Coordinates: 54°51′N 1°50′W / 54.85°N 1.83°W / 54.85; -1.83
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Christ Church, Consett
Consett is located in County Durham
Location within County Durham
OS grid referenceNZ108511
Unitary authority
Ceremonial county
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Post townCONSETT
Postcode districtDH8
Dialling code01207
FireCounty Durham and Darlington
AmbulanceNorth East
UK Parliament
List of places
County Durham
54°51′N 1°50′W / 54.85°N 1.83°W / 54.85; -1.83

Consett is a town in the County Durham district, in the ceremonial county of Durham, England, about 14 miles (23 km) south-west of Newcastle upon Tyne. It had a population of 27,394 in 2001[1] and an estimate of 25,812 in 2019.[2]


Consett sits high on the edge of the Pennines. Its name originates in the Old English Cunecsheafod ("Cunec's headland"), first recorded in the 13th century.[3] In 1841, it was a village community of only 145, but it was about to become a boom town: below the ground were coking coal and blackband iron ore, and nearby was limestone. These three ingredients were needed for blast furnaces to produce iron and steel.

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 is said to have been initiated by immigrant German cutlers and sword-makers from Solingen, who settled in the village of Shotley Bridge during the 17th century.

During the 17th and 18th centuries, the Derwent Valley was the cradle of the British steel industry, helped by the easy availability of coal in the area and the import of high quality iron ore from Sweden via the port of Newcastle upon Tyne. However, after the invention of the Bessemer process in the 19th century, steel could be made from British iron ore (hitherto 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.

Consett railway station opened in 1896. It remained open for passengers until 1955 and mineral trains continued to pass through the site until 1980 on their way to the steelworks. In November 2020, the Department for Transport approved funding for an initial feasibility study into restoring a rail link to the town.[4][5]


Consett is part of the North West Durham Parliamentary Constituency, currently represented by Richard Holden of the Conservative Party since the 2019 general election. Before 1983, the town gave its name to its parliamentary constituency: Consett (UK Parliament constituency).

Consett was part of Derwentside District Council, which merged into the Durham County Council unitary authority on 1 April 2009. The Consett area is currently divided into four electoral divisions (Benfieldside; Consett North; Delves Lane and Consett South; and Leadgate and Medomsley), each electing two county councillors.

The town unlike most other towns and villages in County Durham is unparished and has no town council.

Consett was part of the constituency of North East England in the European Parliament until 2020.


Consett sits above the rural Derwent valley near the boundary of County Durham and Northumberland. The Derwent Reservoir just west of the town makes a popular leisure attraction and beauty spot.[6]

At about 900 ft (270 metres) above sea level, Consett is the third highest market town in England and one of the highest towns in the United Kingdom. This makes Consett typically at least 2 °C colder than nearby cities such as Durham and Newcastle, and more prone to frost, ice and snow in the winter months.

Consett has amenities such as shops, pubs and night clubs that also serve several villages in its immediate surroundings, some such as Shotley Bridge and Blackhill contiguous and some not, for example Moorside and Castleside.


Consett steel works seen in the 1940s or 50s.
Middle Street, Consett

The Consett Iron Company was established in 1864 as a successor to the original Derwent Iron Company of 1840, when the first blast furnaces were introduced. Over the next 100 years, Consett became one of the world's most prominent steel-making towns, manufacturing the steel for Blackpool Tower and some of the UK's nuclear submarines.[7]

Steel dominated Consett's economy for 140 years, with the steelworks' tall cooling towers and other large plant looming over rows of terraced houses. During the iron and steel era a pall of red dust hung over the town, consisting of airborne iron oxide from the steel-making plant. At its peak in the 1960s, the Consett steel works employed 6,000 workers. It was nationalised to become part of the large British Steel Corporation. Although there was intense competition in the 1970s from British firms and from abroad, Consett steelworks remained relatively successful and still profitable even in the year it closed. As the rolling mills were closed in the 1970s, despite local opposition, there were discussions over the future of the plant as a whole.[8]

Steelworks closure[edit]

Consett steelworks had always avoided closure, even in difficult economic times, but in 1980 it was closed with the loss of 3,700 jobs and many more from the knock-on effects in ancillary industries. The unemployment rate in Consett became double the national average.[7] A major plan to restructure steel-making in the UK saw light in the mid-1970s, based on concentrating it in five UK coastal locations, to allow easy import of raw materials and export of finished goods. BSC Consett was not one of the locations, despite being serviced by a well-established rail network, producing high-quality boron steel and being in profit in 1980, the year it was closed.

A deputation of steelworkers lobbied the government in London.[9] The social impact of the decision was often characterised by many of the local people at the time as "The Murder of a Town".[8] After closure of the steel works the town became one of the worst unemployment black spots in Britain. In 1981, it peaked at 36 per cent – one of the worst unemployment rates of any town in the United Kingdom and around three times the national average at the time.[7][10] The closure marked the end of the Derwent Valley steel heritage, and the decline of Consett as an industrial town. Along with the closure of coal mines, it was also a first step in the decline of all heavy industry in the Derwent Valley.[11]

The last steel ingot from the Consett ironworks was made into a cross and is kept at St Mary's Roman Catholic Church, Blackhill.


Regeneration in the 1990s, through Project Genesis, went only some way towards repairing the damage done to the local economy by these closures. Unemployment came down to the national average, but this was partly due to outward migration and economic inactivity due to long-term illness, neither of which were included in the government statistics. In 2011 Durham County Council, which provides a lot of employment for local people, commenced a three-year plan to reduce its workforce by 1600.[12]

Alongside the public sector, small and medium-sized businesses now provide jobs in the area. The Phileas Fogg Company (County Durham), with its factory in Consett, were mildly famous for a few years from 1988 for their snack food "Made in Medomsley Road, Consett" television adverts.[citation needed] It is now owned by KP Snacks (originally part of United Biscuits). The Explorer Group, based in Consett, is the United Kingdom's second-largest manufacturer of caravans.[13] Elddis Transport Limited is based in the town.

Since 2000, there have been several new housing developments on the former steelworks site and surrounding areas. Derwentside College, formerly sited at Park Road, moved to a new campus at Berry Edge in September 2002 and more recently, major retailers have moved in and the site which once made steel for Blackpool Tower and Britain's nuclear submarines is now home to rival Tesco and Morrisons stores, a string of high street outlets and fast food restaurants.

New industrial units are also to be built on the former steel works site, after the Project Genesis Trust secured investment of £358,968 from the Rural Growth Network (RGN) to develop bespoke business premises and offices on part of the site. (The Project Genesis Trust is a body created to regenerate the former steelworks site).[14]

The population soared to 39,000, higher than in the days of steel, and unemployment plummeted. In August 2015, only 420 people were receiving Jobseekers' Allowance, with an official unemployment rate of 1.7 per cent, markedly lower than the rest of County Durham. The wider claimant count of people on out-of-work benefits was 6.3 per cent, half the County Durham average, although it omits those receiving disability benefits, which will be a significant number, given the town's industrial legacy.[15]

A large area formerly used by Shotley Bridge Hospital was sold to a property developer,[16] which began to build a further 400 homes in 2013–2014. This development has now become the multi-award-winning Woodlands Estate. This has further aided Consett's recovery as a top commuter town due to its convenient location between Durham and Newcastle.

Along with the housing developments of the last few years (some still ongoing), there has also been major investment in local amenities, such as a £44-million sports complex in Medomsley Road, near the old sports facilities.[17] This is shared with Consett Academy, which was given a brand new £5.7 million building.[18]

In June 2020, the MP for North West Durham, Richard Holden, sponsored a bid to the Ideas Fund of the Department for Transport's Restoring Your Railway Fund, hoping to access up to £50,000 to cover the cost of an initial study into the feasibility of restoring a rail link[19] between Consett and Blaydon.[20] In November 2020 it was announced that the requested funds would be provided for such a study into reinstating a rail service between Consett and Newcastle,[4][5] although it was unclear where the Consett terminus of such a rail link would be located and whether this study would focus on the former Derwent Valley Railway or also include the former route via Birtley.


Consett's secondary school is Consett Academy. However, near to Consett in Lanchester is St Bede's Catholic School and Sixth Form College and in Stanley North Durham Academy, which along with Consett Academy is part of the New College Durham Academies Trust (NCDAT) managed by New College Durham.


Consett is home to the Empire Theatre, one of County Durham's oldest theatres. Recently refurbished,[when?] it stages variety acts, plays and a Christmas pantomime. It also screens films at times when there are no live performances.[citation needed]

Several pubs have taken names that reflect the town's steel-making past: The Works, The Company, and The Company Row. From Consett's bygone days as a steel town with a strong reliance on rail, next to where the main railway station used to be, is a club named the Station Club, now opposite a health centre. With views over the Derwent Valley, Consett is becoming a popular place to live for commuters from Durham and Tyne and Wear.[citation needed]

Salvation Army Band[edit]

Consett was the first in the world to have a Salvation Army Corps Band, formed in December 1879 to play on the streets at Christmas. The original four players were Edward Lennox and his bandsmen George Storey, James Simpson and Robert Greenwood.[21]

Notable people[edit]

Alphabetical order within sections









  1. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 27 September 2007. Retrieved 16 December 2007.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  2. ^ City Population site. Retrieved 6 January 2021.
  3. ^ Routledge Library Editions: The English Language. Routledge. 28 July 2021. ISBN 978-1-317-41546-6.
  4. ^ a b National Infrastructure Strategy National Infrastructure Strategy p. 41.
  5. ^ a b "Restoring your railway: successful bids - GOV.UK". GOV.UK. Department for Transport. Retrieved 23 December 2020.
  6. ^ "50 things you never knew about Derwent Reservoir which opened 50 years ago today - Chronicle Live". Archived from the original on 9 October 2018.
  7. ^ a b c Steel Towns: From Boom to Bust, BBC Nation on Film.
  8. ^ a b Kearney, T. (1990) A Social History of Consett 1840–1990, DCA
  9. ^ Eyles, J (1980) The Diary of a Closure: BSC Consett Works December 1979 - December 1980
  10. ^ "The Consett Timeline". Made of Steel. 17 January 2013. Archived from the original on 11 June 2016. Retrieved 13 May 2016.
  11. ^ H. Beynon and R. Hudson (1986), "Nationalised industry policies and the destruction of communities: Some evidence from North East England", Capital and Class.
  12. ^ Amelia Gentleman. "Local authority cuts: one year on | Society". The Guardian. Retrieved 13 May 2016.
  13. ^ "Driving force". Retrieved 4 February 2017.
  14. ^ Whitfield, Graeme (31 August 2017). "Jobs coming to former Consett steelworks site with creation of business units". Retrieved 24 June 2023.
  15. ^ "Crisps and commuters: How Consett coped with steelworks catastrophe". The Northern Echo. 16 October 2015. Retrieved 24 June 2023.
  16. ^ "Work starts on new houses at Shotley Bridge Hospital site". The Northern Echo. 6 February 2012. Retrieved 24 June 2023.
  17. ^ "Joy at long-awaited opening of new Consett Leisure Centre". The Northern Echo. 3 August 2015. Retrieved 24 June 2023.
  18. ^ Wearmouth, Rachel (21 August 2014). "North East firms awarded contracts worth £5.7m as construction of Consett Academy gets underway". Retrieved 24 June 2023.
  19. ^ Baker, Ed (3 July 2020). "Feasibility Study into New Consett Railway Line Confirmed - Consett Magazine - Consett Deserves Good News". Consett Magazine. Retrieved 24 December 2020.
  20. ^ Walker, Jonathan (20 May 2020). "Government will look at plans for new Consett to Newcastle rail or Metro link, says Boris Johnson - Chronicle Live". Chronicle Live. Retrieved 24 December 2020.
  21. ^ "Salvation Army Brass Bands, Salvation Army Brass Instruments, brass instruments, sheet music". Archived from the original on 1 June 2016. Retrieved 13 May 2016.
  22. ^ "Consett artist Sheila Mackie is honoured in her home town". The Journal. 19 December 2011. Retrieved 3 September 2018.
  23. ^ "Weird and wonderful life of a much-missed artist". The Journal. 22 September 2010. Retrieved 3 September 2018.
  24. ^ "Bishop of Lincoln to be introduced to House of Lords". Market Rasen Journal. 12 September 2017. Retrieved 3 September 2018.
  25. ^ "Honorary degree for opera couple". Graeme Danby was born in Consett and studied at the Royal Academy of Music in London. He is principal bass with the English National Opera
  26. ^ Tunney, John (4 September 2008). "Big night for Sir Bobby sells out". The Journal. Retrieved 19 September 2008.
  27. ^ Paul Lester. "Paddy McAloon: 'I'll do without an audience to make the music I want;' Culture". The Guardian. Retrieved 13 May 2016.
  28. ^ Nick Smurthwaite (21 March 2005). "Million pound notes – Keith Strachan". The Stage. Retrieved 23 March 2010.
  29. ^ "Discography at Discogs". Retrieved 21 February 2015.
  30. ^ Conroy, Brian (11 June 2006). "Dennis Earl". The Guardian. Retrieved 3 September 2018.
  31. ^ Barratt, Nick (25 August 2007). "Family Detective Rowan Atkinson". The Daily Telegraph.
  32. ^ The Journal (Newcastle, England) 29 April 2010 Peter McCusker: Tributes paid to golf's "true gentleman"
  33. ^ Davies, Gareth A (23 July 2013). "Paul Collingwood: I knew cricket was the right choice for me". The Telegraph. Retrieved 3 September 2018.
  34. ^ "Rams' match remembers John Robson". BBC. 3 August 2004. Retrieved 4 September 2010.

Further reading[edit]

  • Fawcett, J. W. (1922). The manor of Consett. Proceedings of the Society of Antiquarians of Newcastle upon Tyne. 3rd. series. Vol. 10, issue 27. p. 345-348

External links[edit]

Media related to Consett at Wikimedia Commons