Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen has today (16 March) revealed that he has teamed up with Cleveland Police’s Chief Constable to help create prestigious new medals forged from iron taken from the Redcar Blast Furnace.
Following talks with Chief Constable Richard Lewis, Mayor Houchen has pledged to supply him with enough material for 200 medals.
Each year, one would be awarded to a member of the public recognising their special contribution to the area, with another awarded to a Cleveland police officer, member of staff or volunteer. There will be a high bar set for the criteria to win the award, with it only given to those who are most deserving of this new noteworthy accolade.
The new medals are inspired by the origins of the Victoria Cross, which was said to have been forged out of metal taken from Russian cannons captured during the Crimean War and represent the region’s pride in our steelmaking heritage. Coming from an area of Wales known for steelmaking, the Chief Constable understands the deep connections a community can develop for the industry.
The medals will be forged by Middlesbrough’s oldest foundry, William Lane Foundry, which also created the Teesworks commemorative coins out of some of the last iron from the furnace. Since their launch just over a week ago, more than 1,100 have been sold, with more than £11,000 donated to charity.
Mayor Houchen said: “When the Chief Constable came to me with his idea for this new medal, I thought it was brilliant and inspired. In regenerating the former steelworks site, I’ve come to appreciate more than ever the special place iron and steelmaking holds in our hearts and so I jumped at the chance to be able to help.
“We have made it clear that while we are looking to retain heritage assets on the Teesworks site, we would not be able to keep the blast furnace. What better way then to recognise its importance than by using it to award our best and brightest – those in our communities that are making a huge difference to where we live?
“As with our Teesworks coins, for which orders are coming in thick and fast, these medals will be created by local foundry William Lane, making them even more special. I can’t wait to see the finished product and hear the stories of the first deserving recipients.”
Chief Constable Lewis hopes to involve members of the public in the decision making around what the award should be like. More details of how people can get involved will be revealed in the coming weeks.
He said: “Teesside is known across the world for the quality of its products and chief amongst those is our steel. The iron ore mined in our hills has built the world. Our steel and engineers have created structures that include railway stations in Brazil, river crossings in Africa, Lambeth Bridge in London and most famously the harbour bridges in Auckland and Sydney.
“Our history and our heritage is important; it shapes who we are and the characteristics of our communities. Just like steel, our communities are strong and adaptable. They, like our steel, have also been forged in the whitest of heat.
“The fact that the award will be forged from the original material of the Blast Furnace binds it to our area and our proud history. It represents the essence of who we are as a community. This is a special part of the world and I promise that this will be a special and well-regarded institution at the centre of our proud area. This award will highlight the very best of us.”