Apprentices Lead 170 Years of UK Design and Manufacturing

Apprentices Lead 170 Years of UK Design and Manufacturing

Celebrating its 170th Birthday on 23rd May 2019, Sheffield based Pryor Marking Technology, was founded by a young apprentice in 1849 and to this day, is proud to continue investment in apprenticeships as a cornerstone of the business.

Now an organisation with subsidiaries in France and the USA and a global network of distributors, Pryor Marking Technology began as Edward Pryor & Son, mark makers for the cutlery industry, on 23rd May 1849.

Originally located at 47½ West Street, Sheffield where in 1843, William Pryor put forward his eldest son Edward, then aged twelve, as an apprentice to George John White & John Knowles Stevens.

The surviving indenture from 1843, typical of the time, agreed the terms of the apprenticeship.

White and Stevens were required,

‘to teach and instruct…or cause him to be taught, learned, and instructed in the trade of mark maker, letter cutter and engraver.’

Edward agreed to,

‘serve his said Masters faithfully and keep their secrets, observe all their lawful commands…, and in every respect conduct himself as an industrious and trustworthy Apprentice.’

With one year of his apprenticeship remaining, Edward’s master, George White decided to retire and sold the business to Edward’s father William Pryor. Edward became a skilled engraver of Freemen’s marks, the unique mark of each craftsmen and firms registered with the Company of Cutlers, to identify their products. The eldest of his nine children Edward Staniforth Pryor joined the firm around 1870 with his youngest brother George Albert Pryor joining the family business in 1898.

The engraving skills of Edward Staniforth were reported in the Sheffield Telegraph during 1874,

‘Mr. Edward Staniforth Pryor, son of Mr Edward Pryor, mark maker, Sheffield, has contrived to make a circular mark, seven-sixteenths of an inch in diameter, and on this he has placed: - 1st, the head and wings of a cherub; 2nd, the whole Lord’s Prayer; 3rd E.S. Pryor, maker, Sheffield.’

Edward Staniforth Pryor and George Albert Pryor took over the running of the company in 1883 and 1898 respectively, before handing over to his grandson Ronnie Pryor in 1938. Introduced to the company in 1919, Ronnie learned the trade ‘from the bottom up’ beginning with basic principles of mark making while George Albert instructed him in the art of management.

The 1930s and 1940s saw the company establish itself at the forefront of aerospace marking with the invention of Interchangeable Steel Type, still used by manufacturers across the globe today.

Ronnie led further innovation with the introduction of computer-controlled marking machines in the 1970s.

Ronnie also led the company through its period of greatest expansion including an extensive global footprint, until his death in 1984. Whilst Ronnie’s death ended 135 years of family involvement in the business, the Ronnie and Kathleen Charitable Foundation was created and remains the majority shareholder of the business.

Today the company is still run from its headquarters in Sheffield, UK, a city recognised worldwide for its long and proud history in manufacturing and engineering expertise, being at the forefront of metal technology and advanced manufacturing.

The Sheffield City and Pryor family tradition of invention and innovation continues to drive the business. Pryor designed and manufactured the first robotic marking cell in 2003 and the world’s first robotic deep VIN laser marking system, installed in 2014.

In the future, the UK, France and US Pryor teams look forward to exciting partnerships with automotive brands as laser VIN marking is installed on more production lines across the globe. The Sheffield-based design and manufacturing team continue to grow their Automation capabilities with an expanding portfolio of custom solutions, improving manufacturing processes for some of the world’s best-known brands. Robotic marking within the aerospace sector is gaining traction as Pryor’s long-standing relationship with the industry continues to set the bar for marking and traceability technologies. Pryor apprentices are as hard-working as ever and with the awards season ahead, Pryor will be looking for opportunities to recognise their achievements.

Apprentices have been the cornerstone of the Pryor business since Edward completed his apprenticeship in 1850. Today Pryor trains apprentices in partnership the with The University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC). Current Pryor apprentice Mary Stickland won the 2019 Siddall Achievement Award at the AMRC Apprentice of the Year Awards in March.

The Pryor workforce today is brimming with current and former apprentices of all ages. From the Operations Director Simon Dunn, to recently retiredCentre Lathe Turner/Horizontal Borer Ian Forrester and third year Design Engineer apprentice Niall Dawson.

Here’s to another 170 years!