Mark Firth (29th April 1819 to 20th November 1880)

 

When you think of Sheffield you think of steel don’t you (and The Embassy World Snooker Championships?) It was the crucible where the world’s demand for steel erupted. The sultan of steel was Mark Firth who became as immensely rich as he was immensely successful. Many successful people moved to Harrogate to “take the water” while their heavy metal business operated under a thick smog of industry but Mark didn’t. He lived in Sheffield and is still there in the General Cemetery. Here I am at his grave.

 

Steel was in the blood - his dad was head smelter at Sanderson Brothers Steelworks. Mark went to work there but he must have carried a business head on his shoulders as he left aged 23 to set up his own business with his brother Thomas Junior. They soon took on their dad and within a decade they expanded into larger premises at Norfolk Works, the largest rolling mill in Sheffield.

 

Their company’s main wealth came from armaments. Two steam forge hammers were installed that produced tens of thousands of guns. They made a 35- ton Woolwich Infant gun which took some effort - then a mammoth 80-ton gun. The noise and vibration of these hammers caused the neighbouring businesses to complain that their machinery was being damaged.

 

Mark and his brother became wealthy as the company expanded so did Mark’s family. Over the years he married twice and had twelve children. He never left smoky sooty Sheffield and aged 55 he became Mayor of the city. He built a mansion for himself on the outskirts of Sheffield at Oakbrook, Ranmoor. He was a religious man - a Methodist – and started returning something to the city. He presented a thirty-six acre estate called Firth Park to Sheffield. Aged 60 he opened Firth College to teach arts and science subjects (it’s now part of Sheffield University.)

 

Death cares for nobody though and after creating thousands of jobs and iconic landmarks that can still be seen today he was at his Norfolk Works factory when he suffered a stroke aged 61. He was taken to his home at Oakbrook but he did not recover and died twelve days later.

 

Thankfully his monument is not far from the lower entrance to the cemetery where I’d parked. There’re some mammoth headstones across the cemetery but I saw once with a small fence around it and was glad to see it was Mark’s. I went to find “Oakbrook” but the gates were closed. I had to climb up onto a wall to take a photograph or two.

 

 

Looking looking

 

 

 

 

 

One of my favourite things…sitting outside a cemetery having food and coffee before going grave-hunting…

 

Cemetery Road leading up to the cemetery, student bedsit land…

 

“Oakbrook” where the steel magnate died…

 

At the entrance…