British Steel
British Steel was a major British steel
Steel is an alloy that consists mostly of iron and has a carbon content between 0.2% and 2.1% by weight, depending on the grade. Carbon is the most common alloying material for iron, but various other alloying elements are used, such as manganese, chromium, vanadium, and tungsten...

 producer. It originated as a nationalised
Nationalisation, also spelled nationalization, is the process of taking an industry or assets into government ownership by a national government or state. Nationalization usually refers to private assets, but may also mean assets owned by lower levels of government, such as municipalities, being...

 industry, the British Steel Corporation (BSC), formed in 1967. This was converted to a public limited company, British Steel PLC, and privatised in 1988. It was once a constituent of the FTSE 100 Index
FTSE 100 Index
The FTSE 100 Index, also called FTSE 100, FTSE, or, informally, the footsie , is a share index of the 100 most highly capitalised UK companies listed on the London Stock Exchange....

. The company merged with Koninklijke Hoogovens
Koninklijke Hoogovens
Koninklijke Hoogovens was a Dutch steel producer founded in 1918. In 1999, the company merged with British Steel to create Corus Group steel company. In 2007, Corus Group was purchased by India-based Tata Steel.- History :On April 19, 1917, H.J.E...

 to form Corus Group
Corus Group
Tata Steel Europe is a multinational steel-making company headquartered in London, United Kingdom. It is the second-largest steel-maker in Europe and is a subsidiary of Tata Steel of India, one of the ten largest steel producers in the world.Corus Group was formed through the merger of Koninklijke...

 in 1999.


BSC was formed from the assets of former private companies which had been nationalised, largely under the Labour Party
Labour Party (UK)
The Labour Party is a centre-left democratic socialist party in the United Kingdom. It surpassed the Liberal Party in general elections during the early 1920s, forming minority governments under Ramsay MacDonald in 1924 and 1929-1931. The party was in a wartime coalition from 1940 to 1945, after...

 government of Harold Wilson
Harold Wilson
James Harold Wilson, Baron Wilson of Rievaulx, KG, OBE, FRS, FSS, PC was a British Labour Member of Parliament, Leader of the Labour Party. He was twice Prime Minister of the United Kingdom during the 1960s and 1970s, winning four general elections, including a minority government after the...

 (1964–1970). Wilson's was the second attempt at nationalisation, Clement Attlee
Clement Attlee
Clement Richard Attlee, 1st Earl Attlee, KG, OM, CH, PC, FRS was a British Labour politician who served as the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1945 to 1951, and as the Leader of the Labour Party from 1935 to 1955...

's Iron and Steel Corporation of Great Britain
Iron and Steel Corporation of Great Britain
The Iron and Steel Corporation of Great Britain was a nationalised industry, set up in 1949 by Clement Attlee's Labour government.The Iron & Steel Act 1949 took effect on 15 February 1951, the Corporation becoming the sole shareholder of 80 of the principal iron and steel companies...

 having been largely privatised by the Conservative
Conservative Party (UK)
The Conservative Party, formally the Conservative and Unionist Party, is a centre-right political party in the United Kingdom that adheres to the philosophies of conservatism and British unionism. It is the largest political party in the UK, and is currently the largest single party in the House...

 governments of the 1950s. Only one steel company, Richard Thomas and Baldwins
Richard Thomas and Baldwins
Richard Thomas and Baldwins Ltd was a major United Kingdom iron, steel and tinplate producer, formed in 1948 by the merger of Richard Thomas & Co Ltd with Baldwins Ltd. It was absorbed into British Steel in 1967...

, remained in public ownership throughout.

BSC was established under the Iron and Steel Act 1967, which vested in the Corporation the shares of the fourteen major steel companies:
  • Colvilles
    David Colville & Sons
    David Colville & Sons was a Scottish iron and steel company. It was founded in 1871, and in 1967 it was nationalised as part of British Steel. The company's first plant was the Dalzell Steel and Iron Works in Motherwell, which was opened in 1872, and by World War I this plant was the largest...

  • Consett Iron Company
    Consett Iron Company
    The Consett Iron Company Ltd was a major United Kingdom industrial undertaking based in the Consett area of County Durham. The company traded as colliery and limestone quarry owners and iron and steel manufacturers. The company was registered on 4 April 1864 as successor to the Derwent & Consett...

  • Dorman Long
    Dorman Long
    Dorman Long, based in Middlesbrough, North East England, was a major steel producer, which diversified into bridge building, and is now a manufacturer of steel components and construction equipment for bridges and other structures...

     & Company Ltd
  • English Steel Corporation
    English Steel Corporation
    The English Steel Corporation Ltd was a United Kingdom steel producer. the company was jointly owned by Firth Brown and Vickers and was formed to bring together their basic steel making interests, principally in the Sheffield area....

  • GKN
    GKN plc is a multinational automotive and aerospace components company headquartered in Redditch, United Kingdom. The company was formerly known as Guest, Keen and Nettlefolds and can trace its origins back to 1759 and the birth of the Industrial Revolution.GKN is listed on the London Stock...

     Steel Company Ltd
  • John Summers & Sons
    John Summers & Sons
    John Summers & Sons Ltd was a major United Kingdom iron and steel producer, latterly based at Shotton, Flintshire. The company was absorbed into British Steel in 1967; British Steel became Corus in 1999 and this company was taken over by Tata Steel in 2007....

  • The Lancashire Steel Corporation
    Lancashire Steel Corporation
    The Lancashire Steel Corporation Ltd was a United Kingdom steel producer. The company was formed in 1930 by the amalgamation of a number of iron and steel interests, principally in the Manchester area...

  • The Park Gate Iron and Steel Company
    Park Gate Iron and Steel Company
    The Park Gate Iron and Steel Company was situated in Parkgate on a triangular site bounded on two sides by the main Rotherham to Barnsley road and the North Midland Railway's main line between Rotherham and Cudworth Stations.- History :...

  • Richard Thomas and Baldwins
    Richard Thomas and Baldwins
    Richard Thomas and Baldwins Ltd was a major United Kingdom iron, steel and tinplate producer, formed in 1948 by the merger of Richard Thomas & Co Ltd with Baldwins Ltd. It was absorbed into British Steel in 1967...

  • Round Oak Steel Works Ltd
  • South Durham Steel & Iron Company Ltd
  • The Steel Company of Wales
    Steel Company of Wales
    The Steel Company of Wales Ltd was a Welsh steel and tinplate producer. It was formed in 1947 and absorbed into British Steel in 1967. The business now forms part of Corus, a subsidiary of Tata Steel....

  • Stewarts & Lloyds
    Stewarts & Lloyds
    Stewarts & Lloyds was a steel tube manufacturer with its headquarters based at Corby, Northamptonshire, England. The company was created in 1903 by the amalgamation of two of the largest iron and steel makers in Britain, A. & J. Stewart & Menzies Ltd, Coatbridge, North Lanarkshire, Scotland and...

    , Ltd
  • The United Steel Companies
    United Steel Companies
    The United Steel Companies were a steel making, engineering, coal mining and coal by-product group based in South Yorkshire and Lincolnshire.-History:...


These companies commanded some 200 wholly or partly owned subsidiaries in the United Kingdom and overseas in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Africa, South Asia, and South America.

Dorman Long, South Durham and Stewarts and Lloyds had merged as British Steel and Tube Ltd before vesting took place.

BSC later arranged an exchange deal with Guest, Keen and Nettlefolds Ltd (GKN), the parent company of GKN Steel, under which BSC acquired Dowlais Ironworks
Dowlais Ironworks
The Dowlais Ironworks was a major ironworks and steelworks located at Dowlais near Merthyr Tydfil, in Wales. Founded in the 18th century, it operated until the end of the 20th, at one time in the 19th century being the largest steel producer in the UK...

 at Merthyr Tydfil
Merthyr Tydfil
Merthyr Tydfil is a town in Wales, with a population of about 30,000. Although once the largest town in Wales, it is now ranked as the 15th largest urban area in Wales. It also gives its name to a county borough, which has a population of around 55,000. It is located in the historic county of...

 and GKN took over BSC's Brymbo Steelworks near Wrexham
Wrexham is a town in Wales. It is the administrative centre of the wider Wrexham County Borough, and the largest town in North Wales, located in the east of the region. It is situated between the Welsh mountains and the lower Dee Valley close to the border with Cheshire, England...


Change in the British steel industry

The Act brought together 90 percent of the UK's steelmaking to form BSC, a single business with 268,500 employees.

According to Blair (1997) British Steel had serious problems, including complacency with existing obsolescent plants (plants operating under capacity and thus at low efficiency); outdated technology; price controls that reduced marketing flexibility; soaring coal and oil costs; lack of capital investment funds; and increasing competition on the world market. By the 1970s the government adopted a policy of keeping employment artificially high in the declining industry. This especially impacted BSC since it was a major employer in a number of depressed regions.

One of the arguments aired in favour of nationalisation was that it would enable steel production to be rationalised. This involved concentrating investment on major integrated plants, placed near the coast for ease of access by sea, and closing older, smaller plants, especially those that had been located inland for proximity to coal supplies.

From the mid-1970s the (now loss-making) British Steel pursued a strategy of concentrating steelmaking in five areas: South Wales, South Yorkshire
South Yorkshire
South Yorkshire is a metropolitan county in the Yorkshire and the Humber region of England. It has a population of 1.29 million. It consists of four metropolitan boroughs: Barnsley, Doncaster, Rotherham, and City of Sheffield...

, Scunthorpe
Scunthorpe is a town within North Lincolnshire, England. It is the administrative centre of the North Lincolnshire unitary authority, and had an estimated total resident population of 72,514 in 2010. A predominantly industrial town, Scunthorpe, the United Kingdom's largest steel processing centre,...

, Teesside
Teesside is the name given to the conurbation in the north east of England made up of the towns of Middlesbrough, Stockton-on-Tees, Redcar, Billingham and surrounding settlements near the River Tees. It was also the name of a local government district between 1968 and 1974—the County Borough of...

 and Scotland
Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. Occupying the northern third of the island of Great Britain, it shares a border with England to the south and is bounded by the North Sea to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, and the North Channel and Irish Sea to the...

. This policy continued following the Conservative victory in the 1979 General Election
United Kingdom general election, 1979
The United Kingdom general election of 1979 was held on 3 May 1979 to elect 635 members to the British House of Commons. The Conservative Party, led by Margaret Thatcher ousted the incumbent Labour government of James Callaghan with a parliamentary majority of 43 seats...

. Other traditional steelmaking areas faced cutbacks. Under the Labour government of James Callaghan
James Callaghan
Leonard James Callaghan, Baron Callaghan of Cardiff, KG, PC , was a British Labour politician, who was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1976 to 1979 and Leader of the Labour Party from 1976 to 1980...

, a review by Lord Beswick had led to the reprieve of the so-called 'Beswick plants', for social reasons, but subsequent governments were obliged under EU rules to withdraw subsidies. Major changes resulted across Europe including, in the UK:
  • At Consett
    Consett is a town in the northwest of County Durham, England, about southwest of Newcastle upon Tyne. It is home to 27,394 .Consett sits high on the edge of the Pennines. In 1841, it was a village community of only 145, but it was about to become a boom town: below the ground was coking coal and...

     the closure of the British Steel works in 1980 marked the end of steel production in the Derwent Valley
    River Derwent, North East England
    The River Derwent is a river on the border between County Durham and Northumberland in the north east of England. It broadens into the Derwent Reservoir, west of Consett. The Derwent is a tributary of the River Tyne, which it joins near the MetroCentre...

     and the decline of the area.

  • At Corby
    Corby Town is a town and borough located in the county of Northamptonshire. Corby Town is 23 miles north-east of the county town, Northampton. The borough had a population of 53,174 at the 2001 Census; the town on its own accounted for 49,222 of this figure...

     the early 1980s saw the loss of 11,000 jobs leading to an initial unemployment rate of over 30%.

  • In Wales, works at East Moors (Cardiff), Ebbw Vale
    Ebbw Vale
    Ebbw Vale is a town at the head of the valley formed by the Ebbw Fawr tributary of the Ebbw River, south Wales. It is the largest town and the administrative centre of Blaenau Gwent county borough...

     and Shotton
    -Places:England* Shotton, Northumberland, a village in the County of Northumberland* Shotton, Peterlee, a village in County Durham* Shotton, Sedgefield, a village in County Durham* Shotton Colliery, a village in County DurhamWales...

     were closed.

  • In Scotland, Western Europe's largest hot strip steel
    Strip steel
    Strip Steel or cold rolled strip is a steel product that is produced from a hot rolled strip that has been pickled. The coil is then reduced by a single stand cold roll steel mill straight away or reversing mill or in a tandem mill consisting of several single stands in a series...

     mill Ravenscraig steelworks
    Ravenscraig steelworks
    The Ravenscraig steelworks, operated by Colvilles and latterly by British Steel, consisted of an integrated iron and steel works and a hot strip steel mill. They were located in Motherwell, North Lanarkshire, Scotland....

    , near Motherwell, North Lanarkshire
    North Lanarkshire
    North Lanarkshire is one of 32 council areas in Scotland. It borders onto the northeast of the City of Glasgow and contains much of Glasgow's suburbs and commuter towns and villages. It also borders Stirling, Falkirk, East Dunbartonshire, West Lothian and South Lanarkshire...

    , was closed by British Steel in 1992, leading to huge unemployment in the area. It also led to the closure of several local support and satellite businesses, such as the nearby British Steel Clydesdale Works in Mossend
    Mossend is a town on the A775, in North Lanarkshire, Scotland, to the east of its larger sister town, Bellshill, and near to the Strathclyde Country Park....

    , Clyde Alloy in Netherton
    Netherton, North Lanarkshire
    Netherton is a southerly suburb of Wishaw, which can be entered from Netherton Road, which runs easterly from Pickering's Corner to the Cherry Tree public house, spanning the full length of the suburb. Alternatively, Netherton can also be entered from Netherton Street, which runs from the Heathery...

     and equipment maker Anderson Strathclyde. Demolition of the site's landmark blue gasometer in 1996, and the subsequent cleanup operation, has created the largest brownfield site in Europe
    Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

    . This huge area between Motherwell and Wishaw
    Wishaw is a large town and former burgh in North Lanarkshire, Scotland. It is on the edge of the Clyde Valley, 15 miles south-east of Glasgow....

     is in line to be transformed into the new town of Ravenscraig
    Ravenscraig is an area of land located in North Lanarkshire, Scotland. Ravenscraig was previously inhabited by steel industry workers, as it was formerly the site of Ravenscraig steelworks...

    , a project partly funded by Corus
    Tata Steel Europe
    Tata Steel Europe is a multinational steel-making company headquartered in London, United Kingdom. It is the second-largest steel-maker in Europe and is a subsidiary of Tata Steel of India, one of the ten largest steel producers in the world.Corus Group was formed through the merger of Koninklijke...



British Steel was privatised
Privatization is the incidence or process of transferring ownership of a business, enterprise, agency or public service from the public sector to the private sector or to private non-profit organizations...

 in 1988 under the Conservative government of Margaret Thatcher
Margaret Thatcher
Margaret Hilda Thatcher, Baroness Thatcher, was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1979 to 1990...

. It merged with the Dutch
The Netherlands is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, located mainly in North-West Europe and with several islands in the Caribbean. Mainland Netherlands borders the North Sea to the north and west, Belgium to the south, and Germany to the east, and shares maritime borders...

 steel producer Koninklijke Hoogovens to form Corus Group
Tata Steel Europe
Tata Steel Europe is a multinational steel-making company headquartered in London, United Kingdom. It is the second-largest steel-maker in Europe and is a subsidiary of Tata Steel of India, one of the ten largest steel producers in the world.Corus Group was formed through the merger of Koninklijke...

 on 6 October 1999. Corus itself was taken over in March 2007 by the Indian steel operator Tata Steel
Tata Steel
Tata Steel is a multinational steel company headquartered in Jamshedpur, India and part of Tata Group. It is the world's seventh-largest steel company, with an annual crude steel capacity of 31 million tonnes, and the largest private-sector steel company in India measured by domestic production...



  • Lord Melchett
    Julian Edward Alfred Mond, 3rd Baron Melchett
    Julian Edward Alfred Mond, 3rd Baron Melchett was an English industrialist who became the third Baron Melchett on the death of his father in 1949.-Early life:...

  • Monty Finniston
    Monty Finniston
    Sir Harold Montague "Monty" Finniston was a British industrialist born in Glasgow, Scotland.Monty Finniston read metallurgical chemistry at Glasgow University, where he gained his PhD and then lectured in metallurgy. He spent the years of the Second World War in the Royal Naval Scientific Service...

  • Charles Villiers
    Charles Hyde Villiers
    Sir Charles English Hyde Villiers, MC was a British businessman and chairman of British Steel from 1976 till 1980....

  • Ian MacGregor
    Ian MacGregor
    Sir Ian Kinloch MacGregor, KBE was a Scottish-American metallurgist and industrialist, most famous in the UK for his controversial tenure at British Steel and his conduct during the 1984-1985 miner's strike while managing the National Coal Board.-Early life:Born in Kinlochleven, Scotland, his...


Ian MacGregor later became famous for his role as Chairman of the National Coal Board
National Coal Board
The National Coal Board was the statutory corporation created to run the nationalised coal mining industry in the United Kingdom. Set up under the Coal Industry Nationalisation Act 1946, it took over the mines on "vesting day", 1 January 1947...

 during the UK miners' strike (1984-1985). During the strike the "Battle of Orgreave
Battle of Orgreave
The Battle of Orgreave is the name given to a confrontation between police and picketing miners at a British Steel coking plant in Orgreave, South Yorkshire, in 1984, during the UK miners' strike...

" took place at British Steel's coking plant. Ratan Tata is the head of the Tata steel company which was originated in India in 1903 in Jamshedpur city of Bihar state.


In 1971, British Steel sponsored Sir Chay Blyth
Chay Blyth
Sir Charles Blyth, CBE, BEM , known as Chay Blyth, is a Scottish yachtsman and rower. He was the first person to sail non-stop westwards around the world , on a 59-foot boat called British Steel.- Early life:...

 in his record-making non-stop circumnavigation
Circumnavigation – literally, "navigation of a circumference" – refers to travelling all the way around an island, a continent, or the entire planet Earth.- Global circumnavigation :...

 against the winds and currents, known as 'The Impossible Voyage'. In 1992 they sponsored the British Steel Challenge
Global Challenge
The Global Challenge was a round the world yacht race run by Challenge Business, the company started by Sir Chay Blyth in 1989...

, the first of a series of 'wrong way' races for amateur crews.

British Steel had agreed a sponsorship deal with Middlesbrough Football Club
Middlesbrough F.C.
Middlesbrough Football Club , also known as Boro, are an English football club based in Middlesbrough, who play in the Football League Championship. Formed in 1876, they have played at the Riverside Stadium since August 1995, their third ground since turning professional in 1889...

 during the 1994-95 season
1994-95 in English football
-Premiership:Blackburn Rovers ended their 81-year wait for the league title thanks to the strike partnership of Alan Shearer and Chris Sutton which scored a total of more than 50 league goals. Manchester United would have made it three league titles in a row if they had been able to turn a 1-1 draw...

, with a view to British Steel sponsored Middlesbrough shirts making their appearance the following season
1995-96 in English football
- Premiership :Newcastle United were 12 points clear at the top of Manchester United, but Alex Ferguson's relatively young and inexperienced side overhauled them during the second half of the season to win the title....

. But the sponsorship deal was terminated before it commenced after it was revealed that British
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 steel only made up a tiny fraction of steel used in construction of the stadium - the bulk of the steel had been imported from Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...


Further reading

  • Blair, Alasdair M. "The British iron and steel industry since 1945," Journal of European Economic History Winter 1997, Vol. 26 Issue 3, pp 571-81
  • Dudley, G. F., and J. J. Richardson, eds. Politics and Steel in Britain, 1967-1988: The Life and Times of the British Steel Corporation (1990)
  • Rhodes, Martin; Wright, Vincent. "The European Steel Unions and the Steel Crisis, 1974-84: A Study in the Demise of Traditional Unionism," British Journal of Political Science, Apr 1988, Vol. 18 Issue 2, pp 171-195 in JSTOR
  • Scheuerman, William. The Steel Crisis: The Economics and Politics of a Declining Industry (1986)

External links

  • British Steel Corporation, 1988 Competition Commission
    Competition Commission
    The Competition Commission is a non-departmental public body responsible for investigating mergers, markets and other enquiries related to regulated industries under competition law in the United Kingdom...

  • British Steel plc and C Walker & Sons (Holdings) Ltd, 1990 Competition Commission
    Competition Commission
    The Competition Commission is a non-departmental public body responsible for investigating mergers, markets and other enquiries related to regulated industries under competition law in the United Kingdom...

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