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Jobs threat : strong foundations
Corus plant, Lackenby
Teesside's Corus plant is one remnant of the once boom industry in the region
Teesside was founded on the discovery of iron ore in the Cleveland Hills.

It wasn't long before it became the lifeblood for the area, with the expanding Middlesbrough refered to by Gladstone as the "infant Hercules".
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Steel jobs under threat

A look at the background to the current speculation over job losses at Corus.

Strong foundations
Teesside was built on a steel river. Find out more about the growth of the region fuelled by the discovery of iron ore in the Cleveland Hills.

Have your say
What could or should be done to safeguard the steel industry or is it inevitable that factories will close? Share your views with the world or see what others are saying on our new messageboard.

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The ore had been discovered by John Vaughan, the principal ironmaster of Middlesbrough and this prompted the building of Teesside's first blast furnace in 1851.

Demand for ore was booming - spurred on by the rapid expansion of the railways being built in every part of the country, notably between Stockton and Darlington.

Over the years, more blast furnaces were created to meet this growing demand and, at the turn of the century, Teesside was reckoned to be producing one third of the UK's iron output.

The growth of industry was felt beyond the foundry gates with Middlesbrough's population up to 20,000 by 1860, with the iron industry playing a key part in the town's growth.

In 1862, Gladstone visited the town and remarked; "This remarkable place, the youngest child of England's enterprise, is an infant, but if an infant, an infant Hercules".

By the time the 1870s rolled around Middlesbrough had competition - steel was the metal of the moment and Sheffield became a key competitor.

But Middlesbrough moved with the times and Bolckow and Vaughan opened a plant in the town.

At first, imported ores were used but, by 1879, it was possible to use local iron ores thanks to a new conversion process developed by Sidney Gilchrist Thomas.

Open quote
This remarkable place, the youngest child of England's enterprise, is an infant, but if an infant, an infant Hercules
Close quote

Gladstone

Teesside steel was being used in structures around the world - from railway tracks to bridges.

Lambeth Bridge in London, The Hong Kong Shanghai Bank headquarters, the Dessouk bridge which spans the Nile and the Limpopo Bridge in Rhodesia are all made of Teesside steel.

Bolckow and Vaughan, however, weren't the only or first producers of iron around the Tees.

The Stockton Iron Works, Portrack Iron Works, Teesdale Iron Works, Pease & Partners Tees Iron Works and Normanby Iron Works were all producing iron at around the same time and earlier.

In the latter 1800's, competition from abroad forced many to join forces and amalgamate.

This resulted in the emergence of Dorman Long, who in the 1880's switched to steel production and by 1898 had added a bridge and construction works and steel erection businesses to its growing empire.

The development of the iron and steel industry on Teesside in turn gave rise to other industries that could use the end product produced from the industry.

Two of the main iron and steel using industries to grow in the Teesside area were engineering and shipbuilding.

1840 saw the formation of the Teesdale Ironworks, which eventually was to become one of Teesside's most well known engineering companies.

The company was taken over in 1859 by Thomas Head and Joseph Wright and with the later addition of Joseph Ashby and Thomas Wrightson and the retirement of Joseph Wright, the company eventually became known as Head Wrightsons in 1866.

Shipbuilding had long been an industry on the Tees even before the emergence of the Iron and Steel industry in the 1800's.

However, the ships of this time were constructed of wood and it wasn't until the iron and steel came to the fore that shipbuilding really took off on the Tees.

All this was a far cry from Middlesbrough's early days.

In 1800 it did not exist and Stockton was just a small port, shipping farming produce to and from Redcar, a small fishing settlement.

While Teeside's steel industry is a shadow of its former self, the complementary industries attracted to the region, especially petro-chemical companies remain.

The question is, how long would they remain if the steelworks were to close?

Have your say

What could or should be done to safeguard the steel industry or is it inevitable that factories will close in the long-term?

Share your views with the world or see what others are saying on our new messageboard.

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