Stocksbridge is a small town and civil parish in the City of Sheffield, in South Yorkshire, England, with a population of 17,120 (2014). Historically part of the West Riding of Yorkshire, it lies just to the east of the Peak District. The town is located in the steep-sided valley of the Little Don River, below the Underbank Reservoir. It blends in to the areas of Deepcar and Bolsterstone.
The valley bottom is almost entirely occupied by steel works, which have been the main spur for the growth of the settlement, which did not exist until the early 19th century. Although, at one time, workers were bused in from miles around, the steel works now employ 800 workers, and steel manufacture is due to continue.
Samuel Fox established a steel works from 1842, and built much of the infrastructure of Stocksbridge.
During the Second World War, 'Sammy Fox's' Steelworks was kept busy as part of the war effort. During the Sheffield Blitz by the Luftwaffe, the bombers used the dam at the end of Stocksbridge as a turning point for their run back toward Sheffield.
Between 1872 and 1877 a railway line was built to link the works with the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway at Deepcar. This was the Stocksbridge Railway, which existed as a subsidiary company until 1992.
Samuel Fox & Co joined Steel, Peech and Tozer at Templeborough to form the United Steel Companies (USC) following the First World War. From then on the products of the USC sites were coordinated so that each works specialised in set products. Fox’s specialised in special steel produce such as spring steel and stainless steels. This developed into the manufacture of high-quality steel for the aviation industry. One specialised department assembled and tested springs for Rolls-Royce cars.
During the 1980s and 1990s the Stocksbridge works was part of the United Engineering Steels group (a joint venture between British Steel and GKN) and was known as "Stocksbridge Engineering Steels".
Since 1999 the works have been owned by Corus, and are part of the Corus Engineering Steels (CES) group. Although for several years Corus ran at a loss, it has recently returned to profit, in part helped by the worldwide rise in demand for steel caused by Chinese economic activity.
Steel manufacture in Stocksbridge has always been by melting iron and steel firstly in crucibles (from 1860), then Bessemer converters (from 1862) and Siemens Open Hearth Furnaces (from 1899 until 1968) and lastly Electric arc furnaces (from 1939 until 2005). Iron has never been produced from iron ore at Fox's, by any method.
Despite the worldwide reputation of the produce of the Stocksbridge works, Corus reduced the works to a satellite site for the Rotherham (Aldwarke) works (also CES). In the process the main melting shop and the rolling mill were to be closed; however, the mill was actually kept open after the planned closure date as the production could not be handled at Rotherham. Re-melting of special grades continued using small (around 10 tonnes capacity), specialised furnaces with controlled atmospheres. The rolling mill (billet mill) was re-opened in April 2006 due to difficulties in rolling certain products at Aldwarke and it is likely to stay open for the immediate future.
A plan to invest a further £6 million at Stocksbridge was cancelled part way through in December 2005. This plan would have enhanced the re-melting furnace capacity at Stocksbridge, aimed at strengthening Corus’ position to supply the rapidly growing market for engineering steels for the aerospace sector. The site is well-known at NASA who have used it to manufacture high-end steels for the space shuttle.
In October 2006, Corus was taken over by the Indian company Tata. Corus Engineering Steels (Stocksbridge site) was renamed Tata Steels Speciality. During the 2008 recession Stocksbridge works reduced its workforce and output, focusing on producing lower quantities of high-value product for the aerospace and oil and gas markets. After the recession the company returned to profitability and began investing once again. In 2011 £6.5 million was invested in boosting the site's ability to produce aerospace steel, and further developments are planned for 2013.
The construction of a substantial new housing, retail, office and leisure development on part of the site of the former steel works began in 2014. The development includes moving the current steel stockyard to a purpose-built warehouse on another part of the old steelworks land.