19th-Century English School

Portrait Of Steel Manufacturer James Sanderson

19th-Century English School

Portrait Of Steel Manufacturer James Sanderson

This early 19th-century English oil painting depicts James Sanderson (1783-1853), a steel manufacturer from Sheffield.

By the end of the 19th century, Sheffield was one of the world’s leading industrial cities and its reputation was built on steel. During the 1840s, it produced around 90% of British steel and around half of such in Europe. Its hills were abundant with coal and other raw materials, while its confluence of rivers provided ample power.

Sanderson Brothers & Co, led by Thomas, John, James and Edward, were integral to this success. And here, in this portrait from around 1838, we see James Sanderson. The brothers were based at Darnall Steelworks and Don Valley Glassworks. Both sites are now scheduled monuments.

James was born in 1783 to Charles and Sarah and spent much of his life at Endcliffe Grange in Nether Hallam. Little is known about this busy entrepreneur aside from numerous newspaper reports relating to his horticultural interests. It appears that alongside his role in the steel industry, he was also a keen gardener.

In addition, there’s a curious report of geese theft in 1847.

“Stealing geese at Endcliffe. Samuel Holy was charged on suspicion of stealing two geese, from the premises of James Sanderson, Esq, of Endcliffe. Last night, the fowl roost of Mr. Sanderson was broken into, and robbed of two geese. On Wednesday morning, they were traced by their feathers to a part of Endcliffe Wood, where the prisoner and another man were found. They gave no satisfactory account of themselves, and the constable was bringing them to the station, but one made his escape. Upon the prisoner was found a bloody handkerchief, which he at first admitted to be his own, but then said was his companion's. On further searching the wood, the two geese were found very near to the place where the prisoner and his companion had first been seen. Remanded.”

Sanderson Brothers & Co. operated at their Darnall works until the 1930s. In the 1960s they merged with Kayser Ellison to form Sanderson Kayser Ltd. This portrait of James remains a lasting legacy to a company, and indeed a city, that’s rarely given the credit it quite clearly deserves.

Held in a later frame.

Medium: Oil on canvas
Overall size: 28” x 32½” / 71cm x 83cm
Year of creation: c. 1838
Labels & Inscriptions: Inscribed on reverse.
Provenance: Private collection, England.
Condition: Artwork presents well. Frame with some wear.

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