Sir Frederick Thorpe Mappin (1821-1910)"Sheffield's Grand Old Man"

"He may be regarded as typical of a generation of energetic, masterful businessmen, supremely confident in their own abilities, who did so much to shape the economic, political, and cultural identity of late Victorian provincial England".

Sir Frederick Mappin

I came across Sir Frederick Thorpe Mappin, when I was writing the article  on Sir Joseph Jonas and his links with Sheffield University. I knew of Sir Frederick's legacy through the marvellous Mappin Building, on Mappin Street in Sheffield which has listed status. I also thought that he was the prime instigator of the Sheffield's Mappin Art Gallery but I was to be proven incorrect in that assumption 

In the March 21st 1910 edition of The Times there is a full obituary for Sir Frederick which is reproduced below



Sir Frederick Thorpe Mappin, died at Sheffield on Saturday morning aged 89 years. He had been in failing health for sometime, and recently underwent an operation for serious trouble to the throat

The death of Sir Frederick deprives Sheffield of its most distinguished citizen, a man of perhaps the most honourable type known to English public life - wealthy, cultivated, philanthropic and wholehearted in his devotion to public interests. For many years Sir Frederick had held unchallenged the position of "Sheffield's Grand Old Man." Although during a large part of his career he was an active party politician, he had obtained a firm hold on the admiration and affection of all classes, irrespective of party when he first came forward as a parliamentary candidate and nothing he ever did or said in his long political life ever alienated the sympathies of the people of Sheffield for him. The majority indeed were permanently against  him on political matters yet his views were respected even by the strongest opponents of his party, and his frequent utterances on political topics - as often cast in the form of a letter as delivered in a political speech, for Sir Frederick was not much of a platform orator - came to be looked for with real interest. Sir Frederick's Liberalism was always of a pronounced Whiggish tinge, and while following his party on such matters as Home Rule for Ireland and still more enthusiastically in the defence of Free Trade, he stood decidedly aloof from coquetting with Socialistic ideas, was always a staunch upholder of private enterprise undertakings, a stern critic of the rage for "municipalization" of public monopolies (chiefly because of his business experience convinced him of the extravagance of municipal administration), and displayed very little sympathy with the later tendencies of trade unionism. It is a striking tribute to the force of his personality that he so long commanded the support of the electors of the Hallamshire Division of the West Riding which he represented in Parliament from 1885 till the dissolution of 1905. The miners vote is predominant there, and they and the Conservative freeholders of Sheffield united in returning a Liberal whose votes and speeches on labour topics were frequently a source of irritation to Trade Unionists. His majority exceeded 2,00 votes in 1885; he was unopposed in 1886 and 1892 and though his majority sank to 893 in 1895, in 1900 it rose to 1,750. But the moment his personality was withdrawn the strength of the miners vote asserted itself and a Labour member was returned with a majority of over1,500 at the general Election of 1906.

Sir Frederick was born in 1821, the eldest son of the late Mr Joseph Mappin, a well known manufacturer of cutlery in his day and of his wife, Mary Ann Thorpe, the daughter of a Bedfordshire land agent (note the daughter of Thomas Thorpe of Haynes, Bedfordshire, a land surveyor). At 14, Frederick Thorpe Mappin was called on to leave school and assist in his fathers business, and he was only 20 when his fathers death threw the burden of the management of the business on him alone. later he took his younger brothers into partnership but himself withdrew from the business in 1859 to become senior partner in the still existing Sheaf Works of Thomas Turton and Sons, steel manufacturers. It was in 1854 that he first entered the Town Council of Sheffield. He was elected Master Cutler in 1855 and had thus survived his year in that honourable office for more than fifty years. His municipal career closed shortly after he served as Mayor in 1877-78 and at the General election of 1880 he came forward and was elected together with Mr. F.J.S. Foljambe for the borough of East Retford. In 1885 after the Redistribution Act he stood for the Hallamshire Division and continued to represent that constituency with large majorities until his retirement from public life in 1905. Hi adhesion to Mr Gladstone's Home Rule scheme in 1886 earned him a baronetcy nominally as a public reward but well deserved on general public grounds. In religious matters he had an early association with the Congregationalists but became a Churchman and a most generous supporter of church work in the neighbourhood of Sheffield throughout his career.  

Sir Frederick Mappin's most enduring claim to rembrance in Sheffield however is his work for technical and higher education. He was the chief founder of the Technical School which is now the most important department of the now University of Sheffield and he gave many thousands of pounds for the maintenance of the school, and later the University College and the University, and also for the establishment of scholarships and exhibitions. He contributed 15,000 to the University Fund, was appointed to one of the first two pro-Chancellors of the University and remained Chairman of the Department of Applied Sciences, as the Technical School is now called. For over 30 years he was the chairman of the Sheffield United Gas Light Co., one of the most universally successful private enterprise gas companies in the kingdom: he was for many years a working director of the Midland Railway company and was also a director of the Bridgewater Navigation and of other important business concerns. Practically every honour which it was possible for his Fellow-citizens to confer had been bestowed by them upon Sir Frederick Mappin. He was for long the Chairman of the Town trustees, an ancient statutory body exercising control over large funds for public purposes: he was elected in 1900 one of Sheffield's first freemen, and his portrait was often painted and presented by different public bodies. He made the wisest and most liberal use of his great wealth, hardly ever bestowing any gift without obtaining a thorough knowledge of the object to which it was to be applied.

Sir Frederick Thorpe Mappin, was a well known collector and art-patron. To the Mappin Art Gallery at Weston Park Sheffield erected in 1887 at a cost of 15,000 defrayed by the late Mr John Newton Mappin, Sir Frederick Mappin added many fine oil paintings. His own collection of paintings and drawings was sold at Christie's on May 5 1909 showing a total of 6,743. the collection consisted for the most part of pictures by artists of the now unfashionable mid-Victorian period and these purchased for the most part when prices ruled highest. In most instances sold for far less than had been paid, the "margin" on the wrong side being in one case at least over 1,000

In 1845, he married Miss Mary Crossley Wilson daughter of the late Mr John Wilson of Oakholme, Sheffield: and by her he leaves three sons - Mr Frank Mappin who succeeds to the baronetcy, Mr Wilson Mappin and Mr Samuel Wilson Mappin. Mr Frank Wilson who was born in 1846 and was formerly captain and hon. major in the West York Yeomanry is unmarried. Mr Wison Mappin who was born in 1848 married in 1875 Emily Kingsford daughter of Mr George Wilson of Tapton Hall, Ecclesall, by whom he has two sons and a daughter. Mr Samuel Wilson who was born in 1854 is also married, and has three sons and a daughter.

The funeral takes place at Ecclesall on Wednesday

It is a very impressive Obituary for one of Sheffield's leading figures in the mid to late nineteenth century - he really does appear to have been Sheffield's Grand Old Man. But in transcribing the Obituary, I became increasingly confused with regard to The Mappin Family. I had always thought that Sir Frederick was the main instigator of the Art Gallery when in fact it was Mr John Newton Mappin, who made his fortune in brewing and not manufacturing. John was Frederick's uncle. Additional information is given below   

The Mappin family are descended from Joseph Mappin, of Broomgrove, Sheffield, son of Joseph Mappin, of Sharrow Moor, Ecclesall. Joseph was an engraver and in 1797 he opened a shop in Fargate Sheffield His eldest son Frederick was educated at Mr Wright's school, Sheffield, and at the age of thirteen joined the family firm, taking charge of it on his father's death. On 25 September 1845 he married Mary (d. 1908), daughter of John Wilson, a steel manufacturer, of Oak Holme, Sheffield; they had three sons.

Under Mappin's guidance, the firm which became Mappin Bros. rose to the forefront of the Sheffield cutlery trades. It grew from about a hundred workers to five hundred, acquired London's largest cutlery warehouse, and developed an extensive export trade, partly through Mappin's own vigorous salesmanship abroad. In 1855 he became Sheffield's youngest Master Cutler. His success owed much to his ability to supply high-quality goods to an increasingly affluent Victorian domestic market. Following a partnership dispute, he left the firm in 1859, but it would in 1903 form part of Mappin and Webb, the London business set up by his youngest brother, John Newton Mappin (18361913).

After his departure Frederick Mappin directed his entrepreneurial energies towards the heavy steel industry, in 1860 purchasing Thomas Turton & Son, a top-quality steel manufacturer but also owners of William Greaves & Co., the pre-eminent file and edge toolmakers in Sheffield. Under Mappin, Turtons now led the mechanization of Sheffield's cutlery trades, but its introduction of the first grinding machine for file-cutting in 1865 precipitated a major strike, at a time when Sheffield's industrial relations were deeply embittered by the challenge to its well-organized handicraft trades. In this particular contest over files, the employers broke union resistance, but the pace of technological change was by no means rapid and Turtons continued to employ much hand labour into the 1890s. Mappin also turned Turtons into the leading manufacturers of railway springs, distributed from its depots in London, Paris, and New York. Appropriately, he became a director of the Midland Railway in 1869, a position he held until 1903. In 1886 Turtons was converted into a private limited company, with Mappin as chairman (until his death), but he now retired from an active managerial role in favour of two of his sons, Frank Mappin (18461920) and Wilson Mappin (18481925); his other child, Samuel Mappin (18541942), became a gentleman farmer in Lincolnshire.

Mappin died at his home, Thornbury, Fulwood Road, Sheffield, on 19 March 1910 and was buried on 23 March at Ecclesall cemetery in Sheffield; his wife had died on 10 April 1908. He was succeeded, as second baronet, by his eldest son, Frank Mappin. Sir Frederick left an estate of almost 1 million, a considerable fortune by the standard of his industrial peers and in the light of his substantial philanthropic and political donations.

Sir Frederick's last resting place in Ecclesall Churchyard Sheffield - taken March 2012

The Express newspaper dated 26th March 1910 also carried a fulsome tribute to the life and legacy of Sir Frederick 



1. 1881 Census Household:
Dwelling 44 Prince's Gate Census Place London, Middlesex, England Family History Library Film 1341027
Public Records Office Reference RG11 Piece / Folio 0121 / 12 Page Number 17

Name Relation Marital Status Gender Age Birthplace Occupation Disability

Frederick T. MAPPIN Head M Male 59 Sheffield, York, England M P Magistrate Alderman Manufacturer Of Hardware
Mary C. MAPPIN Wife M Female 59 Sheffield, York, England Cutler
Robert PORTER Servt M Male 24 Gibbet Hiles, Lincoln, England Butler Dom Serv
Charles PRESLAND Servt U Male 19 Kettering, Northampton, England Footman Dom Serv
Mary DAVIS Servt U Female 22 Machenlleth, Montgomery, Wales Cook Dom Serv
Alice WOODS Servt U Female 18 Lindak Cou..., York, England Housemd Dom Serv
Edwa ANDREW Servt U Female 40 Ecclesfield, York, England Housemd Dom Serv
Alice BLACKBURN Servt U Female 24 Wath Upon Dearne, York, England Ladys Md Dom Serv

His son, Sir Frederick Mappin, DL JP, the first baronet, was Mayor of Sheffield in 1877. He was Member of Parliament for East Retford 1880-85, and for the Hallamshire Division of the West Riding of Yorkshire 1885-1906. Sir Frederick was created a baronet in 1886.

The Manchester Guardian dated 20th March 1910 carried only a brief obituary for Sir Frederick 


University of Sheffield's Centenary History "Steel City Scholars" by Helen Mathers

UK Census


The Manchester Guardian dated 20th March 1910 

The Times dated 21st March 1910 

The Express dated 24th March 1910

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