Growing up in Redcar is small; it’s big news when the tiny New Look in town has a job vacancy and an achievement if you get the job. Growing up in Redcar is seeing value in any job, because having a job means you’re doing well. Therefore, a Blast Furnace providing thousands of jobs for several decades was a gold mine for families across the borough.
What has always seemed apparent to me, is Redcar’s bar has been set so low, that jobs are the most important thing. We all know this, and Ben Houchen knows this, just check out all the jobs that have been available at Teesworks for the past couple of years. Advertising that many jobs in Redcar and Cleveland is like attracting moths to a flare.
Political preferences have swung 180 recently, we have elected leaders who have identified our plight after a successful General Election and used pork barrel politics to retain the vote. It has led to Teesport, Teesworks and a 25 million regeneration fund. It seems logical for a town to continue supporting a party which is promising more jobs and to support the demolition of the Blast Furnace, Coke Ovens and the rest of the steelworks site.
The Teesworks developmental plan has changed its stance, and all of our steelmaking structures must come down for jobs. Though, this was not always the case. Back in 2019, the South Tees Master Plan accepted the decades long cultural and historical significance of two structures - the Blast Furnace and the Dorman Long Tower. So what changed?
See section 4.04 where you will find a glorious picture of the now demolished Dorman Long Tower.
To put it simply - money. A simple message to put over to the masses to quell any argument. The plan highlights the ‘numerous examples around the world of where retention of heritage assets from iron and steelmaking industries have contributed to the overall success of regeneration programmes, helping to create national and global identity and recognition.’ This was a major argument by heritage supporters, who pointed out Germany’s ability to retain their industrial buildings, use them for commercial and conservation purposes and creating a vast landscape of heritage and rich identity. Germany consider cultural heritage as important as any other World Heritage Site across the world. But this idea must be deplorable to Ben Houchen, who doesn’t like silly nobodies like me disagreeing with his plan to flatten our identity.
“If people want to stand in the way of jobs and investment then they should leave Teesside because I’m not going to be apologetic for wanting to deliver a bright future for local people.” Inspiring, Ben. Don’t forget to photograph the moment you press the red button on the Blast.
Historic England considered the Dorman Long Tower as ‘a recognised and celebrated example of Brutalist Architecture’ and a ‘rare surviving structure from the C20 coal, iron and steel industries’, and yet she not longer stands, even after an emergency application to Historic England which was overturned by the Secretary of State and was bolstered by lies by Ben Houchen, who tried to gaslight that it was an issue with Historic England. Ben Houchen is not a supporter of our region, but a supporter of his political and business career.
Dorman Long Tower lies in rubble and the Blast Furnace is next and there is nothing we can do to stop it. All that will be left is the Brutalist Steel House, which didn’t see a mucky boot touch its carpeted floors and the walls aren’t tarnished by the hellish heat from making steel. Steel House is not a memorial to those who walked into the Blast Furnace with only overalls, boots and a hard hat to protect them from the heat, dirt and repugnant odours. Steel House is not a memorial for over 100 years of world class steel making, which can be found proudly around the world. If you want to see Dorman Long stamped on a steel girder, if you’re as privileged as Ben Houchen you can buy your ticket to Australia and see if stamped on the side of the Sydney Harbour Bridge - not at the place it was sculpted because the Dorman Long sign went down with the tower.
Redcar already changed in 2013 where it gained a vertical pier, brand new promenade and business hub paid for by the EU. The vertical pier is neat, not too high to look over the flat town, with colourful lights and business space inside. It has a successful radio station and a cocktail bar; the vertical pier gave folks jobs and half decent pizza. It’s become a favoured nighttime shot for local photographers. Yet, a lot of people hate it and have been calling for a traditional pier - an utterly ridiculous ideal in response to an aesthetic they just cannot accept. The vertical pier is a modern take on a pier, it is easier to maintain and there is little chance of the sea destroying it. This is development and moving forward, is it not? We are about to unfold on the demolition of our steel past for promises and flattened lane; is Redcar ready for that? The Blast Furnace is a cultural monument to our steel making past. What will serve as an identifying backdrop of Redcar? The pier?
Redcar and Cleveland is being stripped of what is left of its identity, and it is struggling to accept what it has gained and is due to gain. The vertical pier is despised, regardless of the businesses and jobs it provides and the 25 million town regeneration plan has already been met with arguments about creating a ‘wind tunnel’ on the high street and ignoring the ongoing issue with high business rent and rates. The locals would rather M&S come back to the very same building they occupied and things go back to how they were. Some seem more concerned with an abandoned shop building on the high street coming down than a major symbol of their industrial heritage, which has stood as a monument to the towns success on its outstanding coastline for decades.
I do not oppose jobs or development, but I do oppose the demolition of Redcar’s identity and cultural legacy. Redcar’s aesthetic is being blown to pieces; an aesthetic which separates it from all other seaside towns. There has been little public consultation on the demolishing of our history and it is a ‘like it or lump it’ situation. Whatever promised changes are to come, locals probably won’t like it and they will be stripped of their cultural legacy and Ben Houchen’s legacy will be intact for years to come.
Both my parents worked hard at their low paid jobs. My world was Redcar, having only one holiday abroad in Spain when I was 11 and what days out we did have, therefore are a bright memory that still burns bright.
Our grandparents supported my parents, my wonderful Nana and Grandad were steadfast in their duties to bring us up right, feed us wholesome food and teach us the value of life through family activities and gardening. My grandad stood out among the rest and, as is life, I never truly realised this until I lost him.
My grandad was a wise and steady man. As far as my memory allows, I only ever remember him being fruitfully retired, filling his days with his garden, allotment and fulfilling any duties set out by his love, my Nana. Weekends and summers with them while my parents worked were bright and happy, even on the dull days.
When the sun did shine, Nana and Grandad packed a picnic bag full of food, a blanket and a football and would tell us we are going to the Gare. Me and my brother would get excited, because the beaches and dunes were so fun, and the beach would be warm even though there was always a strong breeze off the point. We jumped in the car together, and watched out of the window while we made the short journey over to Warrenby. I remember the road always seemed so long back then because Grandad appreciated the journey, and he would slow down as he made the bend past the roundabout and started talking about ‘The Works’.
Every time we made that meandering journey along the private road to the beach, Grandad spoke with continued interest in the works, sometimes speaking about his job there, but mostly it was about the work that takes place there and the landscape surrounding it. He would start by talking about the foxes and he pulled over by the first stretch of steel fencing where you get the first view of the blast and its surrounding buildings. We would sit for around 2 minutes in the car, just observing the vast land leading up to the works looking for foxes. I always remember the car feeling so still and feeling a buzz of expectation waiting to see if a fox would jump out from a low lying bush. Waiting and waiting, until Grandad put the car into gear and steadily pulled back out into the road and made his way to the next point.
The next point was always the most interesting, as he gradually tried to look ahead to see if it was happening. He always made an extra manoeuvre when he spotted it, making sure we got the best view from the car. Grandad would line up as best he could to the dark, square tunnel that seemed to go straight back into the heart of the works. He would open the windows and we would be hit by an intense smell of sulphur, and watch in awe as molten hot liquid filled the torpedo. Grandad would explain everything about how steel was made and what happened to it once the torpedos were full. We watched from the car listening to the loud roar of the works as Nana reminded Grandad to quickly close the windows as a turbulence of wind would catch at the entrance of the tunnel and whip intense sulphuric wind in the direction of the car. It was then, once the car was full of that murky egg like smell, that we would continue our drive to the beach.
As we pulled away from the entrance of the torpedo tunnel, Grandad reopened the windows to let the sea air back in and remind us of our destination. The remaining tinge of sulphur always encouraged Nana to make the decision to go further down, and go to the main beach on the right where the wind can carry away the smell of the works.
The sand is still soft on that beach, almost white and light with the sharp grassy dunes to get lost in if you have little legs. The dull ache and movement of the blast no longer moves with the low lapping waves. When you walk down to the beach, you no longer get the thin remnants of the sulphuric grandeur of the works, but a brief and intense smell of dog waste as you pass a monument created by the community of dog walkers who still explore the land. Turns out a multi coloured wind break can’t help you escape any bad smells.
Everything is still now and the wind coming off the point is sharp and empty. You could once never escape the low, reverberating hum of the Blast Furnace at South Gare, a constant vibration through the air and your body as you ran to the meet the sea. Its absence has brought peace to the beach, like the bad air has been sucked out of the room and you can suddenly hear the gulls, oyster catchers and swifts. Yet, I feel fuller thinking of my Nana and Grandad and those car journeys we took when the sun came out every summer.
As the sun lowered in the sky, we packed up our things and we towelled off the sand and jumped back in the car. Meandering through the narrow dunes, watching the Blast Furnace lean closer, the noise grew once more and we slowed down again. This time, it would be to watch the torpedos dump the slag onto the land, slightly further away and protecting us from any unwanted smells. A day at the beach made this observation quiet and less dramatic, peaceful and short with little commentary. Our day had come to an end.