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 162,539 pages of information and 244,522 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.

Lancashire Steel Corporation

From Graces Guide
1933. General View of the Works at Irlam.
1933. The Works at Irlam.
1933. Coke Oven Plant and Crusher House. Crusher House with Washery and Coke Quencher Behind.
1960. Irlam Works
The chimney and adjacent building belong to the power house. No.1 Steel plant in the background. The sheds to the right were part of the Soaking Pits and the Cogging Mill. Photo and information courtesy of David Ditchfield
Photo courtesy of D. Ditchfield
The concrete building behind the blast furnaces was the bunker where the coke and iron ore were stored for each blast furnace ready to be taken to the top of the furnace. The steel structure behind the bunker was part of the relatively short-lived Sinter Plant. Photo and information courtesy of David Ditchfield

of Warrington and Irlam.

1930 The Lancashire Steel Corporation was formed to acquire the iron and steel businesses of the Pearson and Knowles Coal and Iron Co Ltd, the Partington Steel and Iron Co Ltd and the Wigan Coal and Iron Co Ltd[1]. Another new company was formed to hold the coal interests which would be called the Wigan Coal Corporation Ltd of which the Lancashire Steel Corporation would hold a 40 percent interest. The share capital of Rylands Brothers of Warrington, perviously held by Pearson and Knowles Coal and Iron Co also transferred to the new steel company. New capital would be raised which would be used for investment in expanding the Irlam steel plant[2]. The works at Irlam (west of Manchester) was located on the Manchester Ship Canal, and was an integrated iron and steel works. The 2 new companies were formed under the auspices of the Securities Management Trust, formed by the Bank of England to facilitate reconstruction of the iron and steel industry[3].

1930 Became a public company

Formation of Pearson and Knowles Engineering Co to handle the structural and general engineering activities of Pearson and Knowles that had been built up over the past 60 years.

1932 Acquired Whitecross Co of Warrington[4]. Also acquired at/around this time Pearson and Knowles Engineering Co Ltd, Penfold Fencing and Engineering Ltd of Watford, and Fleming and Company of Warrington, makers of fibre core for wire ropes[5].

1933 Jointly Lancashire Steel Corporation and Monks, Hall and Co purchased William Robertson (of Warrington), manufacturers of bright drawn products[6].

1935 See Lancashire Steel Corporation:1935 Review

1936 Purchased interest in Broughton and Plas Power Coal Co Ltd[7].

1937 Jointly with Stewarts and Lloyds formed Lancashire and Corby Steel Manufacturing Co Ltd and Lancashire and Corby Steel Selling Co Ltd for the production and sale of cold rolled steel strip[8]

1948 Subsidiary companies included Rylands Brothers, Whitecross Co and Pearson and Knowles Engineering Works, which had been expanded in its speciality area, oil well rod equipment[9].

1951 Nationalised under the Iron and Steel Act; became part of the Iron and Steel Corporation of Great Britain[10]

1954 Announcement of offer for sale of shares in the company; this was the second public offer for sale of shares in a company held by the Iron and Steel Holding and Rationalization Agency. Preference would again be given to former shareholders[11].

1961 Holding company for eight subsidiaries (one of which was presumably Lancashire Steel Manufacturing Co). Works at Warrington and Irlam. Employs 9,000 persons

1963 Consideration was being given to resiting the Warrington Works of Pearson and Knowles Engineering Works in order to achieve modernisation[12].

1967 One of the 14 largest steel companies, representing about 90 per cent of the UK's steel making capacity, brought into public ownership as part of the British Steel Corporation[13].

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[14]

Irlam Works

Irlam Iron and Steel Works was originally called Partington Iron and Steel Works, with its registered office at 86 Liverpool Road, Cadishead. The small town of Irlam was in Lancashire, while Partington was in Cheshire. The county boundary was defined by the River Mersey, which joined the River Irwell here and took a very sinuous course through the land on which the steelworks were to be built. Passing from one side of the site to the other would have involved crossing the river three times! In the 1890s the River Mersey had been diverted into the Manchester Ship Canal, and the old course filled in for the steelworks site. No visible trace of the rivers remained, but there were clues in the adjacent railway embankment which defined the northern boundary of the works. These clues were in the form of two bridges. One, a large iron lattice girder bridge, formerly carried the CLC railway lines across the River Irwell. The other was the small Tramway Road bridge. A Tramway carrying 'night soil' (brought by boat from Salford) ran from a wharf on the river to Chat Moss, where it was used to fertilise the land.

Cheshire County Council received the valuable rates from the works, but they also had to deal with the environmental complaints, However, the Manchester Ship Canal (MSC) became the new county boundary here in 1920, so the steelworks was entirely in Irlam, Lancashire.

The coke ovens went into production in April 1913, and the first of six blast furnaces was lit in August.

The first steel furnace was tapped in January 1914.

Hot slag from the furnaces was tipped on site. The slag was a valuable by-product to the Baltic Basic Slag Co and C. L. Stiff and Co, but supply far exceeded demand, and from the 1920s slag was moved by train on the canalside MSC railway to a large slag heap at Hollins Green, a mile to the west. When that site was full, a new slag heap was opened further west at Rixton, Rixton Hall and its land having been purchased. Much of this slag was removed in the 1960s to build motorway embankments.

The 1926 OS map shows six blast furnaces.

1931 'THE LANCASHIRE RATIONALISATION. The Lancashire Steel Corporation, Ltd., which represents a recent fusion of steel interests in Lancashire, intends to concentrate its activities at the Partington iron and steel works near Manchester. Developments to be carried out there include new coking plant to enable the company to utilise waste gas for driving rolling mills and steel furnaces, a dock capable of handling 4,000 tons of ore per day, new furnaces which will the largest of their kind in the country, with an output of 400,000 tons of steel ingots per year, and a cogging mill — the first of its kind in Great Britain — to roll ingots up to five tons. The supply of iron ore is being safeguarded for several years ahead.' [15]

A new Rod & Bar Mill was opened in the early 1960s, with rolling mill equipment by Davy-United driven by electrical plant from the English Electric Co.

1971 It was decided to end iron and steel production as part of the industry's rationalisation, despite the site being highly profitable.

1974 Iron and steel production ceased at Irlam, leaving only the modern Rod & Bar Mill in operation.

1979 Closure of the Irlam Rod & Bar Mill

A fascinating autobiography, Heat the Furnaces Seven Times More, by former furnacemen Patrick McGeown provides an excellent insight into working practices and conditions prevailing at the Irlam works from 1915 to c.1963, although the author does not name the works as such.

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. The Times, 13 January 1954
  2. The Times, 22 May 1930
  3. The Times, 20 December 1932
  4. The Times, 20 December 1932
  5. The Times, 13 January 1954
  6. The Times, 13 January 1954
  7. The Times, 13 January 1954
  8. The Times, 13 January 1954
  9. The Times, 3 June 1948
  10. Hansard 19 February 1951
  11. The Times, 7 January 1954
  12. The Times, 23 January 1963
  13. The Times, 1 May 1965
  14. The Times, Aug 17, 1973
  15. Sheffield Daily Telegraph - Saturday 21 March 1931