Grace's Guide To British Industrial History

Registered UK Charity (No. 115342)

Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 163,139 pages of information and 245,599 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 147,919 pages of information and 233,587 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

British Steel

From Graces Guide
1969. One half of the first converter shell to be installed at the new basic oxygen steel plant at the Lackenby Works, Teeside, arrives by lorry.
1971. Skinningrove Works.
Pilger Rolls used at Clydesdale Tube Works. Exhibit at the Summerlee Museum of Industrial Life.

The British Steel Corporation was a large British steel producer, consisting of the assets of former private companies which had been nationalised.

Note: The mark 'British-I-Steel' was applied for a period from 1931 by all British makers of rolled steel sections to distinguish their products from cheap imports.[1]

1967 The Iron and Steel Act of 1967 brought the 14 largest steel companies, representing about 90 per cent of the UK's steel making capacity, into public ownership as the British Steel Corporation[2]. The following became part of the new organisation:

About 250 companies, and 1200 foundries, escaped nationalisation; total turnover of this group amounted to around one half that of the nationalised companies[3]

1968 Modernisation of the Whitehead Works at Newport

1968 Sheffield Rolling Mills was formed as a company jointly owned by British Steel, Balfour and Darwins (38%) and James Neill Holdings (17%) to operate the Tinsley Park bar mills at Sheffield, which were 5 years old; the private sector companies would transfer work there from their older plant[4]

1969 Shepcote Lane Rolling Mills in Sheffield were being expanded. As result of the Nationalization Act, the mills were owned by British Steel (two-thirds) and Firth Brown, the largest private sector steel company[5]

1972 British Steel made agreement with private sector Firth Brown to rationalise stainless steel operations by taking over the rolling of strip and plate; Firth Brown would retain the Firth-Vickers Stainless Steels company[6].

1972 British Steel sold about half of its Thurcroft, Rotherham brickworks, and the Castle Brick Co and other brickworks of the strip division to Butterley Brick Co, of Ripley, and Innes Lee Industries of Wrexham. Also created constructional engineering division Redpath Dorman Long[7]

1973 British Steel sold its carbon- and mild-steel wire-making activities at Warrington (Rylands and Whitecross) and at Middlesbrough (Dorman Long) into a new company Rylands-Whitecross, jointly owned by Tinsley Wire Industries and British Ropes[8]

1974 Workers at the East Moors steelworks were planning to buy the plant. The purchase depends on financial backing and scrap supply from steelmakers in Europe.[9]

1974 British Steel bought out its partners in Sheffield Rolling Mills[10]

From the mid-1970s British Steel pursued a strategy of concentrating steel making in five areas: South Wales, South Yorkshire, Scunthorpe, Teesside and Scotland. As a result Corby suffered and the early 1980s saw the loss of 11,000 jobs leading to an unemployment rate of over 30%.

1980 Another town that suffered was Consett; the closure of the British Steel works in 1980 marked the end of steel production in the Derwent Valley and the decline of the areas.

1980 Redpath Offshore Ltd came into public ownership - announcement by British Steel Corporation[11]

1981 British Steel forged a new £130 million joint company with GKN and bought out the steelmaking parts of the private steel and engineering group, Duport. The multi-company venture was code-named 'Phoenix-Two'. British Steel's decision to buy out Duport's re-rolling plants in Sheffield and the Midlands followed months of delicate negotiations involving Government ministers. The interests acquired comprised of London Works, Flather Bright Steels and Nationwide Steel Stock. As a result of this Duport's 350,000 tonne electric plant at Llanelli closed with the loss of 1200 jobs. The Corporation formed a new steel company Allied Steel and Wire code-named 'Phoenix One'. This joint venture company of British Steel and GKN merged their interests in rod and bar production.[12]

1982 British Steel lost £358 million in 1981/82 compared to the previous year's £668 million.[13]

1982 April: Agreed to buy Cashmores General Steels from the Glynwed Group for approx £2 million The business became part of the stockholding subsidiary British Steel Service Centres.[14]

1982 November. BSC's 'Big Five' was the name given to British Steel's five main steel centres.

These were:[15]

Works Maximum standing liquid steel-making capacity Employs Role and Main Products
Llanwern 3.6 million tonne/year. 4,500 - 9,200 (1979) Strip products division iron and steelmaking plant. Hot and cold rolled coil and sheet - big in automotive and white goods industries. Also supplies Welsh tinplate plants and Shotton coatings operation.
Scunthorpe 5.8 million tonne/year. 7,500 - 17,000 (1979) Integrated general steels division plant concentrated on the Appleby-Frodingham site. Structural steel sections, joists, beams and bar. Also supplies billet to the former BSC Scunthorpe rod mill
Teesside 4-5 million tonne/year. 9,500 - 17,600 (1979). Part of BSC's general steels division and takes in Redcar ironmaking complex and Lackenby BOS plant and mills. Steel beams and arch sections for construction industry, coil plate for Corby tubemaking, steel for Hartlepool mills.
Port Talbot 3 million tonne/year. 5,500 - 12,500 (1979). Integrated strip products division plant. Hot and cold rolled coil, and sheet for automotive and white goods industries, galvanised coil and sheet for industrial doors, etc. and steel for BSC tinplate and coatings plants.
Ravenscraig 3.1 million tonne/year. 4,500. Integrated strip products division plant. Range of steel strip types, supplies some strip to BSC coatings at Shotton, North Wales, and steel to Scottish plate mills.

1983 Under the Lazard scheme to reduce capacity in castings, the Craigneuk Light and River Don Railway foundries were closed[16]

1984 British Steel Corporation was a substantial producer of refractory materials through its subsidiary BSC Refractories Ltd. The Corporation recognised the need for concentration in the refractory production industry and would be willing to sell its subsidiary.

1986 See British Steel: 1986 Constituent Companies.

1988 The company was privatised.

1991 In Scotland, Western Europe's largest hot strip steel mill at Ravenscraig, Motherwell, North Lanarkshire, was closed by British Steel in 1991, leading to huge unemployment in the area. It also led to the closure of several local support and satellite businesses, such as the nearby British Steel Clydesdale Works in Mossend, Clyde Alloy in Netherton and equipment maker Anderson Strathclyde.

1999 October 6th. British Steel merged with the Dutch steel producer Koninklijke Hoogovens to form the Corus Group

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. The Engineer, 6 March 1931
  2. The Times, 1 May 1965
  3. The Times, Apr 26, 1967
  4. The Times, Sep 19, 1968
  5. The Times, Mar 20, 1969
  6. The Times, 3 May 1972
  7. The Times, Apr 07, 1972
  8. The Times, Aug 17, 1973
  9. The Engineer 1974/01/31 p 11.
  10. The Times, Apr 27, 1974
  11. The London Gazette 10 December 1980
  12. The Engineer 1981/02/26
  13. The Engineer 1982/07/15
  14. The Engineer 1982/04/22
  15. The Engineer 1982/11/18
  16. Competition Commission report on William Cook, 1990