Cutlery King - David Mellor

We recently revisited the David Mellor Visitor Centre and Cutlery Factory at Hathersage, a fantastic place on the edge of the Peak District, 15 miles west of Sheffied.

I say revisit, well it was for me anyway, as I cycled there in the early 1990s to check out David Mellor's iconic factory - the then newly finished Round Building designed by Michael Hopkins. Built on an old gasometer base using local gritstone, the fabulous roof and central lantern is constructed like a trussed 'spoked wheel' - which of course is extra magical for a keen cyclist like myself.

I can happily report that The Round Building looks as impressive today as it did 20 years ago - a real testament to great design and sense of place. It provides the perfect start in life for some truly classic items of industrial design, made by surely some of the most appreciated factory workers in the country. This cutlery is manufactured with such care and skill that you can literally feel it when handling the finished objects. As a visitor you are allowed into the Round Building to see for yourself how the cutlery is made, along with the machine tools needed to produce it - from a simple metal blank all the way through to the final polished item.

David Mellor has always been a bit of a design hero for me. Being a Sheffield man through and through it is only fitting that he was, to my mind, the best designer of stainless steel cutlery of the twentieth century.

Less well known perhaps is that he was also adept at turning his design attentions to garden tools, street furniture and even the ubiquitous UK traffic light. There is an elegant simplicity that is very much of its time - no frills, just 'good' design. Here the functional has soul too, and speaking as both a designer and design educator, I know that this is certainly not an easy trick to pull off.

However, it was as 'cutler extraordinaire', evidenced through the humble knife, fork and spoon, that his talent really shone. Cutlery might, to the uninitiated, seem simple compared with other industrial products that consist of many more components, but designing it well is so very difficult to get right.


The site at Hathersage has grown over the years to include a café, country shop and a Design Museum. All in all then, a great visitor centre and well worth the trip up to a particularly beautiful part of Derbyshire.

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As well as being the Programme Director of MA Product Design at the Birmingham Institute of Art and Design, Graham also describes himself as a conceptual and commercial designer, educator and challenger of 'Things'.

Follow Graham on Twitter @GrahamPowell_