Arguably the EARLIEST DEPICTION OF A STEEL FURNACE IN BRITAIN. The Sheffield shown here has a population of about 15,000. It would become 135,000 by 1850; at which time it was producing half of Europe’s steel. At the foreground slightly right of centre are two bottle-shaped cementation steel furnaces. The last of its kind still stands nearby on Doncaster Street, Sheffield. These two were built by Samuel Shore (1676-1751) shortly after 1709 and stood on Steelhouse Lane. Shore and one Thomas Parkin were the only steel makers at the time in Sheffield. The Shore family were the wealthiest residents of Sheffield.
This view of Sheffield is ‘Drawn Engravn. Printed & Sold’ by Thomas Oughtibridge and is dated to about 1737. Thomas Oughtibridge (1699-53) was born 1699 in Hatfield just outside Doncaster, South Yorkshire. The flyleaf of the diary of Abraham de la Pryme (1671-1704) bears a comment on Oughtibridge stating ‘A Yorkshire artist of no extraordinary merit, but his engravings are valuable as giving representations of objects no longer existing’ (Hunter, ‘South Yorkshire’ p. 181). He was also a sculptor and has two monuments by him in Hatfield church. His mother is recorded as Sarah de la Pryme (1677-1708), a sister to the diarist.
His ornate trade card survives in the British Museum (Heal,59.119), a London address at the Sign of the Sun in Brooks Market, New Holborn, is added by hand. He identifies himself as an engraver working with gold, silver, copper, brass or wood. He was engraving by 1727, the date found on ‘The West Prospect of Lindholme in the parish of Hatfield’. He married in 1734 in Hatfield and was resident there still in 1741 and died there. His time in London was therefore likely brief.
The perspective is taken from the northern side of Sheffield in Burngreave. Taken from the Pye Bank heights behind the Bridge Houses. In the foreground keyed are the ‘Bridge Houses’. The original Bridgehouses footbridge is depicted behind. It was replaced in 1795 with one of the earliest iron bridges in the world, a later version of which still stands today. Hellam Wheel is shown lower right bridging the southern arm of the river. It is now part of Kelham Island where there is a museum to the city’s industrial history.
Dominating the skyline is Trinity Church with the ‘New Church’ to the east, now St Paul’s, construction of which was completed by 1721. Ladies bridge lower left is the oldest river crossing in Sheffield. The original wooden bridge was constructed sometime after 1150. The stone bridge depicted was built around 1485. A charming engraving featuring sheep in a field, labourers in a field and a dog walker in a park near the church. The print is dedicated to the Corporation of Cutlers in Hallamshire, a historical area of south Yorkshire, largely occupied by the city of Sheffield. Their arms and motto are in the centre of the title. The trade guild was founded by James I in 1624. The Cutler’s Hall sits immediately behind Trinity Church in the view, out of site. Only one example of this print is known in Sheffield Local Studies Library (S1/L).
Provenance: A faint inscription on the verso ‘To? Mr [E?] Bradley in Philadelphia Pensilvania’; acquired in 2003 from a private Yorkshire collection; private English collection. ‘Biographical Dictionary of Sculptors in Britain, 1660-1851’; Family tree of Oughtibridge’s parents – https://www.elibron.com/wp-content/uploads/843/map_2.pdf; not in Library Hub; Oughtibridge trade card, British Museum, https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/object/P_Heal-59-119; Sheffield City Museum, ‘Picture This’ Exhibition 2003.