Industrial systems, landscapes and change.

Growth and decline of industrial areas

You are expected to be familiar with one industrial concentration in the European Union. Many industrial areas in Western Europe have passed through similar stages of growth, decline and partial recovery – you may be able to think of some examples. The North East of England is a good example of this kind of roller coaster effect.

Iron and steel, shipbuilding, colleries, concealed and exposed coalfields, former iron ore mines

Industrial concentration in North East England

The map above shows the main industries of the area around 1980. The industry grew, based on local raw materials and other natural advantages:

  • There were abundant supplies of coal, mined initially to the west of the coalfield where the deposits were close to the surface, and later in deeper mines further east.
  • Iron ore was available in the Cleveland Hills, just south of the River Tees.
  • Limestone could be obtained from the Pennines.
  • Supplies of salt found at Teesside were the basis of the chemical industry.
  • The estuaries of the Tyne, Wear and Tees allowed ships to be launched.

The coal, iron ore and limestone were the essential raw materials for the steel industry, which grew at Consett and at Teeside. This steel, in turn, became the raw material for further industries:

  • Shipbuilding yards were established on the three estuaries. The North East rivalled the Clyde for a time as the leading shipbuilding area of the world.
  • Railway engineering developed at Darlington, which had been a terminus of the first railway, from Stockton, in 1825.
  • Bridge building was established. The most famous North East product was the Sydney Harbour Bridge, built by Dorman-Long of Middlesbrough.

In the latter part of the 20th century, the area experienced industrial decline. There were several reasons for this:

  • Coal supplies declined and mines were closed, leaving only one deep coal mine today.
  • The iron ore mines were closed, and ore is now imported to Teesside.
  • The shipbuilding industry suffered from foreign competition, mainly from Japan and Korea.

Various attempts have been made to attract industries and services to provide new employment. Early examples included:

  • the Team Valley industrial estate, west of Gateshead
  • New Towns at Peterlee, Newton Aycliffe and Washington
  • the transfer of the Ministry of National Insurance from London

These developments were intended to:

  • reduce unemployment, which had exceeded 30% at times in the 1930s
  • diversify the employment structure, which had been over-concentrated on the basic industries
  • provide employment for women, who made up only 18% of the labour force in 1939, compared to a national average of 28%

Recent industrial changes

More recently, much of the new employment has been provided by overseas companies, as shown on the map below.

Newcastle Business Park, Siemens, Metro Centre, Nissan, Samsung, Fujitsu, LG

New employment in the North East England

These developments have further diversified the types of manufacturing industry (motor, electronics, off-shore supplies), and have provided more opportunity for office and retail work. The region has been particularly successful in attracting call centres, which employ more than 30,000 people.

These industries are attracted by the availability of a large, skilled labour force and by an excellent transport infrastructure. The attractions of the infrastructure include:

  • two international airports
  • six major ports with a full range of facilities
  • improved road and rail links to London and Europe
  • reservoirs in the Pennines providing constant water supply
  • available industrial sites, both brown and greenfield
  • Enterprise Zone sites

Industries are also attracted by financial assistance provided locally, or by the UK government, or by the EU. The financial assistance is in the form of:

  • job creation grants
  • rates or rent free periods
  • assistance with preparation of the site

Sadly, not all of these developments provide long term success. Both Siemens and Fujitsu have now closed.

To co-ordinate the attempts to attract new employment to the region and to contribute to the regeneration of the North East, the Government set up One North East as a Regional Development Agency. Its role includes:

  • encouraging business efficiency and competitiveness
  • boosting employment opportunities in the region
  • helping people gain and develop skills useful for work

Industrial areas on OS maps

Now you know about the growth, decline and regeneration of industry in Britain. You should also be able to recognise when an industrial landscape is shown on an Ordnance Survey map. In addition, you should be able to distinguish between old and new industrial landscapes. There are a number of features specific to each that should help you work out which type of landscape you’re looking at.

Early industrial locations

OS map extract of the River Clyde

Former dry docks on the River Clyde

Early industries were often located close to:

  • water power sites
  • canals or navigable rivers for transport
  • water, used as a raw material
  • railways, for transport
  • houses, often in a grid iron street pattern, since they were set up when people lived close to their place of work

In addition, the buildings are often noticeably large on the map and sometimes show the word ‘mill’ or ‘works’. Open space is limited.

New industrial locations

OS map extract of Hillington Industrial Estate

Hillington Industrial Estate

New industrial landscapes are often located:

  • close to road transport, for example a motorway or major A class road
  • within Industrial Estates, so that several factories are located together
  • on flat land, to allow several factories to be built
  • with access to electricity, even if pylons are not shown on the map
  • close to open space, to make the surrounding landscape more attractive
  • separate from housing, since workers can live far from their work

Make sure you can recognize the Ordnance Survey symbols for the features mentioned above.


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