Kingdom Industrial Decline
without steel there could be no Sheffield.
Sheffield Replanned ( Sheffield Town Planning Committee, 1945).
In about 1844, many years after Benjamin Huntsman's death, a visitor to Sheffield had stood and watched the crucible teemers at work, when the industry was getting into full swing. He later wrote that:
no description can give an adequate idea of the scene which is presented. The terrible yawning mouth over which the first man hovers, the glowing mass which he draws forth, the intense whiteness of the liquid steel as it flows into the mould, the profusion of delicate greenish sparks which shoot forth during the pouring-- all form a spectacle which, once seen, will not be soon forgotten.1
Visitors touring a major Sheffield steelworks in 1993--some 250 years after Huntsman's discovery of the crucible steel process--usually have much the same feelings, even though the whole scale of operations has changed. Modern melting shops, such as those for stainless steel production at Shepcote Lane, can be overpowering to the uninitiated both in size, heat, and noise. To feel the air and the walkways vibrate with the deafening crackle of a 130-tonne electric arc furnace is to feel something of the awe with which spectators viewed the doings of the crucible men. At places such as Shepcote Lane, one is struck by the immense size of operations, by the intense heat, by the feeling of danger as huge vessels of molten steel are swung from place to place and as giant red-hot slabs shoot along rollers or are squeezed back and forth between huge presses. One is struck too by the remarkable absence of human activity. In fact, the melters and other workers have become bit players, reduced to minor walk-on-parts against a giant industrial set: they can be glimpsed occasionally in the cab of an overhead crane, at computer consoles in the control room, or more adventurously performing obscure tasks around the furnaces themselves.
The sights at the melting shop at Shepcote Lane can give rise to some conflicting impressions of Steel City, since they take place in an area whose most marked characteristic appears to be one of catastrophic____________________