On 12th October 2015 the flames at the Teesside Steel Works Blast Furnace, at Redcar, and the Coke Ovens, at Redcar and South Bank, were extinguished.
Almost 175 years after Henry Bolckow and John Vaughan had built their first iron-works plant on Vulcan Street in Middlesbrough in 1840, iron and steel making on Teesside ceased. The Cole Ovens which were closed down were close to the site where Bolckow & Vaughan had opened their Eston Ironworks in the early 1850s.
Teesside Steelworks was located along the south bank of the River Tees between Middlesbrough and its blast furnace was the second largest in Europe.
The steelworks had been nationalised in 1967 and became part of the British Steel Corporation.
In 1979 steel-making was consolidated in one blast furnace at the mouth of the River Tees, in Redcar.
In 1988 British Steel was privatized and eleven years later merged with a Dutch steel-maker to form the Corus Group. In 2007 Corus was bought by Tata Steel but when a large contract was lost in 2009, iron production ceased and 1,700 jobs were lost.
In 2011, the steelworks was purchased by Thai-based Sahaviriya Steel Industries (SSI) and just over a year later the plant was officially reopened. However, three and a half years later, the company was facing a fall in world steel prices. In September 2015, production was paused and the plant was “mothballed”. A few weeks later the owner of the site, SSI UK, entered liquidation. The receiver announced there was no realistic prospect of finding a buyer and the flames were extinguished.
Whilst the Teesside Beam Mill and some support services still operate at the Lackenby part of the site, steel-making on Teesside has ended.
The immediate significance of the closure of the Coke Ovens and Blast Furnace was the loss of 2,200 direct jobs and upwards of 8,000 jobs amongst contractors and supply chain.
It also meant the end of an era stretching back almost two centuries.
Teesside’s steel industry was born in the 1850s when iron ore was discovered in the Cleveland Hills near Eston. Soon there were 120 blast furnaces operating on the riverbanks, initially producing iron, but then switching to steel production.
In its heyday, the steelworks employed more than 40,000 people and Teesside steel was a driving force behind the industrial revolution and led to the area gaining a worldwide reputation for high grade steel construction.
Steel produced on Teesside had been used to build structures around the world, including the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the Tyne Bridge and the Auckland Harbour Bridge.
Teesside played a crucial role in armament production through both world wars.
Looking to the future, Teesside, and the United Kingdom, has lost its capacity to produce the steel which built so much of the prosperity of the past, which may have economic, political and national-security implications.
Suggested Places to Visit: