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Second City of The Empire: 1830s to 1914

Industry and Technology

Iron and Steel

By John R Hume

Iron moulders The iron and steel industries were never as important in Glasgow as they were in neighbouring areas of Lanarkshire or in Ayrshire, but the Glasgow steel industry was a distinctive and, in its own way, very successful one. These industries did not exist at all in the early 1830s.

Dixon's Blazes The first iron works to be established was the Govan Iron Works, in 1839. At first it made only pig iron which is easily fractured, but soon the making of malleable iron, which is stronger, was added. The only other iron-smelting works in the city was the short-lived Garscube Iron Works, at Netherton, near Anniesland. Malleable iron manufacture, however, expanded, largely due to the demand for iron plate and sections for shipbuilding. The Glasgow Iron Company had a small works at St Rollox and a much larger works was established at Blochairn, further east. Both of these were on the banks of the Monkland Canal. The other large works was the Parkhead Forge, whose puddling furnaces were used primarily to make malleable iron for large forgings.

Parkhead Forge Both the Blochairn and Parkhead works quickly changed to steel-making in the 1880s when iron gave way to steel for ship construction, both using the acid open-hearth process. The Parkhead Forge began making armour plate in about 1860 and when nickel and chromium alloys began to be used for armour plate in the 1890s it introduced plant to make these.

There were also two small works of interest. One in Camlachie made crucible (high-carbon) steel for making edge tools. The other, in Port Dundas, was the first in Scotland to make steel in bulk, using the original Bessemer process. The advent of open-hearth steel making in the 1880s resulted in its closure.

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