One building that many folks who remember the works, feel should have never been pulled down, was the main company offices.
I don’t have or know the exact date this building was erected on the site of the steelworks, but I do know from the photos we have, that it was almost certainly there with the first version of the works to stand on the site, back in the very early 1900’s
We certainly have it situ on the 1970’s Ordnance Survey map, as the above map segment shows, the National Library of Scotland maps from 1892 to 1914 also show the building in the same place, as the following shows
And we have photos from around about the same time as the NLS map was produced, showing the building already complete.
For quite some time after the building was build, in the early part of the 19th Century, the road going past the offices, and indeed through the heart of the steel works itself, was a public road, connecting what’s now berry edge road, to the grove and Consett Hall, which I’m led to believe was one of the works owners houses.
At the same time, you could also turn to the North and head along the public road known as “Tinmill Road” to reach Blackhill.
Right next to the offices was built one of the first row’s of workers houses, “Staffordshire Row”
Which was subsequently demolished when the Steelworks was re-developed in the mid 1900’s to be the plant and layout, most of us remember today.
You can see in the photo above, the last remaining house from Staffordshire row, slowly being taken apart to make way for the new extensions that would later be used to house the works medical facilities.
Having a public road running down through the area however, left us with a very important mark, called a “Bench Mark”.
Benchmarks where marks created by the Ordnance Survey to record the land height at that specific location, these where then used to work out the contours and shape of the surrounding land for the mapping teams to understand the geography of the UK at the time.
Benchmarks where usually placed on buildings that the OS felt were
- A) Never going to be moved, and where going to remain in place for a very long time to come.
- B) Where always going to be publicly accessible
Benchmarks were carried forward onto every OS map created from that date forward, which if you look closely at the 1970 OS Map segment, you will see has been recorded as 233.46 meters above sea level.
I can’t fit the whole map into this blog post however as it’s too big, but the general layout of the flattened area of the works after it’s re-development in the mid 1900s and along the rail corridor under the grove bridge across to Consett North signal box shows that it was mostly flattened to this height. Unfortunately, as this road was closed to the public after the re-development, the Ordnance survey, was never able to re-measure the land heights as newer surveying methods where developed, so we know precious little about the shape of the plot of land the company had, other than the general contour layout from the 1:50k OS Landranger series.
Around this time, the offices were expanded too, you can see in the previous image, that a new block was added on to the northwest facing part of the building
The white part on the south west facing part (Can be seen just behind the new part in the previous image) I believe was added on very early in the buildings life time, as we can see it clearly in this very early image of the building.
If you look closely too, you can see the last house from Staffordshire row (Shown in a different image above) before it started getting its roof removed.
One of the questions we frequently get asked here at HCSW is “Where would the building be today, if it had not been pulled down“
Well we can answer that very easily, first off, the NLS maps web page has a useful “Transparency” feature, that allows us to merge the old and the new maps:
However, this doesn’t always give us the best view, and you can’t zoom in very close, as the underlying modern day maps switch off after we get to a certain level.
Since we here at HCSW have spent quite a lot of the previous years, mapping the site, and matching the 1970’s maps up to the modern-day maps (A process called Geo-referencing) we can use the maps we have created with applications, such as Google earth:
The original building is in Orange, the later extensions in Red
If we put a small light blue cross on the map:
And place that same cross, on the “Street View” of the same location:
We can then line that location up, with the older photographs as follows:
With this image being about as close as we can get to the modern street view above:
One thing we sadly do not have a lot of photos of, is the inside of the building, the only 2 we have that we know for sure are of the inside, are the following 2 “Entrance Foyer” and “Staircase” photos
There are many photos from the outside of the building, I’ve included some more from our collection, below.
The one view that MANY of you who worked at the steelworks will remember, will be this one:
I’m told that this was the “Pay Office” where every Friday you would go and pick up a paper envelope with your week’s wages in (There was no electronic banking in those days)
This was the extension built in the yard around the back of the building, shown as this area on the 1970’s map:
Apart from the extensions, the main building itself, changed very little over the years it was in use, and remained in very good condition (Despite it’s location) right up until it’s eventual demise.
What are your thoughts?
Do you think the building should have been kept, and renovated to provide offices for local small businesses?
Or perhaps it could have been renovated and turned into flats or other modern day living accommodation, rather than flattening the site and building houses on it that are not very much bigger than your average flat.
If myself and the rest of the team are honest, we would have liked to have seen the building kept, and at least some of it converted to offices, or community space, after all, what better place to house a “Consett Museum” than the place where the towns fortunes where originally made.
Do you have any photos of the inside of the building, or any plans showing its layout? If you do, we’d love to see them, and possibly even make a digital copy of them.
It’s a great shame that we lost such a wonderful building, but I guess that’s the price of progress, even if we don’t always agree with it.