Lost Chesterfield Industries – the Tube Works: part 2

The final part of our concise overview of the Chesterfield tube works is presented in this blog. It’s an edited version from our forthcoming VCH spin-off book on Hasland, with some new information added about the concern’s more recent years.

This 1950s map shows the tube works facility on either side of Derby Road. In 1956 the works occupied over 16 acres on a site of 36 acres. The premises towards the top (northwards) of Byron Street are that of Bryan Donkin & Company. (Ordnance Survey , 6-inces to 1 mile, sheet SK37SE – A, 1968. Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland, National Library of Scotland – Map Images (nls.uk)).

The1950s saw a programme of programme of modernisation and expansion. In 1950 a new factory to make small cylinders from steel tube was opened (the Alma Works). For a time the company was the largest producer of cylinders in the world. A new hot mill for weldless steel cylinders was opened in 1955.

In 1956 the works occupied over 16 acres on a site of 36 acres. By that date the company had made over 8 million cylinders for compressed and liquid gases for use in shipyards, steel mills, mines, aircraft, hospital and many other locations.

The largest of the presses at the Derby Road plant was installed in the 1960s, remaining in use until the site closed. In these years products included the traditional range of seamless steel cylinders for all kinds of gases, hot- and cold-drawn seamless steel tubes, seamless steel headers for boilers and superheaters, seamless steel water and steam boiler drums and pressure vessels, and stainless steel drawn and extruded tubes.

In 1962 the Tube Works occupied 50 acres, had over 2,000 employees, and produced 2,000 tons of cylinders a month. The works had its own St John Ambulance unit, medical and dental surgeries, and a large sports and social club with its own premises at Bank Close, off Hasland Road. In 1963 the stainless steel businesses of Accles & Pollock and Talbot Stead were amalgamated to form TI Stainless, to which the stainless division at Chesterfield was added in the 1970s.

In 1974 new forging plant was installed at Derby Road for the manufacture of industrial cylinders. The company also made tubes from sterling silver for ICI which were used in photographic processing.

This September 2005 view shows how the large shed-type structures that were part of the Tube Works dominated the Derby Road part of the town. This photo was taken from the top of The Pavements car park. (Courtesy Philip Cousins).

In 1970 the company claimed to be the world’s largest maker of precision steel tubes in sizes up to 660 mm. in diameter for automotive, nuclear and others.

In 1987 the stainless-steel portion of the business, now known as TI Stainless Tubes, was acquired by the Sandvik Group and was renamed Sterling Tubes Ltd. Investment of over £2m. in new plant followed and around this time the company was exporting over 70 per cent of its output. In 1976, 1982 and 1987 the company received the Queen’s Award for Export Achievement. In 2001 Sterling Tubes’ Chesterfield and Walsall manufacturing sites were closed.

TI Chesterfield’s letter stamp, proudly proclaiming that they were ‘tube and gas cylinder makers to the world’. (Collection Philip Cousins).

1988 saw the remainder of the business, TI Chesterfield, purchased by United Engineering Steels, a joint venture by the British Steel Corporation and the GKN Group, and renamed Chesterfield Cylinders. In 1995 the plant became part of BSC Forgings Division, which two years later was bought by United Engineering Forgings. In 2001 it was taken over by EuroCylinder Systems of Germany who sold the specialised cylinders business to a management buy-out in 2004. The former high volume manufacturing division for standard cylinders appears to have been closed. The surviving company’s name was changed to Chesterfield Special Cylinders (trading as Chesterfield Cylinders). The company had to relocate, achieving this by a move to Meadowhall in mid-2005.  Just before the move to the new premises the company updated its logo to CTCO. This resurrected initials first used, it was claimed, in 1927 as a cylinder head stamp, for Chesterfield Tube Company. Housing now covers the entire main entire site, with a leisure park having been built in then late 1990s on the former site of the 1950 new factory (Alma Works).

The new Cinema World complex is under construction on the site of the former TI Chesterfield’s Alma works in early 1998. The gates in the foreground and the lamp standard are remnants of the former works entrance. Not only was a manufacturing facility once here, but also a well-equipped apprentice training centre. (Collection Philip Cousins)
End of an era. Discarded industrial cylinders make a sad sight looking over their probable birth place, then being cleared for housing. An April 2006 view. (Courtesy Philip Cousins).

Please note that the photographs in this blog will not appear in our Hasland book.