Quaker family’s Corby legacy

Stewarts & Lloyds houses in Stephenson Way, Corby, with the steelworks in the background
Stewarts & Lloyds houses in Stephenson Way, Corby, with the steelworks in the background

Fascinating facts about the history of the Lloyd family, one half of the mighty iron and steel manufacturers Stewarts & Lloyds, will be revealed at a talk tomorrow.

The company was formed in 1903 when Lloyd & Lloyd Limited of Birmingham amalgamated with A & J Stewart and Menzies Limited of Coatbridge in Scotland.

Corby town centre with the steelworks in the background

Corby town centre with the steelworks in the background

The company’s headquarters were in Corby and in 1933 a workforce of 3,000 was recruited, marking the beginning of an industry that would grow, shape the town and leave its mark for decades to come.

While people are familiar with the story of the growth and eventual demise, in 1980, of steelmaking in Corby, less is known about the Lloyds, the family who played a major role in Corby’s development.

Steve Purcell, a former employee of British Steel, as it was to become, is to give a talk at Corby Old Village Community Centre, off High Street, tomorrow starting at 7pm, when more about the Quakers will be revealed.

In his book Corby Iron and Steel Works, Mr Purcell detailed the growth of the town and the works which at one time was the largest plant of its type in Europe.

The demolition of the steelworks

The demolition of the steelworks

He became friends with the last remaining member of the Lloyd family to live in the Corby area, at Pipewell Hall, who bequeathed many documents and papers to him, revealing more about their history.

Organiser of the talk Billy Dalziel, of Corby Borough Heritage Forum, said: “Like most people in Corby, I thought I really knew everything about Stewarts & Lloyds and the story of steelmaking in the town but Steve’s talk will reveal the fascinating history of the Lloyds, who were Quakers and in the 1840s were the ironmasters of the day.”

Along with chocolate companies Cadbury, Fry, Rowntree and Terry, the Lloyds, who were bankers and ironmasters, took their place among the Quaker families who helped shaped business and industries in the 18th and 19th centuries. They believed in the importance of arriving at decisions by agreement and women were treated as equals.

Mr Dalziel said: “People might be asking why we are focusing on the Lloyds and not the Stewarts. The reason is simply that we have all this information on the family available to us. We are also interested in the Stewarts and hope to reveal more about that family in time.”

The campaign for the Retention of Steel-Making at Corby. One of the campaign banners

The campaign for the Retention of Steel-Making at Corby. One of the campaign banners

Following the talk an exhibition will be staged at Corby Heritage Centre, High Street, in the Old Village, focusing on Stewarts & Lloyds’ impact on the lives of Corby families.

From wages to welfare, health, education and leisure the company helped shaped lives.

Mr Dalziel said: “Stewarts & Lloyds and the heritage of steelmaking in Corby is such a big subject, so the exhibition will be looking at how the company looked after the welfare, health and well-being of the workers and their families.

“There was the belief that if you looked after the workforce, the workforce would look after the company.

Stewarts & Lloyds houses in Stephenson Way, Corby, today

Stewarts & Lloyds houses in Stephenson Way, Corby, today

“The local authority at the time didn’t want to build the Lloyds houses because of the expense so the company borrowed the money and built them for the workers. At the time, in the 1930s, that must have been amazing.

“The recreation club in Occupation Road, which was always known as The Welfare, was built by the company for workers.

“In its early days Stewarts & Lloyds subsidised the Odeon cinema and the annual gala day when workers’ children received free tickets for the rides, ice creams and drinks.

“The company sponsored the annual pantomime, the funfair and the Highland Gathering when it was a huge event featuring all the big soap stars of the time.”

Stewarts & Lloyds ownership ceased in 1967 when the steel industry was nationalised for the second time, and it became part of the British Steel Corporation. Despite a fierce local campaign to save the works, steel production at Corby ended in May 1980 with the loss of about 11,000 jobs, leaving an unemployment rate of 30 per cent.

If anyone has photographs, artefacts or information which they would like considered for the exhibition they can contact Mr Dalziel by calling 01536 464284.