1) Occupational term for the makers of shears.

‘Shears’ are tools which operate by the simultaneous cutting action of two blades, larger than scissors but sharing many of the same characteristics. They were used particularly by shearmen in the final processes of cloth-making and for sheep shearing, and examples of the word are on record in the Old English period. These shears would have been made by smiths and yet the earliest example of ‘shearsmith’ in the OED as an occupational term is in the Act for Hallamshire in 1623-4. That takes no account of early surnames though, and Reaney has an example in 1325. In Yorkshire, the first evidence dates from later that century: 1391 Galf. [Geoffrey] Sheresmyth, York

1481 John Childe, York, sheresmyth. The making of shears must have become a more specialised occupation in the Sheffield region by the sixteenth century: 1552 John Staynfurthe, sheresmythe, Tinsley, Rotherham

1592 Arthur Byrley, Sheaffeild, shearsmyth

1620 Nicholas Staniforth, shersmith, Sheffield

1655 W’m Bamforth of Darnoll in the p’ish of Sheffeld shersmith. The status of these workers is emphasised by their position alongside the cutlers and scissorsmiths when the Cutlers’ Company was founded in 1624, but they were a comparatively small and localised brotherhood, confined mostly to urban centres. The Sheffield marriage register of 1653-60 recorded four shearsmiths in Sheffield town and three in Attercliffe-cum-Darnall township, but numbers remained small. The tools listed in the inventories of Hallamshire shearsmiths were similar to those found in the smithies of other local craftsmen. However, the occupation was not confined to York and Sheffield: 1571 William Awemunde, shiersmythe, North Cave.

dates 1391 1481 1552 1571 1592 1620 1653-1660 1655

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