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Robert Lindsay's Stanton

Ilkeston-born actor Robert Lindsay returns to his Derbyshire roots to recount his early working life

Despite his success, Robert Lindsay comes from very humble beginnings in Derbyshire.

He was born and grew up in Ilkeston and worked at Stanton Ironwork, though he really wanted to be an actor.

At around the age of 16 or 17, he became a sewer-cleaner with the building firm Cleggs.

He remembers the iron works was the major employer at the time and that many of the locals had a love-hate relationship with it.

He recalls: "The love was that it employed you and gave you money to live but also it was cruel. It was hard labour."

Robert Lindsay has lots of memories of the former foundry - some pleasant, some painful. As a young boy he learned to swim there in the waters warmed by the hot fires. But that was the same place that he lost his grandfather, Jessie, who died in service there.

He adds: "I don't think I can really describe to you in words how scary it was. The moment I walked into that foundry it was... a vision of Hell.

"The noise alone was deafening - the sense of danger, the lack of space... and these men with rolled-up sleeves, smoking cigarettes, with no helmets... just wandering through this madness was just extraordinary."

But he also recalls the intense camaraderie of the workers along with the sense of community and the great social life that came with living within a close-knit circle of friends and colleagues.

1846: Benjamin and Josiah Smith, from Chesterfield, install 3 furnaces
1870s: The Crompton family are in charge and re-name the works The Stanton Iron Company
1914-1918: Stanton produces large numbers of shell casings for the war effort
1939-45: Stanton churns out shell and bomb casings, gun barrels, and concrete air-raid shelter components
1960: The company is taken over by Stewarts and Lloyds and merged with the Staveley Iron and Chemical Company
1974: The blast furnaces at Stanton Ironworks close.
1983: Stanton is bought by Pont-a-Mousson, later Saint Gobain
2007: Production at the Stanton Ironworks in Ilkeston ceases completely. The last pipe is cast on 24 May

And he remembers the moment told his colleagues he was moving on: " informed my fellow workers that I was about to enter the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, which caused a lot of mirth amongst the foundry workers at Stanton at the time. In fact, so much so that they deliberately gave me a dumper truck to drive into the foundry.

"Now, the foundry at that time in the late '60s was a very scary place... and they made me drive this dumper truck in through the doors and I just couldn't get the thing in... and of course they loved the fact that this new member of (RADA) was making such a twit of himself!"

Stanton was once Ilkeston's most prolific and important employer producing pipes and lamp posts in times of peace - shells and bomb shelters in times of war.

The foundry was once regarded as the most important bomb-making factory of World War II, so modern that it is said that the Germans would not target it because they wanted the factory for themselves.

The death-knell for the foundry sounded when Britain joined the Common Market and iron production went abroad, though it survived in one form or another until 2007.



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