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Bessemer converter at Kelham Island Museum.

The Kelham Island Museum is an industrial museum on Alma Street, alongside the River Don, in the centre of Sheffield, England. It was opened in 1982.

The site

The island on which it is located is man-made, resulting from the construction of a mill race, in the 12th century, which diverted water from the River Don to power a corn mill belonging to the Lord of the Manor. It is reported that the island was subsequently named after the Town Armourer, Kellam Homer, who owned a grinding workshop on the neighbouring goit (mill race) in 1637.[1]

Having remained meadowland for much of its existence, John Crowley's Iron Foundry was built on the site in 1829 and continued in operation until the 1890s. This building was replaced by a power station, in 1899, to provide electricity for the new fleet of trams in the city. These are the premises now occupied by the museum.[1]

The Museum

The museum houses exhibitions on science and Sheffield industry, including examples of reconstructed little mesters' workshops and England's largest surviving Bessemer converter. This object received an Engineering Heritage Award in 2004 from the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.[2] (Henry Bessemer's pilot converter is on display at the Science Museum (London)). The museum gives tours to local schools and has regular demonstrations of the 1905 River Don Engine, a 12,000 horsepower (9 MW) steam engine, which originally powered a local armour plate rolling mill. The engine is remarkable for its ability to change direction very quickly, a feature that was necessary for the efficient rolling of heavy steel. The engine rolled steel for nuclear reactors towards the end of its life (it was last used in production in 1974 at the River Don Works). The museum is operated by the Sheffield Industrial Museums Trust. It is an Anchor Point of ERIH, The European Route of Industrial Heritage.

The Museum has a vast photographic archive which is used by authors for illustrating local history books.

The Museum suffered heavily in the Sheffield flood of 2007 but is now fully redisplayed and open to the public.

The Kelham Island Museum is situated next to the well-known Fat Cat public house, which is one of two public houses owned by the independent Kelham Island Brewery.


The biggest exhibit is the 12,000 hp River Don Engine Huge stationary steam engine that was built by Davey & Co. in ? to drive a rolling mill. It can almost instantaneously stop & reverse direction.

Other items include the hawley Collection of hand tools and edge tools and a vast archive of literature related to the tool and knife industry in Sheffield. This collection was collected by Ken Hawley over the past 60 years and donated to Sheffield University archives dept. who are still categlougeing it. The collection of catalouges lists all maner of strang tools built for colonial markets and 100s of long gone companies.

The museum houses one of 3 known surviving Sheffield Simplex cars.

Other displays relate to social history of the local workers and little mesters workshops and the knife grinders and buffer girls from the cutlery trade.

Other notable items include a very early Bramah Press built by Joseph Bramah who invented and patented the hydraulic press in 1795.

A 150 hp Crossley of Manchester gas engine from a local steel works. This is a rare example of the largest engine model built by Crosseley.

A Grand Slam Bomb that was built by Vickers at there Sheffield armaments factory. These bombs weighing 10 tons are the heaviest bomb in the world. They were designed t by Barns Wallis to penetrating deep into the ground before exploding and bringing down structures by am 'earthquake' like shock wave.

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 (1992) Kelham Island: A Visitor's Guide. Sheffield: Sheffield City Museums. ISBN 0-86321-172 0. 
  2. IMechE (2009) Recognising Excellence, Past, Present and Future

External links


Coordinates: 53°23′22″N 1°28′20″W / 53.389503°N 1.472345°W / 53.389503; -1.472345