The cutlery makers of Salisbury.

Sep 14, 2002
Hello folks I thought I'd do a brief post on something I came across in the summer.
During the summer I visited Salisbury, one of England's ancient cathedral cities. During an amble through it's small but excellent museum I came across this small display. Like others I've often wondered about other cutlery centres aside from Sheffield; and was unaware that Salisbury at one time had one.








And finally a collection of blades found in the rivers and drains of Salisbury over the years. Some of these dated back hundreds of years.

Sorry for the quality of some of the pictures I was using my phone. I took other close ups of some of the knives but there actually really poor quality.
Great post, thank you! I live about 20 miles from Salisbury and never knew they had a cutlery industry!

All the best

Great post, thank you! I live about 20 miles from Salisbury and never knew they had a cutlery industry!

All the best


Cheers. I went to visit their Bronze Age exhibition which was fascinating. I highly recommend it, especially if you like your ancient history.
Great post Donn. I'm out for the night, but will try and post some more Salisbury info tomorrow :thumbup:
Great post Donn. I'm out for the night, but will try and post some more Salisbury info tomorrow :thumbup:

I thought you'd know more about this :thumbup: Look forward to reading your info. Enjoy your night out.
Thanks Donn, I just have my phone with me :) Certainly an interesting subject though :thumbup:
Thanks Donn, that was very interesting.

Yeah, it can be frustrating trying to get good photos in museums with the glass reflections and all.

Notwithstanding my earlier comments about French Kates, I'd like to see more about the pen knife modelled on 'the beautiful Lady Ilchester's leg.' Y'know, for research purposes. :p:D

This one also looked quite interesting -


Very nice lines on it, could easily be resurrected into a great fixed blade pattern today.
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Excellent thread, donn! I love to see these glimpses into the history of our hobby.
Thanks again for going to the trouble of taking the pics Donn and posting this thread. I've only visited Salisbury once, 30-odd years ago, and while we visited the cathedral, we didn't get to the museum.

I'm sure that anyone who has Levine's Guide will have read something of the Salisbury cutlers, but of course they are much less well known than the cutlers of Sheffield, or even of London, in part due to a relative lack of surviving records, and indeed of the knives they produced. The Salisbury cutlers, along with those of Thaxted, did however leave more behind than those of Birmingham, Durham, Leicester, and York, where other knife and weapon-making guilds once existed.

The earliest trace of a Salisbury cutler dates back to 1270-80, when Sebode le Cutiller was based in Brown Street, and in the Middle Ages the Salisbury trade guilds included cotelers. There is evidence to suggest that Salisbury may also have been a centre for cutlery trading, with knives being imported to the town from mainland Europe.

There are no surviving records of the early cutler's marks for knives actually produced in Salisbury until at least the late 17th century, but they became more identifiable at the beginning of the 18th century, when actual words began to be incorporated into marks, including 'SARUM' for Salisbury.

The Salisbury trade guilds were granted a Charter of Incorporation by King James I on March 2nd 1612, and a few days later twelve trades were granted, including cutlers. The Charter gave the Town Council control of the companies incorporated, and restricted trading in Salisbury to 'Freemen' , who had served an apprenticeship and registered their freedom with the appropriate company. The cutlers were included in a Smiths' Company, along with the Armourers, Bellfounders, Watchmakers, and eight other crafts.

A decline in the local woolen industry, together with a good supply of running water to power grinding wheels, and a cheap supply of iron imported from the nearby New Forest were factors in the increased importance of the production in metal goods in Salisbury during the 17th century.

In 1647, the diarist John Aubrey referred to the town as "Ever famous for the manufacture of razors, scissors, and knives." Salisbury scissors became quite renowned during the 17th century, and in 1670 Nell Gwyn purportedly purchased an all-steel pair for 100 guineas (£105), a huge sum at the time.

The earliest recorded cutlery firm in Salisbury is William and Thomas Brathatt (Braithwaite), who were active making weapons and knives in 1620. The firm continued under their son/nephew Christopher Braithwaite, and then under his son John until 1666, when both John and Christopher died of the plague. The business was bought by the Braithwate's servant, Stephen Gibbs.

By the 18th century there were many more cutlery businesses, including that of William Strugnell, who became the town’s mayor in 1721. The most prominent firms were those of James Goddard of Queen Street, who supplied cutlery to George III and the Prince Regent, along with that of Henry Shorto, also later of Queen Street. Shorto manufactured all manner of knives and scissors, and also sold jewellery, silver and plated items, swords, belts, and military accoutrements. A list of Salisbury cutlers is included in Levine’s Guide to Knives.

By the 1780’s, there were about thirty Salisbury cutlery firms, producing wares which rivalled those then being produced in Sheffield and London. Cutlery historian Simon Moore quotes two early 19th century verses referring to Salisbury’s reputation for cutlery:

The height of its steeple,
The pride of its people,
Its scissors and knives,
And diligent wives.

Let Bristol for commerce and dirt be renowned,
At Salisbury let penknives and scissors be ground.

Even by the late 18th century though, there is evidence of cutlery production in Salisbury beginning to go into decline, with at least one of the cutlers, William Riccard, moving his business to London. By 1822 Only 7 cutlers are listed in a local trade directory (10 in 1830).

As the Sheffield cutlery industry expanded unremittingly, and transport became more viable, along with increased industrialization, the Salisbury cutlery businesses went into decline, and by the end of the 19th century, the remaining firms were resorting to buying Sheffield blades and overstamping them with their own names. The firm of Henry Neesham , started by Thomas Neesham in 1817, continued until 1914, when Mr Neesham ,(who had produced the ivory-handled clasp-knife supposedly modelled on Lady Ilchester’s leg), died at the age of 88, the last of the Salisbury cutlers.
So I'm not the only one who spells jewelry jewellery. Unless the writer of that label is dead, of course.
Interesting stuff, guys. I had no clue/clew.
Fascinating Jack!

Thanks for the information, really interesting. Its pretty much on my doorstep and i am sad to say i knew nothing about it:eek:

All the best

Sounds like a good excuse for a trip over Paul :) :thumbup:
No no Jack thank you for taking the trouble with your reply. I was completely ignorant of Salisbury's cutlery industry but as always your post was very informative! Your a walking encyclopaedia!

The rhyme mentions the steeple. I thought I'd post a few shots.

Built 1310-1330 the spire of Salisbury Cathedral is 180ft high and was added after the cathedral had been completed. Total height from ground to apex is 404ft.

The internal structure of the spire was initially thought to of been contemporary with it's construction but it's been proven it was added later as a support scaffold. I was told on the tour though that its does not support the spire in the traditional sense. The spire is effectively free standing on top of the tower, held in place by the weight of the scaffold that hangs from the top of the spire (think a pendulum) down the single central post (?King post).


A beautiful building well worth the visit.

Again Jack thanks for your reply.