Dylan Cave has been exploring the history of Corby which he describes as a story of steel. Through moving image, Cave looks back at how the fortunes of the town have been fundamentally bound to those of the steel industry: booming in the postwar years before surrendering to the aftermath of the 1970s recession.
Stewarts & Lloyds Ltd opened its blast furnace ironworks in Corby in 1910. The site was then expanded in 1932 and a new steelworks, rolling mill and tube-making plant was added to the ironworks. The population grew by nearly 10,000 over eight years and in 1939 the village became a town.
The steelworks thrived into the second world war and continued into the postwar years, but producing enough iron ore to meet demand became problematic. To overcome this, Stewarts & Lloyds commissioned the ‘Great Jib’, which at the time of its completion was the world’s largest walking dragline excavator.
What’s fascinating about the solution – the building of a massive excavator – is that it shows the ambition and engineering capability at Corby. They have a problem, so we’ll build the solution.
Cave then goes on to explore the recession which hit in the 1970’s. In 1979 British Steel announced plans to close the steel manufacture at Corby with an estimated loss of 10,000 jobs. Workers marched to Downing Street and the town became the centre of the 1980 national steel strike.
In an ATV news report, provided by the Media Archive for Central England, interviews are shown with some of the families affected by the economic impact of the strike. This clip portrays the sense of community during this difficult time and conveys the struggle that many families were faced with. You can view this clip on the MACE Website.
Steel plays only a minor part in the town today, but tubing continues to roll off the line.
The next time you cast your eyes on the London Eye, or the distinctive arch of Wembley stadium, the chances are you’re looking at steel tubes from Corby.
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