Central anchor of the Titanic
The central anchor of the Titanic being transported<empty> from the Hingley factory on 1st May 1911, reproduced by permission of Dudley Archives and Local History Service.

Titanic documents
Hingley’s Cost and Weight summary for the Central<empty> Anchor for the Titanic. The top line identifies Rogerson as the supplier of ‘Anchor Head & Blocks’. Reproduced by permission of Dudley Archives & Local History Service from N. Hingley & Sons Business Records, WRI/1/6/4/12

Workshop
Wolsingham Steel Works Ordnance Shop, The<empty> Engineer, 10 March 1893

Eastgate Roman Altar
Original Location: Wolsingham Steel Works (anchor head)
Current Location: RMS Titanic Wreck Site, North Atlantic
Theme: Industrial
Period: Modern
Date: c.1911

What is it?
The central anchor of the ill-fated RMS Titanic – the largest anchor in the world when manufactured in 1911 at 18’ 6” long by 10’ 9” wide (5.7m x 3.3m) weighing 15.8 tons (16 tonnes). The picture shows the anchor being transported on 1st May 1911, from Hingley’s factory in the West Midlands where it was produced.

What is its relevance to the North Pennines?
The steel anchor head – the large heavy part with the two points that dig into the seabed - was cast by John Rogerson & Co at Wolsingham. The head weighed 9.2 tons (9.4 tonnes) and was sold to the Dudley firm for £112 11s 10d – 43 per cent of the total cost of the anchor. In the ‘Golden Age’ of British shipbuilding the Weardale firm was a key supplier to Hingley sending them 40 to 50 tons of castings per month at an annual value of over £6,000.

These complex anchor heads for the White Star Line’s Titanic, her sister ship Olympic and Cunard’s Mauritania and Lusitania,epitomise the high value products made in Wolsingham during the works’ 146 years operation. Charles Atwood (1791 – 1875) the metallurgical genius built the works in 1864 to exploit the growing market for steel. From 1885 the firm took the name of John Rogerson (1828-94) who ‘devoted much attention and large sums of money’ to the development of the business. The firm’s castings were used worldwide, from the anchors for giant liners to dredger buckets for excavating the Suez and Panama Canals, miners’ shovels and munitions. The Engineer reported in 1893 that the firm ‘giving employment to about 400 men’ was ‘on the Admiralty List for the manufacture of shot, shell, guns and mountings, of which they make considerable quantities’.

Why is it important?
The firm’s history reveals how a North Pennines company driven by technical innovation and sustained by a highly skilled workforce became an integral part of national and global supply chains.Sadly it also mirrors the history of the nation’s manufacturing sector. After full order books during the World Wars, Wolsingham Steel Works was affected by the cycle of rationalisation, nationalisation and privatisation that characterised the decline of UK heavy engineering and the company finally closed at the beginning of the recession in 2008.

Further Information

    Text References:
  • Dudley Archives, N Hingley & Sons Ltd Business Records
  • Charles Atwood 1791-1895’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography 2004
  • John Rogerson – Obiturary, Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers, 1894
  • ‘Wolsingham Steel Works – The Case Against Closure’,W.V.D.C. & D.C.C. 1983
  • ‘Wolsingham Steel Co Ltd: The First Hundred Years’, Doxford, Sunderland 1964
  • The Engineer 10 Mar 1893 ‘The Stanners Closes Steel Works, Wolsingham’

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