Needham Family

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Trades - Cutlers


A number of Needham's were cutlers and silversmiths some of whom were registered with the assay office - see Silver Smiths. The main cutlers were;

J Needham J 1833 48 Garden Street; 32 Bailey Street (h) pen knife manufacturer (White's)
Henry Needham* Henry 1849 Machon Bank Silver Smith - journeyman (White's)
William Needham* William 1849 24 St Phillips Road Spring Knife Cutler (White's)
Joseph Needham* Joseph 1852 78 Garden Street (h) Spring Knife Manufacturer (White's)
Thomas Needham * Thomas 1852 27 St Phillips road Cutler & Shopkeeper (Whites)
John Needham John 1881 69 Arundel Street Registered Silver Smith
Needham Veall & Tyzack   1890 Eye Witness Works, Milton Street Registered Silver Smith
William Needham William 1891 Jessop Street Registered Silver Smith
  William 1911 146 Eyre Street; 17 Harefield Road (h) Silver Fruit Knife Manufacturer (White's)
  Ralph Clarke 1919 17 Harefield Road (h) Silver Fruit Knife Manufacturer (White's)
  William Henry 1919 11 Harefield Road (h) Silver Fruit Knife Manufacturer (White's)
Needham Bros Joseph 1893   Cutlery Manufacturer's (Kelly's)
  William 1893 13 Jessop Street Cutlery Manufacturer's (Kelly's)
Needham Bros ltd   1900 Bakers Hill Registered Silver Smith
    1903 36 Matilda Street  
  Edwin George & Francis Joseph 1911   Cutlery Manufacturers (White's)
    1925 83 Trenter Street Cutlery Manufacturers (Kelly's)
Isaac Needham * Isaac 1911 Reliance Works, Bolsover St; 64 Melbourne Road (h) Spring Knife Cutler (White's)
Robert Charles Needham* Robert Charles 1911 Court 7 Leicester St; 42 Industry St. (h) Scissor Forger (White's)
Kirkham & Co Herbert 1925 2 Reliance Place (h) (Kelly's)

* In a directory but not associated with a company, so assumed an independent manufacturer

Needham Knives

There were three main companies producing knives with Needham in the name: William Needham, Needham Bros & Needham Veall & Tyzack. Some examples of the variety of knives produced are shown below

FIG 1 Examples of knives made by Needham's












We should now look at the companies and see if we can find which Needham's were the main players


William Needham Ltd








Silver Fruit Knife; Hall Marked Sheffield 1917;

WN – William Needham – registered 30 Jun 1891


William Needham, the founder of the company that bears his name,was born in Mitchell Street, Sheffield on the 21st Oct 1853; they can be found in the Sheffield 23 tree. His parents were Joseph & Jane Needham and Joseph was a joinery tool maker. So, it is no surprise that William followed a similar career and becomes a silver smith/cutler.ln the 1871 census he is still living with his parents (51 Lansdowne Road) with an occupation of Silver Cutler. Later, he married Annie and they had two sons: William Henry Needham(b1877) & Ralph Clarke Needham (b1883).. In the '81 &'91 census WIlliam is described as a silver fruit knife maker. After moving house at least once a decade he & Annie finally settled on Harefield Road, where he died in 1915 leaving £3634

William's eldest son, William Henry Needham lived on Harefield Road most of his life. At the age of 14 he was described as a silver fruit knife maker , like his father. He marries Elizabeth in 1901 and in 1903 they have a son William Edwin Needham. Similarly, Ralph Clarke Needham was a silver fruit knife maker, lived on Harefield Road, married Bertha Annie and has two children, Dora & Ralph Clarke (b1905)

In 1891 William Needham registered as a silversmith at the Assay Office in Sheffield with a works address in Jessop Street. William and Ralph Needham (William's two sons) are listed as Partners of the firm, 15th July 1936, based at Portland Works, Hill Street, Sheffield. There is a company calling card for William Needham. Cutlery Manufacturer, Portland Works, Hill Street, Sheffield. It states the company was formed in 1884












Examples of the companies work from the Portland Works is shown below  This company appears to have been operational until 1973



Inscription ' Needham Hill Street







Inscription 'Needham Hill Street'




Needham Bro's


Inscription 'Repeat Needham Bros'







Inscription 'Repeat Needham Bros'



Advert for Needham Bros








The first mention I've found to date for Needham Bros is 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. After 1862 I have found no more mention of the first Needham brothers but the same is not true of the firm of William & Joseph. But before we look at the Needham Brothers of WIlliam & Joseph what do we know of the other Needham Brothers. Well Henry William and Charles Needham were, not surprisingly brothers whose parents were William and Harriett Needham. They were born in Sheffield respectively in 1820 and 1824. Their father was born in Eckington and came to Sheffield in 1806 as an apprentice where he subsequently married Harriett Hobson. It's not surprising then that Henry William and Charles followed in their fathers footsteps as knife makers.










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


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 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







Fig Entries Kelly's Directory 1881



Documents in the National archives ( BT 31/31478/50526), state that Needham Brothers ltd was incorporated in 1896. 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.The question is who were the proprietors as both Joseph and William were dead? 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. This I believe is the start of the process that leads to liquidation of a company. Thus, it's likely that Needham Brothers stopped Trading shortly afterwards




The London Gazette 14 March 1933




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 (Table 1). 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 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 .

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

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