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Clydebridge Steelworks

An industrial plant situated in a meander of the River Clyde, the Clydebridge Steelworks is located opposite Dalbeth, 1¼ miles (2 km) east northeast of Rutherglen in South Lanarkshire. Opened in 1877, the plant turned iron into finished steel which was used most famously by the Clyde shipbuilding industry, but also for bridges, in construction, railways, steam engines, locomotives and for armaments.

The works were established by Walter and Hugh Neilson, sons of William Neilson (1810-82) and great-nephews of James Beaumont Neilson (1792 - 1865). The site was chosen owing to proximity to the railway network, the river for cooling water, nearby collieries for fuel and the Clyde Iron Works, constructed at Carmyle on the opposite bank of the Clyde in 1786, which supplied the raw pig-iron. It comprised open-hearth furnaces and plate mills, their number extended over the years. The steelworks was taken over by Colvilles in 1915. The strategic importance of Clydebridge was reflected by visits from King George V in 1917 and King George VI in 1938. Having always been connected to the Clyde Iron Works by rail, the two plants were formally linked in 1939, creating one of the largest integrated steelworks in the UK. Liquid iron was moved to Clydebridge in railway wagons, then mixed with steel scrap, limestone and fluxes, with steel tapped off to form ingots. These ingots were then slabbed and rolled into plates of various thicknesses and sizes according to customer requirements. The plant was briefly nationalised between 1951-55 and again in 1967. By the 1970s, a computer centre at Clydebridge was providing a service across the British Steel Corporation's Scottish plants and offices. The Clyde Iron Works closed in 1977 along with significant sections of Clydebridge, with more going and further job losses in 1982. The remaining operation was returned to private hands in 1988, along with the remainder of British Steel.

The present plant represents a fraction of the steel-mill which once occupied the 57 ha / 140 acre site and employed 3500 people. It no longer makes steel, rather less than 100 workers roll, cut and heat-treat steel plate produced elsewhere.


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