David Mellor, CBE, FCSD, RDI, (5 October 1930 – 7 May 2009) was one of the best-known designers in Britain.
Mellor was born in Sheffield, where his father was a toolmaker for the Sheffield Twist Drill Company. He studied at the Royal College of Art in London from 1950. Mellor’s first cutlery, "Pride", designed while he was still a student, is still in production and included in many international collections. Mellor’s work for the Midlands engineering firm Abacus in the design of street lighting, bus shelters, public seating and litter bins made considerable impact on the street scene, around 140,000 of his bus shelters having been installed since they were first produced in 1959. In 1965 he was commissioned by the Department of the Environment to redesign the national traffic light system as part of a total overhaul of traffic signage. Mellor’s redesigned traffic lights are still in use.
In 1973 Mellor made the decision to begin manufacturing his own cutlery designs. To house his factory he renovated a large historic mansion, Broom Hall, in central Sheffield. The building was then derelict. The machines were moved into the extensive Georgian wing. The conversion of the building received a European Architectural Heritage Award.
As well as introducing new concepts in cutlery he rethought the traditional methods of production. Workers in the Sheffield cutlery industry had up to then specialised in a single operation, but he introduced a new system whereby his cutlery makers rotate from task to task, increasing job satisfaction through a sense of involvement in the project as a whole.
In 1990, Mellor finally realised a long-held ambition by commissioning a new purpose-built cutlery factory from his friend, the architect Sir Michael Hopkins. This factory, known as The Round Building, was built on the circular foundations of the redundant village gas works at Hathersage in the Peak District National Park, 12 miles from Sheffield. The building has received numerous architectural and environmental awards.
The wisdom of his early decision to concentrate on manufacturing cutlery for a relatively small, high-level design-oriented market is clear now that the industry in Sheffield has been decimated by competition from imported low-cost cutlery.
© photographs by David...