Tuesday, January 5, 2010

News: A history of enterprise and apprenticeships in Rotherham


The latest display from the archives shows that entrepreneurs and apprentices were alive and well in Rotherham as long ago as the 18th century.

Rotherham Archive's display highlights a long-lived local blacksmith's founded just before the French Revolution in 1788 and closing some ten years after the end of World War II.

On June 6 1802, on his 14th birthday, George Adams of Rotherham was apprenticed to a blacksmith. Unusually the "blacksmith" was his mother, Elizabeth, who had taken over the family business eleven months earlier when her husband Thomas died.

It is highly improbable that Elizabeth wielded a hammer or shoed horses, but she was clearly in charge of things.

The oldest of five children, George was later joined in the business by his younger brother, Henry (1791-1864), who continued to run it after the early death of George's only son, Thomas, in 1831, and George's death in 1836.

It is not clear where the Adams smithy was situated in these early years, but by 1826 it was in Vicarage Lane in Rotherham town centre, where the business remained until 1931. In that year the premises were demolished and the business moved to Wellgate, finally closing in the mid-1950s.

In 1931, four members of the family with 134 years experience as blacksmiths, who were descendants of Henry Adams posed for a photograph outside the smithy. This picture will be on display as part of the exhibit along with an apprenticeship indenture of 1802.

The Council's Assistant Archivist Celia Parker said: "These two items remind us that not all businesses in Rotherham were large industrial concerns. The Adams smithy lasted longer than many of these, with five generations of the family working in the business.

"Elizabeth's role after her husband's death illustrates the fact that many 18th and 19th century women did, particularly as widows, involve themselves in business matters and were regarded as quite capable of doing so.

"The business closed some 60 years ago. Little is known of what happened to the Adams family after the closure of the business, but, no matter how things ended for the family, they can be rest assured that they made their mark on Rotherham's history."

The items will be on display for two months in the Central Library and Arts Centre.

Rotherham Archives website

Images: rotherham.gov.uk


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