Samuel Fox and Company or “Fox’s” is the commonly used name for the major steel complex built in the Upper Don Valley at Stocksbridge, near Sheffield, South Yorkshire, England.
Samuel Fox bought a disused corn mill close by the centre of the town in 1842 and made alterations so that he could produce wire for the manufacture of textile pins. Within 6 years the business began to manufacture wire for umbrella frames and he developed his own variant, the “Paragon” in 1851. Expansion continued and by the mid 1860s furnaces and rolling mills had been built and the production of railway lines and springs begun.
Road transport in the area was difficult and with larger products being manufactured a new outlet was required. In the 1870s a short branch line was built to link the works with the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway at Deepcar. This was known as the Stocksbridge Railway which was a subsidiary of the main company until the early 1990s. The line is still open (2006) and handles regular traffic to and from the works.
The Stocksbridge Railway was a subsidiary of Samuel Fox and Company and linked the company’s works at Stocksbridge, near Sheffield, South Yorkshire with the main line of the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway at Deepcar.
The line was opened in 1876 and became a subsidiary of the steel company, under various ownerships, until 1992 when it ended its separate existence.
Passenger services on the line commenced on 14 April 1877, making use of the bay platform of Deepcar station, to a platform in Stocksbridge, on the edge of the works complex. The service ceased in 1931.
Samuel Fox & Company joined with Steel, Peech and Tozer of Rotherham and Scunthorpe-based Appleby-Frodingham Steel Company to form the United Steel Companies after the First World War. Products from various sites were coordinated, each works specialising in a particular range. At Stocksbridge they specialised special steels, particularly the various grades of stainless steel.
The United Steel Companies were a steel making, engineering, coal mining and coal by-product group based in South Yorkshire and Lincolnshire.
The company was registered in 1918 and the following year saw a joining together of steel makers Samuel Fox and Company of Stocksbridge; Steel, Peech and Tozer of Templeborough and Ickles in Rotherham; the Appleby-Frodingham Steel Company of Scunthorpe; and the coal mining and by-products interests of Rother Vale Collieries at Orgreave, Treeton and Thurcroft.
Over the years other companies were added to the portfolio:
The Sheffield Coal Company, owners of Birley Collieries, Brookhouse and North Staveley collieries, was bought by the United Steel Companies in 1937. This also included coal by-product operations at Orgreave and Brookhouse, suppliers of Metallurgical Coke for Blast Furnaces.
The Kiveton Park Colliery Company was taken over in 1944 with reserves from, amongst others, the Barnsley seam being an attractive proposition. The facilities also included coke and coal by-products (including gas). The colliery interests became part of the National Coal Board at nationalisation. The coke ovens closed in 1956 and the colliery in 1984.
In 1945 the mining portfolio was increased with the purchase of the Shireoaks Colliery Company, the colliery being just over the Nottinghamshire border. As with all their collieries this became part of the National Coal Board in 1947.
The Yorkshire Engine Company was bought by the United Steel Companies Limited in 1948. It was said there were two reasons for the purchase. With United Steels wanting new locomotives following the end of World War II the opportunity arose to purchase the company at a good price and also a suggestion to centralise the engineering workshops which would serve their steelworks at Templeborough (Rotherham) and Stocksbridge. The works, at Meadowhall, closed in 1967.
The iron and steel works on nationalisation became part of British Steel Corporation and the mining interests passed to the National Coal Board. The coal by-products plants came under the ownership of a subsidiary, The United Coke and Chemical Company.
Nowadays the steel interests at Rotherham, Scunthorpe and Stocksbridge are part of Corus and all the mining interests have been closed, the last, at Treeton, in the 1990s.
The works, along with other major producers in Great Britain, were nationalised in 1967, to become British Steel Corporation. During the 1980s and 1990s the works became part of a joint British Steel / GKN venture known as “Stocksbridge Engineering Steels” and in 1999 they became part of Corus. The works is still open although steel is not made on the site, the steel being brought from the main melting site at Aldwarke, near Rotherham.
Plans for future investment was cancelled in December 2005 and the prospect of closure has again reared its head.
The melting was transfered to Aldwarke, although the remelting furnaces are still there. All Stocksbridge is used for now is as a finishing mill. The scrapyard area is awaiting conversion into building land – houses and / or supermarket. The lowyard area, where the design offices bordered, has outline planning permission for shops etc.
The town grew up around the steelworks. The town dates back to the 18th Century when John Stocks, who was living on the site in 1716, built a bridge across the river for his cattle to graze the land on the other side. It was Samuel Fox, from Bradwell in Derbyshire, that founded the Stocksbridge Steel Works in 1851, based in Dentons Mill.
Prior to that, the area was mainly farmland with a few factories making wire and tin emerging in the 1840s. Today, out of a population of 14,000, most families have a connection with the steelworks. Stocksbridge is situated about 12 miles North west of Sheffield, deep in the Pennine Hills.
There are numerous explanations on how Stocksbridge got its name. One is that it derives from the Saxon and means literally Tree bridge or wooden bridge. Another explanation as to the naming of Stocksbridge comes from a person called John Stocks who lived at Stocks Farm. When the town was finally developed it took the name of Stocksbridge.
On a warm, bright, summers day we get the bus to the main gate, wearing high visibilty vests, we walk on the old part what was the disused corn mill. Over the road is a public footpath going past part of this vast site, having been told of live CCTV and Security we keep an eye out. Into the first part of the empty buildings, here had been stripped, we move back onto the Public Footpath and chance our luck at another empty. We walk up to the upper part here we encounter security, oh forgive us mate, we thought it was part of the path, so we walk on back down and back onto the path.
Going past the back of the Old Corn Mill we walk upwards now over looking the other side and older part of the works in the valley, time for a rest for one of us. Off alone I wander and pushing my luck I take a walk down some rusty old steps, we know the old forge is empty but another white van looms, he meets us and becomes a little aggressive, soon we have him talking away for over 15 mins he feeds us we should not be taking images etc,.
We leave him with our web address and tell him if he wants to add more info then please feel free to contact us, now we enter into a path above the old scrapyard and we walk back onto the main Manchester Road, a walk onto the sight where the empty forge stands brings us into the third encounter of security and a lot of could you f-off coming from the poor chap. We walk off, cool as you like, removing the high visibility vests, getting our story right for the Police if they appear. A year ago when we gave this a go we were stopped by them walking into the main town, now for a while we thought just another wander but the bus back into Sheffield put an end to such thoughts.
Though this is a non active site, it has just stopped work, there is as we have said live CCTV and Security who to be frank are arsey, hippies in lose shirts being chilled out made sure they weren’t going to be as we were told. We took our own risk, having been here a few times in the past knowing the public paths was a help, it was very much a live infiltration, to be done only at weekends, you will no doubt encounter Security, we knew we would so was ready for them. We had talked about what we was going to say, using the Public Paths was very much of use, of course go have a look and we hope you get the old forge, we failed on this for now but knowing us we might be back.
This place is vast and well worth a walk round, it can not be recommended enough, it is on The Manchester Road out of Sheffield, park in The CO-OP car park and a walk over the crossing and then follow the Public Footpaths.
Onto some images then: