The Needham family who lived in St Thomas Street in the middle late 19th and early parts of the 20th century have an heirloom – a gold ring. The gold ring is inscribed ‘Presented to Mr Thomas Needham of Sheffield by Mrs Peacock'. On the inside it states ‘In appreciation of his skills for affecting a cure of an ulcerated leg of 30 years standing'.
Thomas Needham was a cutlery worker living in what were later condemed as slums of inner Sheffield. He had a side line in making salve. Salve is a balm applied to cuts, burns, ulcers etc to heal them. It was made in the home from a mixture of red lead, white lead, colza oil, resin and bees wax and the recipe and manufacture was and still is a family secret . My grandma and dad used to tell stories of people coming from all over Sheffield to their house for a penny stick of salve and of selling it in lots to shops for resale. When my grandma was making the salve dad was sent round to Prestons the local chemist on West Street with a list of ingredients he was not to divulge to anyone. The salve was applied by melting it over a gas ring, by match or candle and applied to lint that was subsequently put on the effected wound or ulcer. The lint was changed regularly. Thomas's son George Needham of 45 St Thomas Street has an entry in Kelly's trade directory of 1893 as a salve maker
In the 1870's a wealthy merchant, hearing of the salve's healing powers, caused a stir by taking his daughter round to Thomas's house in a horse and carriage so that he could treat her ulcers.. After a number of visits to Thomas's house the ulcers began to disappear and eventually cleared. The Peacock family were so happy with the outcome that they presented Thomas with a memento – the ring. For a family living and working in inner Sheffield the receipt of the ring was a great honour. Fortunately the ring was never sold, despite the family suffering great hardship during the depression. The ring is now passed down through the family to the eldest son.
The ring is worn through use but the inscriptions are clear; the hallmarks less so.