A 179-year timeline of steelmaking in Stocksbridge

A steelworks has been a big part of this Sheffield town for a very long time but in recent years trading difficulties have multiplied, leading to big job losses – and now it is up for sale.

Monday, 24th May 2021, 3:03 pm

Current owner Liberty Steel brought optimism back to the business - until financial problems and the pandemic created a new crisis.

It is part of the Speciality Steels division which employs 762 in Stocksbridge - supplying the aerospace, oil and gas and the general engineering markets - and 865 in Rotherham.

The first sign of real trouble came in February when Liberty revealed it was having to ‘manage the impact’ on jobs at Stockbridge due to plummeting aircraft sales in the pandemic.

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Ingot in the VAR furnace (Vacuum Arc Remelting) furnance at Liberty Speciality Steels Stocksbridge.

In the UK, Covid-induced weakness in the aerospace market has cut demand for some products by 60 per cent. Most Stocksbridge workers have been on furlough since March 12 to save money.In contrast, in December, the company confirmed it was investing £60m to upgrade equipment and double production at its Speciality Steels plant in Rotherham after receiving orders for nearly 10,000 tonnes of reinforcing bar for schools, hospitals, houses, energy facilities and transport links.

The firm is betting heavily on using some of the millions of tons of steel scrap exported by the UK to make more steel needed in this country, which is currently imported

Steelmaking goes back 179 years in Stocksbridge. In that time it has weathered many crises.

A timeline of steelmaking in Stocksbridge

A worker preparing an ingot to go into the VAR furnace (Vacuum Arc Remelting) at Liberty Speciality Steels Stocksbridge.

1842 - Samuel Fox established a steelworks in a disused cotton mill in Stocksbridge, at that time a small settlement, and went on to build up much of the infrastructure

1851 - The company developed the famous paragon umbrella frame

1860s - The Stocksbridge works includes furnaces and rolling mills

1877 - A railway line was built to link the steelworks with the wider region

1918 - Samuel Fox & Co joined with several companies to form the United Steel Company

1967 - The works are nationalised into the British Steel Corporation and become ‘Stocksbridge Engineering Steels’

1999 - Taken over by Corus

2006 - Taken over by Indian company Tata

2009 - Big round of redundancies

2016 - 685+ redundancies

2017 – Tata sells entire UK steel business to Liberty for £100m

2018 - Liberty invests and announces plans to reopen mothballed furnaces

2020 - 283 jobs in South Yorkshire axed – including 250 in Stocksbridge - axed due to ‘political uncertainty and Brexit’

2020 - Plans announced to invest £60m and double production in Rotherham

2021 (Feb) - reveals it has been forced to ‘manage the impact’ on jobs due to plummeting aircraft sales in the pandemic

2021 (March) - lender Greensill collapses into administration raising fears for entire 5,000 strong Liberty Steel UK business which includes 12 steel plants including in Rotherham, Stocksbridge, Newport and Hartlepool.

2021 (May) Liberty announces plans to sell off the Stocksbridge business because it is no longer core.

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Thank you. Nancy Fielder, editor.