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Teesside steel 'transformed the global landscape'

Published 01/10/2015

Dorman Long built Sydney Harbour Bridge in the early 1920s
Dorman Long built Sydney Harbour Bridge in the early 1920s

With the steel industry on Teesside once again on the brink, one expert has said the impact it had on the world will never be forgotten.

From Shanghai to Cairo and Sudan to Australia, steel workers from Redcar transformed the global landscape.

This was seen through the building of iconic structures at home and abroad and opening up new trade routes in Africa.

Dr Joan Heggie, research fellow at the Social Futures Institute at Teesside University, said without Teesside steel the world would be totally different.

"I just don't know what the world would look like if there had not been structures made, created, thought about and transferred into actual things from Teesside," she said.

After a number of companies were amalgamated into the dominant one, Dorman Long, Dr Heggie said one of the first commissions they got was the Sydney Harbour Bridge in the early 1920s.

"So they put in the tender and got the contract and built the bridge," she said.

"On the back of that they started building all around the world and you can practically put a pin in any continent and find something that has been made on Teesside, shipped out and built.

"They built the Storstrom Bridge in Denmark, and in Africa they built a number of bridges.

"These were incredibly inventive because the steel they used had to be light enough to be transported through essentially jungle.

"The workers were sent from Teesside by ship and lived on site for a couple years until it was built and they opened up parts of Africa that hadn't been open to trade before.

"There are bridges in the Middle East, Cairo and Asia and large amounts of the Indian railway system were built with Teesside steel."

She said that without the steel industry, Middlesbrough itself would not have existed, as well as so much that people take for granted.

"There just wouldn't be structures there that everyone knows, like railway bridges over rivers or the buildings they work in," she said.

"It's something as humble as the local swimming baths to something as grand as the Indian Embassy building in London. Or a railway bridge that people are squatting on in India because they have nowhere to live, but underneath it says Dorman Long, Middlesbrough."

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