«1936 1937 1938 »

Continuous hot and cold rolling mills planned

Strip steel now accounts for 7% of the UK steel demand.

Negotiations begin with the American firm, MESTA Machine Company of Pittsburgh, for the design, supply and installation of continuous hot and cold strip rolling mills.

Visits to America by Summers’ directors have become more frequent as the world demand for Summers’ staple product, the galvanised sheet, steadily decreases and UK demand for high-grade sheet is forecast to increase.

Richard Summers and Neville Rollason travel to Pittsburg to meet Lorenz Iversen, President of Mesta and to inspect the company’s strip mill installations. They return to the UK with two recommendations to the John Summers’ board, firstly that the company must have up-to-date hot and cold continuous strip rolling mills if it is to maintain its position as industry leaders in Great Britain, and secondly, that the firm should open negotiations with Mesta for the supply of new mills. The advice is accepted unanimously by the board.

The installation of continuous rolling mills will mean changes in jobs and skills and could lead to the laying off of men at a time when unemployment is already a reality. On the other hand, if modern equipment is not installed, the firm will fall further behind in the market place and could be forced out of business altogether.

The rolling mills development cannot be financed internally and so Richard turns to the City of London “like a pauper with a begging bowl” for financial backing. He proves a worthy successor to his father, Harry, and one of the largest steel combines in the country, the United Steel Company, and the Bankers Industrial Development Company, a financial body controlled by the Bank of England, pledge their support for the venture. It means that for the next 10 years, control of the company will pass to a committee of which the Bank of England’s Governor is chairman.

The first plans are discussed with Lorenz Iverson in London in May 1937 and a preliminary estimate of $10 million, £4 million, is recorded for posterity on Savoy Hotel notepaper.

Foundation work for the new mills starts in September that year on a 276-acre area of marshland, raised 17 feet above the surrounding land by pumping 750,000 tons of sand from the nearby estuary.

Continuous hot dip galvanising introduced

The first continuous coil-to-coil hot dip galvanising line using the Sendzimir process is installed at Shotton. The process, invented by the Polish engineer, Sendzimir, combines the advantages of adding aluminium to the zinc bath with surface treatment and annealing of the strip. No further treatment is needed of the evenly coated zinc coated sheet, which is being marketed under the brand name of “Galvatite” for uses for everyday articles such as buckets, dustbins and wheelbarrows as well as building cladding. Previously such articles have been made from uncoated steel dipped in zinc after forming, a slow and expensive form of manufacture.