If there is one word that people associate with Sheffield it is steel. It was in 1760 – when the foundations of the one of the city’s best known firms, and one synonymous with steel; Spear & Jackson, were laid.
It was in this year that a draper named John Love and a Wakefield merchant, Alexander Spear, decided that steel offered a better living than cloth and went into business together. By 1814, the business had passed down to Alexander’s nephew John, who took on an apprentice – Sam Jackson – to learn ‘ye art, trade or mistery of sawmaking’. Sam’s first job was carrying blades from the forge to the grinding wheels yet, by 1830, he had obviously proved his worth as a new partnership was formed – Spear & Jackson. Neill Tools, Spear & Jackson’s parent company, can meanwhile ‘only’ chart a history as far back as 1889, when James Neill, a successful accountant, turned to steelmaking and patented ‘composite’ steel (steel-backed iron) for hacksaw blades. Registering the Eclipse trademark in 1909, Neill started making the world’s first composite steel hacksaw blades in 1911.
By 1924, frames had been added to the range and the company introduced the classic shape which all hacksaws now mirror. Fast-forwarding to the 80s, Neill Tools bought Spear & Jackson in 1985, renaming the business Spear & Jackson plc in 1995. But Neill, Eclipse and Spear & Jackson aren’t the whole brand story. The group also includes the famous WHS trowel brand.
Centuries of experience and innovation have resulted in the materials and development expertise that resides within the company today; and “continuous innovation” is at the heart of the company’s ethos. This drive to improve product materials and performance can be seen in many different ways across the company’s 3,000 lines. The organisation has come a long way since 1760, and the Spear & Jackson Group now manufactures and distributes garden tools, metrology equipment, woodworking tools and magnetic equipment under several brand names: Neill Tools, Bowers, Robert Sorby, Moore and Wright, Eclipse, WHS and Tyzack. With divisions across England, France and Australia, Spear & Jackson distributes products throughout the world.