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nickweb 11-08-2010 23:20

John Summers & Sons, Deeside, Aug 2010
John Summers & Sons Offices, Deeside, North Wales

Quite a bit of interesting history about this place.

John Summers & Sons Ltd was a major United Kingdom iron and steel producer, latterly based at Shotton, Flintshire. The company was absorbed into British Steel in 1967; British Steel became Corus in 1999 and this company was taken over by Tata Steel in 2007.

The founder, John Summers, was born in Bolton, Lancashire in 1822. While working as a clogger, he visited the Great Exhibition in 1851, where he bought a nail making machine, and commenced making nails with which to fasten the iron strips on to the soles of clogs. In 1852, Summers moved into Sandy Bank Iron Forge at Stalybridge, where he successfully concentrated on the production of clog irons and nails. He then purchased land near the forge, and built a new ironworks, known as the Globe Works.

John Summers died on 10 April 1876, at the age of 54. Three of his sons, James, John and Alfred, carried on the business, and they were joined by another brother, Henry Hall Summers in 1869. Space for expansion at the Globe Works having been exhausted, the firm opened the Hawarden Bridge Steelworks at Shotton in 1896.

In 1898 the firm became a Private Limited Company and in 1908, on completion of new offices, the headquarters were transferred to Shotton. By 1909 the company was the largest manufacturer of galvanized steel in the country, and probably the largest manufacturer of steel nail strips and sheets.

In 1919 the Wolverhampton Corrugated Iron Company at Ellesmere Port was taken over. John Summers & Sons also bought the Castle Fire Brick company in Buckley and the next year took over the Shelton Iron, Steel and Coal Company of Stoke-on-Trent. This company was Shotton's supplier of pig iron, a very scarce item at the time and this acquisition meant that the company had become very largely self-contained and self-sufficient.

John Summers & Sons Ltd was nationalised in 1951, becoming part of the Iron and Steel Corporation of Great Britain, was denationalised shortly afterwards, and renationalised in 1967.

The John Summers & Sons plant also had its own shipping wharf, complete with a fleet of ships.

The fleet was known locally as the "Beetle Fleet" and in 1918 it consisted of 19 ships. The first two ships purchased were "Buffalo" and "Rio Formosa," both steamers, in 1897.

In 1935 one of the Summers' ships, "Maurita," was sold to a firm in Lancaster but, coincidentally, during the war, she sank only a few miles away from her former home. She hit a mine in the Dee estuary with the loss of all hands.

Many of the Summers' fleet were commandeered by the Government during World War 2 for use as petrol carriers. The airforce took one for use as a bouy-boat and the navy took two. "Stalybridge" and "Hawarden Bridge" were fitted out with guns at Liverpool in readiness for the Normandy landings.

"Hawarden Bridge" had an interesting history. It was the first ship to enter Dunkirk Harbour after the liberation of the town. After returning to duties on the River Dee, she was sold to a Barbados company in 1967. Eleven years later she was found abandoned and adrift - her crew lost and engine flooded - a victim of the "Bermuda Triangle." She was towed to Miami, the fate of her crew remains a mystery to this day.

The Hawarden Bridge ship:

This place has been broken into a load of times, and has recently been sealed (not very well, but well enough) shut, as such no internals, apart from the ones through windows.

Along with the main offices, the complex has a number of workshops and labs.

Some through-the-window shots:

Saw security onsite too:

Rooster 11-08-2010 23:29

Nice work:thumbs

Gone 11-08-2010 23:58

Superb! I'd love a look at this :)

the copy cat 12-08-2010 00:36

a nice read that and a nice building wouldnt mind a look at this place

54Strat 12-08-2010 10:16

Nice one, I checked out those offices a while back but couldn't find any obvious way in. I commute on the train past this, so I'll keep an eye out.

Earth Worm Jim 12-08-2010 10:44

Tidy! :thumbs

tristanjay 12-08-2010 13:45

Very nice, I like the look of this.

Earth Worm Jim 12-08-2010 14:00

I forgot to say. Had a chat with the security once when I was taking night photos of the bridge, nice chap.

Reddood 12-08-2010 14:23

wonder where that drain leads to

Edus1 12-08-2010 14:36

Nice work :)

n10694 12-08-2010 15:00

There is a public footpath up the river bank, it starts at the security office, quite pleasant, but it just stops, there is no other end, but all the same - a good view up the river, derilect boats etc. Iit's not fenced off from the works. It goes past one of the shafts where the Alwen Pipeline goes under the River Dee in a tunnel.

There is also a good history book on the place "the summers of shotton" , by Brian Redhead (Radio 4 Today presenter, now deceased). I guess it's only available 2nd hand now, but a good read.


Gibbo 12-08-2010 16:06

Isn't this the building which looks like the Linotype one at Altrincham? I'm sure you've posted comparisons before Phil.

nickweb 12-08-2010 17:40


Originally Posted by Reddood (Post 126709)
wonder where that drain leads to

It runs from the north side of the site, right underneath the workshop and main offices, then flows into the Dee. Its more of a little culvert drain. (I dont know my drains well btw)

Reddood 12-08-2010 18:41

so no man holes half way down? shame..

n10694 12-08-2010 20:26


Originally Posted by Gibbo (Post 126723)
Isn't this the building which looks like the Linotype one at Altrincham? I'm sure you've posted comparisons before Phil.

The building was designed by James France a friend of Harry Summers. james was steeped in the Manchester Edwardian school of terracotta and shiny red brick, which explained why the finished work resembled the Midland Hotel in Manchester. Built in 1908.

It's worth a good mooch up the river bank (up side of the security hut):



A380 wing on barge:

As seen by our Euro friends:

nickweb 12-08-2010 21:20


pacef8 12-08-2010 22:47

I love that building, it just looks so good facing the river.
Also at the rail triangle you will find a half buried pill box !! that is not easy to see.

nickweb 12-08-2010 23:52

Theres a few along the sides of the Dee.

andym 13-08-2010 00:00

Interesting, good to see something new. I presume the part you explored was Corus until recently then?

nickweb 13-08-2010 00:51

yeah, still some corus posters up inside.

pacef8 13-08-2010 17:35

nah , the box is on the other side near the old path underpass under the railway. (now gated) and locked. corus side

nickweb 13-08-2010 17:56

I think I know where you mean, but unless its completely buried now I've never seen it. Maybe chuck me a googlemaps link?

n10694 13-08-2010 18:34

Some other pillboxes in the area:

Hawarden Bridge Area Pillboxes

magaz 10-11-2010 20:14

I had a lovely guided tour of this place last night... An airsoft club that I'm part of has access to it. It's in amazing condition inside, stripped of a lot of the wiring though... More safes than I could count and a massive vault room like you'd expect in a bank! I'll be back there soon with my camera so expect a full report :D

sneak 10-11-2010 20:19

Just needs a few pikeys to boot a few doors off now eh

sallybear 11-11-2010 10:44

Great news, love this place. Spent 4 years travelling past it on the train. Which airsoft club are you with? My brother is in one in the area, might ask him about access.

magaz 11-11-2010 13:51

If he plays in the area I'm fair sure he'll be with the same one I'm with!
It's called SWAT airsoft, there's a video of the site on the front page or linked here


Just needs a few pikeys to boot a few doors off now eh
The site is very secure now, and there are people from the group there almost every day.

sallybear 11-11-2010 14:11

yep they're the ones, he's not done much this year as he was in his final year at uni, but no doubt he'll be back soon enough

Did you ever see much of what was left at Saighton Camp?

magaz 11-11-2010 14:25

What's your brothers name? Chances are we've shot at each other lol.
I played nearly every game they hosted at Saighton, I was in Australia when they said they were losing the site, so I flew back and played the last game there :)
There's some footage of Saighton on my youtube channel, here mainly just us running around getting grenades thrown at us, but you can still see some of the site :)

Wildswimmer Pete 21-10-2011 00:17

I spent a large part of my misguided yoof living in Parkgate and remember when Summers was a proper, working plant. The glow from the blast furnaces (four, if I remember correctly) could always be seen at night but when they blew the Bessemer converters the entire sky lit up and you could clearly see the huge shower of sparks.

Summers always claimed ownership of the salt marshes off Burton, but I suspect that was bluff as the Crown own all intertidal parts of the coast. The salt marsh behind Summers was always off limits because it was a MOD firing range but I suspect that has been well abandoned by now.

I lived in Parkgate from 1965 to 1974 (prior to that we lived in Heswall).

_Ste_ 24-11-2011 13:46

What a lovely looking building.

Great report.

NorthMancBeds 25-11-2011 21:42

That petrol station is mint.

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