany, Russia, Australia, and other Commonwealth countries.

About this time their product range was defined by one reference[5] as various descriptions of single and double shear, blister, and other steels, all kinds of knives for reaping and mowing machines knives for chaff and turnip cutters, knives for paper mills and tobacco works, all sorts of irons for planing, tonguing and carving for wood-working machinery, saws, scythes, forks, files, and other similar goods.

..... Demands have come in upon them, chiefly from New Zealand and Australia, for heavy parts of agricultural and other implements such as plough and share plates of various patterns, plough mould boards plough circular coulters, and skeith plates, harrow discs stripper teeth, cultivator knives, etc. The machine for which the stripper teeth and other parts are supplied is being made in large numbers in the Colonies named, and is coming into ever extended use. As it travels across the field the ears of corn are stripped off, the corn is thrashed and winnowed, and the machine delivers the corn ready for the market.


In 1897 S. Linley and Co., operating out of Clough Works, with its Old O, trade mark were purchased. This added to the Tyzacks production of Scythe Blades at Abbeydale, and added hay and straw knives. Three years later complete Machine Knives and Components for reapers and mowers joined the catalogue. The company was the first English manufacturer of the cutting sections for mowing machines.

By 1901 there had been much new building at Little London.

For comparison the rent was sixty times as much as that at Smithy Wood which the company had also bought in 1870 but had not developed.

In 1906, the company was registered as a Private Limited Company with Frederick Tyzack, grandson of the founder and son of William jnr. as chairman. Prior to that it seems to have continued to operate as a co-partnership. Sawmaking where the company started in 1812, had provided a large part of the output but the industry passed through a tough period and for years had stiff competition, particularly from America. Modern methods improved quality and finish and competition was successfully fought.

In the eight years to 1912, the Little London Works doubled its staff and output in saws. They cover the whole field of the trade from the smallest fret to the six foot circular saw. In addition to the Elephant and Nonpareil brands there was also an Abbeydale quality of saw which was a cheaper product.

Hacksaws were included and also knives for calico, indiarubber, and cloth cutting. Saw production employed five hundred staff. At the centenary, power for the new plant was run by electricity produced by a National 175 h.p. gas engine. Other sources of power for the plant were a 250 h.p. steam engine and a 50 h.p. Crossley gas engine.

Crown scythes were still forged by hammering by water power at Abbeydale in 1912.

Frederick Tyzack died in 1923 and was succeeded as chairman by John Blunt. This may have been a direct result of the war. Before the war, Frederick's son, Eric D. Tyzack, was the company's Metallurgical Chemist, with his own new laboratory. One might reasonably have expected him to follow his father as chairman in the family firm. He however became a pilot in the Royal Flying Corps and was killed over Passchendaele.

About the time Frederick became chairman, the company again led as the first English company to manufacture Discs for harrowing and ploughing[6].

The Elephant mark which had become an important guarantee on scythes and also on saws was now used on plough and harrow discs. hese discs are made from very hard steel of high quality. After heat treatment they were bent and tempered and then ground by special machinery.

Tyzacks had from their earliest operations made their own steel by casting from crucibles using a process like that of Huntsman. These special high- speed steels were marked by the trade name Nonpareil. It was an early mark of quality and enabled a constant standard to be maintained. Quality was continually monitored in a works laboratory set up for the purpose and employing analytical chemists. It enabled all processes for example tempering to be fully controlled and assessed.

In addition to the home market, it developed a very large export trade with France and Russia which in 1907 necessitated the building of a completely new block for the manufacture of sections. Tyzacks, for the first time, abandoned their love affair with water power and bought a gas engine to drive a generator producing electricity. This was used as motive power.

By 1912, machinery had replaced the old hand craftsman to cut and forge files. 1912 was the centenary of the company and a wide product range was claimed in the Centenary Souvenir.[7] The original saw making business has been retained and extensively developed but apart from this and the manufacture of files, they specialised in scythes, sickles, hooks, hay knives, chaff machine knives, reaping and mowing machine sections, steel rivets, plough mould boards and coulters {the iron cutter in front of a ploughshare}, harrow discs, and other agricultural fittings. In addition they produced crucible steel.

Some of the original buildings at the Little London site, were rebuilt to focus on file manufacture. At the outbreak of the first world war the company's activities consisted of the manufacture of all classes of saws, files, scythe blades and hay knives, agricultural machine knives and a growing trade in agricultural machine parts for harvesting and for tillage. Such a factory producing parts essential for the war effort had the advantage that in the war it just had to increase its output. No major reorganisation was required.

Around the outbreak of the first world war, Colonel W. S. Middleton, M.C., T.D., married Dorothy the daughter of Frederick Tyzack, a grandson of the founder. In 1919 the Colonel joined the company.

The coming of the motor car brought with it a demand for clutch plates which used similar technology to circular saws. A new department, set up for these, also took over the manufacture of circular knives, shear blades, guillotine knives and similar products. They all formed a big new line. Later the company specialised in thicker and heavier clutch plates for heavy tractors.

With all the new products and ideas the old methods were not forgotten. Even as late as 1926, Little London Works could still boast one water driven forge.


Following the death of Mr. John Blunt in 1935, Mr. William Tyzack, nephew of Frederick, became Chairman, the other directors being Mr. Stuart M. Tyzack, (his brother), Colonel Middleton and Mr. Wilfred Tyzack, (son of Stuart), who had joined the company in 1926. Mr. William Tyzack and Colonel Middleton were Joint Managing Directors.

An enormous number of different patterns involved creates one of the difficulties of the agricultural machine parts trade. This has always necessitated having a toolmaking and fitting staff greater than would normally be necessary. In 1938 when the aircraft industry was unable to produce the tools and fixtures to deal with the second world war rearmament programme, most of this capacity turned over to subcontract work for it. That side of the business was extensively increased during the war. With this exception, as in the first world war, there was no major change due to the emergency.

After the war there were some alterations in the constitution of the company. In 1945 Mr. Norman Turner, great grandson of the original Benjamin Turner, joined the company as a director, and three years later the firm became a Public Limited Company. During the same year, (1948), Mr. William Tyzack retired and Colonel Middleton became Chairman with Colonel Wilfred Tyzack as Joint Managing Director. In 1961 Colonel Middleton retired from the office of Chairman, taking up the appointment of Advisory Director, and Colonel Wilfred Tyzack became Chairman.


Shortly after the war, British agriculture, which had lagged other countries, in mechanisation, notably North America, indulged in what can only be described as an orgy of re-equipment. It created an enormous demand for the specialist wearing parts which Tyzacks made. It was evident that the company's facilities for production must be increased. Considerable new plant was installed, a new 56,000 sq.ft. were added. This enabled the company to improved materials flow and assembly lines.

In 1961, Colonel Wilfred Stuart Tyzack, son of Stuart Meggitt Tyzack and Aguste Meizer, became chairman. Stuart Meggitt was the son of Stuart Tyzack and Mary Meggitt. This last Stuart was Frederick's brother. Following a fire in July 1964, when the whole of the administrative block was gutted, modern offices and warehouses were built on the same site.


By 1967, Tyzacks merged with the firm of D. Parker & Sons, filemakers of Ecclesfield. Twenty years later, soon after Bill Eastwood had taken over at nearby W.A.Tyzack in 1987, that company acquired the operations of its long time rival William Tyzack and Turner. This was rapidly followed by the demolition of the Little London Works in 1988.

In 1989 a management buy-out occurred, to last alas only a further two years before receivers were called in. Parts of the original company are now too dispersed to detail fully. One retaining the name is Tyzack Transmission Components Ltd, owned by MIBA an Austrian company. Eurovein was the company which got the machine knives and grass care equipment. The Tyzack and Turner name was changed to TT plc and as such has become an engineering conglomerate.

Tyzacks retained Abbeydale and used and developed it until 1935 when their tenancy ended.


  • [1] West Yorkshire Archive Service, Railway
  • [2] Marriage Settlement, Sarah Tyzack, Greater London Record Office, ref. 0/331/1
  • [3] WYAS Reference WR 541 576 1.1862.
  • [4] The Implement and Machinery Review. 1st December, 1887
  • [5] The Implement and Machinery Review. 1st December, 1887
  • [6] British Industry & Commerce
  • [7] Sheffield Library

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