Timeline - History of Consett Iron Works
William Richardson and John Nicholson discovered quantities of ironstone at Consett, then called Conside, in the hills of north-west County Durham. The site, known as the „Blue Heaps‟, was where spoil from the local coal-pits was dumped.
Financed by the Northumberland and Durham District Bank, Richardson and Nicholson created the Derwent Iron Company. The Company bought ironstone and coal royalties in the area, sank the Number 1 ironstone shaft and built the first ironworks at Consett.
The population of Conside was 145. Within ten years the population had grown to 5,000.
Local iron-ore proved to be of poor quality and began to run out, so ore had to be transported to Consett by rail from newly-opened mines in Cleveland, North Yorkshire. The Stockton and Darlington Railway acquired the Stanhope and Tyne Railway, creating links from the south between the Cleveland iron-ore mines and Consett, and northwards from Consett to the staithes on the River Tyne.
Workers were attracted to Consett from Staffordshire, Scotland and Ireland. The Company built houses for its workers, known as “company rows”. One of the first to be built was called Staffordshire Row. There were two separate communities initially – Consett was for Protestant English workers and Blackhill for the Roman Catholic Irish.
There was often tension between the Irish and English workers. (e.g. A report in The Durham Advertiser on November 26th reported an attack on St Mary‟s Roman Catholic Church in Blackhill by English workers).
The Northumberland and Durham District Bank collapsed, creating fears for the future of the Derwent Iron Company.
Insecurity of workers after the collapse of the Northumberland and Durham District Bank led to the “Battle of the Blue Heaps” in April of that year.
A new business, the Consett Iron Company was formed with a clean financial slate, taking over the assets of the Derwent Iron Company. The new management included David Dale, a Quaker, who later became Managing Director, then Chairman of the company.
A strike in the iron industry throughout the North East collapsed because of poor leadership
The North of England Arbitration Board set up to deal with disputes in the iron industry, with David Dale as first Chairman. Industrial relations in the Consett Iron Works were relatively good in comparison with other companies, largely because of the mutual interest of non-conformists in the company management and the leadership of the Consett iron workers.
Consett Iron Company entered into partnership with a haematite ore company in Bilbao, Spain. The expansion of the Consett Iron Company was an example of a vertically integrated company, owning or having interests in iron-ore and coal mines, limestone quarries, ships, railways, shipping quays and coal staithes, brick works, blast furnaces, coke works, rolling mills, plate mills, etc.
Consett Iron Company erected Siemens-Martin process furnaces to produce steel plates.
The Newcastle Daily Chronicle reported on the Company‟s success:- “It was cheaply bought, wisely developed, marches with demand and has excellent management.”
By this time steel, rather than iron, the primary product of the Consett Works.
The population of Consett approximately 9,000.
The Company‟s seven collieries and various coke-works nationalised as part of the National Coal Board.
Consett Iron Company nationalised as part of Iron and Steel Corporation of Great Britain but later put back into private ownership.
Approximately 6,000 workers employed at Consett Steelworks.
Consett Iron Company re-nationalised as part of the British Steel Corporation.
Consett Steelworks closed with the direct loss of 4,500 jobs.
The population of Consett was 27,394
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