Stanton at War – Stephen Flinders – 9th March 2015

Stephen is an ex- third gen­er­a­tion employee of Stanton Iron Works near Ilkeston, Derbyshire. He had come into the pos­ses­sion of some unique records of the works, includ­ing a film taken on the site, during WW2, of the whole pro­cess of making steel bomb cas­ings for bombs of 1600lbs down to 250lbs.

The Stanton Iron Works, was estab­lished in 1846 by Benjamin Smith at Ilkeston, due to the prox­im­ity of a deposit of iron ore, the con­veni­ence of ship­ping coal to the site on the Erewash and Nutbrook canals and the avail­ab­il­ity of local labour. The works at the time of WW2 had grown to cover 3.5 sq. miles.

At the outset of WW2, in October 1940, a new fully oper­a­tional £1.5m facil­ity cov­er­ing 19 acres was con­struc­ted in 13 months, within the works, for the war effort, called the Stanton Gate Foundry, to make steel bomb cas­ings.

Stephen showed us the film, start­ing from scrap steel, of the com­plete pro­cess, from mould making, steel making, cast­ing, to the fin­ished product. There was con­sid­er­able qual­ity con­trol, although health and safety was very much lack­ing by todays stand­ards. Flat caps and shirt sleeves, over­alls for the ladies, no gloves, breath­ing appar­atus  or pro­tect­ive foot­wear or eye­ware, were used, lead­ing to long term health prob­lems and a few acci­dents. The pol­lu­tion and noise were con­sid­er­able, but, except when Lord Haw Haw inter­vened, morale was high and the food in the canteen was very good, as Stanton owned 3 farms.

2000 work­ers were employed in the foundry at peak. There were a few P.O.W.s and 40% were women, who only got 60% of the mens wages. The remainder were largely local men. All looked very slim!

During this period, 873,500 steel bomb cas­ings were man­u­fac­tured, at around 100 castings/hr., along with gun bar­rels, and other products, and because the works was tra­di­tion­ally an iron works, the foundry had to seek advice from steel work­ers from places like Sheffield.

The foundry was bought back by the com­pany for £600,000 after vic­tory and the whole works employed 9000 people in the 60s and 70s, making mainly iron and con­crete pipes, but the Stanton Gate Foundry was demol­ished in 1991.

The site, still vis­ible on the West side of the M1 next to the blue William West build­ing, near Ilkeston/Erewash in Derbyshire, is ear­marked for a devel­op­ment of 4000 houses, shops etc., much to the con­cern of those who live loc­ally.

Stephen evoked memor­ies of a past industry where employ­ees spent their lives at the same fact­ory, and the film won­der­fully illus­trated how industry adap­ted speedily to fight­ing  Nazism.

A most enjoy­able and inform­at­ive morn­ing, clearly and enthu­si­ast­ic­ally delivered.