Retro: Wheel deal for studios which began life as works

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Today’s bit of Sheffield 
history that falls under my magnifying glass is what is now the Yellow Arch 
Studios on Burton Road.

The clue picture on Page 3 gives a massive hint what business was conducted there from the 1870s - it shows the underside of a horse’s hoof.

And with the shoe and the frog that can be plainly seen, its not a horse-shoe for good luck, it’s the logo of wheelwright and blacksmiths John Grayson & Sons.

The little shop on the corner, now a sandwich shop, was held by George Bibby (grocer).

This little shop is listed as being St Michael’s and All Angels Institute in 1893 but by 1901, Mr John Taylor took over the premises and opened a butcher’s shop.

Also in 1901, a couple of other businesses shared the works - George Edward Hoyland was an iron and steel merchant and in 1905 John Grayson was also trading from 72 Harvest Lane as a lamp and oil dealer.

In the same year, John Taylor sold his butcher’s business to Ernest Brookes and he in turn sold the shop to James Edward Whitfield and he opened the shop as a tobacconists.

I can’t be sure what year he took over the property but he’s listed in the White’s Directory of 1911 as a tobacconist.

The Graysons ran their business from around 1875 and continued well into the late 1920s or even later.

In 1905 John and his son’s home is shown as 34 Burton Road – which is the works itself.

Thomas died on July 21, 1921, aged 74, at his home at 4 Hicks Street, close to his works, and he was laid to rest in Burngreave Cemetery, leaving his brother John to carry on with the business.

I can’t find out any information on when John, the father, died.

On looking at the website of the Yellow Arch Studios, I noticed one glaring mistake.

I quote “Yellow Arch Studios started life as an Edwardian nuts and bolts factory for the bridge and shipping industry at the turn of the century.”

My research proves it was Victorian and was a busy works from 1873 onwards.

A nut and bolt works did move in but it was sometime after 1925 and by 1974 the New Marsh Bolt, Nut and Washer Ltd - Bolt & Nut Manufacturer were working out of the works.

Maybe someone from the studio will read this and amend their website!

The following information is for my two friends, Mr D and Mr S - a wheelwright is a person who builds or repairs wooden wheels. The word is the combination of “wheel” and the archaic word “wright”, which comes from the Old English word “Wryhta”, meaning a worker or maker.

This occupational name eventually became the English surname Wheelwright, recorded in the spellings of Wheelwright and Wheelright - and both from the original Whelewryghte.

This is an English occupational surname, describing a skilled maker of wheeled vehicles and probably members of the ancient Guild of Wheelwrights.

It is, like Wheelhouse, often Yorkshire in origin, and rarely found elsewhere in medieval times.

Why this should be so, when the development of wheeled vehicles was nationwide, is hard to understand.

The majority of early records are from England’s largest county, and perhaps as York is situated midway between London and Edinburgh, and was the capital city of the north, this geographical siting may have had some influence on the development of the skill of wheel-wrighting.

What is certain is that the surname appears at least three times in the Poll Tax registers for the city of York in the year 1379, when Willelmus Whelewryghte, and what is believed to have been his two brothers Robertus and Johannes, are recorded.

The first known recording though is from the county of Essex. This was Walter Welwryhte, who appears in the Hundred Rolls for that county in the year 1273.

This was during the first year of the reign of King Edward I of England, renowned in some circles for being known as “The Hammer of the Scots.”

Tradesmen made wheels for carts and wagons by first constructing the hub, the spokes and the rim/ or felloe segments (pronounced fellies) and assembling them all into a unit working from the centre of the wheel outwards.

After many centuries wheels evolved to be straked with iron, a method of nailing iron plates on to the felloes to protect against wear on the ground and to help bind the wheel together.

Over the centuries, the overall appearance of the wheel barely changed but little changes to the design of a wooden wheel such as dishing and staggered spokes helped keep up with the demands of a changing world.

Around the middle of the 19th century, iron strakes were replaced by a solid iron tyre, custom made by a blacksmith.

Strakes were replaced around the mid-19th century by more dependable iron tyres that were always made smaller than the wheel in circumference, expanded by heating in a fire then placed on the wooden wheel and quenched quickly with water to shrink it on to the wood.

Tyre-bolts were less likely than tyre-nails to break off because they were flush finished and countersunk into the wheel’s outer surface, also allowing for wear without wearing the bolt head away.

During the second half of the 19th century, the use of pre-manufactured iron hubs and other factory-made wood, iron and rubber wheel parts became increasingly common.

In 1878, Sheffield had 70 wheelwrights listed - not surprising really as the only mode of transport that people had was one of three options - by horse, horse and cart or just walk.

Strangely enough in the same year only one whip maker is listed.