Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
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 was initiated by immigrant German cutlers and sword-makers from Solingen, who settled in the village of Shotley Bridge (original home of Wilkinson Sword and now part of Consett) during the seventeenth century.
During the seventeeth and eighteenth centuries, the Derwent Valley was the cradle of the British steel industry, helped by the easy availability of coal from Tyneside, and the import of high quality iron ore from Sweden via the port of Newcastle upon Tyne. However, following the invention of the Bessemer process in the nineteenth century, steel could be made from British iron ore (which was otherwise 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.
The closure of the British Steel works at Consett in 1980 marked the end of the Derwent Valley steel heritage, and the decline of the town of Consett. Regeneration in the 1990s went some way to repair the damage done, but unemployment is still a problem locally.
Small and medium-sized businesses now provide most jobs in the area, with the Department for Work and Pensions' Contributions Agency in nearby Longbenton also a major employer. Phileas Fogg foods, with its factory on the town's excitingly named Number One Industrial Estate, were mildly famous in the mid-90s for their "Made in Medomsley Road, Consett" television adverts.
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