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Christ Church, Consett - - 1446497.jpg
Christ Church, Consett
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Location within County Durham
OS grid reference NZ108511
Unitary authority
Ceremonial county
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town CONSETT
Postcode district DH8
Dialling code 01207
Police Durham
Fire County Durham and Darlington
Ambulance North East
UK Parliament
List of places
County Durham
54°51′N1°50′W / 54.85°N 1.83°W / 54.85; -1.83 Coordinates: 54°51′N1°50′W / 54.85°N 1.83°W / 54.85; -1.83

Consett is a town in County Durham, England, about 14 miles (23 km) south-west of Newcastle upon Tyne. It had a population of 27,394 in 2001 [1] and an estimate of 25,812 in 2019. [2]



Consett sits high on the edge of the Pennines. Its' name originates in the Old English Cunecsheafod ("Cunec's headland"), first recorded in the 13th century. [3] In 1841, it was a village community of only 145, but it was about to become a boom town: below the ground were coking coal and blackband iron ore, and nearby was limestone. These three ingredients were needed for blast furnaces to produce iron and steel.

The town is perched on the steep eastern bank of the River Derwent and owes its origins to industrial development arising from lead mining in the area, together with the development of the steel industry in the Derwent Valley, which is said to have been initiated by immigrant German cutlers and sword-makers from Solingen, who settled in the village of Shotley Bridge during the 17th century.

During the 17th and 18th centuries, the Derwent Valley was the cradle of the British steel industry, helped by the easy availability of coal in the area and the import of high quality iron ore from Sweden via the port of Newcastle upon Tyne. However, after the invention of the Bessemer process in the 19th century, steel could be made from British iron ore (hitherto too heavily contaminated by phosphorus) and the Derwent Valley's geographical advantage was lost, allowing Sheffield to become the leading centre of the British steel industry.

Consett railway station opened in 1896. It remained open for passengers until 1955 and mineral trains continued to pass through the site until 1980 on their way to the steelworks. In November 2020, the Department for Transport approved funding for an initial feasibility study into restoring a rail link to the town. [4] [5]


Consett is part of the North West Durham Parliamentary Constituency, currently represented by Richard Holden of the Conservative Party since the 2019 general election. Before 1983, the town gave its name to its parliamentary constituency: Consett (UK Parliament constituency).

Consett was part of Derwentside District Council, which merged into the Durham County Council unitary authority on 1 April 2009. The Consett area is currently divided into four electoral divisions (Benfieldside; Consett North; Delves Lane and Consett South; and Leadgate and Medomsley), each electing two county councillors.

Consett was part of the constituency of North East England in the European Parliament until 2020.


Consett sits above the rural Derwent valley near the boundary of County Durham and Northumberland. The Derwent Reservoir just west of the town makes a popular leisure attraction and beauty spot. [6]

At about 900 ft (270 metres) above sea level, Consett is the third highest market town in England and one of the highest towns in the United Kingdom. This makes Consett typically at least 2 °C colder than nearby cities such as Durham and Newcastle, and more prone to frost, ice and snow in the winter months.

Consett has amenities such as shops, pubs and night clubs that also serve several villages in its immediate surroundings, some such as Shotley Bridge and Blackhill) contiguous and some not, for example Moorside and Castleside.


Consett steel works seen in the 1940s or 50s. United Kingdom. Consett, England. Night and day, seven days and seven nights a week, whirling smoke cloud rise from... - NARA - 541767.tif
Consett steel works seen in the 1940s or 50s.
Middle Street, Consett Middle Street, Consett - - 510430.jpg
Middle Street, Consett

The Consett Iron Company was established in 1864 as a successor to the original Derwent Iron Company of 1840, when the first blast furnaces were introduced. Over the next 100 years, Consett became one of the world's most prominent steel-making towns, manufacturing the steel for Blackpool Tower and some of the UK's nuclear submarines. [7]

Steel dominated Consett's economy for 140 years, with the steelworks' tall cooling towers and other large plant looming over rows of terraced houses. During the iron and steel era a pall of red dust hung over the town, consisting of airborne iron oxide from the steel-making plant. At its peak in the 1960s, the Consett steel works employed 6,000 workers. It was nationalised to become part of the large British Steel Corporation. Although there was intense competition in the 1970s from British firms and from abroad, Consett steelworks remained relatively successful and still profitable even in the year it closed. As the rolling mills were closed in the 1970s, despite local opposition, there were discussions over the future of the plant as a whole. [8]

Steelworks closure

Consett steelworks had always avoided closure, even in difficult economic times, but in 1980 it was closed with the loss of 3,700 jobs and many more from the knock-on effects in ancillary industries. The unemployment rate in Consett became double the national average. [7] A major plan to restructure steel-making in the UK saw light in the mid-1970s, based on concentrating it in five UK coastal locations, to allow easy import of raw materials and export of finished goods. BSC Consett was not one of the locations, despite being serviced by a well-established rail network, producing high-quality boron steel and being in profit in 1980, the year it was closed.

A deputation of steelworkers lobbied the government in London. [9] The social impact of the decision was often characterised by many of the local people at the time as "The Murder of a Town". [8] After closure of the steel works the town became one of the worst unemployment black spots in Britain. In 1981, it peaked at 36 per cent – one of the worst unemployment rates of any town in the United Kingdom and around three times the national average at the time. [7] [10] The closure marked the end of the Derwent Valley steel heritage, and the decline of Consett as an industrial town. Along with the closure of coal mines, it was also a first step in the decline of all heavy industry in the Derwent Valley. [11]

The last steel ingot from the Consett ironworks was made into a cross and is kept at St Mary's Roman Catholic Church, Blackhill.


Regeneration in the 1990s, through Project Genesis, went only some way towards repairing the damage done to the local economy by these closures. Unemployment came down to the national average, but this was partly due to outward migration and economic inactivity due to long-term illness, neither of which were included in the government statistics. In 2011 Durham County Council, which provides a lot of employment for local people, commenced a three-year plan to reduce its workforce by 1600. [12]

Alongside the public sector, small and medium-sized businesses now provide jobs in the area. The Phileas Fogg Company (County Durham), with its factory in Consett, were mildly famous for a few years from 1988 for their snack food "Made in Medomsley Road, Consett" television adverts.[ citation needed ] It is now owned by KP Snacks (originally part of United Biscuits). The Explorer Group, based in Consett, is the United Kingdom's second-largest manufacturer of caravans. [13] Elddis Transport Limited is based in the town.

Since 2000, there have been several new housing developments on the former steelworks site and surrounding areas. Derwentside College, formerly sited at Park Road, moved to a new campus at Berry Edge in September 2002 and more recently, major retailers have moved in and the site which once made steel for Blackpool Tower and Britain's nuclear submarines is now home to rival Tesco and Morrisons stores, a string of high street outlets and fast food restaurants.

New industrial units are also to be built on the former steel works site, after the Project Genesis Trust secured investment of £358,968 from the Rural Growth Network (RGN) to develop bespoke business premises and offices on part of the site. (The Project Genesis Trust is a body created to regenerate the former steelworks site). [14]

The population soared to 39,000, higher than in the days of steel, and unemployment plummeted. In August 2015, only 420 people were receiving Jobseekers' Allowance, with an official unemployment rate of 1.7 per cent, markedly lower than the rest of County Durham. The wider claimant count of people on out-of-work benefits was 6.3 per cent, half the County Durham average, although it omits those receiving disability benefits, which will be a significant number, given the town's industrial legacy. [15]

A large area formerly used by Shotley Bridge Hospital was sold to a property developer, [16] which began to build a further 400 homes in 2013–2014. This development has now become the multi-award-winning Woodlands Estate. This has further aided Consett's recovery as a top commuter town due to its convenient location between Durham and Newcastle.

Along with the housing developments of the last few years (some still ongoing), there has also been major investment in local amenities, such as a £44-million sports complex in Medomsley Road, near the old sports facilities. [17] This is shared with Consett Academy, which was given a brand new £5.7 million building. [18]

In June 2020, the MP for North West Durham, Richard Holden, sponsored a bid to the Ideas Fund of the Department for Transport's Restoring Your Railway Fund, hoping to access up to £50,000 to cover the cost of an initial study into the feasibility of restoring a rail link [19] between Consett and Blaydon. [20] In November 2020 it was announced that the requested funds would be provided for such a study into reinstating a rail service between Consett and Newcastle, [4] [5] although it was unclear where the Consett terminus of such a rail link would be located and whether this study would focus on the former Derwent Valley Railway or also include the former route via Birtley.


Consett's secondary school is Consett Academy. However, near to Consett in Lanchester is St Bede's Catholic School and Sixth Form College and in Stanley North Durham Academy, which along with Consett Academy is part of the New College Durham Academies Trust (NCDAT) managed by New College Durham.


Consett is home to the Empire Theatre, one of County Durham's oldest theatres. Recently refurbished,[ when? ] it stages variety acts, plays and a Christmas pantomime. It also screens films at times when there are no live performances.[ citation needed ]

Several pubs have taken names that reflect the town's steel-making past: The Works, The Company, and The Company Row. From Consett's bygone days as a steel town with a strong reliance on rail, next to where the main railway station used to be, is a club named the Station Club, now opposite a health centre. With views over the Derwent Valley, Consett is becoming a popular place to live for commuters from Durham and Tyne and Wear.[ citation needed ]

Salvation Army Band

Consett was the first in the world to have a Salvation Army Corps Band, formed in December 1879 to play on the streets at Christmas. The original four players were Edward Lennox and his bandsmen George Storey, James Simpson and Robert Greenwood. [21]

Notable people

Alphabetical order within sections








Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">British Steel (1967–1999)</span> Steelmaking enterprise in the United Kingdom

British Steel was a major British steel producer. It originated from the nationalised British Steel Corporation (BSC), formed in 1967, which was privatised as a public limited company, British Steel plc, in 1988. It was once a constituent of the FTSE 100 Index. The company merged with Koninklijke Hoogovens to form Corus Group in 1999.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Workington</span> Coastal town in Cumbria, England

Workington is a coastal town and civil parish at the mouth of the River Derwent on the west coast in the Allerdale borough of Cumbria, England. The town was historically in Cumberland. At the 2011 census it had a population of 25,207.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Tyneside</span> Built-up area in England

Tyneside is a built-up area across the banks of the River Tyne in northern England. Residents of the area are commonly referred to as Geordies. The whole area is surrounded by the North East Green Belt.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Derwentside</span>

Derwentside was, from 1974 to 2009, a local government district in County Durham, England.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Shotley Bridge</span> Human settlement in England

Shotley Bridge is a village, adjoining the town of Consett in County Durham, England. It is on the A694 road and beside the River Derwent which is crossed by the bridge giving the name. It was once the heart of Britain's swordmaking industry.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Weardale Railway</span>

The Weardale Railway is an independently-owned British single-track branch line heritage railway between Bishop Auckland, Witton-le-Wear, Wolsingham, Frosterley and Stanhope. Weardale Railway began services on 23 May 2010, but decided to run special trains rather than a scheduled service for the 2013 season. The line was purchased by the Auckland Project in 2020 with a view to restarting passenger services. In 2021, a bid was submitted to the 'Restoring Your Railways fund. In October 2021, the Department for Transport allocated funding for the development of a business case.

Bridgehill is an area of Consett in County Durham, England. It is situated near Benfieldside, Blackhill, Shotley Grove, and the River Derwent.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Medomsley</span> Human settlement in England

Medomsley is a village in County Durham, England, about 2 miles (3 km) northeast of the centre of Consett, 1+12 miles (2 km) south of Hamsterley and 1 mile (2 km) southeast of Ebchester.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">North West Durham (UK Parliament constituency)</span> Parliamentary constituency in the United Kingdom

North West Durham is a constituency represented in the House of Commons of the UK Parliament since 12 December 2019 by Richard Holden of the Conservative Party.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Consett Iron Company</span> Industrial business based in UK

The Consett Iron Company Ltd was an industrial business based in the Consett area of County Durham in the United Kingdom. The company owned coal mines and limestone quarries, and manufactured iron and steel. It was registered on 4 April 1864 as successor to the Derwent & Consett Iron Company Ltd. This in turn was the successor to the Derwent Iron Company, founded in 1840.

The Stanhope and Tyne Railway was an early British mineral railway, that ran from Stanhope in County Durham, to South Shields at the mouth of the River Tyne. The object was to convey limestone from Stanhope and coal from West Consett and elsewhere to the Tyne, and to local consumers. Passengers were later carried on parts of the line.

Consett Power Station refers to numerous, now demolished coal-fired power stations situated on various sites around Consett in County Durham, North East England.

Derwenthaugh Coke Works was a coking plant on the River Derwent near Swalwell in Gateshead. The works were built in 1928 on the site of the Crowley's Iron Works, which had at one time been the largest iron works in Europe. The coke works was closed and demolished in the late 1980s, and replaced by Derwenthaugh Park.

The Derwent Valley Railway was a branch railway in County Durham, England. Built by the North Eastern Railway, it ran from Swalwell to Blackhill via five intermediate stations, and onwards to Consett.

Consett Academy is a secondary academy school in Consett, the result of a merger between Consett Community Sports College and Moorside Community Technology College.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Consett railway station</span> Former railway station in England

Consett was a railway station built by the North Eastern Railway on the route of the Stanhope and Tyne Railway, in County Durham, North East England. It served the industrial town of Consett, which was best known for its steelworks.

The Lanchester Valley Railway was an English railway line that was developed by the North Eastern Railway to run between Durham to Consett. Extending 12 miles (19 km) along the valley of the River Browney, it opened on 1 September 1862. Closed under the Beeching Axe, it has been redeveloped by Durham County Council as a foot and cycle path as the Lanchester Valley Railway Path.

Crook railway station served the town of Crook, County Durham, England. It was located on the Bishop Auckland and Weardale Railway line from Bishop Auckland to Blackhill between Wear Valley Junction and Tow Law, 17 miles (27 km) north west of Darlington.

Shotley Grove is a small settlement on the river Derwent, about 1 mile upstream of Shotley Bridge in County Durham, England.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Blackhill railway station</span> Disused railway station in Blackhill, Consett

Blackhill railway station served the village of Blackhill, County Durham, England from 1867 to 1955 on the Derwent Valley Line.


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