Bleak Steel

A series of stoves which make use of the gases from the main blast furnace to heat the air being fed back into it.
A series of stoves which make use of the gases from the main blast furnace to heat the air being fed back into it.

A particularly foggy day in June earlier this year, found me on Coatham Sands beach near the seaside town of Redcar on England’s East coast, exploring the ruins of WWII coastal fortifications, and admiring the colossal, skeletal remains of the old steelworks that towers over this entire region. The plant was once a huge hub of employment, providing jobs for thousands in the area, and its eventual closure in 2015 proved devastating for the local economy, the ripple effects of which are still being felt today.

I busted out the long lens to snap this photo of the (now stone cold) Hot Blast Stoves from behind the perimeter fence – I’d like to get a closer look of course, but with the place littered with infrared sensors and regular patrols, its a little above what I’m used to tackling – indeed a security 4×4 pulled up to presumably sound me out as I poked my camera through the fencing. Still, even from a distance, its a deeply impressive sprawl of industrial engineering with the weather only serving the heighten the forlorn moodiness, as yet more great corroding monoliths phased into view out of the fog as I got closer.

A site of this size will take decades of dismantling and decontamination before it can be reused1, and there have been numerous proposals over what to do with it next – some of which retain the iconic, brutalist Dorman Long coke tower that serves as a major focal point of the area, along with the gargantuan blast furnace.

Hopefully something creative will come of it that brings some much needed jobs back to the area – the idea of a business park is being floated at the moment that seems hopeful, but its hard to shake the feeling that it’ll just be re-zoned and become yet another estate of little boxes – the kind that sap any notion of history out of an area and replace it with middle class beigeness.

  1. Current (probably optimistic) estimates place the length of time for renewal at around 25 years.
Previous
Next