14. The site after closure
When the site closed all the employees were thrown out of work. It was a time of economic decline and Bilston was particularly hard hit. Many of the steel workers never found work again. Several re-training schemes were set up which gave some people something to do - some as trainers and some as trainees. But this did little to alleviate the problem as a whole. Higher levels of employment in the area had to wait for the coming of better economic times many years later.
The site was cleared. At about 9.40 am on the 15th October 1980, Jack Merrett took up a position on Millfields Road, to record the last of Elisabeth. These are his photos:
A small part of the works, the social club, was sold off to a consortium of ex-workers and, as the Springvale Club flourished and continues to flourish to this day. But the great majority of the site was handed over to the National Coal Board, who carried out an open cast coal mining operation. David Evans, who was an engineer with NCB at the time, recalls that the upper seams of coal were riddled with the remains of bell pits and other old, small coal workings. These pits remained full of wood of all shapes and sizes that had been used as props and shorings. The NCB had to devise a system for passing the newly won coal through a large water tank, so that the wood floated off and could be removed to make the coal fit for sale. The excavation went all the way down to the 30 ft. seem. When all the commercially available coal had been removed the site was restored - to a level somewhat below its original.
The restored land was then used for housing, part of the new arterial road, The Black Country Route, and an industrial estate off it.