John Cockerill (company)

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John Cockerill & Cie. (1825-42)

Société anonyme John Cockerill (1842-1955)
Industry Integrated steel and manufacturing
Successor SA Cockerill-Ougree
ultimately : ArcelorMittal Liège
also, mechamical engineering division : Cockerill Maintenance & Ingénierie
Founded 1917
Founder John Cockerill, Charles James Cockerill
Headquarters Seraing, Belgium

The John Cockerill Company was a Belgian iron, steel and manufacturing company based in Seraing in the region of Liège, founded by the British industrialist family fathered by William Cockerill.

From 1825 the owner was John Cockerill and the company known as John Cockerill & Cie., after John Cockerill's death in Warsaw after a business trip to Russia raising funds to save the company from bankruptcy in 1840 the company became state owned, and from 1842 known as Société anonyme pour l'Exploitation des Etablissements John Cockerill.[note 1]

The company was one of the major iron and steel producers in western Europe throughout its existence, and a major producer of derived products, including rail and railway locomotives, iron production equipment, and other large-scale iron and steel constructions.

In 1955 the company merged with Ougrée-Marihaye to form SA Cockerill-Ougrée, later merged into Cockerill-Sambre in 1981.


John Cockerill & Cie (-1842)[edit]

Statue of John Cockerill.

In 1799 the British born blacksmith and mechanical engineer William Cockerill set up a textile machinery factory in Verviers, Belgium. In 1807 he moved to Liège and created a factory constructing machinery for the carding, spinning and weaving of wool,[1] as well as Steam engines.[2] His family had joined him from England and his sons John and Charles James managed the factory in Liège.[3] After purchasing the former palace of the Prince-Bishopric of Liège at Seraing Charles James and John constructed there an iron foundry and machine building factory.[3] From its inception in 1817 to 1840 the complex expanded; a coke fired blast furnace, and manufacturing of steam engines, railway locomotives, steam powered blowers for blast furnaces and traction engines all became part of the facilities in the Liège region under the control of the Cockerills.[4] John Cockerill's business interests also expanded to include coal mining and collierys.[5] The company rose to be the primary steel company of Europe, spurred on by its involvement in the construction of the Belgian railways.[6]

William retired in 1813 and later John took over the company;[5] it became John Cockerill & Cie. in 1825.[2] In 1839 a banking crisis hit Belgium, and John Cockerill's company became bankrupt as a result.[7] On the return from a trip to Russia attempting to raise funds he died of typhus in 1840 with no direct heir.[3] As a result of his death, faced with the prospect of closure of an enterprise employing 30,000 the state bought the assets, and on 20 March 1842, and the company became Société anonyme pour l'Exploitation des Etablissements John Cockerill.[6] (SA John Cockerill)[note 1]

Société anonyme John Cockerill (1842-1955)[edit]

View over the Cockerill plant at Seraing.

Under state control the company expanded further. In 1865 when the plant at Seraing was visited by a mission from Japan it was 192 acres (780,000 m2) in size and had two coal mines, as well as facilities for the manipulation of iron and steel, with boiler and locomotive works.[2] A bessemer converter had been installed in 1863, and the company expanded into the production of transatlantic ships and bridges,[8] ironclads and tunneling machines.[9]

In 1866 the company's director Eugene Sadoine began an expansion of the company's mining assets; developing nearby coal mines in Colard and iron mines in Spain.[9] By 1872 the company's first Siemens-Martin converter begins operation, and in 1886 begins to use the Gilchrist-Thomas process (basic process).[10]

In 1945 the company took over SA Angleur-Athus, and in 1955 SA John Cockerill merged with SA Ougrée-Marihaye to form SA Cockerill-Ougrée.[11]

1955 to present[edit]

The company Cockerill-Ougrée underwent further merges as the Belgian steel industry was consolidated in the second half of the twentieth century, becoming Cockerill-Ougrée-Providence in 1966, Cockerill-Ougrée-Providence et Espérance Longdoz in 1970; shortened to Cockerill. In 1980 merger with Hainaut-Sambre produced Cockerill-Sambre, which through further mergers then became part of Usinor (1999) then Arcelor (2002), and in 2008 part of ArcelorMittal.

The mechanical engineering part of the Cockerill, which distinguished from other Belgian steelmakers, became a separate company in 2002 when it was bought from Usinor by a private consortium. As of 2010 It operates as Cockerill Maintenance & Ingénierie (CMI) (previously Cockerill Mechanical Industries) and produces a range of products including boilers, shunting locomotives, steel mill and other large-scale industrial equipment, and military equipment.[12]

As of 2010 steel production in Seraing continued as ArcelorMittal Liège, producing flat carbon steel, with process from coking and blast furnace production of steel, continuous casting and hot rolling, to coating of steel with zinc or plastic.[13]

In 2011 all liquid steel production in the ArcelorMittal Liege division was ended, resulting in protests, strikes, and the temporary encapsulation of several ArcellorMittal executives as protest against the closure. The company cited overcapacity, and uncompetitiveness as reasons for the closure; a report by Syndex commissioned by trade unions contradicted the claims of un-competitiveness, claiming ArcelorMittal's reports used biased accounting - union officials called for the liégeois steel industry to be taken into ownership outside ArcellorMittal to protect it.[14]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Also written as Société anonyme John Cockerill, or SA John Cockerill. In English either often referred to as the "John Cockerill Company".


  1. ^ Lance Day; Ian McNeil (2003). Biographical Dictionary of the History of Technology. (Routledge). Cockerill, William , pp.280-281. 
  2. ^ a b c Ian Hill Nish (1998). The Iwakura mission in America and Europe: a new assessment. Routledge. pp. 103–5. 
  3. ^ a b c  Stephen, Leslie, ed. (1887). "Cockerill, William". Dictionary of National Biography 11. London: Smith, Elder & Co. p. 200. 
  4. ^ Albert Gieseler. "Société Anonyme John Cockerill". (in German). 
  5. ^ a b Robert Chambers; William Chambers (1840). "The Cockerills". Chambers's Edinburgh journal (W. Orr) 8: 165–166. 
  6. ^ a b Caractéristiques des bassins industriels dans l’Eurégio Meuse-Rhin, b.1. Le bassin houiller et sidérurgique de Liège
  7. ^ Erik Buyst and Ivo Maes. "Central banking in 19th-century Belgium: was the NBB a lender of last resort?" (PDF). 3.1. The crisis of 1838: the government comes to the rescue, pp.8-10. 
  8. ^ Caractéristiques des bassins industriels dans l’Eurégio Meuse-Rhin, 2.c. Le défi de l'acier et les premières fusions
  9. ^ a b "Cockerill Sambre Group -- Company History". 
  10. ^ Adriaan Linters (1986). Industria: architecture industrielle en Belgique. (in French, Dutch, and English) (Mauad Editora Ltda). p. 32. 
  11. ^ Caractéristiques des bassins industriels dans l’Eurégio Meuse-Rhin, 2.d. L'indispensable restructuration
  12. ^ "CMI: Cockerill Maintenance & Ingénierie". 
  13. ^ "ArcelorMittal Liège". (in French). Archived from the original on 16 June 2011. 
  14. ^ Sources:


Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]