#579 – Steeltown Panorama – Scunthorpe

After visiting Rotherham, I headed for Scunthorpe, as I’d booked to go on a train ride round the steelworks with the Appleby and Frodingham Railway Preservation Society. The society are based on the steelworks site and run brake van tours of the steelworks railway system, but more about that in upcoming posts.

Before I went on site, I wanted to capture a scene that I’d been alerted to by a contact on Instagram. I’d had a similar scene in mind with the BOS plant overlooking the new housing estates, but this was a much better option.

Unlike, the similar photograph I took of Rotherham, I could use my DSLR for this, albeit with a 100-400 lens which when attached to my Nikon weighs ten times more than the little Panasonic compact I used in Rotherham. Fortunately the vantage point was more accessible and I managed to get what I consider a worthwhile photograph.

I think that this is the ‘storytelling’ photograph I wanted to find. For me it tells the story of the town and the looming presence of the steel industry in the towns life and landscape.

Scunthorpe is a steel town, thats all there is. Oh sure, there are retail parks and warehouses, and there is a buffer of light industry between residential areas and the main entrance to the works. But there are numerous businesses on and around the site that are there solely to serve the works and when you look at a satellite view of the town you see that the steelworks site makes up around a quarter of the towns area. While there are other jobs in the town and the local population is doubtless far more mobile than in years gone by, it does make you wonder how reliant the town is on the works. Closure won’t be as devastating as it was to steel towns like Consett in the 70’s, but along with Barrow-in-Furness and maybe Port Talbot, it’s as close to a one horse town as you’ll get these days.

The place is currently owned by British Steel, so to an extent has come full circle in terms of name at least. In reality, it’s owned by the Chinese Jingye group, which is ironic given the dumping of Chinese steel on international markets that contributed to the crisis in the British steel industry. But the takeover saved 3000 jobs, so it wasn’t a bad thing – in the short term anyway. Let’s see what the future holds.

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