Grave of the Sundew

I visited East Carlton Park a few days ago as we had to entertain a young family member for a few hours. As well as being the location for East Carlton Hall it also houses a Heritage Center for the Corby Steelworks.

Some history (Copyright Wikipedia) on both the Steelworks and the famous Sundew Dragline:

Stewarts & Lloyds Ltd moved to Corby, Northamptonshire in November 1932, enabling them to make use of the local iron ore to feed their blast furnaces and Bessemer steel converters. The new construction was carried out to a very tight timetable, from the clearing of the site in 1933 the first of the Corby blast furnaces was lit in May the following year. This was followed by coke from the new coke ovens the following month and the ore preparation and sinter plants in September. No.2 blast furnace was lit in November and the first steel came from the Bessemer converters on 27 December. The last of the originally planned blast furnaces (No.3) was lit in October 1935. Following a rebuild to increase capacity of No.2 furnace Corby works became the third cheapest pig iron  producing plant in the world.

The end of Stewarts & Lloyds ownership ceased in 1967 when the steel industry was nationalised for the second time, and they became part of the British Steel Corporation. Due to the high cost and low quality of local iron ore, steel production at Corby was set to close in November 1979. This was delayed until 21 May 1980, due to a national steel strike, when the last coil came off the mill. In nearly 40 year of steel production they had produced almost 2.5 million tons of steel. Tubemaking continues to this day, initially based on steel supplied from Teesside, and today Corus  Tubes is the largest customer of steel from South Wales.

Sundew Dragline
Built by Ransomes & Rapier  and named after the winning horse of the 1957 Grand National (Sundew), it began work in a Rutland iron ore quarry belonging to Stewarts & Lloyds that year. At the time of its construction Sundew was the largest walking dragline in the world, weighing 1675 tons. With a reach of 86 metres and a bucket capacity of 27 tons the machine was able to move a substantial amount of material in a relatively short period.

Propulsion was via two large moveable feet which could be used to “walk” the dragline forwards and backwards, while directional control was provided by a large circular turntable under the body of the machine.

Sundew remained until operations at the quarry ceased in 1974 and plans were then devised to relocate the machine to a recently opened British Steel quarry near Corby. At a cost of £250,000 and taking two years to complete it was decided that dismantling, moving and reconstructing the machine was not a viable option, and so over a nine week period in 1974 Sundew was walked thirteen miles from its home near the village of Exton in Rutland to a site north of Corby. During the walk the dragline crossed three water mains, ten roads, a railway line, two gas mains and a river, before finally reaching its new home.

As part of a major restructuring of British Steel in the late 1970s the Corby site was closed down and there was no longer any need for a large dragline to assist in the recovery of iron ore. On 4 July 1980 Sundew walked to its final resting place and the huge boom was lowered onto a purpose built earth mound. There it remained for seven years until being scrapped over a six month period from January to June 1987.

East Carlton House

Mould for a 7 ton ingot

The finished 7 ton ingot

Old bucket from a Ransomes & Rapier W1400

More Bucket

Even more bucket

A Ransomes & Rapier W1400 Dragline (similar to Sundew)

Shunting engine used in the Steelworks

  1. ‘Sundew’ was a Ransomes Rapier W1400 electric dragline. It worked at Exton park in Rutland for The United Steel Companies, not Stewarts And Lloyds. It walked from Exton to work at Shotley quarry nr Harringworth in 1974. The cab of the dragline is at Rocks By Rail museum nr Oakham.

    • Thanks for the comments, been meaning to correct one or two errors in this post for ages and not got around to it yet…must get it done 🙂

  2. parts of her were taken to the usa

  3. Edward Dickerson

    The Dragline that was at Oakley a W1800 was taken to peices and parts from the dragline which had worked at Priors hall for 25 years were indeed taken to USA on arriving there the company that shipped them there went bank rutted and both cranes were scraped

  4. All comments are correct, the bucket was from the American imported Bucyrus Erie 1150B that worked at the Brookfield quarry NE of Corby

  5. Worked for Stewarts and Lloyds for 4 years,65-69, and left to work elsewhere. During my time I worked at Tollcross, Mossend, Phoenix, Calder and Britsh in Airdrie and Coatbridegs, finally ending up in the head office in Oswald St. working in Export Sales. Looking back I wish I had stayed there as it was one of the best companies I ever worked for, so am very sad to see the state the steel industry is in today..

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