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Durham County Record Office: the official archive service for County Durham and Darlington

Looking back at Consett Steel Works

An online exhibition to mark the fortieth anniversary of the closure of Consett Steel Works in 1980.

Panorama of Consett Ironworks site, 16 June 1959 (D/Co 12/11(1)) - Copyright © Durham County Record Office

Saturday 12 September 2020 is the 40th anniversary of the decision to close Consett Steel Works. The highly controversial announcement brought to an end 140 years of manufacturing history and the transformation of a north west Durham town into one of the world's leading iron and steel making centres.  

Consett Iron Company general offices, 1980-1981 (ND/De 61/1) - Copyright © Durham County Record Office
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Consett came into existence in 1840 as a result of the Derwent Iron Company's decision to build blast furnaces and rolling mills in the Derwent Valley, close to the Durham coalfield and local iron ore.

Business boomed and the town became synonymous with iron and steel. Consett was renowned for the pall of red iron oxide dust that hung over it.

The impressive Consett Iron Company offices, opened in 1894, were demolished in 1981.

This exhibition offers a small snapshot from the fascinating Consett Iron Company archives cared for at Durham County Record Office.

Molten metal being poured from a blast furnace into a 25-ton casting ladle, 1960s (D/Co 12/50/1) - Copyright © Durham County Record Office

 

The archives chart the history of the company from its humble beginnings in 1864, when it purchased the Derwent Iron Company, to its closure in 1980. They shine a light on critical phases of the company's development, including amalgamations and re-organisations, nationalisations, privatisations and strikes. 

They also show us the people who contributed to this remarkable business operation at every level.

 Discover more from the Consett Iron Company online catalogue.

Additional exhibition images are taken from the Derwentside District Council archive; a collection of early 1980s mining and industrial protest material, ref. D/X 1536 and photograph collection D/Ph 327.

The Consett Chronicle image from the Westminster Press archive is reproduced with kind permission of Newsquest Media Group Ltd.


Images on this page:

  • Panorama of Consett Ironworks site, 16 June 1959 (D/Co 12/11(1))
  • Blast furnaces at Consett Steel Works, c.1980 (ND/De 61/11)
  • Molten metal being poured from a blast furnace into a 25-ton casting ladle, 1960s (D/Co 12/50/1)