This Working Life: A Century of Steelmaking on Screen


From the archive

This film was last shown on 23 February 2013

In association with the British Film Institute

A compilation of films, featuring:

Parkgate Iron and Steel Co, Rotherham (1905), 3mins
Early Mitchell & Kenyon footage showing steelworkers at Parkgate Iron & Steel Co, Rotherham (1901) in feisty form.

The Building of the New Tyne Bridge (1928) - Extract 1:26 mins
An intrepid visual delight spanning the River Tyne: The Building of the New Tyne Bridge (1928, extract) documents the perilous construction of the Tyne Bridge.

Mastery of Steel (1933) - Extract 2:56 mins
Mastery of Steel (c1933, 18min) is an atmospherically photographed demonstration of how steel panels are made for Morris Motors.

Women of Steel (1984) – extract 1:43mins
Women of Steel (1984, dir Jenny Woodley, 27min): a rare insight into women’s role in the steel industry in wartime Sheffield.

Commonsense about Steel (1948)
This propaganda film was made for the Conservative and Unionist Party (better known as simply the Conservative Party) to promote their argument against the nationalisation of steel, which was proposed by the Labour government of the time, led by Clement Attlee.

River of Steel (1951) - Extract 2:24mins
The witty animation River of Steel (1951, dir Peter Sachs, extract) shows how we all depend on steel.

Men of Consett (1959) – extract 4:15 mins
Men of Consett (1959, 28min) is a wonderfully odd film directed by explorer, cameraman and food writer Tom Stobart, who ventures into the steel community in Consett, County Durham.

The Big Mill (1963) – extract 2:21mins
Award-winning and forward-looking industrial film that showcases Colvilles of Lanarkshire’s new development and its newly trained, skilled staff.

Steel for the Seventies (1970) – extract 1:49mins
Soothingly voiced by BBC Wales television reporter Jeffrey Iverson, and tracked by the light jazz end of the music library, Steel for the Seventies follows the transformation of iron ore into top grade finished steel.

Northern Newsreel No 7 (1987) – extract 2:04mins
Film about Consett’s steel industry made by Penny Woolcock for a quarterly video magazine which was produced for the Labour Movement and ran for 18 issues between 1984 and 1991.

Steel (1945)
The stunning cinematography of Jack Cardiff in Steel (1945, dir Ronald Riley, 35min), forms our centrepiece. Now benefiting from pioneering digital restoration techniques, Steel is a dazzling Technicolor spotlight on skilled craftsmen who devoted their working lives to steel, shot in locations including Sheffield, Ebbw Vale and Glasgow.


The Showroom celebrates Sheffield’s industrial heritage in the centenary year of the discovery of stainless steel. Throughout the year we’ll screen hidden gems from the British Film Institute archives, illuminating the role of steel in shaping the city Sheffield is today.

Revelations about steelmaking, its highly skilled workforce, and some of the breathtaking feats which the industry routinely achieved are captured alongside the stories of the communities shaped by their steelworks, offering a richly fascinating and often surprising view of a largely vanished way of life.


120 mins


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