With demolition work on the blast furnace and major steelmaking structures scheduled to begin next week (2 August), the Teesworks Heritage Taskforce has today (26 July) published its plans to celebrate the history of the site.
A collection of items from the Coke Ovens, Sinter Plant, Blast Furnace, Steelmaking Plant and maintenance workshops will be removed carefully and safely stored ahead of the demolition work. Videos, 3D modelling, and photos will also be used to celebrate the heritage of the former Redcar Steelworks site and will also serve as an inspiration to its transformation and future development.
The independent Teesworks Heritage Taskforce, chaired by Jacob Young MP and Kate Willard OBE, was established by Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen in September 2020 and it has now revealed how work to document the site is progressing, ahead of the major demolition projects.
Over the past few weeks, Taskforce members including John Baker – who has spent more than 50 years in the steel industry – and Teesside historian Dr Tosh Warwick have been meeting workers from the plant to identify which items could be practically reclaimed from the site and used in future exhibitions. The Tees Valley Combined Authority team will work with local authorities, museums and other groups to decide how to best display the preserved items, which will include the last slab of steel cast in Teesside.
A major project now under way is documenting the various Teesworks structures, with drones capturing extensive imagery so they can be utilised in the development of a 3D model of the site.
The group has also worked with Historic England to record key elements of the site through ultra high-resolution pictures of Teesworks and its redevelopment. Local photographers have been recording the progress of the transformation of the site too, alongside film footage in and around the plant – including 360-degree videos – time lapse cameras and drone flights filming from the air.
Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen said: “It is great news for Teesside, Darlington and Hartlepool that we are making such rapid progress with the redevelopment of the Teesworks site. This is already bringing good quality local jobs to the area and is paving the way for thousands more.
“As we move forward with this project, it is incredibly important that we remember the heritage of the site which has been at the heart of Teesside for many years. The Taskforce has been doing some great work to ensure that our proud history of iron and steelmaking is at the forefront of our minds as the new and exciting industries are established on the site.
“I would like to thank them all for the work and recommendations they have brought forward to the South Tees Development Corporation Board.”
Jacob Young, MP for Redcar and co-chair of the Heritage Taskforce, said: “We’re working with some brilliant local photographers and videographers who have been visiting every three weeks to document what’s happening, alongside Historic England, and they all know first-hand the importance of what we’re doing here.
“We have looked at retrieving artefacts of our history and John Baker and Dr Warwick – two people who know the site best – have left no stone unturned to secure some significant items which will be of huge interest to many. Bearing in mind that when the site was liquidated nearly six years ago, many assets and plant items were removed by previous owners as part of that process. Members of the site team have been very extremely helpful in assisting us with retaining poignant and quirky memorabilia.
“Where we haven’t been able to take things, we’ve recorded it in another way – with 3D modelling underway to eventually provide virtual tours and by using geotagging technology, we can record the changes in the site’s landscape with pinpoint accuracy.”
Kate Willard OBE, co-chair of the Heritage Taskforce said: “We’ve been working incredibly hard to do the site and its redevelopment proud, covering as many areas as possible to make sure these records can be used in lots of different ways, to tell the story of the steelworks for generations to come.
“Historic England has recognised that the work being carried out as being best practice for this kind of pivotal industrial site. It’s been great to work with them, and all of the ex-steelworkers who have been drafted in to help us correctly label, describe and document many of the thousands of images we’ve taken.
“At every stage, we’ve kept the voices of the individuals and communities at the front and centre of everything we’ve tried to do. But we’ve also been keeping one eye firmly on the future and the brilliant opportunities that will come with Teesworks’ transformation.”
Cllr Mary Lanigan, Leader of Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council, said: “The Teesworks site provides a vital opportunity for thousands of new, well-paid jobs to come to Redcar and Cleveland and to improve the lives of many families. However, we should never forget the legacy of the steel industry which made our borough what it is today and gave a career to so many of our residents.
“We will always be proud of what our steel industry has achieved and the great work it continues to do. That is why it is so important that future generations also appreciate the massive impact it has made and I’m pleased to see that part of our heritage will be retained to allow this to happen. It is really important that the balance between the success of the past and the potential for the future is balanced in a way which will do justice to our borough.”