Needham Family

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Needham's Cutlery Dynasty

Needham's and the Cutlery Dynasty


1. Summary - for those that don't want the detail

The industrial revolution changed Britain dramatically. People moved from working the land to gaining new skills in the growing industrial towns and cities particularly in the north. The Needham's provide good examples of this. In the 18th century a number of them moved to Sheffield as apprentice cutlers. As an example take William Needham. He was a husbandman in Rotherham. In 1733 he had the foresight to send his eldest son George to train as an apprentice cutler in Sheffield. This was the start of a long line of Needham cutlers. In fact of the 96 Needham boys born in the 18th century in Sheffield, nearly half died before the age of 21 and the remainder all worked in the cutlery industry. But back to William's descendants. George's grandson Henry Needham, a spring knife manufacturer married Ann Brown and they had  9 children. Two of these children, William and Joseph Needham, founded Needham Brothers which had the well known Trade Mark 'Repeat' and a third brother, Thomas Brown Needham started the company that inherited the iconic ' Eye Witness' corporate Trade Mark.  Through mergers this company became Needham Veall & Tyzack, one of the more progressive cutlery companies . From this one family two cutlery companies emerged which were still in existence to  middle of the 20th century and one is still going to day although it has been merged into a multinational company.


2. Detail - for the few that are interested  


2.1 Needham Bro's






Inscription 'Repeat Needham Bros'


















Inscription 'Repeat Needham Bros' 








Advert for Needham Bros 








Needham Bros was a spring knife manufacturer founded in 1851 by two brothers Edwin Needham (1821-1854) and Joseph Needham (1829-1898).  They grew up in Garden Street, the sons of Henry Needham (c.1792-1847), a spring knife cutler, and his wife, Ann. Henry died of 'decline' on 1 January 1847, aged 55, and was buried in the General Cemetery.  His sons partnered Joseph Hawksley in Hawksley, Needham & Co, but this ended in 1852.  Edwin died on 27 January 1854, aged 32, from 'brain affection' and was buried in the General Cemetery. Ref 1 

Joseph continued Needham Bros with his other brother, William Needham (1815-1901).  In the Census (1851), William was enumerated as a grocer in Milton Street.  In 1856, Needham Bros appeared in a Sheffield directory for the first time as a pen, pocket, and sportsman's knife manufacturer in Hanover Works, Milton Street (with William also listed as a grocer in the same street).  

The first mention I've found to date for Needham Bros was in Directory of Topography of Sheffield in 1862. But there is confusion as there are two companies called Needham Brothers . The first has Henry WIlliam and Charles Needham as proprietors making spring knives at Cavendish works while the second sees William & Joseph Needham producing the same knife at the Hanover works on Milton Street. It is this second company where we have an interest..














Fig 4 Reference to Needham Bros. Directory of Topography of Sheffield in 1862


By 1868, Needham Bros was at Commercial Work, Baker's Hill, and manufactured pen, pocket and sport's knives.  These were stamped with the trade mark 'REPEAT' and in the late nineteenth century were known for their high quality. 










Fig 5 Entries Kelly's Directory 1881


By 1881 Kelly's Directory makes reference to Needham Brothers, Cutlery Manufacturers, Commercial Works, 8 Baker's Hill. In the same Directory it mentions both a Joseph Needham and a William Needham of 423 Glossop Road as cutlery manufacturers and associates them with Needham Brothers. Additionally, the 1881 census return for William states he employs 42 men 4 boys & 4 girls. So, who are Joseph & William Needham. Well, they are brothers, William was the eldest son of Henry & Ann Needham and was born in 1815 and Joseph the youngest b 1829 - more detail can be found in the   Rotherham 9 tree . These two brothers I believe are the founders of Needham Bros ltd. Their brother Thomas ran a similar company that developed into Needham, Veall & Tyzack - see below. Joseph died in 1898 and William in 1901 

Documents in the National archives ( BT 31/31478/50526), state that Needham Brothers ltd was incorporated in 1896. . In other words Needham Bros became 'Ltd' (capital £7,500), with Joseph Needham at its head.  Joseph was also chairman of the Old Albion Brewery Co and a director of several other concerns, such as the Atlas Rolling Co .  Two years later in 1898 Joseph died and his obituary described him as: '...  singularly gentle in disposition, generous and kindly disposed, [and] was incapable of making an enemy'   (Sheffield Daily Telegraph, 20 May 1898).  He died from a stroke after a game of bowls and whist on 18 May 1898, aged 68, and was buried in Ecclesall churchyard. Joseph was a Congregationalist at Mount Zion Chapel and a Freemason, he left £14,454. Ref 1 

After Joseph's death, Needham Bros continued under William Needham, who lived on Glossop Road, and Francis Needham (c.1845-1908).  The latter was the son of Edwin Needham.  Francis took over after the death of William on 12 November 1901, aged 86 (he left £3,009). Ref 1 

Assay Office records in Sheffield show that marks were issued to Needham Bros Ltd of Baker's Hill in 1900 and 1901. A new mark was issued in 1903 but by then the company had moved to 36 Matilda Street; a further mark was issued in 1906. In the 1919 Register of   Trade Marks   issued by the Cutlers Company of Sheffield, Needham Bros had two: Repeat and Barclay Brothers. They produced a range of    cutlery, razors, scissors & skates    , examples of which are shown above.


Francis Needham lived on Collegiate Crescent and died on 14 September 1908, leaving £1,033.  His son, Edwin George Needham (1874-1916) became chairman until his death on 14 December 1916.  A 'well-known baritone singer', he left £1,527 and was buried - like many Needham's - in consecrated ground in the General Cemetery.  Francis Joseph Needham (1880-1960), another son of Francis, was the next family member to manage Needham Bros, which was based in Matilda Street throughout the interwar years. Ref1 

Needham Bros Ltd registered with the Sheffield Assay office on the 27th February 1920 with directors: Francis Joseph Needham, Effie Jane Needham, Mary Ann Needham & Harold Barnaby Collins. They were initially based at 36 Matilda Street and then moved to 82, Tenter Street, Sheffield. By 1933 the proprietors of Needham Bros were Francis Joseph Needham and Francis Edwin Needham. They registered a further mark on the 19th May 1933, the company was based at 111 Matilda Street, Sheffield.  

Who are all these people? Francis Joseph Needham & his brother Edwin George Needham were the sons of Francis & Mary Anne Needham & were born respectively in 1880 & 1874; they can be found in the   Rotherham 9 tree . They followed their fathers trade and were spring knife cutlers. In 1905 White's Directory has the two brothers Edwin George & Francis Joseph plus their father Francis as cutlery manufacturers at Needham Brothers. 


Francis Joseph married Effie Jane Collins and they had a daughter Nora and a son Francis Edwin who was associated with Needham Bros in 1933. Effie Jane had five siblings one of whom was Harold Barnaby Collins. Thus we can account for all the people associated with. Needham Brothers. 

Do they have a history in cutlery? Well their grandfather was Edwin Needham the brother of WIlliam & Joseph Needham, the founders of Needham Brothers, and the brother of Thomas Brown Needham whose cutlery company developed into Needham Veall & Tyzack. So, the answer is yes there is history, lots of it. The two biggest cutlery companies owned by Needham's viz Needham Brothers and Needham Veall & Tyzack were set up by the children of Henry and Ann Needham - see  Rotherham 9 tree


The National Archives record BT 31/31478/50526, states the company was dissolved between 1933 & 1948. Additionally, the London Gazette has a record in which Francis Joseph Needham the MD of Needham Brothers calls a meeting of creditors on the 21 March 1933 under section 233 of the Companies Act. . However, it would appear the company survived because after the Second World War, Needham Bros' address was Sidney Street, so it is thought it apparently trading in the 1950s. Francis Joseph Needham left only £200 on his death in 1960.  Slater acquired the 'REPEAT' mark. Ref 1 


Figure 9 Creditors Meeting London Gazette 14 March 1933 







2.2 Needham, Veall and Tyzack 

Needham Veall & Tyzack was one of the more progressive cutlery companies. Starting from humble beginnings it grew and expanded. Significantly it was prepared to merchandise and thus survived the legacy of the First World War when many companies went to the wall. 

The business is said to have begun in about 1820 when John Taylor opened a small workshop in St. Phillip's Road producing pen, pocket and sports knives. It operated for many years as the "Eye Witness" Works, Milton Street , Sheffield , S3 7WJ . He was granted the striking 'Eye Witness' corporate mark in 1838. John married Mary Fretwell, a widow, in 1826; Mary already had a child by her first husband, Sarah Fretwell, b 1919. John and Mary had at 











"Eye Witness Works" by Mick Knapton ref 1 




least two children, John Taylor b 1827 and Mary Ann Taylor b 1829 but died 11 months later in May 1830.Mary, John's wife, died in 1834 so in the 1841 census John is living with his step daughter, Sarah Fretwell, and son John in St Philips Street. Two years later in 1843 at the age of 50 John marries Ruth Hurt, a widow, and acquires another step daughter, Lydia Hurt 

You must be wondering why I've mentioned all the family stuff. Well, in Aug 1842, Sarah Fretwell, John's step daughter, marries Thomas Brown Needham, a cutler living with his parents in Garden Street. By 1851 Thomas Brown and Sarah have three boys, Frederick, John Taylor (presumable named after Sarah's step dad) and Thomas Brown; they can be found in the  Rotherham 9 tree  . The family are living at 27 St Phillips Street and Thomas Brown is described as a grocer by 1852 Kelly's Directory describes Thomas as a Cutler and Shopkeeper. At the same time (1851) John Taylor lived at No. 15 St. Philips Road and next door, at No. 17, lived Edwin Needham, Thomas Brown's younger brother, a spring knife cutler. But things were about to change because in 1853 Ruth Taylor dies and a year later on the 9th Jan 1854 John Taylor, the man who took out the 'Eye Witness' corporate mark dies. That same year Edwin Needham also dies. John made provisions in his will for his step daughter Lydia Hurt, his maid servant Elizabeth Gill, his brother William Taylor and a Sheffield Boys Charity school. However, he left all his property to his executor Thomas Needham. After John's death the business was run by Thomas Brown Needham who ran the company until his death in 1870. Following Thomas Brown's death the Needham family retained an interest in the firm through Edwin, Thomas Brown's son. 

By 1876 the company joined forces with James Veall (d. 1906), in Milton Street and Walter Tyzack, joined the business as a partner in 1879. He as the eldest son of William and Sarah Tyzack and was born at Abbeydale in 1857. He lived in Norway and Sweden before becoming a partner in Needham and Veall. The business henceforth became Needham, Veall & Tyzack. 









An advert for the Taylor 's Eye Witness Works from the 1890s ref 5 




Together these men began to expand the business. The firm's growth seems to have been particularly marked in the 1890s, when they reorganised the business. In 1897 Needham, Veall & Tyzack became a limited liability company, with a capital of £60,000, and with Walter Tyzack as chairman, and James Veall and William C. Veall (d. 1941), as directors. Edwin Needham was also a director of the firm, but was now living in Birmingham . At about the same time, the company purchased Nixon & Winterbottom, which was capitalised at £20,000 and made into a limited company. Needham , Veall & Tyzack's purchase of this firm, which was one of the pioneers of machine-produced cutlery in Sheffield , may have been encouraged by a desire to acquire the machining production facilities. 

A detailed description of the manufacturing processes and products at the firm's Eye Witness Works in Milton Street can be found in the, Sheffield and Rotherham Illustrated, Up-to-Date (1897). It stated that, "The leading features of Messrs Needham, Veall & Tyzack manufactures in these departments are pen and pocket knives in an infinite variety of useful and elegant shapes, table knives, butchers' knives, carvers, scissors, pruning shears, and razors of the finest make in hollow and plain ground, for which latter goods in particular their reputation is speedily becoming world-wide. Some idea of the range of patterns kept in these various goods may be derived from the fact that in pen and pocket knives alone the firm possess over two thousand separate designs, most of which are made in four or five separate coverings." 

In 1902 the firm bought the cutlery business of Joseph Haywood & Co., based at the Glamorgan Works in Pond Street . This was acquired for the factory site, since Haywood's trade marks and goodwill were immediately sold to Thos. Turner. By 1911 the operations of Nixon & Winterbottom had been moved to the Glamorgan Works where it joined another firm purchased at about this time, Michael Hunter & Co. From the Sheffield and Rotherham Illustrated, 1897, mentioned above, it can be seen that Needham , Veall & Tyzack were also in the market for plated goods. They introduced the manufacture of spoons and forks, fish-eating knives, plated desserts, fish-carvers and tea and coffee-services. The Nimrod Works in Eldon Street , (formerly owned by Bartram, the powder flask maker), was occupied to deal with these products. 

Showrooms were also opened to demonstrate Needham , Veall & Tyzacks' tastefulness in these matters, and 'well got-up' catalogues were issued to customers. But Eye witness knives remained the firm's best known line and both hand-forged and machine-made knives were produced. According to an obituary of James Veall, the company employed about thirty or so workers in the 1870s, a number which had reached nearly a thousand by 1906. However, even if this figure was not overstated it must have been a peak and the number of workers had fallen by the end of the First World War. After 1918, Needham , Veall & Tyzack suffered the fate of many other Sheffield makers, they were hit by the fall in the demand for high-quality pocket-knives and razors brought on by the invention of stainless steel. However, they mechanised there production process and survived. Walter Tyzack's response was to lead a merger of Sheffield cutlery companies. In 1919, he organized Sheffield Cutlery Manufacturers Ltd, which was a combination of his own compa ny and   Joseph Elliot , Lockwood Bros, Nixon & Winterbottom, Southern & Richardson, and   Thos. Turner  . Bad management and poor trading conditions in the 1920's soon ruined this venture. Tyzack himself suffered a seizure in March 1922 and he retired to London , where he died on 24 January 1925. In the aftermath of this fiasco, Needham , Veall & Tyzack took over Southern & Richardson there trademarks . 

In 1919 the Cutlers Company of Sheffield issued a register of   Trade Marks  and products  produced  by its members. Needham Veall & Tyzack had 27 Trade Marks reflecting the number of companies it had acquired. It's product range was extensive ranging from cutlery to surgical instruments to scissors manufactured from steel, Britannia metal and Sheffield plate

Advert showing Needham Veall & Tyzack's product range 






After the Second World War it took over other Sheffield marks acquiring Saynor, Cooke & Ridal in 1948, 'Wheatsheaf' (Wheatley) and XL ALL (Parkin & Marshall). In 1965 the firm was styled as Taylor 's Eye Witness. Ten years later, it was absorbed and is now a division of Harrison Fisher & Co. Today it is still in the same location and is still Sheffield owned, trading again since 1965 as Taylor 's Eye-Witness. 


1. From ' Glass Tools & Tyzacks' a  Tyzack's company history.  

2 Register of Trade Marks of he Cutlers Company of Sheffield 1919 reproduced by TATHS



1. Directory of Sheffield Cutlery Manufacturers 1740-2013 [2nd edition] by Geoffrey Tweedale 

2. Robert Williams private communication 

3. Mick Knapton Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons - 

4. A History Of Sheffield ", David Hey,  ISBN 1-85936-110-2   , Page 209-210

5. 11




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