Next year, people will start moving into a new residential complex in Sheffield City Centre. When they do, the occupants of Kangaroo Works, a 364 apartment development, will have one of the oddest postal addresses in the city.
Designed by Whittam Cox Architects, with construction underway by Henry Boot, Kangaroo Works is the latest building in Sheffield’s Heart of the City II development. The building, with frontages to Rockingham and Wellington Streets, is designed around the vernacular Sheffield courtyard plan, and provides a stepped roofscape, responding to the sloping typology of the site and forming a transition between the formal city centre and more historic Devonshire Quarter.
The block has a peak of 14 storeys whilst a unique brick façade, taking inspiration from Sheffield’s urban heritage, supports the Masterplan palette and industrial heritage of the original Kangaroo Works site, which the development now stands on.
Kangaroo Works was home to Robert Sorby and Sons, makers of edge tools, later becoming a merchant and steel maker, that had set up on Union Street in 1828 and then moved to Carver Street in 1837.
About 1896 it moved a short distance to this site at the corner of Trafalgar and Wellington Streets.
Their products included adzes, axes, augers, edge tools, joiners’ tools, saws, scythes, hooks, sheep shears and crucible steel. The company sought markets worldwide, and the Kangaroo brand, which was used until the 1980s, was adopted to emphasise the company’s interest in Australia.
Robert Sorby and Sons was acquired by Hattersley and Davidson in 1923, and vacated Kangaroo Works in 1934 to share a site on Chesterfield Road. It still survives in premises on Athol Road at Woodseats.
The former Kangaroo Works became dilapidated and converted for multi-use, and remained so until demolition in 2008, after which it was used as a car-park.
But what happened to the famous stone-carved Kangaroo trademark that once stood over the gateway on Wellington Street?
It was rescued and re-erected at Kelham Island Museum, slightly shorter in height so that it would fit into the restored Russell Works building that houses the Ken Hawley Collection of tools, cutlery and silversmithing made in Sheffield.
And so, the name lives on, and Kangaroo Works will occupy pride of place overlooking Pound’s Park, the new urban green space also under construction.
It wasn’t that long ago that Triumph cars populated our roads. Sadly, the Triumph marque disappeared, but not many people realise that the car company once had its head office in Sheffield.
Triumph’s origins were in 1885 when Siegfried Bettmann and Moritz Schulte from Germany founded Bettmann & Co and started selling Triumph bicycles from premises in London and from 1889 started making their own machines in Coventry.
In 1930 the company changed to the Triumph Motor Company and made upmarket models like the Southern Cross and Gloria ranges. The company had financial problems and in 1936 the car, bicycle and motorcycle businesses were sold.
Donald Healey, a Triumph manager, bought the motor business and developed a new car called the Triumph Dolomite.
The Triumph Motor Company went into receivership in 1939 and was bought by T.W. Ward, the Sheffield-based ship-breaking, iron, and machinery business. The head office was at Albion Works on Saville Street, but it wasn’t a successful acquisition. World War Two stopped production of cars and the Triumph works at Priory Street, Coventry, was destroyed by bombing.
“The Triumph Company was to us merely a plain straightforward speculation,” said Mr S.J. Dyal, a director. “And because of the outbreak of war we really did not have the chance of continuing car production. We had no manufacturing space, and as a policy decision it was agreed that car production was not to be our line of business. So eventually the assets – little more than the name Triumph – were eventually taken over by The Standard Motor Company.”
Donald Healey stayed on at T.W. Ward before leaving to join Vickers-Armstrong in aircraft production.
Under ownership of the Standard Motor Company a new range of Triumph models appeared after the war. Sporting models were badged as Triumph while the Standard name appeared on saloons. The Standard name was dropped with the introduction of the Triumph 2000.
Afterwards, the company was bought by Leyland Motors and further mergers led to the formation of British Leyland (later Austin Rover) in 1968. The last Triumph produced was the Acclaim in 1981 and the marque disappeared completely in 1984.
The trademark is currently owned by BMW, acquired when it bought the Rover Group in 1994, and when it later sold Rover, retained the Triumph marque.
When Thomas William Ward died in 1926, he had owned during his lifetime enough warships to make up a respectable fleet. He had founded T.W. Ward in 1877 and left what was probably the largest ship-breaking, iron, and machinery business in the world.
Once upon a time, businessmen had looked with suspicion on the scrap iron merchant and second-hand machinery business, but by honesty and square trading, Thomas lifted his business to the pinnacle which commanded the respect of the industrial community.
He was the son of Thomas William Ward of Wadsley Bridge and was born in Sheffield in 1853. He started his business career with Moss and Gamble, and in 1877, aged 24, launched out with his brothers as a coal, coke, and iron merchant. Within five years, he had cleared off obligations incurred in his father’s business and soon added the sale of machinery to his activities, extending the area of operations to deal with obsolete works and battleships.
Thomas had had the idea of dismantling old ships and recycling the material for other ‘useful’ purposes.
The business became a limited company in 1914 and such was the remarkable progress that it embraced 32 distinct undertakings in all parts of the United Kingdom.
The company dismantled many famous works, including Abbots Works, Gateshead; Bowling Ironworks; Kelham Rolling Mills, Sheffield; Derwent Rolling Mills, Workington; Dearne and Dove Works; Birchills Furnaces; West Cumberland and Whittington Works.
Many large battleships and merchant vessels were dismantled at Ward’s works, the list extending into several hundreds, including the steamers Luciana, Adriatic, H.M.S. Inflexible, H.M.S. Dreadnought, H.M.S. Magnificent, H.M.S. Prince of Wales, the German battleships Helgoland and Westfalen, and the steamer Canopie.
After World War One the company bought 1,000 tanks, the record purchase of 115 war vessels from the Admiralty, the acquisition of the Palestine pipeline, the Lartigue Railway, and the Marconi Wireless Station, Cliften, all for dismantling purposes.
Thomas Ward never sought public office but served as a J.P. and in 1913 had the unique honour of serving as president of Sheffield Chamber of Commerce and Master Cutler, both at the same time. He also gave advice to several commissions in connection with the Merchandise Marks Act and the National Insurance Act
While conducting business, he travelled a great deal visiting America, South Africa, Australia, Sweden Norway, Spain, Germany, and Italy.
“I have succeeded because I worked very hard at the beginning, and as a young man I studied mechanics and metallurgy.”
His younger brother, Joseph, was involved in the business from the start, becoming chairman and managing director, while another brother, Arthur, and nephew, Ashley, were joint assistant managing directors. Together they erected an imposing headquarters on Savile Street, known as Albion Works, with other extensive premises at Preston and Wednesbury.
Thomas was a member of the Wesleyan Church, holding many lay offices, and gave generously to the church. He was an enthusiastic horticulturalist, and his gardens at The Grove, Millhouses, and then Endcliffe Vale, were a source of great pride and pleasure to him.
He died at Endcliffe Vale House, aged 72, in 1926, and was buried at Crookes Cemetery.
The company was run by the family until the latter part of the 1950s, by which time there were five divisions – raw materials, construction, engineering, motor distribution and industrial supplies. Through acquisitions the Ward Group consisted over 35 companies by the 1960s, but its fortunes dwindled in the following decades.
The Group was acquired by Rio Tinto Zinc in 1982 but after significant losses an administration order was granted to the parent company, Ward Group, in 1992 and although the subsidiaries traded normally, most were subsequently sold.
The machinery division was acquired by an MBO in 1983 and is now known as T.W. Ward CNC Machinery, still operating at Albion Works.
“For many of us, you hear the name “Stanley” and you think blades. And when you think “blades”, you think Sheffield. Yes, Sheffield and Stanley seem to go together like peaches and cream.”
The signs around Bramall Lane and Hillsborough used to say ‘The Home of Stanley Tools’ and a generation of us thought this was another great old Sheffield company.
However, the story of Stanley Tools takes place on two continents.
The forebears of Frederick Trent Stanley were English and emigrated to the United States. He was born in Connecticut in 1802 and began working on the family farm before labouring in various manufacturing industries. In 1843, he co-founded the Stanley Bolt Manufactory, and later the Stanley Works, in New Britain, to make door bolts and other wrought-iron hardware. He could often be seen driving around New England in his horse-drawn buggy, visiting homes and farms to fit them up with his products.
By the time of his death in 1883, The Stanley Works’ capital investment had increased more than tenfold, and the enterprise had developed into a well-known manufacturer of hinges, planes, bolts, bits, and other tools.
In 1857 his cousin, Henry Stanley, founded The Stanley Rule and Level Company in the city. Planes invented by Leonard Bailey and manufactured by the company, known as Stanley/Bailey planes, were prized by woodworkers of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The two companies merged in 1920, and the Stanley Rule and Level Company became part of Stanley Works.
And now to Sheffield where James Arscott Chapman (born Bristol, 1827) began making carpenters’ braces in the 1860s at the Industry Tool Works, Woodside Lane. On his death in 1891, the W.A. Chapman company might have passed to his eldest son Joseph, but he was about to spend time in prison after being found guilty of embezzlement. Instead, James, his youngest son, took over the business which grew and prospered.
After the turn of the twentieth century further expansion took place, and during the First World War the company manufactured thousands of bayonets in addition to their regular line of tools.
The business changed hands after the death of James Chapman in 1925 and the manufacture of planes, hand drills and breast drills were added to the line of carpenters’ braces. In 1934, it started making hand planes under the Acorn name.
In 1936, the Stanley Works of New Britain, Connecticut, purchased J.A. Chapman Ltd and started developing its celebrated range of Stanley Tools which had previously been imported from the United States since the 1870s.
Existing plant and facilities were expanded, and a new five-storey building was erected in Rutland Road.
The first line to be introduced was the famous Stanley bench plane, and production was well established by the time World War Two put a stop to further developments.
During the war the production of planes, braces, breast drills and hand drills, was expanded to meet the ever-increasing demands of the armed forces and Government departments.
In addition, millions of shell primers and tracer shells were manufactured on modern automatic plant.
The building was extended in 1950 and 1961 and a second site opened at Ecclesfield, but like the rest of Sheffield’s tool industry, the company suffered at the hands of cheap imports. A lot of production was switched abroad, and the Rutland Road/Woodside Road site was closed in 2008.
But that wasn’t the end of the Stanley Tools story.
Tool manufacturing was switched to an efficient new factory at Hellaby, Rotherham, and allowed the manufacture of Stanley Tools to return from Asia.
And what about that famous utility knife, generically known around the world as a Stanley Knife? In 2012, Stanley brought the manufacture of steel blades for its knives back to the UK. Made in Rotherham.
Stanley Works and Black & Decker merged in 2010 to become the world’s largest tools and storage company, the world’s second largest commercial electronic security business and the world’s second largest engineered fastening company.
But there is a sad twist to the Stanley Tools story in Sheffield.
Search ‘Stanley Tools Sheffield’ on the internet and you will come across loads of urban explorer sites that record the decline and fall of a former manufacturing facility.
“The Stanley Tools Factory, which quickly fell into a state of disrepair, was being frequented by homeless. It was put up for sale, with parts of the factory used on the weekends as a zombie-themed Airsoft venue. When a buyer for the full site couldn’t be found, some of the buildings were sold to smaller businesses, such as car dealers and scrapyards. On 30th January 2021, a large fire tore through one of the derelict buildings on the Stanley Tools factory site. Around 25 firefighters tackled the blaze overnight and got it under control by the early hours of the following morning.” – Lost Places & Forgotten Faces
Ever wondered who creates the subtitles for Hollywood movies from the likes of Disney, HBO, Paramount, Warner Brothers, Sony Pictures, Viacom, and Netflix?
Look no further than Sheffield company, Zoo Digital, established in 2001 by Stuart Green and Ian Stewart of Gremlin Interactive. In 2003 it had a worldwide smash with the first interactive DVD game, Who Wants to Be A Millionaire? Afterwards, it developed new tech and started subtitling, dubbing, cloud operations and streaming.
Zoo Digital creates subtitles and dubbing voiceovers in 80 languages for Hollywood films shown around the world. But unlike rivals based in studios shuttered by the pandemic, its cloud-based tech can be used anywhere. The firm has 7,000 freelance voice artists and translators who mostly work from home. It also has offices in London, Dubai, and Hollywood, with total global staffing at more than 270.
Recently, it completed a strategic investment in Istanbul-based media company ARES Media to grow ZOO’s services for Turkish content.
Based on St Mary’s Gate, it’s now moving all its 160 Sheffield-based workers into the former Co-op department store on Angel Street. It joins another top city tech firm, WANdisco, which made the building home in October 2019. Castle House is also home to popular food hall Kommune and a Barclays tech accelerator.
Grade II listed Castle House was designed by George S. Hay, chief architect for the Co-operative Wholesale Society, for the Brightside & Carbrook. It was built between 1959 and 1964 before closing in 2007.
Which Sheffield company operates from a network of 34 depots, with a head office in the city, and serves about 4,000 businesses?
This is a company founded in 1914 by Harold James Tuffnell (1886-1963) with a horse and a cart he bought for £100. His surname is the giveaway, and today Tuffnells is a nationwide parcels carrier.
By the 1920s, Harold Tuffnell was operating on Langdon Street as a motor haulage contractor and coal merchant, living at 261 Pearl Street. By 1936, H.J. Tuffnell Ltd, carriers, were on Mary Street, with Harold living at 149 Folds Lane
By 1951, H.J. Tuffnell operated seven vehicles with a livery of maroon and cream, but two years later was sold to Mr E.J. Shaw, who had bought into removal company Caudles (established in the 1890s by William Caudle as a coal merchant, furniture remover, and haulier).
The company moved to Woodbourn Road, and subsequently to Shepcote Lane in the late 1960s.
In 1971, Tuffnells was sold to TDG (Transport Development Group), a company founded in 1922 as The General Lighterage Co, and which eventually was swallowed up by Nobert Dentressangle and XPO Logistics. Under TDG, Tuffnells expanded and by the 1980s operated out of fifteen depots nationwide.
It changed its name to Tuffnells Parcels Express in 1985, and with a fleet of two hundred vehicles, adopted the slogan, The Big Green Parcel Machine.
Tuffnells was subject to a £33m management buyout in 2005 and turnover exceeded £100m for the first time. It came to the attention of the Connect Group, another company with a long history – originally known as W.H. Smith News and renamed Smiths News in 2006 from the demerger of W.H. Smith. It became the Connect Group before reverting to Smiths News again.
Connect paid £100m for Tuffnells in its centenary year, later moving its main distribution centre to Europa Close and its head office to the former Sheffield City Council Offices on Carbrook Hall Road.
The takeover was not without its problems and subject to a run of poor performance, (“a drag on profitability and cash”), Connect had considered closing it, before off-loading the company (and its 1,200 green trucks) to investment vehicle Palm Bidco for £15m in July 2020, effectively returning the company back into private hands once again.