Consett

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Consett
Christ Church, Consett - geograph.org.uk - 1446497.jpg
Christ Church, Consett
Consett is located in County Durham
Consett
Consett
Consett shown within County Durham
Population 24,828 (2011)[1]
OS grid reference NZ108511
Unitary authority
Ceremonial county
Region
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town CONSETT
Postcode district DH8
Dialling code 01207
Police Durham
Fire County Durham and Darlington
Ambulance North East
EU Parliament North East England
UK Parliament
List of places
UK
England
County Durham
54°51′N 1°50′W / 54.85°N 1.83°W / 54.85; -1.83Coordinates: 54°51′N 1°50′W / 54.85°N 1.83°W / 54.85; -1.83

Consett is a town in the northwest of County Durham, England, about 14 miles (23 km) southwest of Newcastle upon Tyne. It is home to 27,394 (2001).[2]

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 blackband iron ore, and nearby was limestone. These were the three ingredients needed for blast furnaces to produce iron and steel.

The town is perched on the steep eastern bank of the River Derwent and owes its origins to industrial development arising from lead mining in the area, together with the development of the steel industry in the Derwent Valley, which is said to have been initiated by immigrant German cutlers and sword-makers from Solingen, who settled in the village of Shotley Bridge during the seventeenth century.

During the 17th and 18th centuries, the Derwent Valley was the cradle of the British steel industry, helped by the easy availability of coal in the area and the import of high quality iron ore from Sweden via the port of Newcastle upon Tyne. However, following the invention of the Bessemer process in the 19th century, steel could be made from British iron ore (which was otherwise too heavily contaminated by phosphorus) and the Derwent Valley's geographical advantage was lost, allowing Sheffield to become the leading centre of the British steel industry.

Representation and governance[edit]

Consett is part of the North West Durham Parliamentary Constituency represented by the Labour member of parliament, Laura Pidcock since the 2017 general election. Before her, Pat Glass held the seat from 2010-2017 and Hilary Armstrong held the seat after 1987, having succeeded from her father Ernest Armstrong. Before 1983, the town gave its name to its parliamentary constituency. Its member of parliament was Labour's David Watkins held the Consett seat from 1966 until boundary changes.

Consett was part of Derwentside District Council, which merged into the Durham County Council unitary authority on 1 April 2009. The Consett area is currently split into four electoral divisions (Benfieldside; Consett North; Delves Lane and Consett South; and Leadgate and Medomsley), each of which elects two County Councillors.

Consett is part of the North East Region, which elects three MEPs (Member of the European Parliament) to the European Parliament. The region is currently represented by the Labour MEPs, Paul Brannen and Judith Kirton-Darling and the UKIP MEP Jonathan Arnott.

Geography[edit]

Consett sits above the rural Derwent valley near the boundary of County Durham and Northumberland.

At about 900ft (270 metres) above sea level, Consett is the third highest market town in England one of the highest towns in the United Kingdom. As a result, Consett is typically at least 2°C colder than nearby cities such as Durham and Newcastle.

Consett has the usual range of amenities: shops, pubs, night clubs, residential areas and industrial estates. There are a number of villages in its immediate surroundings; some of them are contiguous (for example Shotley Bridge and Blackhill) and some are not (for example Moorside and Castleside).

The Derwent Reservoir is just west of the town. This reservoir is a popular leisure attraction and beauty spot.

Economy[edit]

Consett steel works seen in the 1940s or 50s.
Middle Street, Consett

The Consett Iron Company was established in 1864, a successor to the original Derwent Iron Company of 1840, when the first blast furnaces were introduced. Over the next 100 years, Consett became one of the world's most prominent steel-making towns, manufacturing the steel for Blackpool Tower and some of the UK's nuclear submarines.[3]

Steel dominated Consett's economy for 140 years, with the steelworks' tall cooling towers and other large plant looming over rows of terraced houses. During the iron and steel era a pall of 'red dust' hung over the town: airborne iron oxide from the steel-making plant. At its peak in the 1960s, the Consett steel works employed 6,000 workers, and it was nationalised to become part of the large British Steel Corporation. Although there was intense competition in the 1970s both from British competitors and from abroad, Consett steelworks remained relatively successful and was making a profit in the year that it closed. As the rolling mills were closed in the 1970s, despite local opposition, there were discussions over the future of the plant as a whole.[4]

Closure of the steelworks[edit]

Consett steelworks had always avoided closure, even in difficult economic times, but in 1980 it was closed with the loss of 3,700 jobs plus many more from the "knock-on" effect in ancillary industries. The unemployment rate in Consett became double the national average.[3] According to government publicity this closure was part of the Thatcher Government's strategy to revitalise UK industry, following the industrial action that had taken place in the UK in the 1970s.

But labour-intensive heavy industry was never revitalised in Britain. Instead, many regions including the North East were partly deindustrialised. Many of the dwindling industries were uneconomic, but some regard such closures as part of a broader political strategy launched by Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher to defeat the unionised working class and invest in heavy industry in low-wage economies abroad to provide higher returns on investments.[5] A major plan to restructure steel making in the UK was created in the mid 1970s. This was based on concentrating steelmaking in the UK in five coastal locations, to allow easy import of raw materials and export of finished goods. BSC Consett was not one of the locations, despite being serviced by a well-established rail network, producing high-quality boron steel and being in profit in 1980, the year it was closed.

A deputation of steelworkers lobbied the government in London.[6] The social impact of the decision was often characterised by many of the local people at the time as "The Murder of a Town".[4] After closure of the steel works the town became one of the worst unemployment blackspots in Britain. In 1981, unemployment in Consett peaked at 36% - one of the worst unemployment rates of any town in the United Kingdom and around three times the national average at the time.[3] [7] The closure of the British Steel Corporation works at Consett marked the end of the Derwent Valley steel heritage, and the decline of Consett as an industrial town. Along with the closure of coal mines, it was also a first step in the decline of all heavy industry in the Derwent Valley.[8]

Regeneration[edit]

Regeneration in the 1990s, through Project Genesis, went only some way towards repairing the damage done to the local economy by these closures. Unemployment came down to the national average, but this was partly due to outward migration and economic inactivity due to long-term illness, neither of which were included in the government statistics. In 2011 Durham County Council, which provides a lot of employment for local people, commenced a three-year plan to reduce its workforce by 1600.[9]

The last steel ingot from the Consett ironworks was made into a cross and is kept at St Mary's Roman Catholic Church, Blackhill.

Alongside the public sector, small and medium-sized businesses now provide jobs in the area. Phileas Fogg Company (County Durham), with its factory on the town's Number One Industrial Estate, were mildly famous for a few years from 1988 for their snack food "Made in Medomsley Road, Consett" television adverts. The Phileas Fogg Company is now owned by KP Snacks as part of United Biscuits. The Explorer Group, based in Consett, is the United Kingdom's second-largest manufacturer of caravans.

Since 2000, there have been several new housing developments on the former steelworks site and surrounding areas. Derwentside College, formerly sited at Park Road, moved to a new campus at Berry Edge in September 2002 and more recently, major retailers have moved in and the site which once made steel for Blackpool Tower and Britain’s nuclear submarines is now home to rival Tesco and Morrisons stores, a string of high street outlets and fast food giants.

New industrial units are also to be built on the former steel works site, after the Project Genesis Trust secured investment of £358,968 from the Rural Growth Network (RGN) to develop bespoke business premises and offices on part of the site. (The Project Genesis Trust is the body created to regenerate the former steelworks site)[10]

Overall Around £200m has been invested into the Genesis site, including 1500 homes. Sports Direct and plans for a solar farm, although 35 years after the Company closed around 300 acres of the 700-acre site have been developed.

The population soared to 39,000, higher than it was in the days of steel, and unemployment plummeted. In August of 2015, only 420 people were in receipt of Jobseekers’ Allowance – an official unemployment rate of 1.7 per cent, significantly lower than the rest of County Durham. The wider claimant count of people receiving out-of-work benefits was 6.3 per cent, half the County Durham average, although it does not include people receiving disability benefits which is likely to be significant given the town’s industrial legacy.[11]

A large area of the land formerly used by Shotley Bridge Hospital was sold to property developers Story Homes and work began to build a further 400 homes in 2013/2014. The Story homes development which is now the multi award winning housing estate titled "The Woodlands estate" has further aided Consett's recovery and has placed it as a top commuter town due to its convenient location situated between Durham and Newcastle

On top of all the housing developments (some still ongoing) undertaken in the consett area of the last few years There has also been major investment into the local amenities such as the new £44million sports complex built on Medomsley Road along from the old sports facilities. [12] Consett Academy was also given a Brand new £5.7million building that shares the leisure centre facilities[13]

Culture[edit]

Consett is home to the Empire Theatre, one of County Durham's oldest theatres. Recently refurbished, the theatre stages variety acts, plays and a Christmas pantomime. The theatre also screens blockbuster films at times when there are no live performances.

Several pubs have taken names that reflect the town's steel-making past: the Works, the Company, and the Company Row. From Consett's bygone days as a steel town, with a huge reliance on rail, next to where the main railway station used to be is a club named the Station Club, now opposite a health centre. With the steelworks gone, visitors and inhabitants are beginning to realise the beauty of the picturesque views over the Derwent Valley, and Consett is becoming a popular place to live for commuters from Durham and Tyne & Wear looking for a taste of the country.[citation needed]

Salvation Army Band[edit]

Consett was the first town in the world to have a Salvation Army Corps Band. The band was formed in December 1879 and went out on the streets playing at Christmas. The original band consisted of just four players: bandmaster Edward Lennox and bandsmen George Storey, James Simpson and Robert Greenwood.[14]

Notable people[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ http://www.rightmove.co.uk/commercial-property-to-let/property-46153942.html. Consett is an established market town, with a residential population of 24,828 (according to the 2011 Census).  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  2. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 27 September 2007. Retrieved 16 December 2007. 
  3. ^ a b c Steel Towns: From Boom to Bust, BBC Nation on Film
  4. ^ a b Kearney, T. (1990) A Social History of Consett 1840-1990, DCA
  5. ^ Beynon, H. & Hudson, R. (1986) 'Nationalised industry policies and the destruction of communities: Some evidence from North East England', Capital and Class
  6. ^ Eyles, J (1980) The Diary of a Closure: BSC Consett Works December 1979 - December 1980
  7. ^ "The Consett Timeline". Made of Steel. 17 January 2013. Retrieved 13 May 2016. 
  8. ^ Beynon, H. & Hudson, R. (1986) 'Nationalised industry policies and the destruction of communities: Some evidence from North East England', Capital and Class
  9. ^ Amelia Gentleman. "Local authority cuts: one year on | Society". The Guardian. Retrieved 13 May 2016. 
  10. ^ "Industrial Units to be built on Consett Steelworks". 
  11. ^ "How Consett coped with steelworks catastrophe". 
  12. ^ "Opening of the new Consett Leisure Centre". 
  13. ^ "Consett Academy". 
  14. ^ "Salvation Army Brass Bands, Salvation Army Brass Instruments, brass instruments, sheet music". Brassbandinformation.co.uk. Retrieved 13 May 2016. 
  15. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 21 January 2015. Retrieved 17 March 2015. 
  16. ^ The Journal (Newcastle, England) 29 April 2010 Peter McCusker: Tributes paid to golf's 'true gentleman'
  17. ^ Barratt, Nick (25 August 2007). "Family Detective - Rowan Atkinson". The Daily Telegraph. 
  18. ^ a b c "Honorary degree for opera couple". BBC News. BBC.co.uk. 19 July 2006. Retrieved 19 September 2008. Graeme Danby was born in Consett and studied at the Royal Academy of Music in London. He is Principal Bass with the English National Opera. 
  19. ^ Tunney, John (4 September 2008). "Big night for Sir Bobby sells out". The Journal. Retrieved 19 September 2008. 
  20. ^ Paul Lester. "Paddy McAloon: 'I'll do without an audience to make the music I want' | Culture". The Guardian. Retrieved 13 May 2016. 
  21. ^ "Rams' match remembers John Robson". BBC. 3 August 2004. Retrieved 4 September 2010. 
  22. ^ Nick Smurthwaite (21 March 2005). "Million pound notes - Keith Strachan". The Stage. Retrieved 23 March 2010. 
  23. ^ "Discography at Discogs". Discogs.com. Retrieved 21 February 2015. 

External links[edit]

Media related to Consett at Wikimedia Commons