This week, Forged in Britain found itself in a converted public toilet in Sheffield, but not by accident. Built in 1905, this once convenience spot for Sheffield tram drivers is now the workshop of Knife Maker Grace Horne who features in this week’s show.
“Tiny, but perfectly formed with glazed brick,” Horne says of her workshop found along the Fulwood Road. This craftswoman has created a truly unique location in the ‘Steel City.’ Horne, who has been making blades for 23 years, makes “useful objects” such as folding and pocket knives. She is a master at making practical tools and performing old techniques such as stoning used for flattening and levelling surfaces. Horne has created an almost pre-industrial environment in her workshop. Free from modern engineering and technology she strives to create everything by hand.
While the tradition of metal making goes hand in hand with Sheffield, a city that was a leading exporter of steel throughout the 19th century, Horne believes a vital part of the history has been overlooked. “There isn’t a history of women being acknowledged in the knife making industry,” she tells Forged in Britain. “There’s quite a lot of evidence that suggests that they had a really important place.”
Horne explains, “In houses, in Sheffield, there are post anvil holes in kitchen floors. Little anvils were put in so women [could work on] small items… and then they would have been paid piece work for it. It’s really nice to be carrying on that tradition.” Part of this history was commemorated in 2016 with the ‘Women of Steel’ statue in Barker’s Pool, Sheffield. The statue celebrates the women of South Yorkshire, some as young as 14, who were conscripted to work in the steelworks during WW2.
At the end of the episode, Horne displays her finished pair of pocket scissors, an object with more significance than its size suggests. More than just a tool, these scissors speak to a rich a history that is still being written.
Forged in Britain
Forged in Britain
Forged in Britain is a brand new and exclusive series of shorts. In each episode, HISTORY meets five of Britain's leading forgers each who have their own unique approach to this ancient craft. Each week, the forgers demonstrate how they create new blades and share their knowledge on the item they have made. You can catch the series on Thursdays at 9pm during episodes of Forged in Fire, but also online the day after.