History of Shotton Point

The John Summer Clock Tower building opened in 1907 and was the headquarters of Shotton Steelworks, before closing in 2009 and falling into serious disrepair after being sold by the company. Wilsons Auctions have now taken on the restoration project, with a view to securing the future of the historic and Grade II listed site.

The company once employed over 13,000 people, making it one of the largest employers in the country in its heyday. Many of the local community are descendants of workers from ‘The Works’ and have fond memories, and many interesting stories to tell.  It has changed ownership four times and was later acquired in a land deal in 2010. The Victorian Society highlighted its concerns about the building by placing it on its Top 10 Endangered Buildings list.

Wilsons Auctions bought the site in 2020 in a decrepit state and is undergoing a restoration project to bring life back to the historic buildings and estate.

There was a major concern that the buildings would be sold to a developer and the heritage of the estate would be lost, however as a local employer, Wilsons Auctions has committed to a  renovation project that will return the estate to something of its former glory. This will allow the estate to be enjoyed by future generations, as there are plans to create a community hub, heritage centre, café, library, and reflection areas.


1732 - 1736
Between 1732 and 1736, Dutch engineers constructed a five-mile-long artificial channel on the North East Wales side of the estuary which meant that large parts of the Dee estuary were no longer submerged by daily tides. The work was funded by local merchants and Chester Corporation to improve navigation for shipping and reduce silting along the river Dee to the port of Chester at a time when the city’s shipping trade was in decline. Originally John Summers Steelworks did not make steel they rolled sheets from imported steel bars which came via river and rail they started making and rolling their own steel bars in 1906 when they built the number one steelworks and 10 small furnaces. (The photograph below is of Shotton Point)

Photograph of the beginning of Shotton

1822 - 1848
Ironically, John Summers, the name that has become synonymous with Shotton, never saw the town or even the Dee marshes where the factory that bore his name was built. Born in Bolton in 1822, he moved to Dukinfield, thirty miles away, at the age of 20, and began working as a clogger. He married in 1848 and had eleven children. His business expanded rapidly. In 1851 he visited the Great Exhibition in London, bought a nail-making machine, and commenced making nails with which to fasten the iron strips onto the soles of clogs. (The photograph below is of John Summers and his family)
John Summers Family

In 1852 John Summers moved into Sandy Bank Iron Forge, half a mile away, at Stalybridge, where he concentrated on the production of clog irons and nails. His business was so successful that he purchased land, known as Bayley Fields, near the forge, and built a new ironworks. Six years later, the "Globe Works," as it was known, was making an annual profit of £2000. (The photograph below is of the Globe Ironworks)
1876 - 1890
John Summers died on 10th April 1876, at the age of 54. Three of his sons, James, John, and Alfred, carried on the business, and they were joined by another brother, Henry Hall Summers in 1869 who demonstrated outstanding leadership, ability, and energy, the business at Globe Iron Works, Stalybridge starts to flourish and plans are drawn up for an expansion at the Globe Works Stalybridge. (The photograph below is of Henry Hall Summers)

Photograph of Henry Hall Summers

At Stalybridge, the company had dealings with the M.S & L. Railway Company, the same company who, five years earlier had commissioned the building of the Hawarden Bridge at Shotton. It was probably through this connection that the Summers family came to hear about the Shotton site. 

With no room at Stalybridge for further expansion, the Summers brothers start their search for a site for a second works. Henry made his way to a boatyard at Connah’s Quay and asked for a boatman to take him up the River Dee. Bill Butler was given the job and he rowed Henry upriver in the direction of Chester. When they returned to the boatyard, Henry gave young Butler half a crown for his services

The Summers’ main requirements were for a nearby source of water and for the site to be within easy reach of Liverpool. The River Dee and the recently constructed railway adjacent to the land made Shotton ideal. The reclaimed marshland of the Dee was cheap and in 1895, Summers’ purchased 40 acres at the reputed price of 2s 6d per acre, a total of £5! A further optional 50 acres was negotiated and £610 was paid for railway sidings connecting to the M,S & L Railway. In December of that year, as noted in the minutes of a meeting of the M, S & L Railway Company, John Summers and Sons had acquired part of the golf links of the Chester Golf Club. A platform built for the club had to be moved, for £190. (The photograph below is of the Hawarden Bridge)

Hawarden bridge

1896- 1889
In 1896 the "Hawarden Bridge Steelworks" opened on a 6-acre site, and within a year 250 were employed. In 1898 the firm became a Private Limited Company with a capital of £200,000. Apart from a few coal mines, small iron and brick companies, and local fishing and seafaring trade, Deeside was agricultural and sparsely populated at the time of the steelworks opening. John Summers therefore had to build not only a steelworks but an industrial community. Some of the men recruited for the new works came from the Globe Works at Stalybridge, staying in local lodgings during the week and traveling back, to their families at the weekend. 

By 1896, 25 workmen’s cottages were being built on the opposite side of the river in Shotton. As the works expanded, men travelled daily by train from Wrexham, Rhyl, and Prestatyn. A walk along Chester Road West in Shotton will reveal the prosperity brought to the town by the Summers Steelworks in its first few years. Starting from near the Wepre Brook bridge, on the north side of the coast road, a row of terraced houses, extending right down to the Station Hotel was built in 1896. Each block was named and most of the name-stones can still be read on their walls. Amongst them are: "West View," "Hillside," "Filbert Terrace," "Cambrian View," "Avelon Cottage" and "Shotton Villa." "Claremont Villa" on the corner of Chester Close, and until recently a doctor's surgery, was also built in 1896. In 1908, on completion of new offices, the company transferred its headquarters to Shotton.

This elegant symmetrical building of polished red brick and terra-cotta is said to resemble the Midland Hotel in Manchester. It was designed by Henry’s friend, James France, and is of Edwardian style. It consists of 5 storeys, and its imposing, castellated central clock tower still overlooks Shotton today, contrasting with the high-tech factories that surround it. These villages began as a planned community for workers of the nearby steel works in Shotton, in accordance with company policy to give their workers decent housing. These villages were originally intended to be called "Sealand Garden Suburb" and were planned to be four times bigger, but construction was halted by the advent of the First World War. (Below is a photograph of Shotton Point).


1902 - 1910
By the year 1909, the company was the largest manufacturer of galvanized steel in the country, and probably the largest manufacturer of steel nail strips and sheets. The site now occupied 60 acres and 10,000 acres of marshland had been purchased. Looking across the Dee from Shotton, the factory had the appearance of a town of small factories, and there were 26 tall chimney stacks. The workforce had now reached 3000 and the weekly wage bill was £6000. The capacity of the factory was 160,000 tons of steel per annum.

While the works grew the hamlets of Shotton and Connah’s Quay had an influx of workers and their families. The works and the community grew together. In 1902 a group of managers in the works formed Summers Permanent Benefit Building Society to fund house purchase. James Summers was president and mortgages were repaid directly from workers’ wages. By 1909 John Summers and Sons was the largest manufacturer of galvanised steel in the country and by 1910 the workforce had grown to 3,000 the policy of building houses for workers financed through the company building society helped attract men to the area. (The photograph below is of the Steel Works Crew). 

Steel Works Crew

1911 - 1972
In 1911 John Summers and Sons signed an agreement with the railway allowing directors, officers, servants, and workpeople of Summers and children and others bringing meals to such workpeople to use the footways. Everyone else had to pay a half penny each way. This existed until 1972 when a new agreement was signed with the new owners, British Rail. (The photograph below is of Summers Headquarters Building in 1910)

Photograph of John Summers Headquarters Building in 1910

1914 - 1918
Thousands of steel sheets were produced for the trenches, Nissen huts, and shell-making during the First World War. One of the Shotton employees Harry Weale, had the distinction of being awarded the Victoria Cross for bravery, At the age of 17 he left his job as a packer in the steelworks on the outbreak of hostilities in August 1914. He was evacuated back home shortly after from Ypres in Belgium suffering from severe frostbite and then suffered a leg wound and gassing on his return to the frontline in 1915. His brave action occurred in 1918 while serving as a lance-corporal in the Royal Welch Fusiliers.

“On 26 August 1918 at Bazentin-le-Grand, France, when the advance of the adjacent battalion was held up by enemy machine-guns, Lance-Corporal Weale was ordered to deal with hostile posts. When Lewis gun failed him, on his initiative, he rushed to the nearest post and killed the crew, then went for the others, the crews of which fled on his approach. His dashing action cleared the way for the advance, inspired his comrades, and resulted in the capture of all the machine guns.” Harry survived the war, returned to the steelworks, married Susannah Harrison, and moved from Shotton to Rhyl where he died in 1959 at the age of 62. (The photograph below is of Henry Weale)

Photograph of Henry Weale

In the immediate post-war years, Shotton was highly successful. By 1915 output had increased to 240,000 tons, and a second steel plant was under construction. In 1919 the Wolverhampton Corrugated Iron Company at Ellesmere Port was taken over by John Summers. They also bought the Castle Fire Brick Company in Buckley. The next year they took over the Shelton Iron, Steel, and Coal Company of Stoke-on-Trent. This company was Shotton's supplier of pig iron, a very scarce item at the time and this acquisition meant that the company had become very largely self-contained and self-sufficient. (The photograph below is Shotton Point's War Memorial)

Shotton Point War Memorial

This expansion was not continuous, however. Traditional overseas markets for Shotton Steel declined during the Great Depression, between the wars. In 1929 the rolling mills at the Stalybridge plant were closed down, and two years later, this slump affected Shotton. By 1930 the workforce totalled 6000, but on 24th April 1931, a day that came to be known locally as "Black Friday," without any notice at all, 4,000 employees were handed an envelope containing a letter that read:

"The last few weeks have been the most unpleasant and anxious that the Directors have ever had to face. They realize that in the actions they are now taking they have to tell many of the firm's most loyal servants that there is no more work for them. They have studied every individual case and, whilst it is hard to dispense with those who have rendered faithful service to the company for many years, they feel that, in the interests of the firm, no other course is open to them. You will, however, be paid two weeks' salary in lieu of notice." 

In 1935 one of the Summers' ships, "Maurita," was sold to a firm in Lancaster but, coincidentally, during the war, she sank only a few miles away from her former home. She hit a mine in the Dee estuary with the loss of all hands.  Many of the Summers' fleet were commandeered by the Government during World War 2 for use as petrol carriers. The airforce took one for use as a bouy-boat and the navy took two. "Stalybridge" and "Hawarden Bridge" were fitted out with guns at Liverpool in readiness for the Normandy landings. 

Recovery began in 1937 when a continuous hot & cold strip mill was installed following negotiations with the Mesta Machine Company of Pittsburgh, U.S.A. The site of this strip mill covered 27 acres and was raised 17 feet above the existing land to provide a suitable foundation. This required the pumping of 750,000 tons of sand from the estuary.

Throughout the war, the works ran at full capacity. One of the Hawarden Bridge Works' most famous products was made in this period. It was corrugated sheeting that was curved and punched to make self assembly kits for the famous Anderson Shelter, which saved many lives during the Blitz. Fifty thousand were produced every week, but a shortage of zinc, used to galvanize the sheets, meant that the Morrison Shelters, designed for indoor use, superseded the Anderson Shelters. (Photograph of the Anderson Shelter Kits waiting in Sidings at Hawarden Bridge Station).

Anderson Shelter Kits

1941 - 1945
Shotton Works operated at full capacity throughout the war, contributing 2.2 million tons of black and galvanised sheets.  The feared loss of jobs is averted with the original hand-rolling mills kept in operation much longer than anticipated to meet demand. King George V1 and Queen Elizabeth paid morale-boosting visits to the works in February 1941 and July 1943 with Geoffrey Summers being invested with the CBE on the later occasion. 

From a workforce of about 5,500 employees, 1,834 men enlisted for war service. Many of their places were filled by women, including many wives. Women had worked in the General Office since the First World War but now they moved into the laboratories, packaging departments, and even onto cranes. Altogether a thousand extra women were recruited mainly as crane drivers in the hot and cold strip rolling mills, slab yard, and Marsh department.

The works were well-known to the German Luftwaffe, as shown by a map dated September 1941 and retrieved from an enemy plane brought down nearby. Low-flying raids were hazardous because of the low-lying Clwydian range of hills and decoy lights on high ground and the Dee marshes made bombing difficult for a plant crucial to the country’s war effort.

In the event, not a single shell or bomb fell on the works during the war, and on 22nd May 1945 Richard Summers spelled out the extent of the contribution made in defense of the country. During six years of continuous high-pressure operation, the works had produced 3.3 million tons of steel ingots, and 2.2 million tonnes of sheets, sufficient to make over 60 million steel ammunition boxes, over 40 million jerry cans, and 16 million oil drums. 

Queen Elizabeth

Queen Elizabeth

In 1947 Dutch engineers, experts in land reclamation, were brought to Shotton. Another artificial plateau was created this time 280 acres in extent, 15 feet high, and involving the pumping of six million tons of sand from the Dee estuary. After draining, it provided a solid foundation upon which new blast furnaces, coke ovens, and a larger melting shop were built. (Below is a photograph of Shotton Point's Coke Ovens).

Shotton Point

Whilst the work was still underway, the Government Nationalised the steel industry. On 15th February 1951, John Summers and Sons became the Iron and Steel Corporation and State property. 
One of the first Royal duties carried out by Prince Philip was on April 29, 1953, when he officially opened the first phase of major plant developments at Hawarden Bridge Steelworks, now Tata Steel Shotton. The Duke’s visit marked the completion of the first phase of developments Gordon Smith, who for many years was PR at Shotton Steel, recalls: "The works, owned at the time by John Summers and Sons Limited and renamed Shotton Works following the nationalisation of the industry in 1967, had played a major national role during the Second World War, manufacturing over three million tonnes of uncoated and galvanised steel sheets for over 100 wartime uses principally air raid shelters, ammunition boxes, jerry cans and oil drums.At the time pig iron and scrap for the steel furnaces were imported into the works and immediately the war ended Summers drew up plans to make the Deeside plant fully integrated and so self-sufficient." (The photographs below are of Prince Philip's perfect Summers day' in Flintshire at steelworks)

The Conservative Government, which followed, pledged to denationalise the industry and did so on 1st October 1954. The steelworks were once again the property of John Summers. This is a garden in an industrial landscape, providing recreational social benefit to employees, as pioneered by Lever at Port Sunlight. York stone pedestal supported a plaque, recording the presentation of the garden and recreation facilities by Henry Summers to the Headquarters Office staff, on his seventieth birthday in 1935. (The photograph below is of Henry Summers with sons Richard and Geoffrey to the right).

Sir Richard was knighted for services to the steel industry which culminated in the office of President of the British Iron and Steel Federation in 1960.

1967 - 2001
At its peak, the works employed more than 13,000. In 1967 the steel industry was nationalised again and the Shotton Works became part of the Summers Division of the Scottish and Northwest Group of the British Steel Corporation where Peter John Summers became Director of Personnel and Social Policy. "Hawarden Bridge" has an interesting history. It was the first ship to enter Dunkirk Harbour after the liberation of the town. After returning to duties on the River Dee, she was sold to a Barbados company in 1967. Eleven years later she was found abandoned and adrift - her crew lost and engine flooded - a victim of the "Bermuda Triangle." She was towed to Miami, and the fate of her crew remains a mystery to this day. (The photograph below is of the SS Hawarden Bridge - Victim of the Bermuda Triangle)

Photograph of the SS Hawarden Bridge – Victim of the Bermuda Triangle

In 1969 the Globe Ironworks closed down in Stalybridge, and following many years of speculation, the party finally ended in Shotton three years later. In 1972 B.S.C. announced a 10-year plan that would culminate in the loss of about 7,000 steel-making jobs. All 13 unions fought the closure but were unsuccessful. In 1973 the government announced it would phase out iron and steel making at Shotton. This ended eighty years of Summers’ family history but not Peter’s. He was given the responsibility to assist some of the 6,500 people who would lose their jobs as a result. Thus started the second and most rewarding part of his career.

The last cast of steel produced passed by virtually unnoticed, and without ceremony, for the works was on strike at the time. The end of steel-making at the site was devastating to Shotton and the Deeside area, which relied heavily on the works as the main employer in the area. Shotton now takes its unenviable place in history as the community that suffered the greatest mass loss of job opportunities in living memory. The closure of the cold strip mill and an electro-galvanising line in 2001 saw the workforce reduced further. Shotton Steelworks now employs a mere 700 in what has become a state-of-the-art steel coating.  

The outer sections of the bridge are fixed span and the two centre sections swing span. The opening mechanism was housed in a control tower on the works side of the river until its demolition because of deterioration in 1976. It was last swung open in 1953 when the Duke of Edinburgh visited the works to open new “heavy-end” developments. Over the years, the works became self-sufficient to support a busy internal rail operation with a three-road loco shed, engineering shops, boiler shop, foundry, paint shop, wagon repair shop, permanent way section, and traffic department.

The development of a new industrial park for Deeside was announced in 1976 with Peter J. Summers, great-grandson of John Summers, appointed Industry Co-ordinator, Shotton, with BSC Industry Limited, the job-creating subsidiary of BSC. (The photograph below is of Peter John Summers)

Photograph of Peter John Summers

Misery remains after steelworks closure: Shotton has still not recovered from the closure of its steel plant in 1980. The people of Shotton in north Wales were furious are they were being used by John Major as an example of a community which recovered from the closure of a major employer.

Since the Shotton steelworks closed in 1980 many of the men made redundant have never worked again, according to those who lost their jobs. Former steelworkers say that much of the industry brought into the area and sited at Deeside Industrial Park has consistently refused to employ anyone over 40.

Defending the decision to make 30,000 miners redundant, the Prime Minister said that he had recently visited the site of the old steelworks where 10,000 jobs had been 'lost in a single day'. He added: 'There is now a modern industrial estate there providing secure, permanent employment for the people who once worked in those Shotton steelworks.'

In 1980 John Summers Building Society merged with the Cheshire Building Society to protect the interests of its 9,600 mortgagors and investors following BSC’s announcement to end iron and steelmaking. The Summers Society had assets of £7.5 million and reserves of £373,000 at the time. 


1988 - 1989
British Steel Corporation, now in the black after 11 years of loss-making, is replaced by British Steel plc, a public limited company on 5th September 1988. Shotton Works is part of British Steel Strip Products Division. The production of Stelvetite, Shotton's Plastic Laminated Steel Strip product, ended. For this work and the creation of over 4,400 jobs in 87 new factories, Peter was awarded the MBE. He retired in 1989 at the age of sixty. 

Shotton as of 2019
A new visitor information leaflet, “Tata Steel at Shotton”, records that the works has 700 employes and is currently producing 500,000 tonnes of galvanised and pre-finished (painted) strip, of which 40 per cent is exported. The product manufacturing plant comprises one galvanising line, two Colorcoat lines, two composite panel lines, and six further processing lines including blanking and multi-strand slitting. The primary markets are the construction industry and consumer products sector. Among major construction clients for products that include insulated panels, built-up systems, facades, structural roofs and floor decking profiles are Jaguar Land Rover, IKEA, Travis Perkins, Wickes, and Airbus. Painted steel is supplied to Mitsubishi, Indesit, and Thorn for domestic consumer product applications including kitchen appliances, interiors, and lighting. Thirteen new products have been developed at the works in the past five years and differentiated products make up more than 75 percent. of the works’ order book. 

Wilsons Auctions bought the Shotton original historic Administrative Office and associated buildings in February 2020 in a decrepit and derelict state. There followed some initiatives by local community groups to endeavor to save the site, however, they didn’t possess the infrastructure, funding or general know how to take on the task. (The photographs below are of the Summers Headquarters Building at the beginning of the renovation)

By 2023 it became apparent that the buildings, in particular the Clock Tower would not survive another winter; the roofs were collapsing and water ingress was steadily destroying the iconic historic features, so it was decided that Wilsons would take on the renovation and site works, rather than lose the iconic site to the elements. The multi-million pound investment programme will see the site restored to its former glory and will feature community gardens and a museum area in the Clock Tower. Visitors will be able to enjoy a historic tour and get their picture taken at the iconic main stairway which was made by the same manufacturers of the stairway in HMS Titanic. 

Before and After

Before and After

Before and After

Before and After

Shotton Point

Shotton Point