BILSTONS’ BLAST FROM THE PAST

A potted history of Bilston Steel Works. Gone today in 2015 But will never be Forgotten.

Bilston Steel Works was situated at Spring Vale, Bilston.

 

Arthur Arrowsmith's evocative pen & inks drawing of Springvale Funaces circa 1950 With the opening of the Birmingham to Wolverhampton Canal in 1770 industrial activity in the Bilston area increased, and by 1780 the first blast furnaces were in use In 1866 the Hickman family acquired the works then known as the Springvale Furnaces Ltd. and at that time there were three square old type brick furnaces known locally as 'The Hot Holes' on the site.
Arthur Arrowsmith’s evocative pen & inks drawing of Springvale Funaces circa 1950 With the opening of the Birmingham to Wolverhampton Canal in 1770 industrial activity in the Bilston area increased, and by 1780 the first blast furnaces were in use In 1866 the Hickman family acquired the works then known as the Springvale Furnaces Ltd. and at that time there were three square old type brick furnaces known locally as ‘The Hot Holes’ on the site.

   

Springvale pictured in 1910 showing the recently added hand-fed Furnaces.
Springvale pictured in 1910 showing the recently added hand-fed Furnaces.

 

Between 1866 and 1883 six new blast furnaces were built at Springvale. The furnaces were hand-fed and the molten iron was run off into pig beds. Despite the crude nature of production the furnaces produced iron of good quality and in large quantities.

By the early 1880s five blast furnaces on the site produced 24,944 tons of iron a year.
Expansion of the site

In 1897 the Springvale Furnaces and the Staffordshire Steel & Ingot Iron Co were amalgamated to become Alfred Hickman Ltd.

 

A postcard of the site circa 1st World war.
A postcard of the site circa 1st World war.

     The site continued to expand. In 1907 the first mills powered by electricity were installed, an open-hearth furnace was built in 1911, followed by additional furnaces during the First World War. The Bilston works were a major industrial site. During the Second World War the company was an important shell-making centre and inn the early 1950s a £16 million development scheme was put into place.   Big Lizzy          

Elisabeth stands proud on the sde of The Birmingham canal in 1965
Elisabeth stands proud on the sde of The Birmingham canal in 1965

 

In 1954 ‘Elisabeth’, a new blast furnace, was lit replacing three smaller blast furnaces. Elisabeth alone produced 275,000 tons of steel a year. In her lifetime she produced more than 5.5 million tons of pig iron.

The furnace was named Elisabeth after the daughter of the chairman of Stewarts & Lloyds Ltd, the owners. However the workmen who worked the new blast furnace called it ‘ Big Lizzy’!

 

An aerial view of this massive industrial site when it was at its peak of production.
An aerial view of this massive industrial site when it was at its peak of production.

With the completion of major redevelopments the Bilston works became one of the most modern integrated works of its kind in the country.            Dark clouds appear over Elisabeth in the summer of '78.

 

However despite all the works modifications by the late 1970s the site had become uncompetitive and expensive to run. and on the 12th April 1979 the last steel billet was cast at Bilston, so ending more than 200 years of iron and steel production on the site.

 

 

We climb on the steelwork to take a last look at the famous Bilston Icon. 18 months later, on 5th October 1980 Elisabeth was demolished.
We climb on the steelwork to take a last look at the famous Bilston Icon. 18 months later, on 5th October 1980 Elisabeth was demolished.

 

It was the end of an era and a major blow to the economy of the area.

 

 

 

Perhaps not so famous than the Grand Canyon as you cant see it from Space But!
Perhaps not so famous than the Grand Canyon as you cant see it from Space But!

 

As this photograph proves taken with a telescopic lens from the top of the Express & Star it certainly dominated the skyline above Bilston some three Miles away.

With Grateful Thanks to The History of Wolverhampton The City and its People for the added information.

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