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Bessemer Plant, Cleveland Works

This is an image of the Bessemer plant at the Cleveland Works; they were in pairs and one was always producing basic iron and the other ferro-manganese (which was used for alloying the steel at Skinningrove).

Rob Proctor informs us ”The word “Bessemer” could cause some confusion to the uninitiated reader , as it is a steelmaking process whereby air is blown through the liquid iron .The blast of air oxidised the impurities which as they burnt off conveniently raised the temperature of the metal so that the finished steel could be poured out . The vessel resembled a “tulip” sat on a pair of trunnions which could be tilted to the horizontal for the addition of hot metal and then turned into the vertical for the blow. The reason for name “Bessemer” for a blast furnace plant was because either one or two of these units had been sited there in the past”.

Andrew Mains advises: ”I worked on these two furnaces in the 80’s and early 90’s before they were shut down. There were two furnaces going together, but this changed when demand dropped, so it went down to one furnace operation. They were named no 4 and no 5 furnaces and the plant name was changed to Cleveland Iron.”

Arthur Ormrod tells us: ”The survival of the Bessemer blast furnaces was down to their, relatively, small size and their consequent suitability for smelting manganese and ferromanganese. Manganese was a metal of strategic importance, it was vital in both making steel and in hardening steel, armour-plate for example.  Consequently, there was a government supported cartel to secure it’s manufacture within the U.K.  Dorman Long was one of, originally five, later four, iron making companies which kept a small blast furnace available for the smelting of ferromanganese.  It required higher temperatures than iron smelting and consequently the wear on the furnace was greater.  One by one the other plants closed down, Darwin & Mostyn first, then Lancashire Steel and Workington, both by the BSC, leaving the Bessemer blast furnaces as the sole source of manganese smelting in the UK and that is why this relatively elderly plant survived into the 1990′s. Today, manganese is smelted in electric furnaces.”

Many thanks to Rob Proctor, Andrew Mains and Arthur Ormerod for those updates.

1 comment to Bessemer Plant, Cleveland Works

  • Mick Mavin

    Not sure if this is the Bessemer plant at Cleveland works, more like the furnaces at Warrenby. The skip hoists are in the wrong position for it to be Cleveland works, as I remember the high line being just passed the old Cleveland coke ovens,with the wagons running up an incline. it appears that these are fed via wagon hoists.

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