Friday, February 5, 2016

News: New Magna gallery showcases importance to region

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A new permanent exhibition charting the history of the site at Magna has opened at the Rotherham visitor attraction, thanks to money from the National Lottery.

Set in the former Templeborough steelworks, Magna is a family attraction with more than 100 hands-on exhibits. Millions of pounds have been invested in conference facilities at the centre which is operated by a charity, the Magna Trust.

A grant of £74,800 from the Heritage Lottery Fund has been used for the conversion of the Steelos Gallery, near the entrance of the visitor attraction which tells the story from Roman times to the present day.

The gallery, opened by the Mayor of Rotherham this week, features video, audio, touch screens and a giant map. The content was researched by volunteers and staff at Magna, helped by a researcher from the University of Sheffield.

Stuart Ballard, education manager at Magna, said: "We wanted to tell the story of the site to set this building in context. There was an iron works here when there was a Roman fort at Templeborough, and these steelworks were vital during the First World War.

"This building is as important to this area as Chatsworth, or Cannon Hall. The heritage of Sheffield and Rotherham was built on steel."
The shortage of steel to make shells during the First World War led to the construction of the Templeborough Steelworks that was completed in 1916. The works had 11 open-hearth furnaces, and three more were added later. Templeborough's 14 chimneys became known as the "Fourteen Sisters," a famous Rotherham landmark.

The works became known as "Steelos" after the owners Steel, Peech and Tozer. It was the largest open-hearth melting shop in Europe and being so vast, it stretched for a mile on both sides of the road. Navigation was by landmarks and the steelmaking process started at the "Sheffield End" and the finishing took place at the "Rotherham End."

At its peak, the works employed 10,000 people and during the Second World War Steelos produced almost four million tons of ingots.

Electric Arc Furnaces were introduced in the early 1960s to replace the open-hearth furnaces that were both lower in efficiency and productivity. At one time the steelworks produced almost 25% of the UK's electrically melted steel and was the world's largest steel plant producing up to 18 million tonnes of steel a year.

No longer as labour intensive and increasingly computerised, the number of employees at the steelworks dramatically dropped. In 1993 due to a poor market, and high raw material and power costs, the works ceased production.

In 2001 Magna opened as the UK's first science adventure centre, a Millenium Project set in the former steelworks.

Magna website

Images: Magna / RMBC

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