John Oxley was a shoe and butchers’ knife manufacturer, who was listed in Whitecroft in 1822 (a later trade advertisement gave an establishment date of 1797). By 1825, he was based in Hollis Croft. John apparently died in about 1837. By his wife, Mary, he had two sons – George (1808-1879) and James (1811-1881) – who were baptised at Lee Croft Independent Chapel.
The brothers took over their father’s firm, first in Hollis Croft and then by the 1850s at No. 56 Garden Street. In 1855, they exhibited at the Paris Universal Exhibition and had a Paris agent. In 1861, George told the Census that he employed a dozen men and six boys. However, in that year the partnership was dissolved. By 1864, George had remarried (apparently for the third time) and was living and working as a cutler at Richmond in Indiana, USA. He died there on 5 September 1879, aged 71. His brother continued the firm.
By 1868, James was listed as a maker of cooks’ and palette knives and steels in Garden Street, with a ‘depot for inventions of domestic utility’ in Devonshire Street. One of his ideas was a patent bread slicer. In 1871, he employed five men and a boy and a girl. He died at Salisbury Terrace, Winter Street, on 2 June 1881 (aged 70), leaving £1,646. His burial in the General Cemetery was unconsecrated. The firm – now employing ten men – was under James’s son, James Jenkinson Oxley (1844-1911). Until the 1880s, the firm advertised regularly in the Sheffield trade directories. Oxley’s trade mark was a butcher’s knife crossed with a sharpening steel (and the letters ‘JO’).
Before the First World War, Oxley’s Garden Street factory was known as Toronto Works. James J. Oxley, Crookesmoor Road, died on 6 February 1911, leaving £2,150. He was buried in Crookes Cemetery. His sons – Ernest James Oxley and William Bernard Oxley – kept the firm in family hands. It was an enduring presence at 36 Garden Street – selling painters’ cutlery and tradesman’s’ tools – until the 1960s. The last family partners were William Bernard Oxley (who may have died in 1958) and his son, John Edwin. In 1969, Oxley’s was acquired by George Barnsley & Sons and made a limited company. Its final address was Cornish Works, Cornish Street, until it was dissolved in 2005 (though it had ceased trading by the 1990s).