Bar of Pig Iron

Contributed by Summerlee Museum of Scottish Industrial Life

Bar of Pig Iron © North Lanarkshire Council Museums & Heritage Service

The Coatbridge area was the centre of the Victorian iron industry in Scotland. It was known as the 'Iron Burgh'.This is a bar of pig iron discovered during excavations on the site of Summerlee Iron Works in Coatbridge, near Glasgow. Summerlee was one of the first iron works built to use the revolutionary 'hot blast' method of making iron. This was invented in 1828 by James Beaumont Neilson and transformed the iron industry, launching the second phase of the industrial revolution in Scotland. The iron was made at 1500 degrees Celcius in huge 60 foot high furnaces before being cast in beds of sand as a series of bars called pigs. The iron was used in engineering, shipbuilding and to make wrought iron and, later, steel. It was exported throughout the world. However, the industry was not sustainable and local reserves of ironstone were exhausted within 50 years. Soon coal had to be imported, too. Iron workers worked 12 hour shifts, 6 days a week and were considered old men by the age of 45 or 50.

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1828: Invention of hot blast iron making


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