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CLEAN UP: Work to salvage Dorman Long Tower lettering

CLEAN UP: Work to salvage Dorman Long Tower lettering

Dorman Long tower remains after demolition, Image: Ian Cooper

Efforts to salvage what remains of the Dorman Long tower lettering are underway after it was brought to the ground at the weekend.

The 180ft tower was razed in the early hours of Sunday morning after its listed status, backed by Historic England, was rescinded at the eleventh hour by culture secretary Nadine Dorries.

Now the clean up starts with workers from Thompsons of Prudhoe lining up heavy machinery on the site.

Remnants of the D from the Dorman Long lettering were poking from the rubble on Monday.

Dorman Long tower

Dorman Long tower remains after demolition, Image: Ian Cooper

The blasts also flattened the Gibbon Wilputte coal bunker, the Gibbon Wilputte Battery Waste Gas Chimney and connecting conveyors.

Tom Koerner, demolition manager at Thompsons of Prudhoe, said “We have taken down in the region of 10,000 tonnes of concrete and masonry and we used in the region of about 70 tonnes worth of explosives to do that.

“The works were carried out successfully and as planned thanks to the work of the wider team including Thompsons personnel and our supply chain.

“The next stage is for us to process the material which has come down. There are really big lumps of reinforced concrete so we’ll use our specialised demolition specification plant to process that and doing so we’re chewing it with our equipment.

“Regarding the Dorman Long structure, we’re going to do our very best to retain some of the lettering that we think may still be visible in there for potential future reuse – whatever that may be.”

Campaigners expressed their sorrow and frustration after the 1950s tower saw its Grade II listed status rescinded last week.

Catherine Croft, director of the 20th Century Society, called the move a “real pity” and “deeply frustrating”.

TV architect George Clarke had also called for the tower to be saved and integrated into new developments on the former steelworks site.

Teesworks leaders pointed to a report by engineers Atkins to back up their demolition argument – saying this showed “ongoing and irreversible” damage to the structure meant it could cost between £7m and £9m to secure and maintain.

A copy of the engineering report has been requested from Teesworks.

Past masterplans by the South Tees Development Corporation (STDC) – which now owns the vast former steelworks land – envisaged the South Bank tower being used as a “landmark structure”.

The 2019 plan included a vision to see it retained and adapted as a viewing platform, climbing wall, or integrated into the heritage trail given it was near the Teesdale Way.

The report added: “The plan would be that the tower be illuminated at night to provide a striking symbol of the area’s iron and steel making heritage at the southern end of the newly established business park.”

Reasons given for the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) overturning the Grade II listing were revealed in a letter signed by Ms Dorries.

The loss of a “significant proportion of the original fabric” – including material lost in preparation for the total demolition – was cited as hitting its architectural interest.

General Electric is set to start work on a new offshore wind turbine blade factory near where the tower stood next month.

Redcar MP Jacob Young had backed a campaign to save the Dorman Long tower in the past.

Last week, the Conservative MP said he was “gutted” but added the conclusions of the Atkins report were clear.

He also said he’d requested work to salvage what was left of the lettering from the tower for use to create a replica close to its original site.

What they said 

Politicians, campaign groups and charities have all aired their thoughts on the demolition of the tower.

In the wake of its demolition, Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen said he recognised many people found it a sad moment, but it would ensure jobs would come to the site.

The Tory mayor added: “We will continue to work with the Teesworks Heritage Taskforce to capture footage and document the site’s history as we change the landscape ready for our next chapter.

“We will also create scale replicas of the tower that will always remind people that Teesside built the world.”

But there has been backlash from campaign groups and other Teesside politicians in the wake of the tower’s demise.

Former Redcar MP Anna Turley called the demolition “shameful” and “levelling down.”

Alex Cunningham, Stockton North MP, branded it “heritage vandalism” by the Tees Valley  mayor.

And former Labour candidate for Tees Valley Mayor, Jessie Joe Jacobs, accused Mr Houchen of “taking a wrecking ball” to Teesside’s history.

She added: “This won’t be forgotten. No attempts to save it, to secure grant funds, to turn into something for future generations.

“Symbolic of the industrial vandalism carried out by successive Tory governments.”

The 20th Century Society charity also expressed its sorrow.

It added: “The speed of this process has been both unedifying and upsetting. A big blow to the industrial heritage of Teesside.”

 

Words: Alex Metcalfe, Local Democracy Reporter


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