Nostalgic black-and-white pics show British Steel in it’s heyday as industry boomed in mid-1900s

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NOSTALGIC pictures show when Britain was the CENTRE of the world’s steel industry.

Plants in Sheffield, Port Talbot, Doncaster and Rotherham made the country a booming metals powerhouse for decades.

A worker check the quality of a giant saw blade at Edgar Allen’s steel foundry in Sheffield, South Yorkshire, 1963
Getty – Contributor

Generations of families worked in the factories, communities were built and Britain prospered.

Black and white snaps capture the prosperity and relentless production of the steel industry in its hey-day as well as the men and women who worked the mills, plants and factories.

But 150 years on from the start of Britain’s steel boom – hope for the future lies in tatters.

British Steel – the product of 14 major companies first merged in the 1960s – has entered into insolvency proceedings, putting the future of thousands of jobs in doubt.

A worker cleaning new carving knife blades at a Sheffield steel factory in 1959
Hulton Archive – Getty
Steel potter George Goodwin, who created clay for the crucibles, works at a plant in Sheffield in 1949
Getty – Contributor
An employee of the Abbey Steelworks of Port Talbot measures a roll of steel
Hulton Archive – Getty
Workers in the washroom facility at a steelworks, Rotherham, South Yorkshire, 1964
Getty – Contributor
Workers leaving the Steel Company of Wales works at Port Talbot at the end of the afternoon shift, 1949
Hulton Archive – Getty

The British steel industry has been fighting for survival for decades with major plants across the country closing.

It was first nationalised by Clement Atlee in 1951, which saw the formation of the Iron and Steel Corporation of Great Britain.

Two years Later Winston Churchill’s Tory government reversed the merger and it was not until 1967 that Harold Wilson’s Labour administration renationalised the industry.

But the 1970s would provide new challenges, with a recession wreaking havoc for British Steel.

Men work on making and repairing locomotives for the Great Northern Railway at Doncaster Works
Getty – Contributor
A worker at Vickers Naval Gun Making factory in Sheffield, stir molten steel in a furnace during the Second World War
Rex Features
A huge steel plate is withdrawn from a furnace at the Doncaster works of L.N.E.R. in South Yorkshire, 1936
Times Newspapers Ltd
The Queen Mother, then the Duchess of York, visits Firth and Brown’s Steel Works in Sheffield
Corbis – Getty

The company later focused on steel production in five areas: South Wales, South Yorkshire, Scunthorpe, Teesside and Scotland.

However, in a blow for the firm’s workers, employee numbers were slashed by Margaret Thatcher from 142,000 in 1980 to just 52,000 in 1988.

Sadly the early 1990s did not herald a brighter dawn for the industry and as the country battled another recession the Ravenscraig plant was closed and 1,800 jobs were lost and steelmaking in Scotland ended.

The demand for steel dropped and it wasn’t until 1993 that the company started to post profits.

British steel men work at a foundry
Rex Features
A worker at the teel, Peech and Toyer works in Sheffield, Yorkshire
Times Newspapers Ltd
A worker operating equipment at the Abbey Steelworks, Margam, Port Talbot, South Wales, October 1961
Hulton Archive – Getty
A worker makes steel bill hooks and knives in Sheffield by hand in 1932
Hulton Archive – Getty
Workers from Stewarts and Lloyds in Glasgow produce steel tubes for the proposed oil pipeline of the Iraq Petroleum Company
Times Newspapers Ltd
Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh (left) in conversation with craven lathe operator Joe Howsley in the Central Repair shop at the Steel Company of Wales at Margam, Port Talbot, 1952
Getty – Contributor

In 1999, British Steel merged with Koninklijke Hoogovens, the biggest steelmaker in Europe, to form Corus.

But eight years later Corus was bought by Indian firm, Tata Steel and sadly, the closure of plants in Redcar, Scunthorpe, Scotland and South Wales would all follow.

Barely a decade after Tata took over it was bought by Greybull Capital for a nominal one pound.
Greybull, which has specialised in trying to turn around struggling businesses, renamed the business British Steel.


Earlier this year British Steel was forced to go cap-in-hand to the government and ask for a £120million loan to pay missions trading compliance costs.

Greybull was hoping to get a further £30million in funding to keep the company going in the short term.

But sadly, today British Steel collapsed with devastating news for employers at plants across the country.

Steel worker Peter Dixon walks with his children through Port Talbot, South Wales in 1964
Hulton Archive – Getty
The rolling mill of Peech and Tozer steel plant in Rotherham
The Abbey Works, Port Talbot, once the largest steel plant in Europe, in 1951
Times Newspapers Ltd

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