THE steel industry has built and shaped Newport and the surrounding areas, from the heyday of coal to cutting-edge steelworks and modern technology.

With the fight for the future of the industry still making headlines all this time later, we have had a look back at how Newport was forged in the fires of the industry.

Works such as Llanwern have provided thousands upon thousands of jobs across the region over the years.

Costing a massive £150 million, the Llanwern steelworks were officially opened by the Queen on October 25, 1962, on her first visit to Newport since her post-coronation tour in 1953.

By the time the site was built, more than 1,500 people were living in a caravan town outside Llanwern village.

South Wales Argus:

An aerial view of Newport, with Llanwern in the distance

Towns like Caldicot and Cwmbran were expanded as a direct result of the need to house Llanwern’s workers.

The steelworks was the latest word in technology - the first oxygen-blown integrated steelworks in Britain.

When it was officially opened there were more than 13,000 workers and contractors at the site.

Margaret Sweeney said: "I started working at Llanwern in 1965 when it was Richard Thomas and Baldwins.

"I left my job in the bank to go there as the pay was much better and no Saturday working.

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"However, joining as a young woman in a secretarial role meant I had to go firstly into the Office Training School for six months before getting a permanent job.

"It was an extremely interesting time."

She said that she eventually experienced the "big strikes in 1981".

"It was a closed shop and, even though I was a PA I had to join the ISTC (Iron and Steel Trades Confederation) union, which put me out of work for three months," she said.

"It was at this time I decided to leave."

South Wales Argus:

Police preparing for the strikes at Llanwern

Dave Dunning described his time at the site.

"I joined in '64 in the cold mill," he said.

"It’s only now I look back and realise how dangerous the things we were expected to do were.

"I later transferred to fire and ambulance service in Llanwern and there saw the loss of life which could have been avoided."

Back at the time of Llanwern opening, the Argus wrote: “All of Newport has felt the impact of full employment and freer spending – a process that is reflected in the changing face of the town’s shopping centre.

South Wales Argus:

Police clash with union members during Llanwern strike

“The Queen, radiant and smiling after her morning visit to Newport, this afternoon pressed the button in the slabbing mill of the £150 million Spencer Steelworks to mark the official opening.

“During a speech at the luncheon, the Queen referred to the important contribution the works will make to the country’s prosperity, and said they were ‘a venture which implies great faith in the future’.”

In fact, the below video - shared for the site's 60th anniversary by local MP Jessica Morden, shows the Queen herself opening the site.

The clip features some now-familiar sights in Newport, such as Hartridge High School, which was fairly new at the time.

Ms Morden has highlighted the importance of the steel industry - to Newport and the wider country - on numerous occasions in the House of Commons.

Last week she did so again.

"I am incredibly proud to represent a steel constituency, and the industry has been at the heart of the communities I serve for well over a century," she said.

"The immense contribution of this vital, strategic industry is in a sense undebatable.

South Wales Argus:

Llanwern in the 1970s

"Our steel sector employs 34,500 people directly in the UK and supports a further 43,000 in supply chains. Steel salaries are 45 per cent higher than the UK national average and 59 per cent higher than the regional median in Wales, Yorkshire, and Humberside.

"It goes without saying, then, that the steel industry should be at the heart of any levelling-up agenda worth the paper its written on."

She described the steel workforce as "a winning combination of highly-skilled, experienced workers who have honed their expertise over decades of dedicated work, and a healthy influx of younger steelworkers eager to work in any industry which is at the cutting edge of innovation".

"Even in the face of the considerable challenges the industry faces, steel still has enormous pulling power for young workers looking to build up skills which will last them a lifetime," she said.

"This is clear to see at Tata's Llanwern steelworks in my constituency, where the average age of the workforce has fallen from 53 to 32 in recent years. Like so many before them, there is a new generation of workers who are hugely proud to be steelworkers."

South Wales Argus:

The control room at Llanwern

Ms Morden said that, despite challenges being faced by the sector, the steel industry has the opportunity to be at the forefront of a green revolution.

"We need the government to commit now to maximising the procurement of British steel," she said.

"It's a move which Make UK estimate could boost the UK economy by as much as £4 billion pounds and support 11,000 British jobs in steel companies and their supply chains."

She cited Community Union's General Secretary Roy Rickhuss as saying: "The green energy revolution presents a huge opportunity to build a robust British supply chain based on the supply of top-quality domestic steel.

"The events of the last two years tell us Britain cannot rely on fragile global supply networks for strategic goods, and if we want to go green it is nonsensical to transport steels from the other side of the world."

She argued that Britain should work towards becoming self-sufficient in terms of steel production.

"Instead of sticking plasters, we need a long-term plan," she said.

The Welsh Parliament's representative in the area, John Griffiths, said: "From the end of the 1800s through to the present day, the steel sector has been an important part of the city’s economic and social fabric.

"It’s been difficult times for the industry in Newport in recent weeks, most notably with Liberty Steel.

"But with the proper support from UK Government and one which is matched by proper investment, we can make sure it has a strong future and help it transition to a greener way of working."

South Wales Argus:

Inside the Llanwern steelworks

Of course, there have been tough times for the industry over the years, with various job cuts and closures.

Recently, Liberty Steel has revealed plans for a "restructuring" programme - which will include converting the Newport site into a storage, "distribution and trading hub", and could affect up to 440 jobs.

The firm has operations in Newport and Tredegar, with more across the UK.

The company has said workers will be offered a level of guaranteed salary and outplacement opportunities, with the intention of being redeployed within Liberty Steel UK on previous employment terms when market conditions allow.

That being said, the wider future of steel is not set, and certainly doesn't have to be a dark one for steel in the region.

In a video, released for the 60th anniversary of Tata's Llanwern site - steelworkers Sean Edwards and Jeanne Welford recite a poem written by the former.

"Sixty years later, there is a brand we still wear," the poem says.

"We're still living the dream, world-class products we share.

"Misconceptions are often made, we're not ready to concede.

"We are still fighting. We are still here.

"Rydym yn dal i ymladd. Ry'n ni yma o hyd."