Round Oak Steel Works Reminiscence

Brendan Hawthorne was employed to run three Round Oak Reminiscence days at Artspace. Fourteen ex-workers took part, and shared their memories and stories about the steel works.

These oral history recordings form an important part of the social history of Brierley Hill and are now deposited in Dudley Archives. They are also being used to inspire the design of a memorial sculpture to Round Oak.

Find out more about methodologies used for this oral history work.

Below are some extracts from the oral history recordings and images contributed by former workers at Round Oak.

Ex-colleagues at Round Oak, contributed by John Timmins.

“I can remember the queues of lorries queuing up to get into Round Oak, the scrap wagons on the main outside… All the way down the road they was always there and I tell you what the queues of those scrap lorries was nearly as long as the queues of wives collecting the pay packets from their husbands on a Friday dinner when they obviously clocked out. That was to make sure that they never spent all their brass in the local drinking houses.”

 Robert Hamilton Cooper, former worker at Round Oak Steel Works. (Reminiscence session)

Ex-colleagues at Round Oak, contributed by Dennis Horton.

“Thinking back it was a great place to work it really was. It was very much family orientated and I think it’s only right if it were possible to put some monument up… something in a prominent position for Brierley Hill ‘cos that’s what Round Oak was, Brierley Hill.”

 David Vale, former worker at Round Oak Steel Works. (Reminiscence session)

Round Oak casting. Images contributed by John Timmins.

“The enjoyable part of working at Round Oak was that people were a part of a family. We all knew each other. We were all aware of people even if we didn’t know the workman’s name they knew us. They always spoke to us. I never knew anybody who was unhappy there looking back”.

 June Bowen, former worker at Round Oak Steel Works. (Reminiscence session)

Open Hearth Furnace construction. Image contibuted by John Timmins.

“Rumble of furnaces, hissing of the trains, bells of the trains, the crackings and banging of the scrap being loaded. Smell mainly of burning that was one of the things you could always smell.”

 Michael Minton, former worker at Round Oak Steel Works. (Reminiscence session)

Some other Round Oak memories…

Look at images from the Round Oak exhibition, curated by Steve Field from the Public Art Unit at Dudley MBC. 

Memories about Brierley Hill…

Brierley Hill: The Old Days


Have you got memories of the town you’d like to share?


Please reply below and add these to the site.



8 Responses to Round Oak Steel Works Reminiscence

  1. Robert Brooks says:

    Hi, my name is Bob Brooks and I also worked at Round Oak Steele Works. I worked on the open hearth furnaces until they were demolished and the continuous casting plant was built, my job on the casting plant was a co-ordinator (posh name for someone who went and got all the information for the next heat).
    I worked there until it closed on 23rd December 1982. In 1983 a gang of mates and myself went to work on another casting plant at a company called Hadeed in Saudi Arabia, that was good as the sun shone every day but it wasn’t Round Oak.
    I’m nearly 70 now and I have always said that the happiest working days of my life was at the Oak, we worked hard and played hard.
    The times I have heard over the years, all of us who worked there were bone idol, those comments were from idiots who never went through the gates, not even to see what it was like never mind work there. My mates and I worked harder in a week than some of the scroungers of today who can’t get their backs off the bed in a morning until the pubs open
    The powers that be today (health and safety rules) we would never be allowed to work as we did, some of the improvisations we did were dangerous to say the least but it worked for us in as much as most of us ended up with wonderful families and all owned our own houses.
    Anyway, that’s enough from me for the time being, hope to hear from some of the lads now, all the best. Bob

  2. tony bethell says:

    does anyone know what happened to ian copland after the closure

  3. Kevin Harmon-Smith says:

    What a fantastic tribute to a place most of my family grew up and worked – including myself in the latter 7 years. I was wondering if you had scanned copies of the Acorn magazine as that tells a wonderful social history of all the day-to-day goings-on at Round Oak?
    I jumped over the fence after it was closed and took a few photographs of the demolition which I will happily send on if you can give me an email address.
    Thanks once again for the great memories!

  4. Steve Ashley says:

    ado all i worked at the “earls” till it closed in both the coggin and the “new” 850 mill very sad day still got me sample of the last billet we rolled and also my late dad worked there for 24 years.

    • SCarter says:

      Hi Steve
      Sounds like it was a very unforgetable place to work and still very much a part of living memory in Brierley Hill. Amazing how some places can have such an impact on a community. All the best, Suzanne

  5. Malcolm Kershaw says:

    Whilst clearing out, before a house move I came across a letter opener, marked “Round Oak Steel Works Ltd Staffordshire Telephone Brierley Hill 77631”, and on the handle “Made out of the initial cast on 10th April 1958 from the first electric melting furnace built in Great Britain for the manufacture of tonnage steel.”
    I have no idea where this opener has come from, but if it is an item that you would be interested in I would be happy to forward it.
    Malcolm Kershaw

    • SCarter says:

      Hi Malcolm

      Thanks for getting in touch – what an interesting find! I have emailed Steve Field from the Public Art Unit who put together the original exhibition to see if he still has the collection, or has passed it on to Dudley Archives. I’ll get back to you with his response; thank you for the offer!. Best wishes, Suzanne

    • SCarter says:

      Hi Malcolm – Steve Field has still got a collection of ROSW memorabilia for the time being – he is looking for it to be deposited in the archives or potentially on display in the future, nothing certain at present and he cannot guarantee to find a home for it. However, if you wished you could forward letter opener to Steve, perhaps on the understanding that he would give it back to you if no home was later found (make sure you include your name and address!). Address to send it to is Steve Field, Public Art Unit, Himley Hall, Himley Rd DY3 4DF. Thanks again for getting in touch – I’ll leave it with you to decide best course of action. Best wishes, Suzanne

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