History of Magna centre revealed in exhibition

Stuart Ballard of Magna
Stuart Ballard of Magna
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A new permanent exhibition, charting the history of the Magna site in Rotherham, will open to the public next month.

Steelos Gallery, supported by a £74,800 Heritage Lottery Fund grant, will tell the story of the site, where the Science Adventure Centre opened in 2001, from Roman times to the present day.

Nik Brear

Nik Brear

The gallery - near the entrance of the steel mill that once formed part of Templeborough steelworks - features video, audio, touch screens and a giant map which will all be used to tell the site’s story.

The exhibition’s content was researched by volunteers and staff at Magna, helped by a researcher from the University of Sheffield.

Stuart Ballard, Magna’s education manager, said: “We wanted to tell the story of the site to set this building in context. There was an iron works here when there was a Roman fort at Templeborough, and these steelworks were vital during the First World War.

“This building is as important to this area as Chatsworth or Cannon Hall. The heritage of Sheffield and Rotherham was built on steel.”

A spokesman for the Heritage Lottery Fund said: “Thanks to National Lottery players, we’re able to invest money to help people across the UK explore, enjoy and protect the heritage they care about.”

At its height, Magna employed 10,000 people and produced up to two million tonnes of steel a year. The steelworks, which were a mile long and once Europe’s largest, were known as Steelos, after the owners Steel, Peech and Tozer. The site featured 14 open-hearth furnaces and 14 chimneys, which were replaced in the 1960s with electric arc furnaces. The steelworks closed for good in 1993 and the melting shop mothballed until Magna was opened as a visitor attraction eight years later.

One of the original arc furnaces was retained and is now a giant pyrotechnic display in the visitor centre called the Big Melt. Regular steel tours telling the story of Magna are led by former steel workers.

The visitor attraction features 100 hands-on exhibits designed to explore the four ‘elements’ of air, earth, fire and water.

The new gallery will be officially opened on February 4 by Rotherham mayor Maggi Clark and will then be open to the public for half-term.