Rotherham is a town in South Yorkshire, England, built upon the River Don near the confluence of the Don and the Rother. It lies in the Don Valley between Sheffield and Doncaster. Its geographic coordinates are 53°26'N 1°21'W. The town is six miles from Sheffield city centre. It is the main town in the Metropolitan Borough of Rotherham, which has the safest Labour council in the country. The population of the borough of Rotherham is 248,175, and that of the Rotherham urban sub-area 117,262
While there were Iron Age and Roman settlements in the area now covered by the town, Rotherham itself was not founded until the Early Middle Ages. It soon established itself as a key Saxon market town, lying, as it does, on a Roman road near a forded part of the Don.
In the 1480s the Rotherham-born Archbishop of York, Thomas Rotherham, instigated the building of a college (The College of Jesus) to rival the colleges of Cambridge and Oxford. This and the stylish new parish church of All Saints made Rotherham an enviable and modern town at the turn of the 16th century. But the college was dissolved under the reign of Edward VI, its assets stripped for the crown. By the end of the 16th century, Rotherham had fallen from a fashionable college town to a notorious haven of gambling and vice. Nevertheless, the history of Thomas Rotherham and education in the town continues to be remembered in the name of Thomas Rotherham College.
The region had been exploited for iron since Roman times, but it was coal that first brought the industrial revolution to Rotherham. The seams were the driving force behind the improvements to navigation along the Don, the various cuttings eventually forming the Sheffield and South Yorkshire Navigation.
However, the iron resources were soon exploited, most notably by the Walker family, who built up something of an iron and steel empire in Rotherham. Throughout the 18th century, the Walker foundries produced high quality cannons, in addition to several early cast iron bridges, one of which was commissioned by Tom Paine. Meanwhile, Joseph Foljambe established a factory to produce his Rotherham plough, the first commercially successful iron plough. The first Rotherham glassworks was set up in 1751, and went on to become Beatson Clark & Co., one of the town's largest manufacturers, exporting glass medicine bottles worldwide. In the 19th century other successful industries included pottery, brass making and the manufacture of cast iron fireplaces.
Rotherham iron was very highly regarded for its strength. Iron, and later steel, became the principal industry in Rotherham, surviving well into the 20th century. Steel, Peech and Tozer's massive Templeborough steelworks (now the Magna Science Adventure Centre) was, at its peak, over a mile long, employing 10,000 workers, and housing six electric arc furnaces producing 1.8 million tonnes of steel a year. The operation finally closed down in 1993.
The 1800s saw a massive expansion of Rotherham's cast iron industry, starting with the opening of the Effingham Ironworks in 1820, later becoming Yates Haywood & Co. Other major ironfounders included William Corbitt and Co.; George Wright and Co. of Burton Weir; Owen and Co., of Wheathill Foundry; Morgan Macauley and Waide, of the Baths Foundry; the Masbro’ Stove Grate Co., belonging to Messrs. Perrot; W. H. Micklethwait, and John and Richard Corker, of the Ferham Works.
The Parkgate Ironworks was first established in 1823 by Sanderson and Watson, and changed ownership several times. In 1854 Samuel Beal & Co produced the cast iron armour plating for Isambard Kingdom Brunel's famous steamship the SS Great Eastern In 1864 the ironworks was taken over by the Parkgate Iron Co. Ltd, becoming the Parkgate Iron and Steel Company in 1888. The company was purchased by Tube Investments Ltd in 1956 and finally closed in 1974.
Beatson Clark & Co. was a family business until 1961, when it became a public company. The glassworks is still operating on the same site, although the family connection has ceased and the company is now owned by TT Group plc. Its main activities are still the manufacture and sale of glass containers for the pharmaceutical, food and drinks industries.
Rotherham continues to be amongst the leaders in advanced manufacturing in the UK. The Corus Engineering Steels (CES) plant in Rotherham continues to produce steel for a number of products worldwide, including Renault Formula 1 cars and the new Airbus A380 "super jumbo" aeroplane. It currently produces approximately 1.1 million tonnes of engineering steels each year.
Other precision manufacturing companies in the town include; AESSEAL, Newburgh Engineering, Precision Magnetics and Orkot Composites. Rotherham is also the location for the Advanced Manufacturing Park (AMP).