Regardless of the politicians, what do the people of South Bank think about the demolition of their tower?
Growing up in the shadow of the iconic Dorman Long Tower on Teesside, PIERRE BARRON takes South Bank’s take on the ‘legacy versus horror’ political storm that arose following its demolition …
To be honest, we’ve never taken so much attention. He was still there, standing above the clouds of dust in the steelworks where our fathers and grandfathers worked – part of the backdrop to the mountain dumps that were our playground.
And, since it collapsed like an assassination in the middle of the night, I feel guilty that I haven’t been as angry as others who have been so publicly outraged by its destruction.
I get angry about a lot of things: kids who don’t eat at school; racists on the football terraces; cowardly bigots hiding behind pseudonyms on social media; Our government-backed Dominic Cummings takes us all for fools with these complete cobblers on his trip to Barnard Castle during the height of the pandemic.
But I couldn’t get mad at the disappearance of the Dorman Long Tower, and as a son of South Bank I didn’t feel good – like wondering why the grief didn’t strike harder when a loved one dies and everyone is sobbing.
The debate was increasingly surrounded by politics. Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen insisted the tower needed to make way for cleaner and greener jobs.
âOur legacy does not lie in a decaying coal bunker, our legacy lies in the people who built this great region,â he said, quickly dismissing the tower as a stain on the landscape.
Meanwhile, his opponents on the other side of the political track raged against his “industrial vandalism”, accusing him of indecent haste, poor consultation and a lack of artistic vision of what could have been done. to be.
One minute the tower had been given Grade II classified emergency status by Historic England, the next minute it had been condemned by Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries just hours after taking office.
Local MP Jacob Young, who initially campaigned to save the tower, changed his stance, concluding that it was ultimately no longer structurally viable.
Amid the political gnashing of teeth, I admit that I found myself torn apart. On the one hand, why spend a lot of public money to preserve something redundant, unattractive and potentially inconvenient for new developers? On the other hand, the tower was a symbol of our proud industrial past – the very reason for the existence of the community.
Politicians had had their say – but what about the people of South Bank? Where were they in the legacy versus horror debate? I went to find out.
Sisters Christine Henderson and Barbara Emmerson, who were waiting at the bus stop after shopping at ASDA, had a lot to say on the subject.
They recalled how their grandfather, Fred Kneeshaw, had been given a “lifetime job” to Dorman Long when the bosses closed the Eston iron mine, where he made a living tending to the ponies. .
âIt was our landmark – they took it all away,â Christine says without hesitation. âIt’s part of our heritage and they should at least have kept the lettering. I know new jobs are coming, but it’s a great site – surely they could have found room for the tower. They say it’s ugly, but I never thought it was.
Barbara nods, âI hope the new jobs breathe new life into the place, but it always seems a shame to lose the story. When we tell our own grandchildren about what our grandfather did, there’s nothing to show them, right? ” she says.
“It didn’t half smell sometimes, but that KFC over there too, and nobody knocked it over, did they?” she adds, glancing over her shoulder at the fast food restaurant across the parking lot.
Daniel Thompson walks past during a break from work, and he also thinks it’s a shame the tower is gone: âIt’s probably wrong because in ten years it will be a technology park and all that legacy will be lost. It’s good that new jobs are coming in, but it’s a huge site so surely it could have been accommodated.
However, Mark Dunn, who has lived in South Bank for 33 years, has a very different point of view: “Ah, good riddance,” he said, waving his hand dismissively in the direction of where it once stood. tower.
“We have to accept that Dorman Long is over, and you cannot live in the past,” he said with all the frankness of a man who would have willingly volunteered to press the detonator for Ben Houchen. “It’s not good for anyone, so what’s the point?” We must look to the future, it is time to move on.
On the other side of South Bank station, where we used to go to spend days by the sea in Redcar as children, there is only one person on the platform, and he is not there for board a train.
Barry Gill is a courier driver, delivering a range of goods from Newcastle, and takes advantage of his break to indulge his lifelong passion for photographing the country’s railways.
âThe tower was part of Teesside and sometimes things have to be left. It’s a shame to see him go because he’s been there for so long, âhe said.
Barry cites the Baltic Center for Contemporary Art – created from an old flour mill in its own wooded corner – as an example of how industrial heritage can be put to good use with a little imagination.
âWe are proud of how this has been preserved and perhaps the Dorman Long Tower could have been incorporated into the new development coming here,â he suggests.
His train of thought is interrupted by the roar and hiss of an approaching freight engine, delivering slabs of Scunthorpe steel. They might not make steel in South Bank anymore these days, but it still comes from somewhere else.
âI hope they get the investment they’re talking about, but maybe they could have thought about the tower a bit more,â Barry adds before heading back to his truck to continue his deliveries.
As the dust settles, there is clearly no consensus. Even within the local South Bank community, they are on different sides of the tracks.
We said âso longâ to the Dorman Long Tower, but I have a feeling it was rushed, with a lack of sensitivity.
Hopefully politicians will reflect and pay renewed attention to how local people want their steel heritage remembered.
Yes, of course, we desperately need cleaner, greener jobs that promise us future prosperity, but we need to be bold to show how proud we are of our dominant past.
ON a lighter note, a small excerpt from the excellent All Saints newsletter in Hurworth-on-Tees, under the section âChurch Notices That Went Wrongly Releasedâ.
âThe men’s group will meet at 6 pm. Steak, mashed potatoes, green beans, wine and dessert will be served for a nominal sensation.â