Nigel Tyas

Ironworker Nigel Tyas with ceramacist Sarah Jones-Morris

Penistone’s iron man

Nigel Tyas set up his eponymous ironworks business at the turn of the millennium and has since produced products for the likes of Emmerdale, Game of Thrones and James Bond…

Nigel Tyas was made redundant five times before he took the brave decision to launch his own ironworks business back in 2000.

“I started my career as an apprentice blacksmith back in 1970 at the National Coal Board,” Nigel said.

“Following my apprenticeship I moved away from blacksmithing into steel fabrication until I was made redundant not long after the 1989 strikes."

Nigel went on to hold a number of different roles at various companies until he ended up working for a company manufacturing machinery for making plastic bags.

He spent 12 years there before being made redundant for the fifth time. It proved to be the final straw and inspired him to go it alone and launch his own business.

“After that I was so fed up that I decided to have a crack at setting my own business up,” he added. “It was mainly after the humiliation of going to the job centre to be honest!

“I took part in a business start-up course in Barnsley and I found it very informative. We had a great mentor who was quite inspiring.

“I was in a group of around 12-15 people, I suspect out of the 15 there’s only a couple of us that are still in business but it was great.

“One of the things we learned was that we would have to research our market and that’s what we did, we spent three to five months trawling the internet and researching similar businesses before giving it a go.”

Having cut his teeth as a blacksmith, Nigel had also worked in a variety of engineering and manufacturing roles but knew he wanted to do something with his blacksmith skills.

Starting off from home, he decided to start ‘messing around’ with his tools until he knew what he wanted to do: “I started in my garage in 2000 just messing about.

“Then as time went on I took on my first employee in 2002 and we moved to the current site where we have our forge at Millhouse Green, we’ve been here around 15 years now.

“When the business first started we manufactured almost anything a blacksmith could do. But as time went by my wife and I, my business partner, began to realise that everyone was doing that and we needed to specialise in specific areas which were more profitable.

“We went down the route of interior lighting, curtain poles and other interiors. That has gradually grown over the years and now it is the bulk of our business. We still make everything by hand here in our workshop, I design the lights and our team of three blacksmiths work away doing all of the hard work!”

Nigel has now established a national reputation for quality and authenticity and as well as selling direct to property owners, the company has developed relationships with dozens of professional interior designers, architects, conservation and renovation consultants and electrical contractors.

Although Nigel had no experience of running a business prior to its launch, he was fortunate that his wife and business partner Elizabeth’s background was in computer programming and ICT. This allowed the pair to pool their skills together and utilise each other’s skillsets the best they could. Whilst Nigel began crafting products, Elizabeth got to work on the company’s website.

And it is the website which has been pivotal to the company’s growth, attracting customers from across the globe. Nigel Tyas’ chandeliers, light fittings, fireside irons and curtain poles can now be found in castles, cathedrals, pubs, hotels, heritage properties and family homes across the UK and abroad.

He added: “We’ve managed to sell all over the world, from Australia to New Zealand, the Falkland Islands, America and most of the EU countries.

“Our chandeliers for example, we make them up to 2m in diameter in various styles and we have some hanging in castles in Denmark, Kent, the Tower of London, all over the place. There are so many places it’s hard to remember them all!

“We’ve also been featured in TV and film sets from Game of Thrones to James Bond’s Spectre. They came to us – we had an email asking for a request and we cracked on with it.

“Most of the work has come through Google - it’s amazing how the internet can help you reach out and win business all over the globe.”

And as well as employing eight members of staff, Nigel is also committed to ensuring he does his part to safeguard not only their futures but also the future of the industry.

Having started his own career as a 16-year-old apprentice blacksmith at the National Coal Board’s Elsecar workshops in the 70s, he is keen to ensure more young people are given similar opportunities.

This led to him taking on his first apprentice in 2013 with the recruitment of Kieren Stables as an apprentice blacksmith.

Nigel said: “Kieren has been with us for almost three and a half years now and has really worked hard developing his skills in handling ironwork and helping us to deliver quality hand-made products.

“I think it’s unbelievably important for the industry that we nurture such skills. The fact is that we have lost a lot of skills over the years and we’re almost at a stage now where we will have to reinvent the wheel.”

Nigel Tyas has since grown its customer base and increased trade steadily over the past 16 years, constantly adding new products to its 500-strong catalogue of goods.

It has also gained the prestigious Made in Sheffield mark which recognises the quality of its manufactured products and further celebrates Nigel Tyas’ close association with Sheffield’s metalworking heritage.

But looking forward, Nigel concluded: “I’d like to continue growing the business. We have the capacity to produce more here at Millhouse Green and I’d like to think we can continue to grow the business to secure the future for our employees!”