MP Writes: ‘We should have tried to preserve chimney’

Steetley Chimney
Steetley Chimney

AT the time of writing Jemma Lowe is preparing for the final of the 200-metre butterfly – and by the time you are reading this we will know if she has achieved her dream of an Olympic medal.

I am sure she will have done her best and that is all that anyone can ask.

In my last column, I mentioned that it was only a matter of hours before the Olympic Games, the greatest sporting spectacle on earth, was to begin.

Click for more from the MP

Click this link to see a video of the demolition

Since then, we have had the opening ceremony, which certainly lived up to expectations, if not exceeded them.

I have to admit that I didn’t think I would enjoy it.

I had heard reports that there were thousands of sheep to be involved and just didn’t think it would be for me.

But the ceremony was an exceptional spectacle of Britain and British values.

There were many highlights – the chimneys rising out of the ground to show that we pioneered the Industrial Revolution, the molten steel made into circles which transformed into the Olympic rings, the celebration of the NHS and Arctic Monkeys playing a Beatles song.

But the most astonishing spectacle was the Queen acting with James Bond and going along with jumping out of a helicopter.

Such a notion, even a few short years ago, would have been unthinkable and shows a profound change in attitude and a relaxation from the monarch.

I’m sure the rest of the world wouldn’t have a clue about much of the ceremony, but that didn’t matter.

It was a great celebration of all that is great about this country and all that this country had given to the world. We often forget about that.

Speaking of industrial chimneys, I watched the demolition of the old Steetley chimney stack on Sunday morning with mixed feelings.

I’m pleased that over £6,000 was raised in aid of Hartlepool & District Hospice and the RNLI.

Eight-year old Jamie Brown and his granddad Dave Fricker, who won the raffle to push the button, will have something to remember for a long time.

But the chimney played an important part of my life.

My dad, Mervyn, worked at Steetley for more than 30 years.

He was employed there when I was born and one of the vivid memories of growing up was my mother telling me to be quiet because my dad was on night shift again.

“Dad’s works” could be seen at virtually any point in the town thanks to the distinctive chimney stack.

Each Christmas we used to go to Steetley for the party in the canteen, receiving a present from Santa, who I suspect wasn’t the real Father Christmas.

I actually disagree with my dad over this, but I think attempts should have been made to preserve the chimney.

This is not solely for personal and sentimental reasons, but as a means of preserving the town’s industrial heritage.

I certainly believe in progress and development and I don’t think we should set the town in aspic and somehow live in a museum.

But equally I think we should be proud of our history and incorporate some of our past into the future.

I don’t think it was inconceivable that the proposed housing development on the Steetley site could have incorporated the retention of the chimney.

As a real lover of history – and as someone who passionately believes that you don’t know where you’re going unless you know where you’ve come from, whether that’s as an individual, community, town or country – I think that we’ve probably lost too much of our past over the last half century.

This includes the likes of the Croft, Lynn Street and the coal staithes.

As I said, I agree with progress and don’t think you should live in the past, but I hope there isn’t regret in years to come for another loss of a great part of our industrial legacy.