An aerial view of the steel works on Portrack Lane

An aerial view of the companys Malleable works on Portrack Lane, Stockton. The works were originally the Stockton Malleable Works, which started production of puddled iron in 1861, in 1898 they amalgamated with the Moor Steel & Iron Co. and the West Hartlepool Steel & Iron Co. to form the South Durham Steel & Iron Co Ltd, they are now part of the British Steel Corporations tubes division.c1967

53 thoughts on “An aerial view of the steel works on Portrack Lane

  1. Alison your Dads work as an overhead crane driver would have depended on where he worked on the site, plate was offloaded using magnets from an overhead crane, however, within the pipe mill itself, pipes were moved by overhead crane using hooks or straps. In the 70’s each crane would have had 2 slingers to load and unload. Depending on how good the driver was, slingers would stand very close to the lift, not the safest of jobs mind. Although the mill moved to Hartlepool in 2005, Overhead Crane Drivers are still used, and still not the easiest of jobs.26/02/2012 21:19:57

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  2. Colin Muir was best man at my wedding in 1976, he is now a manager on an offshore oil rig. I see Bas Eden and Pete Harris at an annual reunion of old Malleable office staff at the Black Bull in Yarm around Christmas time. 26/01/2012 19:16:02

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  3. Maurice Cutts was works engineer in the 70s and 80s. I knew the Hepples, and the Davies, but don’t remember a Trevor. The electrical engineer I knew well, and was a good mate was Peter Davies, who sadly died some years back.

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  4. Yes David Moody, that’s me, only now it’s gray hair, glasses & sideburns. I remember you from the office downstairs along with Frankie Clarke, Colin Muir, Bas Eden & Pete Harris. The latter two work on the Tata site at Hartlepool, I see them there on a regular basis.

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  5. I worked at the Malleable from August 1966, in Mr Ray Old’s Invoice Department. I moved to the 44 inch pipe mill at Hartlepool around 1970 under Ken Bradshaw and Brian Gard, moved back to the Malleable Cost Department run by Ronnie Paxton 1972/73 in the bungalow near the canteen (next to the gates) along Portrack Lane. I left in 1973 to go to the ICI Petrochemicals Division. I think I remember Bill Mann who worked upstairs from us, if he is the gentleman with dark hair, glasses and long sideboards. I think he may know Eddie Lee who was my best mate in those days.25/01/2012 19:41:45

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  6. I remember a chap at our caravan site as well as John Taylor. Their caravans were next door to each other, he was called Cutts. They never bothered with each other but I do seem to remember him as being an engineer at the Mall and was over John Taylor. Others there were a family group called Davies with one I remember as Trevor who was a chargehand or foreman electrician. Another big family group there were the Hepples with George as Superintendant and Joe an electricians labourer and my father-in-law who was superintendant of the pipe mill. Another was Herbert who was a general labourer working from the maintenance area.

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  7. Bill Mann
    I worked at the Mall from, 1964-1983 and knew Bill George quite well, I did the drawings And Bill and his crew, [I think he was a foreman or chargehand] made the bits and assembled them from my drawings. Other names I remember from the fitting shop back then were John Taylor, Bob Hall, Tommy Richmond, Jimmy Elliott.25/01/2012 10:02:46

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  8. My dad (Ken Booth) worked at the Malliable from mid 70’s until his redundancy in the 80’s he was an overhead crane driver, I wondered if anyone might remember him? I would also like to know more about what his work entailed if anyone can help?

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  9. I think this picture was taken in the mid-seventies or at least the very late sixties. The extreme top left of the picture shows the ASDA shopping complex which was built next to the old Corporation waste dump around 1970. In addition the picture shows that a new road had been built paralleling the single track railway that loops round from Norton and Swainby, as an alternative route to ICI Billingham. At this time this branch line may still have been in action since the concrete bridge under Portrack Lane can still be seen

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  10. Hi Jim, so sorry to hear about your mam, my mam was really upset, I have so many fond memories of your Mam and Dad. I remember you in your pram in Doncaster Cres, your parents were probably one of the first to move in. Mam still visits your Dad its so nice after all these years that they remain true friends. The Mallable turned out some of the best tradesmen

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  11. I served my aprenticeship as a fitter/turner at the MAL from 66 to 70 after working for 1year as an office boy at the pipes pay office. I worked there because 1/I swam for stockton,but 2/my grandfather was the head roller there in the 40s/50s when it was a rolling mill. – Rossa Davies.
    I remember with great affection my time there in the pipemill, tanks,engineering, and other places I CANT REMEMBER [ possibly age] including the one near the canteen.
    I remember at lunchtime going to the bloodtubs [I think real name portrack social club]or the Flash,again cant remember the real name,but remember my dad telling me [he was a old Stockton boy] that it would open on the morning as the night shift would finish,rolling was a very hot vocation.
    In the pipes dept.I remember vividly the first job of the morning was to go to the top of the hydro water towers [to create presure for the bending rolls],and tighten the glands on the packing,which was a lousy job.
    I remember fondly some of the people I worked with including Forman Jimmy, I can’t remember his surnam. As apprentices, we were not allowed to work overtime, but if you were any good Jim would let you and somehow put your clocking in card to someone friendly to the pipes dept.
    Others I remember were George Cook,forman on lagging also head trainer for Stockton Swimming club, who unfortunatly was killed not far from the Pipes main gates when riding his bike home, he was hit by a car.
    Ronnie Patterson,a fellow apprentice who was a character and a good bloke.
    Then of course George Pinkney,who was again a commitee member of Stockton Swimming Club,and whose son Dave worked at the Mall, all good people,and remembered with much fondness. I hope this has helped with a few bits of info,as although I’ve lived overseas for most of my adult life, I still have great memories of my apprenticeship and the the Mall
    Regards David Davies.

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  12. My Dad Jacky Cook worked at the Mallable, served his time there as a plater, then went to work for Head Wrightons after working there for 19 years. Ironically he went back to work for British Steel and was there until he retired. Some of his mates were Tommy Pitt and George Parker, my uncles also worked there Ronnie Tom and Cuthie Cook. Dad passed away 4 years ago and it did my heart good to see many of his old workmates mainly the younger ones, they were like a family.

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  13. My dad, Colin Harris, worked at the malleable for 27yrs I believe, finishing in the late 80’s. I’m not certain of the exact name, but I’m sure he used to make sure that the steel pipes were ‘true’ round, by use of a hammer or whatever else. He then moved to JCB driving, still at the malleable.
    My biggest memory was of walking to the malleable with him every morning, when I’d got ny first YTS job at a painter and decorators called Watershed on Portrack Industrial Est. I couldn’t believe how far it was, and my dad had been doing it for 20yrs!! I remember picking him up with my mam at 4.30pm each day, in her green Sunbeam Rapier Fastback, with all the men streaming out of the gates, amidst a mass of donkey jackets and woollen hats.
    I also have vague memories of a long strike by British Steel workers, in the early 80’s. Although I was only a kid, I clearly remember the negative effect it had on my mam and dad, and the fact that British Steel used the absence from work as an excuse to dock my dads pension by a full year.
    In particular I remember (I think!!) that the NUM, who had been supported by steelworkers during their strike, did not return the favour? Not overly sure of that fact though…
    Like previous posters have said, who’d have thought such a massive part of Stockton life would be no more?

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  14. I served a four year boilermaker apprenticeship between 1974 and 1978 at the malleable. Looking back it was a great place to work with some great blokes such as Colin Wake,the Manssel brothers, Ron Fairby, John Parker and many more I can name. It was a dirty,noisy and looking back by todays standards, safety was poor. The workforce was highly skilled with these skills being passed on to the younger tradesmen. Most of these skills lost with these works closing down. The site made pipes of various diametres, I worked on the specials where bends, ‘T’s were fabricated. There was a good social section with cricket, football, table tennis competitions organised. Social nights known as smokers were held a couple of times a year at the Cons club. These had commedians and strippers and were very well attended, very un-pc by todays standards. Happy days.

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  15. Boilermaker trades were many and varied so here is a list, I hope I have not missed anyone. Template maker, worked on the template benches marking out the patterns for every shape possible in metal of all thicknesses. Circular Plater self explanatory, anything round or not square. Plater, marked off the plates and steel from the templates or the more regular marking off and fabricated the work required. Assembly Plater who assembled the various fabrications, we also had rollers benders and presses which were usually worked by Platers. Anglesmith who bent angle irons of all thicknesses and width’s plus steel beams or joists. Burners who cut the plates or work to size and had a very steady hand as they had to make perfect shaped cuts. Chippers used every type of pneumatic or electric chisel cutting, or stone disc cutting and polishing, they would cut the Vees on plate work for welding. Riveters yes we still had them for various jobs that needed rivets. Holders up, worked with riveters with various tools either pneumatic or hand for holding rivets whilst the riveter knocked them down. Caulkers who sealed joints by using tools to push the gaps closed. Some shops had Blacksmiths who were Boilermakers and I must never forget the Welders who welded pipe work and steel to the very highest standards which meant the had to weld joints to pass X Ray and destructive tests. Boilers and boiler tube welds had to pass the Vulcan inspectors tests. As fine a bunch of tradesmen you would find anywhere and a hard working fun loving mob I was very happy to work with.

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  16. The Malleable has now been closed, and demolition has started, I think a chipper used a air hammer to remove slag or welding splatter.

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  17. My father, also Douglas Fraser, was (I think) works engineer from early 50s to 1955. I recall as a child him working long and hard to install and commission the new pipe mill. He was then, briefly at Cargo Fleet before being transferred to build the new works at Greatham. Does anyone remember him?

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  18. In the late 1970s Head Wrightsons installed a pipe expanding machine & an automatic tack welding machine which had seven welding nozzels working at the same time in the 44 inch mill at Hartlepool B.S.C.

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  19. Fred, re your questions, yes we still make pipes from both cold and hot bent plate, depends on the size and thickness, smaller diameters 18/20″ and thicker wall pipes will be bent in the furnace, but most of our plate bending is done cold. However, our main pipe product in recent years is supplied heat treated generally Stress Relieved or Normalised, generally for the export market.

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  20. I had never heard of arc gouging until Mr Carter mentioned this. I looked it up on the web and it sounds awful, noisy as well as giving a lot of fumes. So it would have been bad on the eyes, ears, taste and back! I hope Mr Carter and Mr Marley were paid by the inch! They deserved it!

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  21. I also served my time as a chipper at the Malleable alongside Lol. We did cut out weld defects, among other things. Butts were cut back for the welders to weld, and an awful lot of grinding had to be done, it was hard graft. Arc air gouging took over from chipping. It wasn’t as hard going as chipping but it was a lot dirtier and there were a lot of thick fumes so air masks had to be worn. Thankfully I dont do that anymore.

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  22. Many thanks for the information, Mr Jenkins. Could you also tell me if the pipes were cold bent from plate, or whether they were heated in some way? If the plates were cold bent, were they stress-relieved? I believe that up to about 1951 the Malleable could do a complete job, producing steel from scrap and ore, rolling the blooms into plate, and then turning this into welded pipe. Can anyone confirm this please? I am sorry, however, to hear about the closure of the Malleable. It lasted 142 years! I have published a picture of the original works on Picture Stockton as the Malleable was in the 1860-70s, when it was making wrought iron.

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  23. I can comment on the “Malleable” from 1974 to the present time, the last pipe welded at the works in Stockton was in 2005, it was then moved next to its sister plant the 42″ Mill at Hartlepool, where we are still manufacturing pipe, with a workforce of approx 70, although going through a redundancy situation at present, in response to some of the questions, a chipper repaired defective welds by digging out the defect using a chipping hammer before it was welded back up, very noisy and a lot of vibration, no longer used beacause of the safety issues.

    Plate was sourced from the Hartlepool Plate Mill, but that was closed, we now source our plate from Scunthorpe

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    • If you were walking past the end of a stack of pipes when a chipper started up on a bad weld it was like being in a bell tower. It’s one of the things I blame for loss of hearing these days.

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  24. Can Mr Marley explain what a “chipper” did in the pipe mill? And what were the rolling cones used for? Were the plates for pipe production made at the Malleable, or where they made at Hartlepool? Is the Malleable now closed?

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  25. I knew Mick Ingram, he was a plater. I served my time as a chipper in the pipe mill with him, he worked on the small rolls, rolling cones and other specialised jobs. He worked with a plater called Peter Mansell. Mick Ingrams nickname was granddad, heavy built fella that smoked a pipe, very good natured man.

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  26. I served my time in the constructional drawing office from 1954 to 1959. My section leader was Bill Sickling, the chief draughtsman was Tommy Johnson and the assistant chief draughtsman was John English. I had a great respect for Bill Sickling and John English. I later moved to the Design Office where Bill Gentry was Chief Designer. I can remeber lots of names in both departments, but too many to mention now. I note Colin Secker has contibuted to the Malleable photograph and I guess it”s the Colin Secker who was brought up in Newtown (Londonderry Road)?

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  27. I worked in the Malleable works canteen. I remember filling trays and trays of sausage and bacon for the workers breakfasts. I was in charge of the little shop on the side and I recall everyday when I opened the window the smell from the girls from schummies sausage factory was unbearable but they where lovely girls full of fun. I worked there in 1969

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  28. I am trying to find some key events in the history of the Malleable Works. I think the works started in 1850 when it was producing wrought iron. The Malleable went on doing this until around 1910, since my great-grandfather, Thomas Flatley, was blinded when he was working as a turner-overer on the shingling rolls. These were used to squeeze out the molten slag from the wrought iron blooms. But around this time, I think, the Malleable went over to producing mild steel using openhearth furnaces. Does anyone know when wrought iron production stopped and the open hearth plants began? This might have been around 1900? A clue might come from the statement by Moses Martin who wrote that, according to his mother, her grandfather John Griffiths, was the puddler who tapped the very first run of metal from the furnaces. I presume that these were open hearths since liquid steel is tapped from them.

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  29. The view shown is of South Durham Steel & Iron Co.( 42″ & 84″ Pipe Mill )as it was known at the time of the photo, which dates from 1964/5. The white building section at the top near Portrack Lane is the plate stock bay built in 1964. I worked there from 1964-1983 and knew previous contributers Colin Secker & Richard Little very well.

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  30. Does anyone remember my grandma Mary Wells? She cleaned the offices at what was known as “The Malleable Works”throughout the 1960″s until a few months before her death in 1974.

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  31. Malcolm Corner. I have some photographs and other literature of Rt. Hon. G E P Thornecroft MP President of the Board of Trade at the opening of the New Pipe Works on the 15th Nov, 1955. My Father in Law at the time was a Foreman rising to a Manager there. He was invited to the Luncheon afterwards. He with his 3 brothers after 40+ years service there were all made redundant. As you say at that time, “Who would have thought such things.” Life goes on, most times for the better.

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  32. Bob Irwin. Nice to get a reply. Sorry to hear about Norman but he got to a good age. We thought we would be at the Malleable for life but how wrong can you be, we were made redundant early 70s and I went to BTP Tioxide and lost touch with Norman. I read earlier about your comments of the 0 bus to Norton I used it to go to the drill hall for a penny, getting off at Norton Avenue next stage cost three halfpence.

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  33. Malcolm Corner. I was Norman Scrimshaw”s best friend. I attended his Golden and Siver Wedding Anniversaries. He was a member of the Malleable Club and we met there several nights of the week. When he was seventy five he was knocked off his bike by a dog whilst doing messages for nieghbours and broke his hip. He recovered from that but he suffered from severe Arthritus. In 1991 he had a fall at home and broke the opposite side hip. He and his wife Nancy finished up in an old peoples home in Fairfield. The week before his 93rd birthday in 1993 he passed away. What a wonderful Gentleman he was.

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  34. I also worked at the mall. during the 60s in the despatch dept. 40inch mill. Norman Scrimshaw was in charge we were in the terrapin building near the old steam crane. Bob Pearson was in charge of the loaders. We always said this country would never sink with all the pipes buried under it.

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  35. I worked at the Malleable as an apprentice electrician with Derick Ransom. I left the last year of my apprenticeship to go to London with my brother. I remember the Hepple brothers. They were really nice guys. Most everyone that worked there were salt of the earth, down to earth, hard workers. However, there was some “skiving days” especially when it was overtime. Saturdays we were supposed to work an 8 hour shift, but after two hours of work, everyone would hide and either play cards or go to sleep, then get paid for the full day. Does anybody have any photos? I don”t have one, but have some very fond memories.

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  36. Does anyone remember Mick Ingram? He worked at The Malleable for many years. He was my uncle. My Dad Jimmy also worked there for a time as a welding inspector.

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  37. I worked in the test house/chemical labs and then in the x-ray departments in both the “old and new mills” before moving to the Hartlepool 44″ pipe mill. My dad was a welder in the Malleable 40″ pipe mill and my uncle worked in the “fitters shop”.

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  38. My father in law together with the rest of the family worked at the Malleable and all received 40 yrs service watches. They was Bert Hepple labourer, Bill Hepple pipeworks Superintendent, Joe Hepple Electricians mate and George Hepple Electrical Superintendent. There father was also there as Electrical Foreman and also 2 uncles. In all they did over 200 years service there between them

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  39. These works are now part of the Corus Group. After completing my National Service in 1960, I started work in the Engineering Department of the Malleable Works. The total workforce then numbered approx. 2,500. I believe the current workforce numbers less than a hundred.

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