Messrs. 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 mechanise 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. The family are living at 27 St Phillips Street and Thomas Brown is described as a grocer. 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 in 1854 John Taylor, the man who took out the 'Eye Witness' corporate mark dies. That same year Edwin Needham also dies. So by 1856 the business was being run by Thomas Brown Needham. He ran the company until his death in 1870. 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 advertisement for the Taylor 's Eye Witness Works from the 1890s ref 3
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 company 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 .
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.
1. Mick Knapton Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Eye_Witness_Works.jpg#/media/File:Eye_Witness_Works.jpg
2. A History Of Sheffield ", David Hey, ISBN 1-85936-110-2 , Page 209-210