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Corus - Past, Present and Future



Ian Reeve
By Business & Industry Correspondent Ian Reeve
BBC Look North

Inside Lackenby beam mill
Inside Lackenby beam mill

For nearly 170 years iron and steel have been made on Teesside, ever since ironstone was discovered in the area.

It is an industry that once grew in such strength, that William Gladstone named Middlesbrough 'an infant Hercules'.

But now, an area that was once so thriving is in decline.

BBC Look North's Ian Reeve examines the history of the industry on Teesside, from 1840 to 2009, to find out how we got to this point.

It all started in 1840 when pioneers Henry Bolckow and John Vaughan set up their first rolling mill and foundry.

Then there was the discovery of ironstone in the Eston hills in the 1850s, and the subsequent springing up of hundreds of blast furnaces along the River Tees from Stockton to Redcar.

Such was the vigour and continuous growth of the trade that in 1862 the soon-to-be Prime Minister William Gladstone delivered his famous assessment of Middlesbrough.

It was, he said, a "remarkable place, the youngest child of England's enterprise… an infant Hercules."

Today Hercules is much shrunken, and could indeed become yet more emaciated.

How did it come to this?

The answer lies in a reduction in demand for steel around the world - the economies of China and India, where much of Corus's steel ended up, have contracted.

Cheaper steel from eastern Europe - available to buy on the open market - has compounded the problem.

So with the news that Corus is the be mothballed, who knows what the future could hold for the town nicknamed Ironopolis?

The idea of closure is unthinkable to many, given the buildings and bridges all over the globe made with Teesside iron and steel.

From the Sydney Harbour bridge, to the Tyne bridge, to the office blocks of London's Canary Wharf, all are stamped 'made on Teesside.'

Sir Hugh Gilzean Reid, MP and newspaper proprietor had it about right in 1881 when he mused on Teesside's contribution to the world.

"The iron of Eston has diffused itself all over the world. It furnishes the railways of the world; it runs by Neopolitan and papal dungeons; it startles the bandit in his haunt in Cicilia; it crosses the plains of Africa; it stretches over the plains of India.

"It has crept out of the Cleveland Hills where it has slept since Roman days, and now like a strong and invincible serpent, coils itself around the world."




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