Steelworks Stories: the blog

Request for Information/Reunion by Daphne Butler

The HCSW project have been contacted by Daphne with the following request for information and wish to for reunion if at all possible

I believe that a very good friend of mine Alice Macnaughton- Jay(maiden name) father was a manager(?) in the steelworks.

I met her in Cobham in 1967 She was a very good friend to me and I would dearly like to meet up with her It’s a long shot but thought that I would give this site a chance?

Thank you

Daphne

If anyone knows of Alice or family please do comment or get in touch with the HCSW project team

We will also do some exploring regarding the Manager link

RFI Request For Information, acronym business concept
Commander Jay Alice’s dad is pictured here he is man in the middle

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

Request for Info re Christopher Jones

The HCSW project team have been contacted by Gary Jones asking for information about his grandfather I’m looking for any information on my grandfather,

Christopher Jones who worked at the iron works approx 1930’s to retirement in late 60/70’s. I believe he worked at one time on the locomotives then eventually as a blast furnace operative.

Also believed to have had a serious injury at the works resulting in him losing a leg.

Just wondered if there are any official records of staff during that period

Many thanks

Gary

We have advised him of the National Archives, Durham Record Office and also the British Steel Archive

If you can provide any information, pictures please comment or email – thanks in advance

historyofconsettsteelworks@gmail.com

RFI Request For Information, acronym business concept

Visit Consett Website

Visit Consett is a website supported and funded by Project Genesis

Click on the image below to go to the Visit Consett website:

Free listing for local business and community groups is available – an easy way to promote your business or group without cost!

The History of the Consett Steelworks Group have done just that:

To contact Visit Consett see details below

Visit Consett may be contacted by emailing info@visitconsett.co.uk or by direct message on Twitter, @VisitConsett

Women of the Durham Coalfield in The 19th Century a Talk by Margaret Hedley

As part of the International Women’s Day online events March- 8th-9th 2021 we are delighted to host a Zoom Talk by Margaret Hedley on Tuesday 9th March 2021 at 7pm (no recording please)

Link to Facebook event

https://www.facebook.com/events/247198913749347?active_tab=about

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.

First Class Charlie

Memories in song of the last train links to Consett by Graeme Richardson

The following blog post has been taken from the History of Consett Steelworks Facebook page, where Graeme kindly shared his work and background to the piece.

On the 17th March 1984 the last ever passenger train set off from Newcastle Central to Consett Station. A few lucky people paid for the chance to be part of this final journey. Sadly, the train lines were soon dismantled after the Steel Works closure. 15 months previously Prince Charles made the same journey, albeit on a slightly more Royal train. I got the idea for a story based poem/song based on this event.

In 2016 I had a poem 1st Class Charlie published in a Northern Writes publication, which was shortlisted for a NE history poetry award. I finally put this poem to music in January 2021 and thought it would work well with photos of the day, along with a few snippets from the BBC story that was shown on Look North.

A big thank you to Stephen McGahon who kindly allowed me to use his brilliant photos in this video and also Richard Judd and Steve Shields for their history lesson. All other photos were found on the internet and Facebook sarches. If you look closely you might see yourself! Enjoy.

Graeme Richardson, 22 January 2021

Closure through a lens: remembering the Works, remembering the Workers

As part of our Forged over 140 Years series of events to commemorate iron and steel production in Consett and the 40th anniversary of closure, the following is a guest blog from photographer, photojournalist and broadcaster Brian Clough. Brian was one of the people responsible for some of the most illustrative and iconic images of closure, as you can see here with these images from the Northern Echo. Brian also wrote an excellent piece in the Journal of the North East Labour History Society which has a timeline and many more images.

Our thanks to Brian for his great contribution to our Closure commemorations.

It seems hard to believe that it is forty years since the closure of a world-famous institution that became part of my life when I left school. In those days youngsters seemed to follow in well-worn family footsteps and most found work either in the pits or at Consett Iron Company. I was no different: a week after leaving school I started as an office boy in the Accounts Department following in Dad’s footsteps, moving to the Cost Office and finally to the Plate Sales Department. I left eventually, and became a photojournalist.

I remember with affection (and perhaps annoyance at the time) of being sent for ‘the long stand’ – where various offices were informed to keep you waiting for ages allegedly while they tried to find it – or being sent to the Pay Dept to ask for the ‘W Ledger’ (little knowing that Bill Ledger worked there). There were tales from outside administration in various other departments of young employees being sent for a ‘capful of nail holes’ or ‘a tin of tartan paint’.

As a journalist I worked initially for The Guardian Chronicle and covered many stories relating to what was happening at ‘the Works’ and covering many of the Christmas parties held at The Freemasons Arms in Front Street and the Trade Union Hall in John Street. Moving to the Northern Echo and based in Darlington I was often sent back ‘home’ to cover stories from the Consett area. As I was known as a Consett lad, they decided in their wisdom to send me back to cover all the proceedings that were going on with regard to the closure of the ‘Company.’ I remember with great sadness having to do pictures of the marches, and attending on the day when a government minister was pushed over while trying to explain to the steelworkers around him that it was necessary for closure. There were meetings at the old Consett Football ground and depression that seemed to fill every street in town. Sadness abounded during those traumatic times when it seemed everything that could be done had been tried but to no avail and doom and gloom lay heavy over all who worked there.

The day finally arrived when I had to return to take pictures of the last day of work and albeit that many photographers and camera crews positioned themselves at and around the entrance to the works I decided to go to the Old Tin Mill Road end. It was a good decision: I managed to take a picture that made front page the next day which I thought depicted the sadness. As much as it hurt the work force and their futures I also felt their pain to the extent that although I hadn’t worked there since leaving school it was as if I had lost a part of me too.

They say the heart of a town had been ripped out that day and although perhaps in one way it had, the strength of Consett folk will however never ever be taken away: they are, and always have been, a community that cares for each other and that survives through whatever hardships governments may throw at them. They are proud people and no-one can take that away. I, like many more, have great happy memories working there: gone is the buzz, the drone and the dust, but the spirit remains, which makes me proud to tell folk where I come from.

Brian Clough, Photojournalist and broadcaster, August 2020