Grace's Guide

British Industrial History

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Shotton Steelworks

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1912.
1952.
1953. Coal Blending Plant.
1953. Travelling Wing Tripper.

Shotton Iron and Steel Company Ltd of Shotton, near Chester

1895 Harry and James Summers suggested to their three surviving brothers that they should buy 40 acres of Dee marshland to start production of galvanised steel sheeting. They already had a successful works John Summers and Sons of Stalybridge, Manchester, which they had inherited from their father, John, who had died in 1876.

1896 In the end, the brothers decided to buy 10,000 acres, purchased at 5 shillings an acre; the first sheets of steel were produced by 250 workers in September 1896 using steam-driven mills.

By the 1900s, 40,000 tonnes was being produced annually.

1902 the plant began making its own steel in nine open-hearth furnaces. And six years later the imposing red brick general office was built - which is still a striking landmark.

By 1910 there were 3,000 employed at the steelworks. According to the history books it was at this time that the Summers brothers allowed two breweries to be built on site making non alcoholic drinks - because they had learned that two men were being paid 30 shillings a week to bring beer into the works for men working in the hot mills.

WWI During the First World War 49 mills were working at capacity making 500,000 tonnes of galvanised and black sheets a year.

Over-production worldwide led to Shotton refocusing on products for the car industry.

1931 However, even clever and forward thinking could not shield the factory from the American depression. April 24 1931 became Black Friday and the works was closed with 4,000 staff sacked, leaving 2,000.

WWII Business began to recover and by the Second World War the steel sheets being made were used for air raid shelters. Up to 2,000 men enlisted for war and their jobs were taken by women. The factory was never a target for German bombers.

1951 John Summers and Sons was nationalised under the Iron and Steel Act; became part of the Iron and Steel Corporation of Great Britain[1]

1954 Public offer for sale of shares in John Summers and Sons by the Holding and Realization Agency[2].

1950s the workforce rose to 10,000

1967 The workforce was at 12,000 by July 28 1967 when the industry and Shotton Steelworks were nationalised.

Shotton Steelworks was so big that articulated buses - with benches for seats - were used to ferry staff around the works which was once said to be up to eight miles wide. There was also a fleet of cars with registration numbers from 1 to 100. And at one time there were 30-plus steam engines working on-site which, between 1953-67, hauled 17m tonnes of ore to the works before diesel locos took over.

1967 John Summers and Sons became part of British Steel

1970s: computer technology led to changes. Plus, with Government plans to modernise the industry, the so-called heavy end iron and steel making operations were closed in March 1980 with the loss of 6,500 jobs.

The old blast furnaces site was redeveloped by British Steel and the Welsh Development Agency and turned into what is now Deeside Industrial Estate as a way to try and provide work for some of the redundant steelworkers.

See Also

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Sources of Information

  1. Hansard 19 February 1951
  2. Mark The Times, 11 October 1954
  • [1] BBC Web Site