Demolition of blast furnace changes skyline of English steel town

The structure in Redcar, as tall as St Paul's Cathedral in London, was blown down as part of regeneration project

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One of Europe’s biggest blast furnaces was demolished on Wednesday, changing the skyline of the English town in its shadow and clearing the way to a net zero emissions future.

Explosives helped to topple the 111-metre furnace at the former Redcar steelworks in Teesside, where it was a emblem of the city’s industrial past.

Crowds gathered to watch it crumble against the backdrop of the North Sea, with an explosion that was heard up to 37km away.

The structure, the same height as St Paul's Cathedral and the second tallest blast furnace in Europe, was flattened as part of a programme to clear the site,

Teesside mayor Ben Houchen has described it as “one of the biggest, most complex and condensed demolition projects ever to take place in the UK”.

A dust catcher, casting houses and charge conveyors also came down on Wednesday.

An equally spectacular demolition brought down the city's 65-metre basic oxygen steelmaking plant in October.

Four giant gas stoves which heated the furnace are scheduled to be demolished next month.

The blast furnace, opened in 1979, and shut for a final time in 2015 with the loss of 2,000 jobs. PA

The site is earmarked for the Net Zero Teesside project, which will be the UK's first fully integrated gas-fired power and carbon capture, utilisation and storage project that may create thousands of jobs.

“Our skyline has changed forever with the demolition of the Redcar blast furnace and we can never forget the important role it played in Teesside's proud industrial history,” Mr Houchen said.

“Now, with almost all of the major iron and steelmaking structures down, a new skyline will emerge on the Teesworks site as construction ramps up on new investments like Net Zero Teesside and SeAH Wind's offshore wind monopile facility.

“We can never understate how much the steelworks site has defined Teesside's history and shaped our communities, but I've always been clear we need to look to the future to create new jobs on this site that will employ generations of local people, just as the steelworks once did,” Mr Houchen said.

“We will never forget our past, but from it we are building a new future.”

The blast furnace, opened in 1979, was mothballed in 2010 but restarted two years later. It was shut down for a final time in 2015 with the loss of 2,000 jobs.

Redcar's Conservative MP Jacob Young said: “I always said today would be a day of mixed emotions. But it is precisely because the blast furnace stood for so long as a symbol of our historic economic strength that it should make way for a new era of progress.

“And it's that progress that we need to concentrate on now.”

Updated: November 23, 2022, 1:30 PM