Since Arthur Richard Wentworth founded our pewtersmith company in 1949, we’ve been lucky enough to see a variety of skilled and loyal employees join the Wentworth Pewter factory and family. This craft is a challenging and fulfilling one and, as such, we’ve attracted some of the finest workers from across Sheffield, a city renowned for its heritage in metalwork.
It is our pleasure to remember former employee, the late Elizabeth Oates née Pullen, one of the first to have ever worked in our factory. Born in 1892, she was part of a huge Sheffield family and one of ten children. While she didn’t have the highest level of schooling, she was a smart woman who was practical and sharp with finances. After finishing her education and taking on a few minor roles, she joined the Wentworth Pewter team.
The position she took on would last more than 40 years. Her role in the company was a skilled one, casting individual handles with the help of chilled copper mounds. Time and time again, she would pour the melted pewter into each mould, upturning it briskly to remove any excess. Precision and time were key. The result would be a perfectly formed hollow handle; a simple yet, well-crafted item.
“She was very generous and a loyal friend and employee. She cared little for material things and gave away most of her money after paying for home and food,” her grandson, Derek Oates, now recalls years later. “She lived for and thoroughly enjoyed her work, often working six and sometimes seven days a week.”
Later, Derek would get a taste of working for Wentworth Pewter too. On Saturdays, his grandmother often took him to the factory Broomhall Street, which was the main premises before it moved to Leadmill Road. Soon enough, he took up a part-time role in the ranks, working in the vicinity of his grandmother at weekends. His job involved putting the handles in vices and carefully filing down to the mould parting line.
As one of the first employees at the company, Elizabeth dedicated herself to the role and worked well beyond the point at which many would have retired. In particular, Derek remembers, she was devoted to helping Arthur Wentworth and he reciprocated by doing all he could to help her.
When she first started at the business, Elizabeth would make her own way home after work. However, as she continued working into her golden years and, she became less mobile, Arthur would drop her off at a local pub after work and pay for a taxi to come to pick her up and take her home. The small gesture is one that Derek now remembers clearly having left an impression on him as a young boy.
“Even after she stopped working and her health began to deteriorate, Arthur would still pop in to see her or make sure someone else did,” says Derek. “She died in 1979 aged 86. Wentworth Pewter was her life.”
With thanks to Derek Oates, a former employee, and Elizabeth Oates’ grandson. You can find out more about the Wentworth Pewter story and our proud heritage in craftsmanship on our website.