Steelworks Stories: the blog

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.

My Steelworks Story part 4

As an apprentice in the Oxygen Steel Plant i worked a day shift  8 – 4.30 pm , when i came out of my time i was put onto the shift system, this system was a 2 , 2 , 3  (  2 x 6/2  , 2 x 2/10 , 3 x 10/6 ) 2 days off. Working on the shifts you had to cover all the plant equipment. As mentioned before there was 4 main sections to the Steel plant, the Charging bay , the heart of the plant where the vessels , boilers , pumps, valves , fans etc., Casting bay , Stripping bay.


In the Charging bay, the molten iron was brought in from the Blast Furnaces about 120 – 130 ton in small brick lined pots.

The charging bay cranes would decant the molten iron from the pots into a large ladle , this ladle was placed on scales to check the weight. During this process the air would be filled with smoke and dust , also particles of graphite. In the sunlight you could see the graphite twinkling as it cascaded down.

Because the graphite was slippery , there was a squad of men who had to go onto the cranes and gantries to sweep all the graphite dust up for safety reasons. Working on the cranes was dangerous, when walking along the crane gantry you had to give way to any moving cranes, accidents have been caused with people being crushed  between a vertical girder and a passing crane .

In modern day plants there would be more clearance between the girders and the cranes , also working at height these days you have to wear a safety harness and be attached to a safety line.


As with other departments in the Steel works , some jobs were critical and time constrained to production. These jobs were contract jobs, to get the work completed in a certain time a bonus payment was made. In the Oxy plant one contract job was to replace an oxygen lance.

Each vessel has two oxygen lances attached to a carriage which can traverse to place the lance above the vessel. The lances were about 30 feet long and about 18 inch in diameter, the lances were water cooled. If a lance failed , either by the end burning off or too much slag sticking to it the lance would be changed.

The damaged lance would be lifted to its upper limit the  carriage would travel to place the spare lance in position above the vessel . This is when we would have to replace the damaged lance while production would be using the other one.

A squad of two riggers , one plumber and his mate, one fitter and his mate would work to change the lance. The riggers would secure the lance to an Acrow hoist, the fitter would go through a trap door to a lower level and remove some clamps holding the lance to the carriage .

If the production people were teaming the steel from the vessel or skimming the slag off, the flames , sparks and dust would shoot up to the 5 th floor  so we had to be careful .!!! 

The next step was to split the water hoses and the oxygen hose from the lance, the plumber would isolate the water to the lance, the riggers would take the lance to a holding post and bring a new lance to be fitted. After putting everything back together and re clamping the lance , the plumber would put the water pressure back on and test for leaks.

The riggers would then lower the damaged lance from the 5th floor to a special trailer on the ground floor ready to go to the boiler shop for repair. We would be payed a bonus payment for this job.


Another contract job was in the Dolomite plant , the dolomite bricks used to line the vessels were of different lengths , shapes and thickness.The brick presses were of three molds on a round table. When production had made a batch of bricks of a certain type , we would have to remove the three moulds and the pressure head for that type and replace them with the moulds for the next different batch, for this we would get a bonus payment.


During the steel making process a certain tonnage of scrap iron / steel would be tipped into the vessel , then the molten iron would be poured in. The L D vessel would be put in the vertical position and the oxygen lance would be lowered into the vessel and the oxygen would start blowing and agitating the iron. All the smoke ,heat, dust , fumes would be sucked away by a large Induced draught fan . 

On L D ‘s  1 & 2  waste heat boilers were in the extraction system, the heat generated from the process passed through the boiler combustion chamber and helped to raise 160 / 180000 lb’s of steam per hour, when the vessel wasn’t blowing the oxygen, to keep raising steam the oil burners were used to keep the temperature up, these burners would switch off when the oxy lance was blowing again. The dust and fumes etc., would then be passed through the precipitators , on L D’s 1 & 2 the precipitators were too small and inefficient , the red dust was supposed to be collected in the precipitators  but this didn’t happen very often.  On L D’s 3 & 4 the extraction system was slightly better with larger precipitators and more conditioning of the dust and fumes.

On L D’s 3 & 4  it was a high pressure hot water system instead of boilers, the heat, fumes , dust would be sucked away from the vessel by the large Induced draught fan up through the water cooled fume hood then it would pass through a conditioning tower where steam and water sprays would knock some of the dust out into the tower, the rest would pass through the precipitator. This system worked ok as long as the precipitators operated properly.The hot cooling water would pass through the heatexchanger banks outside on the flat roof . ( this was a good place to keep warm in the winter time )

If we had to work inside the precipitators we got an extra payment of £12 per shift. The precipitators were at the North end of the plant, inside the precips were large stainless steel plates about 15 feet high and 12 feet wide and were attached to a frame . Along the edges of the plates were blocks of metal called ” anvils ” . Separate from the plates , there was a row of shafts with round shaped blocks of metal attached, these were called ” hammers” and lined up with the anvils, When the stainless steel plates were to be electrically charged, the shafts would rotate and lift the hammers up, the red dust would then collect on the plates, after a certain time the plates would lose the electric charge, at the same time the shafts would stop rotating and trip and the hammers would swing round and hit the anvil, this would cause the red dust to drop off the plates and into the hoppers below. Then” “Redler” chains would carry the dust away and tip into a large hopper outside the precipitators. Working inside was very dirty and it was a confined space.

After receiving work permits and a gas test it was safe to enter through a small hatch , we had to take portable lights inside with us, as soon as you started to work all the red dust used to fall down off the roof and the plates. The only PPE we had was a hood, then we tied rags around our necks, we taped our overalls up on the arms and legs, we had a ” Martindale mask ” to wear  which was tin plate holding a gause pad , then our safety hat and goggles.


Moving around in such a confined space and climbing the internal ladders , you were always catching the frames and girders sending more dust into the air. The red dust helped to corrode the stainless steel plates and also the vanes on the I D fan so what could happen to humans !!?

As the steel plant was a very hot , dusty  dirty place to work in , we could get extra payments called ” condition money ” If you were working in a hot and dirty part of the plant you could claim an extra payment of 7 shillings per hour (  35p )this was payment ” A ”    If you were working where it was dirty and dusty you could claim a payment of 3 shillings & 9 pence  ( 18p ) For just working in the workshop an extra payment of 1 shilling & 9 pence (  8p )  On an average shift we would try to get 4 hours of A payment and 3 hours of B payment.

In the late 70’s the unions got us a pay rise BUT  we had to loose all our contract and condition money payments except for the £12 precip  payment. The management brought in time and motion  ( work study ) All our jobs were timed and this brought alot of discontent into the department. You had to work hard to achieve 100% on work completed , because the work to be done was broken down into different elements and we spent more time completing paperwork !!!.

Thanks to Phil Brown

if you have a Story please do get in touch

photo thanks to David Thompson

photo thanks to David Thompson

Burial riddle Matthew Lister Spence

The HCSW project team have been contacted as below and would ask for help to provide any information of further background

Hi

I was wondering if a relative of mine was involved in the Consett
Steelworks accident in 1950, and wondered if you had any further
information.

Have attached a picture of his grave, the memorial inscription reads:

Treasured memory of Matthew Lister Spence, dearly loved Husband of
Lily Spence, died Dec 11th 1952 from injuries received at the GLC
works, aged 56 years. Where memories are faithful, no distance can
divide.

He died at Shotley Bridge Hospital, and is buried in Blackhill Bemetery.

Any information would be very helpful.

Cheers

Nigel Temple

Dingwall

CONSETT: AFTER THE BLAST (film)

A Tyne Tees Televsion documentary on the steel-making community of Consett looking at the effects of total unemployment after the steel works was closed down. The film puts the Consett closure in the context of a country with three million unemployed people. Title: Tyne Tees TV logo. Opening views show a mixture of a mass protest led by a brass band intercut with general views of steel making, and aerial views of the Consett steelworks.    A view of part of the steel plant is obscured by a wall which is spray painted with the words, ‘Stuff the Tories’. General views follow of other parts of the steel plant and, in commentary, a former employee states the grievances of  his co-workers. From aerial views of the plant, the film moves to a union members’ press conference outlining the reasoning behind the union decision not to continue industrial action. More aerial views are followed by one of the union members at the press conference explaining in more detail the actions of the union members.  Another member of the panel takes up the narrative. General views follow of the steel plant and local streets. An employee standing outside the works explains on camera what he believes to be the actions of the employers and the consequent action of the workforce. A close-up follows of a ladle pouring molten steel. A cameraman films the last batch of steel to be poured at Consett, ending steelmaking which began in 1840. A workman takes a sample of the steel, two men shake hands in front of a cascade of molten metal. A view shows the ladle moving for the last time into an upright position after the pouring has finished. In the street, an older employee speaks on camera and is sympathetic towards the plight of the younger workers who will find it difficult to find employment after the closure. General views show traffic leaving the plant. Some other workers get off a bus and walk up the road. Over this, a redundancy notice is read by the commentator. The notice is addressed to one of the workers, Martin Carney, one of the workers pictured along with his son Tom who is now also redundant. We follow Tom to his home at York Place in Consett. His wife is in the kitchen and one of their children sits on a workbench next to the cooker. Tom gives his wife his last pay packet, with its accompanying redundancy notice. Men fish in Derwent reservoir.  A number of cuttings from newspapers  report on the steelworks closure and its aftermath. The first one reads: ‘Consett: North-East consortium offers £20m’. Another reads: ‘Save Consett plan unveiled’ and another ‘Shadow men on verge of £3m bid for Consett’  A mechanical shovel tips coal (or general debris) into a coal wagon, one of a train of wagons which stand on a railway at the steelworks. Lorries arrive at the plant to aid the stripping out of workshops and offices. They leave loaded with a variety of items, from ingot moulds to office furniture. Men sit on office chairs on the back of a flatbed truck as it leaves the steelworks. A general view follows of a blast furnace, which was kept hot pending the sale of the works as a going cocern but with no reponse from the consortium that was expected to buy into the works, British Steel quenched the blast furnaces and coke ovens with thousands of gallons of water. Views show the quenching process on one of the furnaces. One of the workers (Martin Carney seen earlier) sits at home reading a copy of the Consett Guardian in front of the fire. The headline reads ‘We’ve Been Conned’.  He gets up and walks out of his front door. In voiceover he expresses bitter disappointment at what has happened at the steelworks. He walks down the garden path and out onto the street, closing the garden gate behind him. General view of the steelworks in the landscape with the works looming over houses in the town. Martin continues to talk on camera about the predicament of the town and its working population. He continues his walk along a track on one of the hills overlooking Consett. Martin’s son Tom and his wife are at home. His wife is helping pack his bags to attend a degree course at Teesside Polytechnic, with a view to enhancing his abilty to find work. His wife speaks to camera and is quite hopeful, although she is concerned that his absence during the week may affect the children and herself. Tom also expresses his reservations about the new lifestyle he is adopting. The film cuts to Tom leaving the family home, and saying goodbye to his wife and children.  Tom walks off down the street. A man arrives at the council offices building in Consett. He is economist John Carney (no relation) who takes up the new post of industrial development officer at Derwentside District Council. He speaks to camera of the enormous task in creating 7000 new jobs over five years. A crane lifts steel with an electro-magnetic grab as demoliton work is carried out on the last coal mine to work in the area. Men are studying in a classroom at the local technical college, where they study a range of topics from basic maths to welding and catering. These classes are funded by British Steel’s redundancy programme for a year. A tutor helps a group of men through a maths problem. A comedian performs on stage in a crowded working men’s club.   A member of the audience talks to camera about his redundancy experience when he was so close to retirement. Views follow of people dancing to the music of a duo on stage. A man reverses a car out from the top deck of a car transporter. In the show room, the manager of a garage has been helping workers made redundant to buy cars, in order to help them seek work further afield. Heavy traffic drives along the High Stret. The manager outlines how sales of new cars has increased, since the steel works closed. Traffic makes its way down the main street in Consett, with the steel works in the distance. Other views show terraced streets overshadowed by cooling towers.  Ken and Janice Hobson are in their living room. Ken places a record on a new music centre, their children sitting nearby. Janice outlines the various items the couple have bought with their redundancy money. They explain on camera their thoughts for their immediate future. Schoolboys are walking up a hilly street, one pushing his bicycle. Tom Carney is in a hospital where he is recuperating from an operaion on a stomach ulcer. A nurse takes his blood pressure. His wife and his father come to visit.  In commentary, Tom reflects on how his illness is probably related to the stress he’s experienced since losing his job. His wife updates him on life at home. Tom reflects on how behind he now is in his new course at Teesside Polytechnic.  A general view follows of the remaining steelworks buildings looking bleak after a fall of snow. Snow covers the rooftops of terraced houses.  People in the street carry bags of shopping. As Christmas approaches, children look hopefully at some of the toys and games which are in the shops. Janice Hobson explains how this Christmas will be celebrated, but is anxious about future years. Tom’s parents celebrate a new arrival in the family, as their daughter in law shows off their fourth grandchild, Rebecca. Some young men play pool in a pub. A man in the pub outlines the lengths some of the redundant men will go to for work. One group went to Leeds to follow some vacancies, but they were turned away from applying for the work.   Cars and pedestrians leave through factory gates at the end of the working day in the new year. The factory belongs to Ransom, Hoffman and Pollard, a roller bearing manufacturer, and they are closing their factory with a loss of over 1200 jobs. Still of the interior of the factory. Next, there’s a shot of a model railway and a new company from the south who specialise in model locomotives. Various shots focus on the work done by the employees, using fine tools on small pieces of metal, for many workers a complete contrast to the heavy work they used to do. The proprietor is hopeful that the business will expand. A cooling tower is demolished.  A boardroom media conference takes place when a new cooperative group has been established by former workers. One of the group explains that they hope to get some work in demolishing the remaining steelwork buildings. A general view shows the steelworks as a commentary explains that they fail in this endeavour when the company with whom they made the joint tender for the work went bankrupt. A young girl walks up a street holding a doll. Next, in the living room of Tom Carney and his wife sits on a sofa next to one of his children and completes a newspaper crossword. He explains that other issues regarding his health mean that he has only been to university for one week so far. His wife explains that she is expecting another child. Sir Keith Joseph the secretary of state for industry is making a visit and faces a picket line. Over a loud hailer an announcement is made that the secretary of state will meet senior shop stewards. The arrival of the vehicles carrying the minister and his entourage attract boos and catcalls. A noticeboard outlines opportunities for businesses on a new factory site. Vehicles turn into an access road for the new factory site. In voiceover and on camera Sir Keith explains what the new initiative might mean for the area. New factory buildings can be seen as a travelling shot shows site development. Ken Hobson takes his dog for a walk in local woods near a river.  At home, Janice Hobson stokes the living room fire. She explains that filling in time for both of them can be a challenge . She explains that she goes to Newcastle more often and reads avidly, and that Ken is becoming restless after being out of work for so long.  Piles of books occupy a shelf. In voiceover with Ken walking his dog next to a busy road, he explains that he hopes to find work soon although it is difficult. A general view follows of the steelworks, and the entry to the coke works. The couple  walk through the gates to sign on at a temporary dole office housed in an old canteen on the site. The film cuts to central London and  views of the Houses of Parliament. David Watkins, the MP for Consett, speaks to camera. He talks of the government’s negativity in dealing with places like Consett. Other views show the Cenotaph in central London, and some modern office blocks. At a temporary job centre building next to the Parish Church, Consett, men study the vacancy cards on display in the job centre. A job centre advisor goes through the list of jobs available locally with a client. General view of the remains of some of the steelworks buildings.  An old BSC workshop is the base for a new lawnmower repair workshop, started up by two former employees. Another employee used his redundancy money to turn his hobby of growing cacti into a family business. He and wife pot on some cactus plants in their large greenhouse. A van stands outside an old garage building with a new sign above the door, which reads ‘Consett Engineering Co. Ltd.’ The shop next door has a former steelworks employee plying his former trade as a cobbler. He works on some shoe repairs as, in voiceover, he outlines his background prior to starting his business.  Aerial views follow of the steelworks showing some of the demolition work taking place. Men use gas torches to cut up piles of metal. The demolition firms bring in their own men to do the work  leaving only lighter work for the local cooperative group of workers.  Electro magnets attached to a crane hoist move tons of metal onto a truck. A man from the cooperative unscrews some bolts from pipework, others dismantle  a large enclosed fan suspended from the roof. Martin Carney, Tom’s father, plays dominoes with friends in a pub. In voiceover he gives his views on the changes he has experienced and observed since being made redundant. He and his friends leave the Moorside pub. General views show people going about their business in the town centre. A man stands in a pub doorway with his pint of beer.  Another man looks after a baby in a small buggy. General view of a covered conveyor belt, belonging to the Templetown Refractory brickworks, one of the few surviving industries associated with the brickworks. The film shows the canteen as men queue to be served at a counter. Janice Hobson has managed to secure a job at the canteen and serves meals to the workers. At home her husband Ken peels potatoes for the evening meal. He watches a cricket match on a nearby television as he prepares the meal. In voiceover he outlines his typical day at home. His son comes home from school and presents him with a picture he’s made. Janice makes her way home along the street. She speaks to a neighbor as she crosses the road. She explains that the long absence from work is affecting her husband’s temperament. Inside the house, Ken serves up the evening meal. On camera, the couple both outline the emotional difficulties for them with this new lifestyle. Tom Carney and his wife look for clothes for their new baby on the stalls at an open air market in Consett. Tom’s wife complains of the cost of some items. People shop and browse at other stalls. Various shots record pedestrians and shoppers in the town. A new bus station has been opened, the interior is decorated with items representing the steel working heritage of the town. An old still picture of the steel works follows. An aerial view shows the bus station. The commentary says that the steel roof is made of Italian steel. In a workshop, two men work on welding some items. In a new factory some industrial equipment occupies part of the floor space. Another worker uses a grinder on a piece of metal in a vice.  John Carney, the town’s industrial officer, outlines progress in bringing new jobs to the town. The film shows some pipework being cut by a mechanical saw in a factory unit. General view of a large school. A group of children  walk up a road, the steelworks on a hill in the background. The commentary outlines the lack of vacancies in the town for school leavers. Aerial views show the remaining buildings of the steelworks, where the commentary states that only two buildings will remain in production on the site, both operated by two different engineering enterprises.  Over the next five years, the rest of the site will be demolished and landscaped.  A bulldozer moves a mound of earth on part of the site. A landscraper levels another piece of land. The bulldozer pushes earth down a steep sided valley, as the camera pans left to show a housing estate. Janice and Ken Hobson speak about their future. Tom Carney outlines his plans, and his wife follows on with how she sees the future. Aerial views of the steelworks and the town with Janice Hobson’s in voiceover. David Watkins, MP sums up at the end of the film.

https://www.yfanefa.com/record/15288

Source Yorkshire/North East Film Archive: 

https://www.yfanefa.com/about

Can You help the HCSW project

The HCSW project team would like to ask for your help in various areas

  1. Stories, memories and pictures always welcome- scanning assistance can be arranged
  2. We are looking for someone – maybe a youngster to assist with the ongoing work on the website including updating and starting a reference spreadsheet for all the pictures we already have
  3. We need some volunteer researches as the Record offices etc start to be more accessible we need help to get background on some aspects of the Steelworks
  4. Always on the hunt for any floor plans, maps, aerial surveys to assist the Community Steelworks Mapping Group
  5. For our Memory Box project we would welcome any donations of old Consett History books and any other documents

Thank you in advance for any help you can provide please comment or email us

historyofconsettsteelworks@gmail.com

Have you got any postcards of the Steelworks or Consett Area?

The HCSW project team would like to start an album on the website of postcards of the Steelworks and Consett Area

So if you have any please do get in touch

Anyone with spare or duplicates that we could use in our Memory Box project or for future displays please do also get in touch

Comment or send us an email historyofconsettsteelworks@gmail.com

Multi view postcard of Consett

Where were you moment- the Closure of the Works

With the nation holding its breath as England are in the final of Euro 2020 it gives a chance to ask to ask Where were You?

1 for the World Cup of 1966 Final? – was there any celebrations at the “works”?

2. The Closure of the Steelworks?

Big events, long term memories

The HCSW project team would like to see your memories and any pictures

Consett Heart – Heritage and Arts Centre About to open its doors

The HCSW project team are delighted to see a recent post on the Consett Heart – Heritage and Arts Centre Facebook page saying they about to open the doors

Well done to all that have been involved from the Trustees, to volunteers and the many people and local trades that have donated time, money and goods to make it happen

Post on 5th July 2021

So after a few months of hard graft, lots of paint and elbow grease, Consett Heart has opened its doors to its first regular group. We are all so proud of how far we have come and overcoming the challenges and obstacles that have been put in our way. We hope this is the first of many. Massive shout out to everyone who has helped via donations both with items, monetary and their time and expertise. Also to the committee who have worked tirelessly, painting, raising funds and awareness and all those jobs that people don’t see. So proud.

https://www.consettheart.co.uk/

To contact them info@consettheart.co.uk

Consett & District Heritage & Arts CIC is a group dedicated to creating a Heritage and Arts Centre for Consett and the surrounding areas. We are a group of volunteers who have been actively involved in the preservation of Heritage and arts in our area.

Did you move from Consett to Teesside Steelworks?

The HCSW project team would be delighted to hear from people or family members of those who moved from Consett to Teesside Steeworks either before or after the Closure of Consett in 1980

One of our Project team Geoff is based in Teesside and we would be delighted to arrange a meeting to capture your memories and stories

Please either comment or email the project team historyofconsettsteelworks@gmail.com

Dont forget there is also a Teesside Steelworks Facebook group

https://www.facebook.com/groups/368787064475093

Cover picture from Teesside Industrial Steelworks Heritage Facebook group

We look forward to hearing from you

Please consider Following HCSW

Hi All

The HCSW project team would like to ask all to consider following us

2 ways you can do this

  1. on the home page on the side you can add your email
  2. You can email us and we will add you and you will be asked to confirm – historyofconsettsteelworks@gmail.com

This is for 2 reasons firstly you will then be emailed a copy of each of our Blog posts as they are published and also it will assist us when making future funding applications as we will be able to “demonstrate” our “followers”

Thank you in advance

Richard Judd

Chair of the HCSW project

My Steelworks Story Part 3 by Phil Brown

So in 1972 i started to work in the Oxygen Steelmaking Plant , as well as the main building where the steel was made there was the scrap handling plant, in here the scrap metal was processed to a suitable size to go into the LD vessel.

Then there was the Dolomite Plant , in here the dolomite bricks were made , these bricks were for lining the LD vessels.


As an apprentice i had to learn the various maintenance tasks in the different areas. So i worked with the boiler squad for a few weeks , learning how to maintain the waste heat boilers and the ancillary equipment — pumps, valves ,pipework, fans, soot blowers, steam turbines, heat exchangers . 

This was hot and dirty work and kept you fit going up and down the different levels.

Then i worked with the crane squad, there was overhead cranes in the Charging Bay , Casting Bay, Stripping Bay. On the cranes it was routine and breakdown maintenance.

Mainly checking the long travel drive couplings, adjusting the hoist breaks and changing the brake linings. Also for insurance inspections , we had to open the hoist gearboxes and various linkage pins and the hoist hook and block to check for wear .

Another big job was to change the trunion wheels ( drive wheels ) Safety was important because the overhead cranes were about 30 -40 feet above floor level.

In those days you just walked along the crane gantries with no restraints, now a days you have to be attached to a safety wire and wear a safety harness.


After working on the cranes i had to work in the Dolomite Plant.

This is where they made the different size and shaped bricks used to line the vessels. In here i had to learn about the hydraulic brick presses and the brick molds, pan mills , ball mills, cone crushers, bucket elevators, screens, conveyors, fans, pumps.

To make these bricks , dolomite was brought in by road and tipped into a hopper, from here it was put through either the ball mill or the cone crusher to reduce the size of the dolomite. After being crushed the dolomite was passed over a vibrating screen which allowed the different sizes to transfer into different hoppers.

To make a batch mix a certain amount of dolomite was weighed then tipped into the pan mill , with the mill rotating , the dolomite was churned up by fixed paddles in the mill, then hot tar was poured in .

This was all mixed in together, when ready the mixture was emptied from the mill into a mobile hopper, this hopper was transported to the brick press by fork truck.

On the brick press there was 3 molds on a round table , so as a measured amount of the batch was tipped into a mold , another mold was being hydraulically pressed, the third mold was having the brick ejected from the mold.

Because of the LD vessels shape and size, the dolomite bricks were of different size and shape. In the Dolomite Plant it was hot, dusty and dirty work. A

fter a few weeks training here , i then went to the Scrap Handling Plant to learn the maintenance involved there. In the scrap plant there was two large bays with two overhead cranes in each bay.

The cranes had large electro-magnets on the hoist block to pick the scrap metal up. Some scrap metal was brought in by local scrap men , other scrap metal from other sources. To cut the metal into smaller sizes there was a large hydraulic shear. I think the hydraulic shears had a cutting force of 350 ton .

The shears could cut railway tracks into small lengths so they would fit into the scrap pan ready to be tipped into the vessel.

When working with the supervisors and fitters they were keen to pass on there plant knowledge to bring me up to scratch with the work involved.

Also alot of knowledge could learned from the fitters mates and the riggers. To help me gain experience with the hydraulics , i attended a Pneumatics & hydraulics course at the government training centre in Langley Moor , Durham.


Another part of my training was working with a fitter called Tommy Sanderson , Tommy was given the job of overhauling the boiler feed pumps, these  were multi-stage centrifugal pumps. These pumped  the hot water up to the steam drums on the 5th floor , about 100ft.

The steam drums were like a large header vessel to store the water in before circulating into the boilers.

We had to overhaul the pumps in the mercury rectifier house because it was a clean environment and had a hoist in. The pumps were special as everything was stainless steel apart from the pump casing.

Also . i was shown how to scrape the white metal bearings in, these bearings supported the pump shaft at each end. There was 4 boiler feed pumps, 3 were driven by a large electric motor and the fourth was driven by a small steam turbine in case of a power failure.


In the 1960’s & 70’s working day shift , there was no official tea break. As an apprentice , either with the boiler squad or the crane squad i was the tea boy.

Someone would give me their locker key so i could sneak down to the locker room and put some loose tea into a “Billy can” , then go into the canteen and put some hot water in, then back to the locker room and put some powdered milk in  ( Marvel ) then grab some enamel mugs and go back on the job. Either sitting up on the boilers or on a crane ( that was isolated) we would have a mug of tea  !!!


One day i was working with Tommy and we had to go inside the steam drum for L D 3, the vessel was off for a reline and repairs.


The steam drum was a large vessel , about 7 ft in diameter and about 25 ft long , inside were coils of tubing which steam was passed through to heat the boiler water up.On each end there was a small access hatch. Our job was to go inside and repair some steam leaks on the coils.

As the drum had been emptied of water, we removed one of the hatches, an operator from Boiler control  did a gas test inside the drum and it was ok.

We received the various work permits and started to progress the job.

We had to put a portable light inside and some spanners etc., to get inside the drum was an art in itself, you had to be a slim Jim and either go in head first or feet first.

Once inside we started to located were the leaks were and repair them .

After a few hours i began to feel light headed and dizzy , i asked Tommy how he was and said he felt the same, so we moved to the end and exited the drum.

After getting some fresh air we went to Boiler control to tell them.

After another gas test in the drum it was found the oxygen level was low. Then they realised that while we had been working inside the drum , the contractors were doing tube repairs on the fume hood using cutting and welding equipment and the fumes were finding their way into the steam drum. So that was very close for us and we were lucky. !!


In 1973 i had completed my apprenticeship and stayed in the Steel Plant as a Maintenance Fitter / Turner . As i was still doing well at college , i was told i could still do day release.

I went to college until 1977. By then i had passed the City and Guilds Technicians Course parts  1 , 2  & 3.  I was then awarded a City and Guilds Full Technological Certificate in Plant Engineering.

Thanks to Phil for this latest chapter of his Story of this working life at Consett Steelworks