The demise of Seaton Snook

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ARTHUR Glendenning’s research has looked at the high points of Seaton Snook.

Sadly, its growth came to a halt and a community which hoped that the zinc works could employ 400 people for years to come, went into decline.

A seemingly ideally placed zinc plant near to two major ports soon began to develop problems. The works’ distilling furnaces did not start working until a year later than expected, in 1908.

There was “considerable difficulty” finding a local workforce. Overseas experts had to be brought in to train the locals. Although everything was fine at first, animosity began to build between different nationalities just before the First World War.

Then with the outbreak of war, a local labour force became even harder to find as men were called up. The situation got even worse when the German workers were interred, especially after the Bombardment of Hartlepool.

And to make matters worse, the price of coal and other materials went up.

A glimmer of hope emerged in the 1930s when the rubber trade and tyre factories saw a resurgence for the zinc market. All seemed well but the plant only stayed open for another nine months.

The need for zinc metal started to fall after the 1914-1918 war - and yet another glimmer of hope emerged with the Second World War.

Britain needed zinc once more and the Seaton plant once again thrived with a workforce of anything up to 400 people.

The last zinc was cast in 1945/46 but the plant continued to produce sulphuric acid until 1957 when demand for that product also started to fall.

By 1963, the works were closed and the workforce disappeared.

“The small but quite vibrant village started to fall apart with people seeking employment elsewhere,” said Arthur.

The last families moved out and the houses were demolished in 1966. And while a nuclear power plant and a chemical plant stand on the site, the community of Seaton Snook is no more.