Consett Steelworks – Thatcher’s first victim

Here is talk that you might be interested in on Tuesday February 5th, 7pm upstairs meeting room at Tyneside Irish Centre. Peter Brabban on:

Consett Steelworks – Thatcher’s first victim

A photographic essay on the campaign to save the Consett steelworks and the aftermath from its closure.

” As a freelance photographer producing images for the labour movement I decided to cover the campaign to save Consett steelworks in 1980 and then one year after the closure of the works I travelled back to Consett to witness how the workers and the town were coping with this local disaster. The photographs taken at the time will form the basis of the presentation which will also be informed by my experiences of the campaign, later research and the insights that history allows.”

Phil Bartle: Consett Painter

Exhibition at The Lodge
Blackhill and Consett Park

Phil Bartle, local Consett artist, has kindly loaned Leisureworks a selection of his artwork collection from ‘Red Dust’ as part of Made of Steel. This is a project in Colour Your Life, Arts on Prescription.

The paintings are a vibrant look at Phil Barle’s Consett and are in the same vein as Charlie Rogers’ paintings of Gateshead, Alf O’Brien’s South Shields, Ken Watts’ miniaturist observations on Jarrow and the rightly eulogised Norman Cornish in Spennymoor.

Not only are they only important social documents but his work has the power to capture a missing world and transport the viewer to a past they knew or wished they had.

In Phil Bartle Consett now has a painter that can stand shoulder to shoulder with the illustrious names of Tyneside.
Tom Kelly

Phil was born in 1960 in Consett County Durham which at that time was a bustling and busy industrial town with the steelworks being the main focus. Phil shared that there always seemed to be lots of things happening which made it an exciting time for him to grow up, as Consett was a big and important town!

“I’ve always drawn or painted – I remember as a kid going into our family betting shop after junior school and waiting for the place to clear so I could draw on the huge blackboards…I’ve always been proud to come from Consett so I suppose this is the two of those put together.

I work as a graphic designer and create this artwork in my spare time.”

The inspiration behind the Red Dust artwork draws memories of Consett from the 60’s and 70’s, the biggest influence was the fantastic characters that existed and the spirit and humour of the Consett people themselves.

Phil tries to observe and capture everyday life – He calls them his mini kitchen sink dramas – people going to work, having a night out, going to the match, having a chat while shopping, kids out playing, everyday stuff.

Red dust, (for anyone that isn’t familiar with Consett), went side by side with the town up until the closure of the steel works in 1980. Most of the town used to be covered with it! Consett even had pink snow!


Project information

Colour Your Life
Colour Your Life is an Arts on Prescription service which is delivered by a unique partnership involving Leisureworks alongside the Pioneering Care Partnership and Jack Drum Arts and is funded by NHS County Durham. This County-wide service aims to provide access to a range of creative activities which contribute to the prevention and improvement of mental health whilst developing emotional resilience for individuals through developing new and brushing up on existing skills.

Made of Steel
Consett steelworks dominated the area for 140 years from 1864 when Consett Iron Company was established. The Steelworks was closed down in October 1980 and devastated the community. Made of Steel now wants to capture and tell the stories and share the archives of the people that worked at the Steelworks, their families and wider community.
will commission a film representing all the rich memories archived during the project; this will be premiered along with poetry, live music and drama representing the authentic voices of those involved.

The project will also entail a number of public workshops, community digitising, archiving opportunities and lots more, culminating in a soundtrack, digital scrap book, performance, exhibition, educational resource and other creative products to form a unique digital archive collection.

You can read and listen about Made of Steel at and find out about Arts on Prescription – ‘Arts in Community’ on

For enquiries call 01207 218852 or email

Open Day Monday 28th January

A very good day at The Lodge… Consett past and present… Consett without the Works…. The impact of losing a major employer.
People passionate about their town: what could be better?

Andrew will be editing the audio tapes (as we speak) so to speak.
I’ll post them here ASAP and we will put them on our Facebook page.

We will be at The Lodge next Monday. Same time 1.00 til 3.00.

Consett Railway Station

At one of our Open days at the Lodge someone asked when Consett Railway Station closed.

Opened: 17.8. 1896
Closed to passengers: 23.5.1955
Closed completely: 2.10.1967

Cut and past the link for more information.

We will be at The Lodge in Consett & Blackhill Park from 1.00 to 3.00.
tomorrow (Monday 28th Jan)

Come and share your stories about Consett.

Men of Consett: 1959 Film

I’ve found myself looking at number of Consett films and here is
one you might enjoy and find interesting.

Men of Consett (1959, dir. Tom Stobart, 30 minutes)
The film is an account of the visit of filmmaker Tom Stobart to Consett Iron Company, showing the history of the Consett area, the changes at Consett Iron Company since the Second World War, the manufacture of steel, and the working lives of steelmen, who talk about their working and social lives in the Smelters’ Arms before starting a night shift.

From the North East Film Archive

Cut and past the link.

This video may not represent the original film in its entirety and is intended as a preview copy.
North East Film Archive

And here’s a brief biography on the film’s director, Tom Stobart

As you see three years before his film on Consett he had produced the film The Conquest of Everest. Making steel in Consett would have been a warmer job than Everest.

Tom Stobart (1914–1980)

Tom Stobart was the cameraman who filmed the 1953 expedition, producing the official film of the event, The Conquest of Everest (1953).

With a degree in zoology from Cambridge, Stobart decided to pursue a career of travel and adventure and used his expertise in film making to achieve it. In 1941, he set up and headed the first army film unit in India. Already a climber, he led a party to attempt Nun while on leave. In 1949–50 he formed part of an international expedition to Antarctica and in 1951–52 filmed game in Africa (resulting in the film Below the Sahara, 1953). He also led the Abominable Snowman Expedition in 1954. His special skill lay in his technique of filming climbers or scientists without asking them to pose or act, yet capturing their activity. In 1956 he was shot while filming in Ethiopia, and in spite of being crippled, he continued with his filming career. He also wrote five books, two of them on cookery.

Consett on Film

Here is a link to five short BBC films on Consett. They underline the dominance of ‘The Works’ on the landscape.

And a Pathe News film

Consett Time-Line

Artist, Paul Belcher, makes a good point and has added to our Consett Time Line.
I would like to see lots more additions: thanks Paul.

Blackhill and Consett Park is important to Derwentside due to its
historical links with the local steel industry, which dominated the area for over one hundred years, the Consett Iron Company was the largest employer in the district until its closure in 1980. The ‘Company’ gifted the space to its employees and their families in 1891 as a contribution to their well-being.

Lady Crane Driver

Talking to Bryn Young about his mam, Pat Young, who sadly died in 2011, Bryn tells of his mother’s pride at being a Crane Driver at the Works.

When she died the fact that she was a Crane Driver was mentioned in her eulogy. Bryn says his mam worked in the Fitting Shop from around 1976 to the Works’ closure. In a male dominated world, she was able to hold her own and be treated like, “one of the lads.”

Bryn was more than willing to talk of his mam’s working live at Consett Steel Works.

How many other women were Crane Drivers at the Works? Are there any more out there?