little mester

1) A spelling of ‘little master’ which reflects the dialect pronunciation. The term was used almost exclusively in the Sheffield district for the independent craftsmen in the cutlery trades.

The little mesters worked alone or employed a small number of workers and apprentices: many had their own workshop but others rented space in a bigger establishment. The term does not appear in early records and may date only from the late eighteenth century. It has largely fallen out of use since this practice peaked in Victorian times, but continues continues to be used in Yorkshire, if only nostalgically.

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