You appear to be using a browser that is no longer supported. You may find that you are unable to use all features on the site. We recommend upgrading or changing your browser, if possible.
Skip to main content
Search... Open this section

The Big Mill (clip 1)

A poetic look at heavy industry

  • Print All


The production of sheet steel at the Ravenscraig and Gartcosh Works of Colvilles Ltd. Lanarkshire. Ravenscraig steel works produced steel in many forms - to make cars and desks, bridges and ships for worldwide markets.
This clip introduces us the the scale of the factory and includes shots of: Ravenscraig steel works in Motherwell; uses of steel including launch of the "Shell Aramare"; the Forth Road Bridge; shots of scaffolding on building, cranes and trains, shots of a Rolls Royce and a Mini, Royal Mail van in countryside, steel being stamped into shape in factory presses, shots of its various uses; the 'Bath' - the huge vat of molten steel in Ravenscraig Mill; a furnace and shots of men checking temperature and carbon content of steel.

Questions & Activities


  • How many different uses of steel are shown in the film?
  • How many different jobs can you see being done? Which are done by men, which by women?
  • Why is the four year old boy there, what do you think his father does in the factory?
  • Why do you think the narrator says the boy will grow up to work in the mill?
  • How does the music and instrumentation contribute to the atmosphere of the film?
  • What does the image of the molten steel remind you of?
  • How is sound used differently in this clip than the rest of the film?


Find out at what temperature steel becomes a liquid. How does this compare with other metals? Look at the position of metals in the periodic table. What could go wrong if the wrong amount of heat is applied?

Investigate some properties of different metals and the uses they are put to.

The narrator says that steel is used to make the "Shapes of Today" is that still true? Why is steel a useful material to make things with? How many different objects made out of metal can you find in your classroom or home? Which are made out of steel?

The narrator describes the factory as "a demanding monster", make a list of metaphors that could describe the factory.

The film is set in Ravenscraig Mill in Motherwell. Find out when it was opened, how many people worked there and when and why it closed. Find out where steel is manufactured now.

List all the examples of figurative language (metaphors, similies, personification) used in the film. Create some of your own and write your own short poem describing the mill (you could download the film, remove the soundtrack and record this as a new voice-over).

Describe techniques that the filmmaker uses to show the scale of the factory (think about camera angles and movement, style of music and choice of instruments).

Using extracts from the film, demonstrate how the filmmaker uses editing to link the factory work to the uses of steel in the outside world.

Clip Details

Record Id 007-000-000-071-C
Resource Rights Holder National Library of Scotland
Project Ref 0387
Date 1963
Genre Documentary, Promotional Film
School Subject Science, Geography, Modern Studies, History, Music, English, Mathematics, Technologies, Media Studies
Who Colvilles Ltd (sponsor), Films of Scotland (sponsor), Laurence Henson (director), Templar Film Studios (production company)
Where Ravenscraig Mill, Motherwell
Event Heavy Industry
Attributes Colour, Sound
Clip Length 6:16
Film Length 25:00