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sheffieldbase.com are away for the summer...
...but here's some of our favourite stories from 2003/04!

 

Features

 

Getting Medieval

Jenny Keefe


Sheffield’s days as the crucible of British industry may be over but one unlikely steel craft is having a renaissance: chastity belts.

The late Hal Higginbottom - founder of Tollyboy UK - was working at Sheffield University in the 1950s when a lecturer challenged him to make a modern-day chastity belt.

Richard Davies, Mr Higginbottom’s former apprentice, said: “Hal was an engineer at the university. He invented it in the university’s workshops after one of the professors wanted one built for his wife. The guy showed him a belt and asked if he could make a copy."

Mr Davies, an affable Australian who has lived in Britain for six years, took over the business when Mr Higginbottom died, aged 67, in 1998. He now exports worldwide and sells 100 of the devices a year. Approximately 75 per cent of his clients are men.

What kind of customers does he get? “Ones that are under a lot of stress,” Mr Davies told sheffieldbase.com.

“We get people who are dominant in their working life; accountants, lawyers … I have two university lecturers, a military aircraft fitter and a couple of doctors.”

While chastity belts were first used in the Middle Ages to prevent women being raped while their husbands were away at war, the 21st century versions are mainly sold as toys.

“People buy them because presumably it just makes them hugely excited. They seriously want what they can’t have and when they finally get around to taking it off the sex is wonderful,” said Mr Davies.


Chastity belts hit the news this month when a 40-year-old British woman’s set off metal detectors in Athens airport. She was wearing one because her husband was worried she might cheat while away on business.

“I have a fair idea who that was,” said Mr Davies, adding: “One French couple wanted a belt for each other because they claimed they both had affairs and wanted to keep each others keys.”

Tollyboy’s belts, which retail at about £300, are a lighter, more practical, copy of a 15th-century Florentine design. Making them is a labour of love for Mr Davies, each one individually crafted from Sheffield’s finest rustproof steel.

While most are used for fun, some women buy them to prevent assault.

Mr Davies said: “A nurse from London wanted me to make a special one for her to wear under her uniform, because it’s bloody dangerous in London.

“Another woman has been raped twice and it’s never going to happen again. She never goes out without wearing it. She hides the key somewhere in her house.”

Customers send in their measurements by email. The Tollyboy website (slogan - “Tollyboy -Protecting your assets since 1956”) is translated into Spanish and Japanese.

Mr Davies said the business is just a hobby to keep him entertained, adding: “There’s not much money in it.”

What do people say when he tells them how he makes a living? “They look at you as if you’re kidding.”

http://www.tollyboy.com

 

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