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

Arthur Phillipson Consett Steelworks Photographer (and also Consett Area)

We would welcome your help to build up a “story” about Arthur and also to share some of his pictures both of the Steelworks, its workers but also local pictures as we understand he took wedding photographs etc

Did you know him or family?

Did you work with him?

Did he take pictures of your wedding or special days?

The Aims of the History Consett Steelworks Project

After our initial online launch due to COVID we are now beginning to work on the next stage of the development of the project

To this end and to share the aims of the project here are our aims

  1. To work towards becoming a form of charity with Trustees etc to then be able to seek funding from various sources
  2. To archive various items including photographs, documents etc in a range of ways with the desire to make it accessible to all
  3. To improve and add to our website
  4. To campaign for a permanent display space/museum
  5. To work towards to finding the next generation of custodians to carry on the work
  6. To continue with the “mapping of the site” and to display this in a range of ways including hopefully 3D modeling and Virtual reality
  7. To work with other groups and projects to support their Steelworks or Consett area based activities
  8. To promote the work we are doing in various ways from social media, to displays, exhibitions and video/oral recordings
  9. To be a custodian of any donations already made or made in the future
  10. To be available to provide information for researchers, media and the like

We would like to thank the near 3,000 members of the Facebook group

This is only the start and watch out for updates as we move forward

Derek Foster Crane Driver

Deborah Spencer kindly got in touch

My dad Derek Foster

The one on the right tonight black and white picture. The other men are Tommy really he was a slinger( now deceased) and Barry Symore he was a slinger.( he went to Australia, ).

My dad Derek was a crane driver from 1961 -1981.

Now added to HCSW Facebook page album of “Workers”

Do get in touch to add yourself or a family member

Sketch Donation

Following recent presentation at Consett Salvation Army we were kindly contacted by Isabel Panting with a donation of some sketches of the Steelworks she had when she Landlord at a local pub

We will make sure they form part of future exhibitions and displays so they can be enjoyed by as many people as possible and for future generations to come

Do comment or get in touch if have any items you could consider donating

International Womens Day 2023-Women working at “The Works” lets hear your memories and stories


Women worked at the “Works” lets hear your stories and see your pictures

Also if you would be willing be great to put you in touch with Building Self-Belief CIO to take part in Heritage Funded project they are “managing” – please comment, or email if this is of interest

Consett Steelworks Model Pictures

Thanks to Robert Gowland for sharing on our Facebook group

We understand the model was moved to a location but then water damaged

Would be great if one day a replica could be made – if you would consider being part of a team to look at doing so please get in contact

Robert wrote

Consett Works Model

Courtesy of David Russell following a visit to Consett Men’s Forum on Tues. 24th. Jan. Incidentally Tues. 31st. Speaker from Beamish Museum on Consett Works. Photo’ 1. Bill Russell – Pattern Maker (David’s Dad). Photo’ 2. Jack Hall, Clive Pooley, Bill Russell, Bob Robson.

Photo’ 1. Bill Russell – Pattern Maker (David’s Dad).
Photo’ 2. Jack Hall, Clive Pooley, Bill Russell, Bob Robson.

If you have any other pictures of the model please do get in touch