The Last Blast Furnace in England's Capital of Steel

A great ironworks was opened in 1839 on the south bank of the River Tees in northern England. Known as Teesside, the area became the world's ironmaking capital, with almost 120 blast furnaces operating on the riverbanks by mid-century. The site switched to steel at the end of the 19th century and played a crucial role in armament production through both world wars. The sole blast furnace remaining at Teesside was built in 1979 in Redcar, at the river's mouth. The operator, a unit of Thailand's Sahaviriya Steel Industries (SSI), has announced plans to shut the plant, eliminating 1,700 jobs and ending a long era of steel production at Teesside. Photographs by Simon Butterworth

Seen in the evening light from the neighboring holiday retreat of Saltburn, the Redcar blast furnace, hasn't been profitable for a while, as European producers struggled with an oversupply of steel and demand from China faded. 

The Redcar blast furnace stands on a spit of land jutting into the North Sea, at the mouth of the Tees, as a family returns to its camp in the sand dunes after bathing in the sea.

A fisherman mends the roof of his hut as the blast furnace looms behind him. Its owner, SSI, bought the plant from India's Tata Steel in 2011.

The area known as South Gare, at the mouth of the Tees, is home to those who fish in this area of the North Sea. 

Fishermen chat as a ship is maneuvered up the River Tees near the Redcar blast furnace.

Fishermen's huts huddle in the dunes.

Production rages at the blast furnace.

A section of the Redcar steel plant.

Stockpiles of coking coal for use in operating the blast furnace.

Playing on the Cleveland Golf Course, very near the steelmaking plant.

Looking along the Middlesborough-to-Redcar railway line as it passes the Dorman Long steel plant next to SSI's Redcar blast furnace. Dorman Long is famous for designing and building the Sydney Harbour Bridge, among many landmark structures.

Looking across the mouth of the Tees from its north bank as a coastal vessel passes the Redcar steel plant en route to the North Sea.

Teesside culture includes Gypsy horses that graze on wasteland. These two are foraging on the margins of the Tees, in front of the Hartlepool Nuclear Power Station. 

Redcar Beach in front of the Teesside Wind Farm, which lies offshore near the mouth of the Tees.