Vintage Thomas Turner and company 'Encore' straight razor (VR7)

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TT & Co was quite a large firm with solid experience in their field, their expertise was sourced from various well known companies. This razor is around a century+ old and do have a few scuff marks it picked up during this journey. That being said, it still shaves as great as the first time a gentleman glided it down his cheeks in the 1800's, and the new owner can polish it up some more, my focus was on removing the rust and getting it to a good working condition, and not make it pretty as new.

This razor must have been part of a seven day set as it has the number '2' inscribed on the spine. If '2' is your lucky number you know what this means! It is quite a big razor for this era, with lots of thumb space, the most important part of the razor when it comes to control. The razor still has its original genuine ivory scales that has some small cracks and discoloration. Finding ivory scales that are intact and serviceable is scarce as it is, so this is quite a precious find and there was no way I was replacing these! The scales survived quite a lengthy sanding and polishing process, the sharpening of the razor and a very nice test shave, so they are certainly good enough to do duty. Ivory scales were made quite thin, so treat this big razor with a gentle touch and it will provide enjoyment for many years to come. A chunky tail on a vintage razor normally indicates an older razor, so this bad boy probably saw the light in the mid to late 1800's 150 years of history in your hands...epic!


The rounded point razor blade is a unique 13/16 in height and has a cutting edge of around 70 mm long and a weight of 49 grams. The spine is 4.8 mm thick with very little wear on the spine. The dimensions results in a bevel angle just under 14 degrees.

This razor was tested and found to be quite a close shaver on account of its larger blade and low bevel angle. The razor is shave ready as is, but will need to be stropped on leather for every successive shave.

Some history of the maker below, enjoy the blast to the past!

The founder was Thomas Turner (c.1784-1845); the establishment date was 1802 (according to the company).  By 1816, Thomas was apparently the ‘Turner’ in Thorpe, Turner & Co, merchant, Orchard Street.  His partner was William Thorpe; later John Brownill joined them.  In 1821, Brownell [sic], Thorpe, Turner & Co was listed at Hollis Croft and Orchard Street as a manufacturer of Brownell’s patent knives and forks.  Turner seems to have then decided to go-it-alone.  In 1825, Thomas Turner & Co was listed in a directory as merchant and manufacturer of table and pocket knives, files, tools, and steel refiner at Norfolk Street.  By the early 1830s, Turner had relocated to Eyre Lane, where he was joined by John Yeomans and Jared Yates.  In 1835, Turner, Yeomans & Yates was disbanded.  Turner’s next partnered Christopher and Henry Johnson (presumably Christopher Johnson).  Turner & Johnsons operated from Suffolk Works, Suffolk Road.  This lasted until 1837, when White’s Sheffield Directory listed Thos.  Turner, & Co at that address as a merchant, steel refiner, and cutlery, saw, file, and edge tool manufacturer.
In 1828, Thomas Turner had married at Sherborne, Dorset, Mary née Thorne (1799-1871), the daughter of a banker.  Their sons were Thomas Turner (1829-1916), Benjamin Thorne Turner (1830-1887), and William Thorne Turner (1831-1911).  The eldest, Thomas, had been born on 10 January 1829 and educated at Dronfield.   However, his father died on 5 March 1845, aged 61, and was buried in St Mary’s churchyard, Bramall Lane.  Thomas Jun did not attain his majority until 1850, so the business was in the hands of his father’s executors: William Thorne (1796-1868) and Joshua Smith (c.1816-1887).  The former was Thomas Turner’s brother-in-law.  Joshua Smith had been born at Chesterfield in about 1816 and had joined Thomas Turner & Co as an apprentice clerk in 1835.  He became works manager.  

Thomas’s coming-of-age was celebrated with the traditional ‘entertainments’ at Suffolk Works.  Over 200 workmen were said to have attended, alongside thirty to forty young women from the warehouse (Sheffield Independent, 12 January 1850).  An additional party was held for over eighty tenant grinders.  After Thomas came of age, William Thorne retired (he later operated a merchant house in Toronto, where he died in 1868).  In 1850, Thomas, as the senior partner, was joined by Joshua Smith, and by his brothers, Benjamin and William.  In 1851, the company won a Prize Medal at the Great Exhibition.  Its exhibits included The Prince of Wales Sailor’s Knife made by 69-year-old John Davidson, ‘one of the heroes of Trafalgar’ (Sheffield Independent, 26 July 1851).  It was nearly six feet [182cm] in length and weighed about 60 lbs [27kg].  

In the Sheffield directory (1856), a 4-page Turner advertisement featured an engraving of Suffolk Works and the ‘Wellington Table Knife’, with an ‘immoveable solid handle’.  The design, which involved the use of a screw or pin soldered to the blade, had been patented by Joshua Smith in 1853.  Turner’s main overseas market was the USA, where William Thorne had been particularly active.  By 1845, the firm had an office in New York.  In 1854, Turner’s received an ‘Honourable Mention’ at the New York Exhibition for its ‘very fine finished cutlery’.  

In the 1850s, business was so good that the workforce presented the four partners with silver cups as a mark of esteem (Sheffield Daily Telegraph, 4 June 1856).   However, in the 1860s Thomas’s brothers – Benjamin and William – retired.  William died in 1887, aged 57, leaving £4,763;  Benjamin in 1911, aged 80, leaving £15,856.  In 1853 at Dronfield, Thomas had married Lydia, the second daughter of Samuel Lucas, of Dronfield, a foundry and coal owner.   Their only son was Thomas (1855-1886).  In 1871, Thomas Turner Sen.  told the Census that his business employed 500 workers.  No business records from Turner’s have survived, so verifying this data is difficult.  Certainly, though, he operated one of the largest cutlery firms in the town and enjoyed considerable local status.   In 1871, he was appointed Master Cutler.  A Liberal and keen temperance supporter, he also served as a Town Councillor, JP, and Church Burgess.  

Advertisements described the firm as a manufacturer of table knives and forks, and silver and plated desserts, fish carvers, and butter knives.  Turner’s had registered a silver mark in 1865; and another in 1884.  Suffolk Works also made (or factored) pen and pocket knives, gardeners’ knives, and razors, saws, files, edge tools, and steel.  Table knives remained an important commodity.   The ‘Wellington Knife’ was replaced by the ‘Suffolk Knife’.  This registered knife had echoes of the Brownill patent, with a tang running the length of the handle, and an internal ‘lock’ pin and an oval rivet on the end (Pawson & Brailsford Illustrated Guide, 1879).   Turner’s cutlery and tools carried a trade mark with three horizontal diamonds.  This mark later appeared with the word  ‘ENCORE’ (‘granted in 1805’ and once used by Jonathan Hunt).   

Joshua Smith remained works manager.  When the Census was taken in 1881, Smith told the enumerators that the factory employed 244 men, 24 women, 7 girls, and 12 boys (387 workers).  Smith retired in 1884, leaving Thomas Turner and Thomas Jun.  as partners.  However, any hopes of a father-to-son succession foundered when Thomas Jun.  died in Sheffield on 27 February 1886 from rheumatic fever.  He was aged only 31.  His gravestone can be seen at St Mary’s churchyard.  His estate was valued at £5,808.

Joshua Smith died from heart disease on 23 April 1887, aged 71, at Tapton Mount, Manchester Road.  He was a New Connexion Methodist at Broomhill Chapel, so his burial in the General Cemetery was unconsecrated.   He left £18,843.  Thomas Turner was past sixty and in 1893 decided to retire.  Two years later, he bought Scofton House, Worksop, and devoted his retirement to horticulture.  He died at his residence from pneumonia on 18 March 1916, aged 87, and was interred at Worksop new cemetery (Sheffield Daily Telegraph, 20 March 1916).   

Turner left a fortune of £55,169 gross (nearly £5m at current prices).   He had sold the company in 1893.  The purchaser was (Sir) Albert Hobson and his brother Wilfred (both formerly of scissors maker, Joseph Hobson & Co).  Once the sale was agreed, Albert Hobson had resigned his seat on the board of Joseph Rodgers & Sons.  In the following year, Turner’s registered a silver mark in Sheffield.   The firm apparently employed about 300.  Hobson acquired Wingfield, Rowbotham in 1898; and four years later the trade marks and goodwill of Joseph Haywood pocket-knife department.  Turner’s Suffolk Works – located next to the Midland Station on Porter Brook and the River Sheaf – remained one of the biggest cutlery factories in Sheffield.  
In 1902, when the firm celebrated its centenary, Albert Hobson became Master Cutler.  The company published an anniversary booklet, Handicrafts that Survive.   Only one photograph showed any mechanisation: this was table-knife forging under a hammer operated by a single worker.   Turner’s even operated a pen-knife ‘hospital’ for customers’ repairs.  In 1908, Hobson told a Parliamentary Inquiry that ‘the salvation of the trade is dependent on its getting on to machinery’ (Parliamentary Papers, Departmental Committee on Truck Acts, 1908).   But he  thought that ‘this process of introducing machinery is one that must be necessarily slow in the Sheffield trade’.  George Schrade, an American pocket-knife manufacturer and inventor, discovered how slow in 1910.  He had persuaded Turner’s to trial his patented machine for cutting shield holes in the handles of pocket knives.   The machine apparently caused a walk-out and the experiment was abandoned.

On the other hand, a full-page spread in The Sheffield Daily Telegraph, 10 February 1912, portrayed a company that was a ‘universal provider’.  It melted its own crucible steel for edge tools, such as files and saws.   The output included table knives (2,000 dozens per week); pocket knives selected from up to 3,000 patterns; and Jack Tar knives, where output was approaching ½m over twenty years.  Spoons and forks in nickel silver (marked ‘AUSTRAL’ or ‘HYGIENIC’) sold at the cheaper end of the market.  

Turner’s apparently employed about 800.  In 1915, it became one of the first to market stainless table and kitchen cutlery (trade marked ‘HYGIENIC’).  At the end of the War, the company was registered as Thomas Turner & Co (Sheffield) Ltd, with a share capital of £50,000 in ordinary shares.  None of these were offered to the public, though there was a public issue of £50,000 debentures.  The prospectus described a business that covered 4,507 square yards, with departments for crucible steel, files, saws, cutlery, and electro-plate.   Incorporation had partly been triggered by the death of Hobson’s two sons in the War.   In 1919, Turner’s joined Sheffield Cutlery Manufacturers Ltd, an amalgamation led by Needham, Veall & Tyzack.   

Albert J.  Hobson was knighted in 1922.  When he died on 20 April 1923, aged 62, at his home Esholt, Ranmoor, the newspapers devoted three print columns to his life.  After a service at Upper Chapel, the funeral was at City Road Crematorium (though the Hobson family vault is at Fulwood).  Hobson left £146,375, the bulk of which was bequeathed to Sheffield University.  His brother, Wilfred, continued to live at Esholt, until his death on 3 February 1942.  He left £140,993 (net personalty £125,400) and the following instruction in his will: ‘I especially desire that my wife shall not regard my death as a reason why she should not marry again as soon as she chooses’.  

In the 1920s, Turner’s was hit by management problems and its failed merger with Sheffield Cutlery Manufacturers.  In the midst of the depression in 1932, the bankrupt Turner business was bought by Viners and registered as Thomas Turner & Company (Cutlers, Sheffield) Ltd with £500 capital.  A new silver mark was registered.   In 1933, Viners built a new factory at Suffolk Works: a five-storied ‘glass palace’ for workers, with a flat roof for recreation, which overlooked the railway station (Daily Independent, 2 September 1933).  About 250 workers were to manufacture Turner’s traditional products, including tools and safety razor blades.  

From the 1930s, Viners used Thomas Turner & Co as a separate trading entity, mainly for the marketing of boxed stainless table knives and flatware.  The manufacture of tools and razors ended.  At the start of the 1950s, Viners advertised a Turner range of ‘ENCORE’ silverware; and ‘PEDIGREE’ kitchen cutlery, which featured wall racks containing (besides knives) a spatula, patent peeler, and scissors.  However, Viners was increasingly concentrating business at its main factory at Broomhall.  In 1954, Viners vacated Suffolk Works and the four-storey block became derelict.  ‘Thomas Turner of Sheffield’ became a ‘stainless division’ of the Viner Group at Clarence Street.   One new Turner brand was ‘STARLITE’ – ‘A New Inexpensive Pattern in Stainless Steel’.   But after the 1960s, the Turner name faded away.  Suffolk Works was eventually demolished and the land bounded by Turner Street and Porter Brook now houses an ugly multi-storey car park adjacent to the Midland Railway Station.

*Vintage razors are priced according to model and availability, time spent cleaning and reconditioning them, and also time spent getting the edge into a shave ready condition (some are preserved as is, or sold as is for the new owner to sharpen) Please enquire if you need additional work done to this razor prior to purchase.

All straight razors will require a stropping on leather after its first use. Pics are unedited (for detail) and provide a true image of the condition of the razor.