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British Industrial History

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Bell Brothers

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of Cleveland

1836 Furnace built at Wylam

1844 Company established by Isaac Lowthian Bell and his brothers Thomas Bell and John Bell to lease the furnace at Wylam from Christopher Blackett

1845 On the death of their father, Isaac Lowthian Bell and his brothers took over the direction of the Walker Ironworks.

1852 Acquired a lease, from the Ward-Jackson family, of important ore supplies at Normanby. One of the conditions of the lease was that they should locate their furnaces at Port Clarence, or somewhere on the West Hartlepool Harbour and Railway Company's railway.

1854 Started their Clarence works, with three blast furnaces, on the north bank of the Tees opposite Middlesbrough.

1854 Three furnaces and made 12,536 tons of pig-iron.

1858 The Skelton extension of the Cleveland Railway enabled the Bell Brothers to obtain an important tract of ironstone on the Skelton estate. Limestone quarries were also acquired in Weardale, until ultimately the firm owned all the supplies of raw material required for their Clarence works.

Mid-60s Isaac and John Bell expanded Isaac's chemical interests when they developed a large salt working near the ironworks.

1863 The original Wylam furnace was finally blown out.

1866 See 1866 Cleveland Blast Furnaces for detail of furnaces.

1873 Converted to a private company.

1877 Despite the depression, Mr Bell was working at Clarence on improving the process for manufacturing iron and steel[1]

1883 Building a plant to make soda using the ammonia process from the salt from the deposit at Port Clarence that was being developed by Newcastle Chemical Works Co[2].

1889 Open hearth furnaces were erected at Clarence; steel was first made there in January 1889.

1891 Negotiated with Dorman, Long and Co to supply steel for girders.

1897 Brunner, Mond and Co induced Bell Brothers to cease alkali production at Port Clarence. Brunners subsequently bought the plant and demolished it soon after 1900.

1899 Became a public company in order to raise funds for building the new steel works[3]. According to the prospectus 'produced during the past three years an annual average of pig-iron, 320,000 tons; coal, 715,000 tons; coke, 305,000 tons; ironstone, 40,000,000 tons; and limestone, 1,165,000 tons.' The company was registered on 24 January, to take over the business of iron masters and colliery owners of a private company of the same name. [4]

1899 Joint venture with Dorman Long; built steel works at Clarence, adjacent to the blast furnaces, to make steel from Cleveland pig iron[5].

The new steel works would have more Siemens-Martin furnaces. Ordinary Cleveland iron from the Clarence furnaces was at the time made into steel ingots and rolled into finished steel at the Britannia Works but rolling mills were being erected at the Clarence Works for girders and angles. The iron would then be brought to the steel works from the blast furnaces in a molten state, and poured from a high level into a mixer capable of containing 300 tons, the largest of its kind in the world. The molten iron would be run from the mixer to the Siemens furnaces in a ladle containing 25 tons. This ladle, on arriving in front of the steel furnaces, would be lifted up on hydraulic tables and poured into the furnaces by hydraulic cylinders. The rolling mills would have three stands of three high rolls, 32in. diameter[6]

1901 For a topical overview of the Clarence Works see The Engineer 1901/05/31

1902 Dorman, Long and Co took over Bell Brothers[7], acquiring the other half of the shares[8]

1914 Ironmasters, colliery and ironstone mine owners. Specialities: pig iron manufacturing, coals, coke, ironstone, limestone etc. Employees 6,000. [9]

1923 There were 11 blast furnaces at Clarence Works, 9 open hearth steel furnaces, a rolling mill and a sintering plant. Bell Brothers also owned considerable collieries and ironstone quarries. Dorman Long's subsidiary companies were liquidated and the assets transferred to the parent[10].

1927 See Aberconway for information on the company and its history.


See Also

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Sources of Information

  1. The Times, Oct 01, 1877
  2. The North-Eastern Daily Gazette, 24 October 1883
  3. The Times, Apr 18, 1923
  4. The Stock Exchange Year Book 1908
  5. The Times, Jan 05, 1899
  6. The Engineer 1901/05/31
  7. Biography of Arthur Dorman, ODNB
  8. The Times, Sep 05, 1902
  9. 1914 Whitakers Red Book
  10. The Times, Apr 18, 1923
  • Isaac Lowthian Bell [1]