Scunthorpe is a town within North Lincolnshire, England. It is the administrative centre of the North Lincolnshire unitary authority, and had an estimated total resident population of 72,514 in 2010. A predominantly industrial town, Scunthorpe, the United Kingdom’s largest steel processing centre, is also known as the “Industrial Garden Town”. It is the third largest settlement in Lincolnshire after Grimsby and Lincoln.
The town appears in the Domesday Book (1086) as Escumetorp, which is Old Norse for “Skuma’s homestead”, a site which is believed to be in the town centre close to where the present-day Market Hill is located.
Scunthorpe was close to the epicentre (this was centred at Ludford, near Louth) of one of the largest earthquakes experienced in the British Isles on 27 February 2008, with a magnitude of 5.2. Significant shocks were felt in Scunthorpe and the surrounding North Lincolnshire area. The main 10-second quake, which struck at 00:56 GMT at a depth of 9.6 mi (15.4 km), was the biggest recorded example since one with a magnitude of 5.4 struck north Wales in 1984.
Scunthorpe was made up of 5 small villages. These were Scunthorpe, Frodingham, Crosby, Brumby and Ashby. They later joined up to make Scunthorpe as we know today. The town itself lies on a rich bed of iron ore and limestone – crucial in the manufacturing of steel. In 1981 it was decided to close all the local mines and quarries and outsource the iron ore from abroad, the local ore being around 20% iron and the foreign ore being 60–70% iron. At the same time, British Steel closed all its other mining operations around the UK. There are still many millions of tonnes of proven reserves of ore in Scunthorpe but it is cheaper to use imports for the time being.
Ironstone was mined in the area as early as the Roman occupation, but the deposits lay forgotten until the 19th century. The rediscovery of iron ore in 1859 by Rowland Winn on the land of his father, Charles, resulted in the development of an iron and steel industry and rapid population growth.
Iron ore was first mined in the Scunthorpe area in July 1860. Owing to the lack of a mainline railway the ore was transferred to a wharf at Gunness (or Gunhouse), initially by cart then by a narrow gauge railway, for distribution by barge or mainline rail from Keadby. Winn knew that the best way of exploiting the iron ore fields was for a rail link to be built from Keadby to Barnetby. He campaigned tirelessly for the link; construction work started in mid-1860 and was complete in 1864. He persuaded the Dawes brothers, to whose ironworks the ore was being supplied, to build an ironworks at the site of the iron ore fields at Scunthorpe. Construction of Scunthorpe’s first ironworks, the Trent Ironworks, began in 1862, with the first cast from the blast furnace being tapped on 26 March 1864.
Other ironworks followed: building of the Frodingham Ironworks began in 1864; North Lincoln Ironworks in 1866; Redbourn Hill Iron & Coal Company in 1872; Appleby Ironworks blew in their first blast furnace in 1876; and the last constructed being John Lysaght’s Iron and Steelworks in 1911, with production starting in 1912. Crude steel had been produced at Frodingham Ironworks in 1887 but this proved not to be viable. Maxmilian Mannaburg came to Frodingham Ironworks in 1889 to help build and run the steelmaking plant and on the night of 21 March 1890 the first steel was tapped.
Rowland Winn is remembered in the town by three street names: Rowland Road, Winn Street and Oswald Road. He assumed the title Lord St Oswald in 1885. Nostell Road was also named after the family seat Nostell Priory.
The Flixborough disaster in June 1974 damaged local buildings.
Scunthorpe forms an unparished area in the borough and unitary authority of North Lincolnshire. The town forms six of the borough’s seventeen wards, namely Ashby, Brumby, Crosby & Park, Frodingham, Kingsway with Lincoln Gardens and Town. The Scunthorpe wards elect 16 of the borough’s 43 councillors. As of 2008, all are members of the Labour party. The councillors form the Charter Trustees of the Town of Scunthorpe and they continue to elect a town mayor.
North Lincolnshire Council is based in Pittwood House off Ashby Road (former A159) next to Festival Gardens. It opened in 1963 as the Civic Centre, and was the home of Scunthorpe Borough Council until 1996. It was named after Edwin Pittwood, a local Labour politician, who worked in the opencast ironstone workings near Normanby Park. There are also offices at Church Square House near the Scunthorpe Market.
Historically part of Lincolnshire, in 1889 the area was included in the Lincolnshire, Parts of Lindsey administrative county. Separate local government began in 1890 when the Scunthorpe local board of health was formed. In 1894 the local board was replaced with an urban district council. Ten years later the neighbouring townships of Brumby and Frodingham (including Crosby) were also constituted an urban district. The two urban districts were amalgamated, along with the parish of Ashby in 1919 to form a new Scunthorpe urban district. Scunthorpe received a charter incorporating the town as a municipal borough in 1936.
Local authority boundary changes brought the town into the new county of Humberside in 1974, and a new non-metropolitan district, the Borough of Scunthorpe was formed with the same boundaries as the old municipal borough. The opening of the Humber Bridge on 24 June 1981 provided a permanent link between North and South Humberside but did not secure Humberside’s future. To the relief of its many detractors, the county of Humberside (and Humberside County Council) was abolished on 1 April 1996 and succeeded by four unitary authorities.
The previous Humberside districts of Glanford and Scunthorpe, and that part of Boothferry district south of the northern boundaries of the parishes of Crowle, Eastoft, Luddington, Haldenby and Amcotts, now compose the unitary authority of North Lincolnshire. On amalgamation charter trustees were formed for Scunthorpe, and they continue to elect a town mayor.
When Scunthorpe was incorporated as a borough in 1936, it also received a grant of a coat of arms from the College of Arms. These arms were transferred to the new borough council formed in 1974, and are now used by the town’s charter trustees.
The green shield and golden wheatsheaf recall that the area was until recently agricultural in nature. Across the centre of the shield is a length of chain. This refers to the five villages of Crosby, Scunthorpe, Frodingham, Brumby & Ashby linking together as one. At the top of the shield are two fossils of the species gryphoea incurva. These remains of oysters, known as the “devil’s toenails”, were found in the rock strata from which ironstone was quarried. The crest, on top of the helm, shows a blast furnace. This is also referred to in the Latin motto: Refulget labores nostros coelum or The heavens reflect our labours popularly attributed to the glow observed in the night sky from the steelmaking activities.
Scunthorpe lies on an escarpment of ridged land (the Lincoln Cliff) which slopes down towards the Trent. The surrounding environs are largely low lying hills and plains. Although the town itself is heavily industrial it is surrounded by fertile farmland and wooded areas. In terms of general location it lies a mile east of the River Trent, 8 miles (13 km) south of the Humber Estuary, 15 miles (24 km) west of the Lincolnshire Wolds and 25 miles (40 km) north of Lincoln. The town is situated at the terminus of the M181, 42 miles (68 km) from Sheffield. Nearby towns and cities are Hull (18 miles northeast), Doncaster (20 miles west) and Grimsby (22 miles east). From its position at the heart of North Lincolnshire it is roughly 5 miles (8.0 km) south/south-east to Lincolnshire proper, 10 miles (16 km) west to South Yorkshire, 8 miles (13 km) north by northwest to the East Riding of Yorkshire and 15 miles (24 km) east to North East Lincolnshire.
The steel industry is still the major employer in the area and the largest operator within it is the Indian-owned firm Corus. (2011 saw TATA Steel take over Corus) However the industry has shrunk in recent years, following the closure of the Normanby Park works (also known as Lysaght’s) and the huge Redbourn complex in the early 1980s; the number employed in the industry fell from 27,000 at its height to around 4,500 (not including outside contractors, such as Hanson plc) today.
Despite this it is still the major integrated steel works in Britain. There is also a lime works nearby, involved in the production of steel. The cooling towers can be seen close to Brigg Road (A1029). Parts of the plant include the continuous casting plant and the blast furnace and rod mill. Limestone is provided by Singleton Birch at the nearby quarry in Melton Ross. Limestone is used as a flux for the blast furnace, which produces calcium silicate. TATA Steel (formerly Corus) at Scunthorpe has four blast furnaces. These blast furnaces have got names instead of numbers and are the only known blast furnaces to have names. The blast furnaces are named after four famous monarchs and are nicknamed the “four queens”. The names of the four blast furnaces are Mary, Bess, Anne and Victoria.
Other industries in the town include those associated with the steelworks such as engineering, along with food production, distribution and retailing – most of these now employing a large Polish and Slovak workforce. BOC have a plant just north of the town next to the A1029. Near to BOC is the well established waste management firm, Bell Waste Control, which services the majority of industry in Scunthorpe and the surrounding areas. On the Foxhills Industrial Park, north of the A1077 northern bypass, are many distribution companies, notably a large building owned by the Nisa Today co-operative type mutual organisation which has its UK headquarters there. 2 Sisters have a large chicken processing plant in the town. Key Country Foods produces meat products on an industrial scale. The Sauce Company produces sauces, soups and other foodstuffs for the catering and supermarket sectors. Ericsson produces printed circuit boards for the telecommunications industry. There are a number of other firms, mostly involved in manufacturing and light engineering.
The town has struggled to develop after the downsizing of traditional heavy industry in the 1980s and 1990s, and while the town was made a priority development area in that period no multinationals or blue chips have moved in to fill the gap – as a consequence the local labour force mainly comprises semi-skilled and unskilled labour. In the 2001 census 19.3% of the working age population were economically inactive.
According to the Environment Agency in the year 2000, Scunthorpe was home to one of the biggest polluting businesses in the United Kingdom, Corus, whose sites in the town and at Llanwern and Port Talbot produced more dioxins than the next 15 biggest polluters.
The environmental charity Greenpeace also listed the town as a PVC toxic hotspot.
Corus handed the site near Lakeside to TATA Steel, end 2010 beginning 2011.
Scunthorpe has two major shopping centres: the covered Foundry Shopping Centre and the part-covered Parishes Centre. The former was constructed in the late 1960s/early 1970s during a wholesale reconstruction of the old town; the latter was constructed in the early part of the 2000s decade on the site of the town’s old bus station. There are also many well known retailers on High Street but on 6 January 2011 Marks and Spencer closed their store in the town after 80 years of trading
However the size of the remaining retail units reflects the size of the area’s population and with larger shopping facilities within reasonable travelling distance in Grimsby, Hull, Doncaster, Lincoln, Leeds and at Meadowhall, Sheffield many locals often travel to these towns for major purchases.
All the big food retailers are represented in the area; There is a Tesco Extra opposite the football ground, while Sainsbury’s (formerly a Safeway) have their store on the site of the old football ground. Morrisons have a store at the bottom of Mortal Ash Hill (known locally as “Motlash”) (A18 road) at the Lakeside Retail Park, on the eastern entrance to the town while Asda have a store on Burringham Road In 2011 Asda opened another store in the former Netto, on Charlton Street.
Scunthorpe railway station lies on the South TransPennine Line which has trains from Manchester Airport to Cleethorpes. The town lies five miles (8 km) north of the M180. Before this motorway was opened in 1979, all the east-west goods traffic took the A18 to Grimsby. Humberside Airport is a short drive to the east along the M180.
The North Lincolnshire Museum is on Oswald Road, near the railway station. St John the Evangelist Church (built in 1891 by Lord St Oswald) in Church Square is now the 20–21 Visual Arts Centre. The Plowright Theatre, named after Joan Plowright, is on Laneham Street (off the west end of High Street). It was built in 1958 as Scunthorpe Civic Theatre.
In 1981 the comedian and writer Spike Milligan published a book Spike Milligan, Indefinite Articles and Scunthorpe. The inclusion of the town’s name in a comedy book caused much anger in the area to which Milligan replied: “We should like the people of Scunthorpe to know that the references to Scunthorpe are nothing personal. It is a joke, as is Scunthorpe”.
In 1996 there was controversy when AOL’s obscenity filter (among others) refused to accept the name of the town due to its inclusion of the embedded word cunt, which the filter rejected as obscene. Some online forums such as Ultimate Guitar forums (which has recently been resolved) display the name as S****horpe, while Fark.com would display it as Scoonthorpe. This form of censorship overreach is known in the computing world as the Scunthorpe problem.
The Mancunian writer Ted Lewis, who lived in nearby Barton-upon-Humber, featured the town in some of his novels about low-life 1960s gangster Jack Carter. The most famous of these books, Jack’s Return Home saw the main character return from London to his home-town of Scunthorpe to avenge his brother’s death. The story itself was based on the background to the real-life murder of Sunderland fruit machine cash collector Angus Sibbet in 1967, in what was known as the one-armed bandit murder.
The film rights to this book were purchased by MGM who transferred the setting from Scunthorpe to Newcastle upon Tyne and released the film in 1971 as the cult British crime thriller Get Carter, starring Michael Caine in the eponymous lead role. However none of the production was shot in the area, being filmed entirely on location on Tyneside.