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Henry Steel

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Henry Steel (c1864-1920) of United Steel Companies and Steel, Peech and Tozer

c1864 Born the son of Henry Steel, Senior and his wife Emma Esther Peech

1891 Living at Tapton Court, Shoe Lane, Sheffield: Henry Steel (age 59 born Sheffield), Steel Manufacturer and Employer. With his wife Emma E. Steel (age 53 born Sheffield) and their children; Clara Steel (age 29 born Sheffield); Henry Steel (age 27 born Sheffield), Manager at Steel Works; William Steel (age 26 born Paddington), Manager at Steel Works; Sydney A. Steel (age 21 born Hornsey), Manager at Steel Works; Emma G. Steel (age 19 born Sheffield); Florence S. Steel (age 15 born Sheffield); Ethel Maude Steel (age 13 born Sheffield); Eleanor Steel (age 10 born Sheffield); and Bernard Steel (age 8 born Sheffield). One visitor and nine servants.[1]

1911 Living at Skellow Grange, Doncaster: Henry Steel (age 47 born Sheffield), Manager of Steel Works and Employer. With his wife Maggie Steel (age 46 born (?), Yks) and their son Gerald Steel (age 16 born Sheffield). Also his sister-in-law Emma Ulyatt? (age 36 born Wakefield). Two visitors and six servants.[2]


1920 Obituary.[3]

With great suddenness, the death occurred on the 7th inst., at Savoy-court, London, of Mr. Henry Steel, founder and head of the United Steel Companies, Limited.

It was comparatively late in life before opportunities presented themselves for Mr. Steel to put into operation schemes which had long been formulated in his mind, for it was not till the war had been in progress about a year that he was called to succeed his father, the late Mr. Henry Steel, of Tapton Court, Sheffield, in the chair of the company founded by the latter, Steel, Peech and Tozer, Limited, Phoenix Special Steel Works, the Ickles, Rotherham.

From that point, however, things moved rapidly. Mr. Steel's knowledge of the steel industry was founded on years of experience, his judgment was clear and sound, his perspective true and wide, his grasp of the needs of the situation firm and deliberate. He possessed a trained mind and the courage to arrive at a decision quickly. In the years which had elapsed since he was educated in Brussels and had matriculated with honours at London University, he had occupied himself entirely with the business of the Rotherham company, of which he became a director and in the interests of which he travelled extensively, particularly in Europe and the United States.

What impressed him most in the steel centres of the latter country was the fact that output was on a much greater scale proportionately than in Britain, and that the cost of production per ton was lower, thus placing America, as a competitor for certain grades of steel, in a more favourable position than we occupied.

In those days he visualised a great English combination, so formed that by means of its members it would become practically self-contained, and that with the advantages accruing from the co-operation of interests the cost of production would be lowered and the grade of quality raised to an extent that would make competition with America, Belgium, or Germany comparatively easy. His foresight was sufficiently clear and keen to reveal to him the truth that would make competition of that kind could be done we, as a nation, would gradually be ousted from important home as well as overseas markets by foreign rivals.

It was, as already observed, in the first year of the great war that Mr. Steel's real opportunity came. His plans were prepared in readiness, and the fact that he had reached a time of life when many men in a position to do so seek an ever-increasing amount of leisure from business life and worries, seems never for a moment to have entered into his consideration. A man is as young as he feels, and he felt young. There was much to be done, and he commenced at once.

The development of his scheme was a revelation of his organising genius. First, in 1916, by the process of amalgamation, he eliminated one of his company's keenest competitors, Samuel Fox and Co., Limited, of Stocksbridge near Sheffield, and laid a sure foundation for the combination he had envisaged, the United Steel Companies, Limited. The latter came into actual being in 1918 with the important acquisition of the Frodingham Iron and Steel Company, Limited, in North Lincolnshire: the Workington Iron and Steel Company, Limited on the North-east Coast; the Appleby iron Company - a one-half interest in which was included in the deal with the Frodingham people, the other half being purchased from the Steel Company of Scotland - and the Rother Vale Collieries, Limited. in the Yorkshire coalfield.

Thereafter progress was very rapid, and the combination capital of two and a-half millions two years ago now approaches ten millions sterling. By the Fox amalgamation the combination already owned a railway near Sheffield, and another one was controlled in the North-east, the Cleator and Workington Junction Railway. Further iron and coal interests were added, rich ore fields were acquired, the combination became a ship owner for bringing to its ironworks foreign Ore, and harbour accommodation was purchased.

Still the operation of amalgamation or control proceeded unretarded by circumstances. In the Midlands Butlin's ironworks at Wellingborough were bought, control of the Martino Steel and Metal Company, of Billingham, obtained, and a large interest secured in Thomas Smith's Stamping Works, Limited, of Coventry and Walsall, whilst in Sheffield one of the oldest-established steel works, Daniel Doncaster and Sons, Limited, was absorbed.

Even so, the story of the activities of Mr. Steel, in conjunction with his very able co-directors, is only told in part. His efforts to save the British wire rod industry from the inroads of foreign rivals led to the flotation of the Templeborough Rolling Mills, Limited, formed by a combination of three or four interests, of which the United Steel Companies, Limited, was the principal. This company erected the first fully automatic wire rod rolling mill in the country. It is of the Morgan continuous type and has attracted a great deal of attention on this side of the Atlantic. No sooner had that company been safely launched than Mr. Steel engineered another, the United Bar and Strip Mills, Limited, and the work of installing a Morgon continuous merchant bar mill and a steel strip mill of the same type is now far advanced toward completion. These mills Mr. Steel designed so to work in conjunction with the large cogging mill and soaking pit at Templeborough and the series of fourteen open-hearth steel melting furnaces, each of about 50 tons capacity, erected by Steel, Peech and Tozer, Limited, that eventually the whole plant, including the wire rod mill, would operate as one magnificent unit of machinery.

It was at this point that death intervened. It would not be so true to say that Mr. Steel's work is left unfinished as that the details of his great plans have scarcely been unfolded, and it will now rest with his colleagues, who were so intimately in his councils, to take up and carry through to completion the tasks on which his heart, and theirs had been set.


1920 Obituary [4]

HENRY STEEL died on October 7, 1920, at the age of fifty-seven.

He was Chairman of the United Steel Companies, Ltd., of Sheffield. During the greater part of his career he was associated with Steel, Peech & Tozer, Ltd., of Ickles Steelworks, Rotherham. Under his direction these works have been vastly extended in recent years, notably by the erection at Templeborough, Rotherham, of fourteen 60-ton open-hearth furnaces.

Long ago he conceived the idea of a combination of businesses which should be self-contained in the matter of raw materials, blast-furnaces, steel furnaces, rolling-mills and forging plant, and his scheme materialised in the formation two years ago of the United Steel Companies, Ltd. Until the above developments came about the business of Steel, Peech & Tozer, Ltd., was owned and directed exclusively by members of the families named in the title, Mr. Steel becoming chairman of the Board on the death of his father in 1915.

He was elected a member of the Iron and Steel Institute in 1886.


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