Steelworks Mapping Project

A great map can tell a 1000 stories, through nothing more than a simple picture. Humankind has been creating maps for 1000’s of years now, from simple scribbles on the back of a napkin, to huge multiple sheet highly detailed prints that have taken 100’s of man hours to complete.

If you look around the web, and at some of the historic mapping sites you can find maps for Consett and it’s steel industry spanning back as far as the early 1800’s, and I’m sure that there are more too, plans sat in boxes in peoples attics, folded up bit’s of paper in the bottom of someone’s desk drawer.

ALL of these diagrams, maps and plans tell stories like you would never believe. I was born Consett, and as a child grew up seeing the steelworks everyday from my bedroom window, I always wondered if I would ever work there, walk the hallowed turf that was “The Company”. Sadly, it was never to be, I was of an age that was just old enough to turn into a teenager, as the works closed for good, the closest I ever got to walking on Company ground, was messing about along the old railway lines, in the old buildings, and tunnels, to me the once great company was no more than a massive playground.

Looking back, I wish I could have had the foresight to take photos, videos, if I’d had the technology we have in mobile phones today, back then in the mid 80’s and I wasn’t such a stupid little teen, I would have documented everything, I would have recorded the silence and groaning of cooling metal as “The Company” gasped it’s dying breath.

Unfortunately, I didn’t, so now I do the next best thing I can, and that’s to turn all of these drawings, plans and maps into digital drawings that can be used in the computer.

The image at the top of this page is taken from the 1970’s map of the town, that I’ve been working on, off and on for at least 10 years now, today all of the company buildings are done and can be accurately placed on any modern day ariel photo system, to show the exact location these buildings one stood in.

The following Image, shows the same location as the Map image at the top of this page, only this time, the orange shapes newly drawn over the old black and white map, have been extracted and placed in modern day google earth:

This digital map, unlike the original paper one will say in pristine condition for ever as long as the disks it is stored on are looked after and backed up. In 10, 15, 20 + years from now people will still be able to tell stories about the massive factories that used to dominate this landscape, and share pictures of what used to be where.

Creating a map of this magnitude however is not easy, source maps can be damaged and hard to read, measurements may not be 100% accurate, and then there is time, it takes a huge amount of time investment to do this project, so that’s why the HCSW team have assembled a group of folks interested in doing this kind of work, right now the 1970’s base map we have has all the company buildings intact, it has the entire railway network through and around town, and a large chunk of the railway related buildings complete. Normal civilian buildings however, still has a lot to be completed.

Mostly the Town Center and Delves are done, and some of the more notable large buildings such as Shotley-Bridge hospital, aside from that, there is still a huge amount to do, and this is just for one period in time, there are historic maps going back to the 1800’s that we would like to digitize, there are walking routes we would like to map out for people to explore the area, we also want to create maps linked with the photos we’ve been collecting and have been given by our members in the Facebook group.

For the past 6 months or so now, we’ve been running a series of workshops, which you can watch for free on you-tube, we’ve been teaching the group, the skills they need in order to draw these maps and help create a digital record for future generations.

If this is something that interests you, please do get in touch with us by email.

If you would like to watch the tutorial meetings we’ve held so far, there is a play list on our You-Tube page at:

History of Consett Steelworks – Digital Mapping Meetings – YouTube

Peter “Shawty” Shaw, Digital Mapping Team.