Project Genesis, CDHI and the HCSW project team have helped to mark this event in various ways
The Memorial Wall was erected and opened in Sept 2020
Also there is a dedicated page on the Visit Consett website
HANSARD 1803–2005→ 1950s → 1950 → July 1950 → 4 July 1950 → Commons Sitting → TRADE AND COMMERCE
ACCIDENT, CONSETT IRONWORKS COMPANY
HC Deb 04 July 1950 vol 477 c260 260
§ Mr. James Glanville (by Private Notice) asked the Minister of Supply whether he has any statement to make in regard to the accident which occurred last weekend at the Consett Iron Company’s works and in which 11 men lost their lives.
§ Mr. J. Freeman I am sorry to say that an escape of carbon monoxide gas occurred at the No. 2 blast furnace of the Consett Ironworks Company, Durham, at about 10 p.m. on Saturday, 1st July, while the men were changing shifts. The cause of the escape is at present being investigated by one of His Majesty’s Inspectors of Factories. Forty-five men were rendered unconscious. 11 of whom died. Twenty-eight had to be taken to hospital and 21 have since been discharged. The remainder are expected to leave hospital today. I deeply regret the loss of life involved and, on behalf of my right hon. Friend and myself, and indeed the whole House, I should like to take this opportunity of expressing my sympathy with the relatives of the men who were killed.
1st July 2020 written by Brian Dodds
By today’s standards 45 works overcome by gas, 11 dead and 28 in hospital would make front page headlines, but in 1950 it got a mention on page 3 of the Derwent Valley Advertiser . As a former apprentice fitter at the blast furnace mechanics I was amazed it was never talked about. So over the last year or so I have been researching the subject, after reading the family members story’s, the safety officers and the coroner’s reports I would one day like to write the story in my own words but for now I think we should just remember those brave men who gave their lives to save work mates. Arnold William Ross (54) from Tyne Avenue, Leadgate , Married with four children. Richard Logan (54) from Villa Real, Consett. He was awarded a medal for gallantry from the D.L.I during the war . He was married with two children. John Jeffrey (46) from Park Villas , Leadgate, he worked at Consett Iron Company since the age of 15, married with tree children. Arthur Briggs (53) from Moorland Crescent, Castleside, married with three sons. Andrew Kirby (25) from Durham road , Blackhill, he served in the Royal Marines for a number of years and was married with a 21 month old child. Thomas Cook Eastern (45) from Hawthorne Terrace, Blackhill , married with one son . Thomas Heslop (32) from Eltringham Street Blackhill. Served in the army and was a prisoner of war. Married with a child aged 18 months. Francis Crawly (30) from Roger Street Blackhill was married with three sons . Henry Tucker (49) from Cedar Gardens, The Grove, married with three children. Joseph Edward Humble (44) from the Grove, married with one child. John Sheldon Craggs, (54) from Moorland Crescent, Castleside , married with three children. RIP and one day you will get a memorial
In 1939 I was born, the son of a face working coal miner and his wife.
My paternal grandfather was also an ex miner from a nearby village (Sacriston) and my maternal grandfather a steeple jack from a village which no longer exists called Riseburn ? where my mother was born and raised.
Both families have earlier links to the railways.
The village where I was born still exists as Langley Park and is situated in the Browney river valley about 4 miles west of Durham City.
Consett lies almost due east 8 to 10 miles away.
My earliest recollections are of living, along with my sibling sisters, one older and one younger, in a terraced colliery house within sight, sound and smell of Langley Park Colliery and it’s associated coke works.
A railway line ran east to west within 20 yards of our door. I was to learn later that this was used to carry coke to Consett for use in the steel works.
The distinctive sounds and smells from the coke works still linger in my memory and many, unknown to me then, would be experienced much later at Consett.
The glow from CIC when slag was being tipped could be clearly seen and the rotten eggs and creosote smells from the coke works ? well no one seemed to suffer coughs or colds in those days.
I remember infant school, the winter of 1947 and junior school all within the village but from a change of address further away from the railway thankfully. 11 plus was the norm in those days and Mr Taffy Lewis managed to secure Johnston Grammar School places for four of us. Lifelong friends.
We then moved into a council house at the other end of the village away from the colliery but I promptly contracted “scarlet fever” and spent the next three months in an isolation hospital at Lanchester.
My introduction to grammar school was consequently disastrous, I ended up hating it and left with only bad memories. “You are not going down the pit so go and find yourself a job” I was told. 1955 saw me at CIC being interviewed by Mr Fishwick where I was offered a job.
My induction was to take place in the workshop of the “Blast Mechanics” and I then started work as an “assistant pump house attendant”. It involved shift work, two buses from Langley Park to Consett and 11/2 mile run to the lower ponds pump house.
The only bus available for a 6.00am start was from Lanchester. Walk, pushbike, lift in the newspaper delivery van nightmare.
Fortunately Mr Fishwick having reviewed my application, suggested I apply for an apprenticeship.
Tests all passed, Blacksmiths shop or Garage mechanic ? I chose the latter. I still have my indentures. Apprenticeship initially also meant no shift work a major bonus.
The garage itself was situated at the end of Berryedge road with a number of adjoined buildings, an ambulance depot and direct access to the Manager’s office.
A much larger building was the main workshop area with one small and two much larger pits. Vehicular access was originally by way of a yard outside the ambulance bay and a 90 degree right hand turn onto the pits. Dodgy to say the least.
Access was later moved and enlarged to enable easy and safe approach directly from the main works road.
There was also a small hut and two fuel pumps situated in the yard opposite what as Milton Lishman’s paint shop.
Apprentices checked and topped up each returning tractor trailer combination on a daily basis.
It was not seen as the drivers’ job at that time. As a unit we serviced and repaired a large fleet of vehicles, plant and mobile equipment used throughout the plant and even on the melting shop stage. 16 tractors with drawbar trailers (later replaced by articulated units) all AEC delivered steel billets, blooms and occasional slabs to Jarrow, Darlington and Redcar, 6 cubic yard dumptrucks serviced the blast furnaces from the ore handling plant opposite the Garage, numerous lorries of several makes were dedicated to different departments and cars, vans and chauffer driven limousines dealt with visitors, directors and senior personel and consumable collection and delivery.
Two tankers also served the needs of the fell coke works.
The garage was managed by Tom Gallon, his second in command being Fred Greaves.
Foremen were Jack Harris, Alan Reed, Roly Oliver and in my early years, on permanent night shift
Willy Walton. Peter Mantle looked after the trailer section which was, for some reason classified as semi skilled work. Panel beater/welder was Nick Heatherington and three other staff, Kit Ianson, Jimmy Hepple and a.n.other.
Tyre fitter was Les Scott but the storekeeper’s name escapes me Alan ? Auto Electrics were handled, initially on dayshift,
Later on a three shift system by Murray Batey, Ted Cuthbertson and Austin Donnely. Mechanics during my stay were :-
Barney Hunter (best friend and my best man) Barney went on to do brake system research at “Lockheed” ,conscription with the R.E.M.E. and went on to lecture at Edinburgh University.
He is still with us and lives in Penicuik near Edinburgh.
Alec Sellars (from Bridgehill), Ben Nicholson (Stanley) John Cranney (played cricket to a high standard for Shotley Bridge) Ian Gibson (IG to his friends, ex Jakey Robsons on Blackhill bank) Ken Davies (Blackhill and an early mentor ) Ronny Elliff (Came from a garage on Medomsley road- opposite the market ?) Albert Fairlamb.
Apprentices following on from me and Ralph Robinson were, as I recall :- Ken Glendinning and his younger brother Gordon. (Their father ran a haulage business, next to the river and just over the bridge at Shotley. Ian Farrer.
Chris Callaghan. On permanent nightshift with Willie Walton was Bill Eager and another night shift driver (Ianson) Emergency cover for the Ambulance which was also housed at the Garage. Bill’s son Les was also a dayshift mechanic.
Later, as the work load increased a need for twenty four hour cover led to a three shift system being introduced for selected personnel.
Unusual vehicles :- A massive slag transporter was commisioned . Powered by a Rolls Royce engine and occupying both sides of the road. I am unsure how effectively it performed compared to the locos used previously. It was a nightmare to work on and it’s reliability questionable.
Blawknox Machine was a mobile hopper containing dolomite.
It ran on the stage of the melting shop, trying to dodge the ” chargers” which reigned supreme up there, and it was used to “fettle each furnace” between firings. Fed from the hopper, a high speed flat belt shot a stream of dolomite, through the open door of the furnace to repair any damage to the lining.
“Austin Ruby Special”. Around 1961 A director’s son (Boot) was given, as an optional reward for obtaining his degree, either a “morris 1000 traveller” or convert a 1936 “austin ruby saloon” to a “souped up special”.
He chose the latter and I was ‘voluteered’ to assist and oversee the build. It was completed and functioned well but I have no idea what happened to it thereafter. Wish I had taken some photos.
Harthope Quarry I have fond memories of occasional days out too. Always a pleasant experience and a valuable break from our normal routine.
CIC owned and worked a quarry. It was situated high on the moors adjacent to the road from St Johns Chappel over to upper Teasdale and referred to as “Harthope”
We serviced the equipment stored and used there to extract ganister which was taken, by lorry to the works and used in the steel making process. .
These served as driving practice opportunities for us apprentices along with shopping trips for “cardice” (liquid nitroged) used by the TRD and consumables of all sorts.from Newcastle and Gateshead.
Tommy Hogg taught me to drive and Class one HGV License was also necessary I recall that we also serviced equipment for Consett Golf Club and were occasionally called upon to ferry patient to and from Shotley Bridge hospital in the works ambulance. Originally an old Morris Commercial, later replaced with an up to date Bedford.
My apprenticeship ended in 1960, conscription had finished by then so I missed out on National Service but I was retained by the Company and consequently married Joan, my soul mate for over 60 years and counting.
The 60s were good to us, we had two boys, enjoyed fishing and brass band trips and shared a holiday cottage with two other families.
The severe winter of 1963 saw me unable to get home for a week stuck in Consett. I lodged with a colleague at Villa Real but was able to secure 12 hour shifts due to staff shortages caused by the weather. Happy days !
Things changed with British Steel’s involvement, the writing was on the wall and there was uncertainty everywhere so it was decided, on the advice of my manager, to widen my horizons and learn about the retail sector of the motor industry.
I reluctantly left the Company in 1970.
I soon became aware of the true value of my apprenticeship and experience at Consett
The massive shortage of true craft skills was noticeable wherever I worked for the next eight years and in 1978 I was invited to apply for a position with the Skills Training Agency of the government’s Manpower Services Commission.
I was able to satisfy the practical and theoretical entrance examinations and after several residential trainer training courses started a new chapter in the Civil Service as an Instructional Training Officer.
We moved to our present house the same year and Training, Quality Assurance and IIP has provided for us ever since in both the public and the private sector.
I retired from being Training Manager at P C Henderson (Garage door manufacturer) in 2003.
It was sad to hear of the demise of the works and I have often reflected on the time I enjoyed there.
I was able to attend a couple of reunions with a few ex colleagues.
Sadly few now remain, but Ironically, while I worked as an Instructional Officer at Durham, and when it closed a number of ex British Steel employees were enrolled there to retrain.
Coincidentally three other Instructional Officers were also ex CIC apprentices. Small world but such a valuable and lasting legacy.
Consett has shown emarkable resilience and it’s proud people are testament to the prosperity it now enjoys. Risen from the ashes.
With thanks for the opportunity N.A.Joicey RPT. (19 April 2021)
note we will be adding some pictures and documents from Alan in due course too
Delves Brickworks was built in 1874 between Delves Lane and Knitsley Lane to satisfy the growing needs of the Company for refractory bricks and shapes
Initially the output of the brickworks was mainly fireclay bricks and shapes made from seggar clay extracted with the coal from the Companies collieries but in later years crushed Ganister rock from Butsfield Quarry was mixed with the clay to make ” semi-silica” bricks.
After the first world war it became obvious that silica bricks would have to be used in the construction of Coke Ovens,so in 1924 a new brickworks,Templetown Brickworks, was opened on the site of the old beehive coke ovens to produce Silica bricks and shapes.
Such was the demand for Silica Refractories that the brickworks trebled in size over the following years.
Almost half of all Coke Ovens in the country were constructed using bricks and shapes made at Templetown and refractories for coke oven batteries and gas retorts were exported to many countries including Australia,India and U.S.A.
My first placement on the training program was at Templetown Brickworks Laboratory ,and if I had thought my visit to the Steelworks for an interview was a culture shock it was nothing compared to my time at Templetown.
Saying that it was great place to begin your training,the people were great mentors,not only teaching you about the production and testing of refractories but also preparing you for life in the steel industry.
I still remember those people,George Summerson,Jack Casson,Maurice Thompson,Dick Hudson and Brian” Wacker” Wilson.
Our main duties included the collection of brick mixes and finished products and testing for properties such as cold and high temperature crushing strength,refractoriness and permeability etc. Although I remember a lot of what I was taught regarding the testing procedures I think I remember more of other ” activities” that took place in the Laboratory some of which I cannot repeat,but I will tell two of the most memorable which give an insight into the working environment in the 1960,s colleague with whom I started work with insisted in telling the older chemists about his weekend “experiences” on nights out in Consett,much to their annoyance,after several friendly warnings his banter continued.
On our next visit into the kilns to take samples of bricks after firing we became aware of number of women workers blocking the exits from the kiln,they grabbed my colleague as I made a hasty escape.(I had no idea what they were going to do!!!).
Fortunately my colleague was a fit rugby player and fought free and we legged it very quickly back to the Lab with 3 or 4 of the ladies in token pursuit — it must have looked like something out of a Benny Hill Show !!
Of course when we got back to the lab we were greeted by a group hysterical chemists. My colleague definitely learnt a lesson and kept quiet for the next few Monday mornings
On another occasion an argument ensued regarding which sportsmen were the fittest, there was a rugby player,footballers,cyclist and a tennis player working in theLab/offices so it was decided to have a cross country race to find the fittest.
A betting book was started with people betting on the outcome.
I was not considered to be one of the favourites,but one of the senior chemists discovered I had been school cross country champion,a fact I had to keep quiet
During the run up to the race each senior chemist took one of the competitors under his wing and practice runs and time trails were organised ,usually when some of the other runners were at college and bets placed accordingly.I was instructed not to be too enthusiatic about the race or practice runs,hence my “trainer” was able to place his bets at favourable odds.
On the day of the race worked stopped,a van was converted into a “Red Cross Ambulance” to follow the runners. kitted out with a stretcher and doctor!!!.I’m not sure what the people on the roads around Consett and Delves area thought.
I’ve included a couple of photographs of the event,one showing some of the competitors and the other of the finish,I wonder who won??.
These are only two memories of my time at Templetown,it was a great learning curve and prepared me for all the other different situations I found myself I in over the next 17 years at the Steelworks.
I think now how employment has changed since the 1960’s,believe me several of the other experiences would not be tolerated or allowed in todays society,but they did us no harm and we all went on to have successful careers!
Thanks to Brian Wilson for some of the original photographs.