by: Peter Jack Shaw
From Snod’s edge to Healyfield and Castleside to Rowley, the red dust from the monsters belly in Consett itself was ever omnipresent.
The men that cared for and powered the molten steel belching creature, making their daily journeys from their homes in Delves, Leadgate, Blackhill the Grove and Shotley Bridge deep into its dark heart at berry edge, where the only light often was the deep orange flickering glow of the furnaces themselves.
Some were lucky, they got to work outside driving loco’s or directing traffic around the site, even more lucky still the managers and the suit wearing staff from the affluent and large homes along the promenade, site of the famous battle of the blue heaps, they sat in offices watching the molten monster do its thing from their office windows.
24 hours a day, 7 days a week, the monster belches out enormous quantities of molten steel, which the hard-working men of the Derwent valley hammer, squash and bash into so many different shapes, the mind boggles trying to keep track of it all, and the noise… oh my word, how ANYONE can concentrate and know what they are doing amongst all that noise.
The sparks, the fire, the raw red heat of metal girders that have not yet been fully born, it’s as if the monster makes it’s children to order, and shapes them to be the adults they will become in the real world, before they even leave it’s womb.
The men and the machines hammer on, bashing and rolling, re-heating and moulding, day after day, the red dust spews forth from the massive chimneys, you can see the beast breathing, every cloud of smoke an exhale of one breath, the people up in town feel safe, even if the air is thick to breathe sometimes. “Consett is a safe town” they all say, “The Monster protects us”, the “Monster has always been here in many forms, looking over our town”
The bantling Lime kilns at Greencroft, the coal Mines at Dipton & Stanley, the Sandstone Quarries at Hownsgill and even as far away as Stanhope, even when the monster was young it had a veracious appetite, railways connecting far and wide formed the monsters tentacle’s nowhere, was out of its reach, coals form Newcastle, Iron Ore and Sandstone from South Durham, trains full of food for the monster rumbling in and out of town several times a day and still struggling to keep up.
We continued to nurture it, let It grow, the bigger it became the more it protected us, and our children, and our children’s children, “Consett is a safe town, the monster looks after us all”.
OR SO WE THOUGHT, there’s panic on the streets, not just in Consett but EVERY SINGLE PART of the local area.
The men who burrowed beneath the soil to extract the coal are worried that the monster won’t require any more food, the sandstone and lime quarries are already closed, the monster has had it’s fill of those, and for some time now the monsters favourite snack of iron-ore has come to it from large ships traveling from places as far flung as Australia and America.
Maybe we fed it too much and it just couldn’t cope, could we put it on a diet, keep it ticking along just enough, so it continues to keep us safe.
NO THE MEN IN LONDON CRY….
“The Beast Must Be Slain”, the voices ring out, but who will keep us safe if we do the Workers cried out?
“That you will have to sort out for yourselves” the men in London replied.
It’s been 10 years now, the monster is silent, all traces of it ever being alive have gone, observing the valley from places such as Edmundbyers, show clean blue fresh air once more, Derwent reservoir and Allensford are popular outdoor activity venues, in some way the workers that worked hard to keep the beast alive have deserved their well-earned rest, but they worry the Town is no longer safe.
The children have a huge playground, there’s no end of space, they don’t seem to worry. There’s space to ride bikes, build dens and still some secret places where parts of the monster can still be found.
The caves left behind after removing the monsters food, make excellent places to explore and chase one another. Being a kid round here… why should I worry about Consett being a safe town, I don’t miss the monster, and I fail to see why those older than me make such a big deal about it.
I’m an adult now, I understand more than I did then, there’s still a deafening silence in this town, but what’s been achieved in the 40 years since the monster was silenced is nothing short of staggering, our future looks bright. Coal mines that where once bustling producing food to pour into the belly of the Beast have now been transformed into metal work craft workshops, the few buildings that belonged to the monster that are still standing house new enterprises and small growing businesses, new houses bring new people in from far and wide, purpose built units sit on derelict land where the monsters children used to be forged, Supermarkets, Fast Food outlets, Café’s, Linen and Nick Nack shops there all here, ‘the tourists love it’, small businesses started by small groups of people, not dissimilar to the small groups of people who first helped form the monster all those many, many, many years ago.
No I don’t think we’ll see another monster, certainly not one with the appetite that our first one had, but the workers ethos still marches on, from Shotley Bridge over to Delves, Blackhill across to Castleside, Moorside & the Grove up and over to Leadgate, the monster may be silent now, but…
“Consett is still a safe town”
“we must never forget the monster that protected us well for so long, and got us where we are today”