Steel, Peech and Tozer

Steel, Peech and Tozer

Steel, Peech and Tozer was a large steel maker with works situated at Ickles and Templeborough, in the Don Valley on the outskirts of Rotherham, South Yorkshire, England.


An area of land, almost a crescent shape through Masbrough and Ickles, on the edge of the town of Rotherham, became well known in the late 18th / early 19th centuries through its involvement in iron and steel making and there could be found the works of many of the towns iron masters. Situated between the main turnpike road linking Rotherham and Sheffield and the River Don was built the Phoenix Works, a leading manufacturer of large iron forgings, made using water powered tilt hammers. It is known that the works made forgings for marine engines, shafts for use in paddle steamers and crank axles etc. In a change to their product base, and to reflect this a change of name, 1871 saw the founding of the Phoenix Bessemer Steel Works, making steel through the use of the Bessemer process.

Unfortunately, after just 4 years the company failed and the assets were purchased by Henry Steel. The new company became known as Steel, Peech and Hampton, taking its name from those of the directors. Mr. Hampton left in 1875 and was replaced by a Mr.Edward Tozer, the company changing its name to Steel, Peech and Tozer, a giant in South Yorkshire steelmaking had arrived.

The steel making plant was changed in 1897 when the Bessemer converters were replaced by three Open Hearth furnaces and the processing plant increased with the addition of cogging mills, rail mills and specialist plant for the manufacture of steel springs and railway axles. In 1914, following the outbreak of the First World War many iron and steel companies began producing munitions. In this case the work was added to the normal production, which included many component orders for the military. The Ickles site was proving too small to handle the production, and with steel in such demand, the company extended their works towards the Sheffield boundary, to occupy a site between the main Sheffield to Rotherham road and the Great Central Railway line. The new Melting Shop and Rolling Mills were built over the site of the old Roman fort at Templeborough. The Templeborough Melting Shop, when opened, was the largest melting shop of its type in Europe and contained 14 open hearth furnaces where steel scrap was melted down.


Following the end of hostilities in 1918 Steel, Peech and Tozer joined with Samuel Fox and Company of Stocksbridge and the Appleby-Frodingham Steel Company of Scunthorpe to form United Steel Companies.

During World War II, again, many iron and steel works produced munitions for the war effort, not only munitions but sections for the construction of Bailey bridges, an important assistance to the Allied troops in Italy and following the D-Day landings. Because of its size and known war effort involvement the Templeborough was a prime target for the Luftwaffe.


Since the end of WW2 many industrial companies in South Yorkshire faced problems due to the decline in the need for their products. The large steel producers within the United Kingdom were nationalised in 1951 under the Labour Government, but, just two years later Steel, Peech & Tozer was de-nationalised. By the 1950s Templeborough's open hearth furnaces were in need of replacement and the United Steel Companies set about the task of updating its melting facilities. Plans, under the name “Operation SPEAR” (Steel Peech Electric Arc Reorganization), brought the most modern electric arc furnaces to the company, six of these replacing the 14 open hearth furnaces. When completed Templeborough Melting Shop became the world's largest electric arc steel making plant with a capability of producing 1.8 million tons per year.

Nationalised again in 1967, the works became part of British Steel. It was yo-yo time within the industry, the works was privatized and became known as Rotherham Engineering Steels, returning to become part of British Steel again and, in due course part of a take-over by the Anglo-Dutch company Corus.

With the installation of a continuous casting machine in the early 1980s there was something of a revival in the fortunes of the works, however, this was only to last for 10 years, the giant works melting its last in 1993.


The melting shop was not demolished but, after a period of "sleep", was to become the Magna Science Adventure Centre, one of the more successful of the Millennium projects. The surrounding site is being redeveloped as a Business park.


* Internal works newspaper "Steel News".
* "Rotherham Advertiser" Reports on "Operation SPEAR".

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