'Silver Lining' by T Johnstone This photograph by T Johnstone shows Colville's Dalzell Steel Works belching smoke over Motherwell town centre in the 1930s.

‘Steelopolis’: Motherwell and the Steel Industry

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Motherwell sits in the heart of central Scotland and can chart its history as far back as Roman times thanks to its strategic location at a point where the Clyde Valley meets the east-west routes of the Central Belt.

The Common Seal of the Burgh of Motherwell, 1893-1975.

The Common Seal of the Burgh of Motherwell, 1893-1975.

However, the town is best known as the heart and soul of the Scottish steel industry.  Nicknamed “Steelopolis” – steeltown – Motherwell was home to many companies linked directly and indirectly to the steel industry, supplying high quality goods and services worldwide.

Motherwell began its life as a group of small textile hamlets and it wasn’t until the area’s rich natural resources of coal and iron ore were mined, along with the arrival of the railway in the 1830s  that these began to grow into the town it is today. Motherwell’s first ironworks was a malleable works at Milton, to the north.


Motherwell’s first ironworks pictured during demolition in the early 1900s.

Engineering works grew up near the railway, along Park Street in particular and in 1880 David Colville’s Dalzell Iron Works began steel production, soon to be followed by the Lanarkshire Steel Company’s works at nearby Flemington.

By the turn of the 20th century more than 62% of Motherwell’s workforce was employed either in the railway services, coal industry or the iron and steel industry, with more than half this figure dedicated solely to iron and steel.

Not only steel in work but steel in play: it is testament to the importance the steel industry played in Motherwell’s history that its local football team should be nicknamed “The Steelmen”.


Cantilever Crane by the Motherwell Bridge and Engineering Co

This giant cantilever crane was built in Motherwell for a shipyard in Nagasaki, Japan in 1909. It is still in use today.

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