It is pretty certain than anybody who has lived in a steel city or town will have a slag heap story. The heaps were widely visible, often had little railways running along the top and glowed in the dark. In West Hartlepool, the industrial area was nicknamed 'Wagga' and the slag heap glow was known as the 'Wagga Moon'.
AN EARLY IRON FURNACE: A foreboding and dangerous place for our forebears to work thanks mainly to the development of steam power, 40 per cent of European production took place here.
Barrow-in-Furness makes for a good contrast. Although monks had first dabbled with iron in the Middle Ages, a massive and unexpected industrial explosion hit the town in the mid 19 th century leading to its becoming, according to one local historian, 'the biggest iron and steel centre in the world'. Locally mined iron had been sent to South Wales in the early 19th century but improved transport links in the 1840s led to the development of iron manufacturing in the 1850s and steel in the 1860s. Shipbuilding also grew and a new reputation for the production of warships and cruise liners developed. Dudley is an iron town that moved from rural production to urban production. It boasts the home of pioneer Abraham Darby and claims to have been one of the centres to have replaced charcoal with coke as fuel. Coal, iron and limestone were all available locally and the area around Dudley resembled a rabbit warren by the mid 19th century. Dudley iron was 'transported all over the world', yet also provided work for local nailmakers and was used for weapons of war when demanded.
Movement was also part of the metal manufacturer's life and examples are easy to find. One family, discovered randomly on a genealogical website, emigrated from Ireland to England around 1870 and soon moved to the iron and steel town of Middlesbrough where the head of the family was described as 'a general labourer' in the 1871 Census. Within a few years, the same family was in South Wales where they finally settled in Dowlais near Merthyr Tydfil. Here the head of the household was described as working as a fireman or stoker. There are also
BESSEMER CONVERTER: Patented by Henry Bessemer in 1856, this converted iron into steel. The egg-shaped converter was tilted down to pour molten pig iron in through the top, then swung back to vertical position when a blast of air was blown through the base of the converter in a dramatic 'blow'
Dudley iron was 'transported all over the world', yet also provided work for local nailmakers and was used for weapons when the need demanded"
instances of families moving up from the iron town of Dudley to the steelworks in Barrow-in-Furness. According to the researcher of such a move, the head of household had travelled initially 'to put the Bessemers in'.
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