There had been a long tradition of steelmaking in the West Midlands dating right back to the furnaces in Coalbrookdale where the world’s first iron bridge was manufactured. These photographs are a record of the men who worked in the last steelworks in the West Midlands in Bilston, and the last hand rolling mill in Birchley. Within four years the Thatcher government’s industrial policy decimated the steelworks, the foundries, and thousands of smaller metal working industries in the West Midlands.
Blast furnacemen always christen their furnace with a woman’s name, this furnace was called Elizabeth after the new monarch in 1953.
The steelworks in Bilston ran at a profit. It depended upon recycling the vast quantities of scrap metal available from the myriad of metal working factories that surrounded it in the Black Country.
The steelworks at Bilston was the most significant employer in the area. 1,800 people worked there, and it underpinned the economy of the town.