Most of the information below was compiled for the ‘Steeling Back Memories’ project run by CultureNL which captured memories of Ravenscraig and the steel industry in North Lanarkshire.
Ravenscraig- or The Craig as it is more affectionately known, a giant in the history of Scottish steelmaking, may never have existed had plans for expansion with a new fourth blast furnace at Clyde Iron works (owned by Colville’s Ltd) gone ahead.
However, Colville’s wanted to convert its Dalzell Works in Motherwell to hot metal working, and so the plans were changed. The proposed blast furnace would now be housed at a “new works” near to the Dalzell site on a green-field area flanked between Motherwell, Carfin and Craigneuk. The new site was surveyed in 1953 and a name suggested. Ravenscraig!
At a cost of £22.5 million Ravenscraig took three years to build. Spanning one square mile, the site consisted of coke ovens, a by-products plant, one blast furnace and an open hearth melting shop with three steel-making furnaces. The coke ovens were lit on 3 June, 1957, the blast furnace on 1 Aug (after some preliminary heating), followed by the melting shop on 3 September of the same year. Production of an estimated 400,000 tons of steel per year had begun.
Future expansions to the works would also include the fabrication of a semi-continuous Strip Mill completed in 1962.
At its peak, Ravenscraig employed around 7000 workers and was one of the largest steelworks in Western Europe.
Comments & Quotes
“I had to move to Coltness because our tenement block was demolished to make way for the office block for Ravenscraig in Carfin Road. My Gran and Aunt lived in Meadowhead Road behind the huge blue towers.I worked as a student in the Craig in the summer of 1974.”
William Campbell, The Craig The Industry and You project
How Steel is Made
Steel is an alloy of iron and carbon. To make steel you have to firstly make iron. Iron is made by combining iron ore, sinter and coke. These materials are put into a Blast Furnace and fired. The process produces a molten liquid known as ‘hot metal’, which can then be used to make steel.
The ‘hot metal’ is mixed with scrap metal (iron or steel) and is processed using one of three methods: Basic Oxygen, Electric Arc or Open Hearth. The ratio of ‘hot metal’ and scrap varies depending on the type, quality and strength of steel required. In a leaflet produced by the British Steel Corporation entitled “Making Steel” it explains that the steel making process is not an easy one to describe “… there are many forms of [steel], each with its own specific chemical analysis to meet the various needs of hundreds of different applications.
There are soft steels, hard steels, springy steels, special electric steels and a host of alloys where iron is mixed with other metals to form a wide range of special and stainless steels.”
Once produced the molten steel is then cast into ingots, special castings or slabs.