Ronnie Dawson , my Dad by Dorothy Whitesmith

Dorothy Whitesmith writes

This is my Dad Ronnie Dawson

.He was born in Dacre Gardens the youngest of eight children.

My Grandad William Dawson had a good job at the works.

His brother Ralph also had a good job there too.

He lived in a lovely end terraced house on The Promenade with an integral conservatory.

My Dad must have started there in about 1936 as a Fitter and Turner.

He left to go in The Royal Engineers to lecture on steam engines in World War Two and returned to the works after that.

The names I remember from the Fitting shop were as follows Ronnie Davison, Matty Henderson, Tommy Stoddart, Cecil Nesbit, Alan Wood, Bob Urwin.

The then apprentices he mentioned were the King brothers from Bridgehill and the Cherryman brothers from Castleside.

I have heard of George Dawson but I don’t think we are related. My Dad had a great sense of humour, told some really corny jokes and was so, so kind and patient.

Thanks to Dorothy for sharing her memories of her dad and family all worked at the “Works”

Templetown Brickworks Memories shared by Alan Swinburne

Memories shared by Alan Swinburne

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.

Alan Swinburne

Steelworks stories: the blog

Welcome to the History of Consett Steelworks blog, an place to bring forward some of the steelworks stories that you’d like to share. New content is always welcome, so if you have a story you want to tell or a memory you’d like to record please get in touch with the HCSW team at historyofconsettsteelworks@gmail.com.

Tweeting all over the world

Thanks to the South Pelaw Junction website for use of the header image

    Well-known Consett resident Theresa Roberts protesting in London at the prospect of the closure of Consett where her husband and two sons worked, 1979

    We have been really fortunate to have not one but two papers accepted for the Shaped by Steel conference organised by Swansea University and via the project Twitter feed @SteelWorlds

    For anyone new to Twitter conferencing, it is a great way to share and discuss a specific topic over a series of tweets – in this case 15. Anyone can respond to the tweets, and they are permanently on the Social Worlds of Steel twitter feed for anyone to engage with and learn by. It’s a great way to get the stories you want to tell known and included in the discussion.

    Our two papers, both presented on Wednesday 1st July, are:

    9.40 – 10.00am: Forging Links in the Landscape: how Consett used its integrated transport system to connect with the world and overcome its locational challenges

    4.00 – 4.20pm: Tapping the Memories: a selection of illustrative stories of the people who made Consett steel and how their contribution shaped an industry and a community

    We’ve had some fantastic conversations and insights from people who worked for CIC and have had access to some fascinating and privileged information on how people worked, lived and enjoyed living in Consett. Community was key, and the links are still strong, even 40 years after closure. We are really grateful to everyone who has shared their stories, memories and images with us.

    Please do join us live on Twitter at @SteelWorlds or using the hashtag #SWOS20, but if not take a look at any time, and feel free to add your thoughts in the comments to the tweets.