South Durham Iron Co
c.1854 An estate, renamed Albert Hill, was laid out with railway branches connecting three sites - the South Durham Ironworks, the Darlington Forge, and John Harris's foundry - to the main line. A new road was made from Cleveland Street, from its junction with York Street, northwards to the Skerne. This road divided the sites on the west, the South Durham Iron works and the Forge, from land to the east later occupied by William Barningham
The partners in the South Durham company were predominantly Quaker, and comprised the same group which had formed the Albert Hill Land Company the previous year with the aim of developing the estate. They included the engineer John Harris, Henry Pease, who was chairman of the company, Alfred Kitching of the Railway Foundry, the railway contractor George Harker of Shildon, Thomas MacNay, secretary of the Stockton and Darlington Railway Company, and Robert and William Thompson, described as share brokers, who were becoming prominent in local urban development projects. The partnership, established for fourteen years to smelt and manufacture pig iron, had a capital of £13,500 in 27 shares.
The site had been chosen as a convenient central point between Pease's Upleatham iron mines in Cleveland, and other iron supplies from Weardale and Cumberland. It was planned that the works would employ 100 men, and produce weekly from each furnace 150 tons of foundry iron, or 200 tons of forge iron, that is, pig iron which could be puddled into wrought iron.
1854 March. 'SOUTH DURHAM IRON WORKS.— The foundation stone of the iron furnaces of the South Durham Iron Company, was laid yesterday (Thursday) afternoon, F. Mewburn, Esq., the chief bailiff of Darlington. The site of the works is at Albert Hill, close to the lines of the Stockton and Darlington, and York, Newcastle, and Berwick Railways'
1854 September 23rd. Mention of the men employed by the South Durham ironworks, at Albert Hill, Darlington.
1854 December 30th. The first heat of two blast furnaces and two stoves was tapped by Joseph Pease, and a dinner at the King's Head Hotel marked the company's opening.
1856 The plant was producing 240 pigs a week.
1856 August. 'The South Durham Iron Company have decided build another iron-furnace at Northgate, near Darlington. This will, of course, lead a proportionate increase of house accommodation at Albert-hill, which has already assumed populous appearance'
1856 November. Mention of R. Thompson of the South Durham Ironworks.
1859 Report. 'The South Durham Ironworks at Albert Hill, Darlington, are at full work. The old company have three blast furnaces - two of them in operation and one repairing. The new company also are very busy; they have thirty-six puddling and mill furnaces all going at full time.'
1860 March. 'On Sunday morning, the inst., No. 3 furnace, belonging to the South Durham Iron Works Company, Albert Hill near Darlington, fell in with a tremendous crash. We are happy state that person was injured, although the catastrophe will delay the works at No. 3 furnace for some time, and cause several labourers be out of employment. The rebuilding of the furnace will commenced immediately.'
1866 See 1866 Cleveland Blast Furnaces for detail of furnaces
1871 Robert J. Laidler was company secretary
1872 The partnership withdrew from the business in 1872, when the South Durham Iron Company Ltd was registered and Captain Osborne appointed manager. The works were sold to a Mr Shaw, a director, who sold them on to the company at a profit of £10,000 and was subsequently sued.
1873 A third blast furnace was added by 1873, although the planned No.4 was never built.
In 1879 he was ordered to repay the money to the company. By this time the business was in difficulty, having appeared on a newspaper list of failed ironworks for sale in the north of England in 1877. There was general depression in the industry, but the Albert Hill works also lost out in competition with more modern plant on the coast which had lower transport costs.
1878 The company seems still to have been operating in 1878 when appealing for a reduction in poor rate as a chimney had fallen on the engine house.
1880 A liquidator was appointed in 1880, and the South Durham Iron Company's three furnaces were no longer in blast the following year.
1883 Sales of plant and machinery took place in 1883 and 1884
1886 The firm was finally liquidated in 1886 when its site was sold to the Darlington Forge Co.
Sources of Information
- Durham County Advertiser - Friday 24 March 1854
- Leeds Times - Saturday 23 September 1854
- Durham County Advertiser - Friday 22 August 1856
- Kendal Mercury - Saturday 22 November 1856
- Newcastle Guardian and Tyne Mercury - Saturday 06 August 1859
- Durham County Advertiser - Friday 30 March 1860
-  Durham Past Web Site