Our company was built on the
dream of one man
We’ve been innovating at William Rowland since 1830.
We’ve been innovating at William Rowland since 1830
We celebrated 150 years of William Rowland in 1980. To mark this momentous occasion we created a William Rowland Commemorative Plate that featured our old horse ‘Farmer’. In the 1830’s, Farmer was a familiar sight around Sheffield as he helped deliver ingots of zinc, iron and tin to our customers.
In 1987, another significant venture began when DCX Chrome (formally known as Delachaux), a global manufacturer of high-quality chromium metal, appointed us as their sole sales agent in the UK and Eire. This exciting appointment was a show of confidence by DCX Chrome in recognition of our expertise and reputation in the aerospace industry.
We’re the oldest metals trader in the UK and this is our story. We’ve been innovating at William Rowland since 1830.
The dream of one man
William Rowland Limited is firmly rooted in Sheffield, the City of Steel. Jonathan Rowland, who founded the business in 1830, was a cutler by profession with an entrepreneurial spirit. The original business on Meadow Street was an ironmonger’s. He named the business after his eldest son, William Rowland and we continue to trade from the same site, almost 200 years later. We often describe our company as having been built, ‘on the dream of one man’.
From the beginning, innovation has been a driving force for our business, thanks to our founder’s vision. In 1840, William Rowland became the first company to import Swedish iron into Sheffield. It was used in cementation furnaces across the city for Sheffield’s world-renowned cutlery production. Around the corner from our Sheffield office you’ll find the last remaining cementation furnace still intact.
Some of the original trading books still survive, detailing sales made and materials bought. These records show how the business quickly grew and diversified. By 1864 the company was not only an ironmongers but a tinner, brazier and a trader of metals. William Rowland became the owner of the company that was named after him in 1867. As the eldest son of the family, he inherited the business after his father Jonathan Rowland died.
On 6 August 1880, William died aged 61, after an accident at Eyre Street Works, a site he had bought the year before with a view to further expanding his business. He left a considerable estate worth £30,000 to his widow Sarah, demonstrating the success of the company; the family took up the mantle of running the business. By now William Rowland had a long-standing reputation in the metal trading business with established agencies selling copper and tin on behalf of major producers.
A period of great innovation
Innovation, expansion and diversification marked the late 1800’s as William’s dynamic and ambitious son, Arthur Ernest Rowland took over the running of the company in 1891.
William Rowland was now operating on three trading fronts as the company responded and adapted to market conditions. A burgeoning business continued in metal trading alongside the ever-present ironmongery and the production of popular products of the era such as bassinets and mail carts. The company now had large showrooms and workshops on Meadow Street.
We were one of the first companies of our type to offer weekly payment terms to customers wanting to buy our bassinettes. Adverts in the Sheffield Evening Telegraph in 1900 show that William Rowland offered a flourishing repair and refurbishment service, as well as selling bassinettes and mail carts - another example of innovation at work.
A historic milestone
1902 is a proud moment in our history as this is when William Rowland became a limited company. Various members of the Rowland family were shareholders - Arthur led the board and was elected as our first managing director of the newly formed limited company. His siblings Kate, Eleanor and William Herbert became board members alongside Arthur’s wife Ada Rowland and a local solicitor David Porrett.
In 1928 William Rowland bought the freehold of its property on Meadow Street from Miss H.S Fisher. As the business grew, nearby buildings were bought for additional warehousing.
The prestigious international trading group, Amalgamated Metal Corporation (AMC) was founded in 1929, a founder member of the London Metal Exchange. This was an amalgamation of The British Metal Corporation Ltd (BMC) and Henry Gardner & Co Ltd. In later years, we would proudly become part of this world-renowned organisation.
Suppliers to the world famous Sheffield steel trade
From what we’ve been able to uncover of the 1930s to 1960s, the business expanded to include a wholly owned subsidiary R & J Smith brothers, on Bridge Street in Sheffield, who were metal recyclers.
Ownership of William Rowland by the original descendants probably ended after the death of William Herbert Rowland in 1940, however with our reputation in the metals trade, the business continued to thrive. By the 1960s, company records show that William Rowland supplied a wide range of products to the world-renowned Sheffield steel works and the great names of the industry such as Firth Vickers, Brown Bailey and Jessop Saville.
We do know that until March 1965, William Rowland was still a privately owned company. It was then that Mr Sam Deeley, Chief Executive, retired and the business was sold to Henry Righton Ltd. Ownership then passed to Henry Gardner and Company Ltd.
International Nickel Ltd
William Rowland became one of the main suppliers of nickel to the Sheffield metal industry. Having worked for many years as agents for International Nickel Ltd,
A long and prosperous relationship continued as International Nickel Ltd became INCO, and more recently, Vale. Today we are a major distributor of Vale nickel powders.
Other areas of the business included zinc and lead ingots, steel sheeting, copper and tin. We also specialised in bismuth, antimony, mercury and magnesium sticks, sourcing the best quality products from around the world for our customers.
William Rowland in the UK and Europe
1973 marked further growth and expansion as William Rowland Ltd. In a twist of fate we took over Henry Gardner facilities in Glasgow and Cradley Heath, Birmingham.
As part of the Amalgamated Metal Corporation (AMC), William Rowland became part of the German metal trading conglomerate Preussag AG in 1978.
In 1979 we purchased the foundry formerly owned by the Midland and Low Moor Ironworks, which had once been owned by a well-known metals dealer and ship dismantler, Thomas ‘Tommy’ W Ward. The plot extended the current site and it became the single largest building on Meadow Street.
An international metal trading group
William Rowland Ltd continued to trade metals nationally and internationally. In 1995 Preussag AG changed direction from heavy industry to tourism, and in 2003, AMCO Investments was formed and became the holding company for the Amalgamated Metal Corporation (AMC) group. AMC is privately owned and William Rowland Ltd is a wholly owned subsidiary of this international manufacturing and metals trading group.