Steel City: Entrepreneurship, Strategy, and Technology in Sheffield, 1743-1993

By Geoffrey Tweedale | Go to book overview

10
Rationalization and Nationalization

The Victorian era in Sheffield steel did not end until the 1960s.
Bernard Cotton (Osborn chairman), interview with author, 8 July
1991.
Let there be no smugness in [Sheffield] about full order books, lower
unemployment ratios, or relative absence of disruptive labour dis-
putes--all admirable factors in their own way--as long as it is true, for
example, that the UK motor manufacturers' share of the total Euro-
pean market is declining.
Kenneth Lewis (Master Cutler), Cutlers' Hall, 20 Oct. 1973.

In 1964 the members of the Iron and Steel Institute made one of their periodic pilgrimages to Steel City.1 Sheffield was still the most famous name in steel and when the Institute toured the city they found an industry that still bore the hallmarks of its nineteenth-century heyday. In structure and products, in location and ownership, Sheffied was still recognizably the place that the Institute had first visited in 1905. It certainly remained the city that the Institute had seen in 1933, since apart from some merging of interests the names and ranking of the leading firms (shown in Table 10.1) had remained very much the same. The Sheffield special steels industry had entered the decade on a confident note: order books were buoyant and production was at record levels after the advances of the 1950s. Sheffield made about 3 million tons of ingots and castings in 1960 (a year when every area enjoyed very full employment in steelmaking capacity). This was only a small part of the national total of over 24 million tons, but Sheffield's continued preeminence was demonstrated in its dominance of alloy steel production (over a million tons out of a national total of 1.6 million in 1960). The Iron and Steel Institute's visit was well timed, as in 1964 steel production in Sheffield (especially from its electric furnaces) was expected to take a big leap forward as the development plans of the late 1950s came to fruition.

About £150 million had been spent on the post-war modernization of Sheffield steel, with United Steel and the ESC amongst the largest individual spenders. United Steel's SPEAR project at Steel Peech, & Tozer,

____________________
1
British Steelmaker, 30 ( Aug. 1964), devoted a whole issue to the Iron & Steel Institute's visit to the city.

-331-

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