A cavernous steel-shed in South Yorkshire, formerly the proud home of Templeborough steelworks, now houses a science and industry museum – Magna Science Adventure Centre.
At a mile long, the site was once the longest steel-melting shop in Europe and the world’s biggest steel-making plant. Its melting shop, opened in 1917, produced steel for artillery shells used in the First World War.
The site was modernised in the 1950s with the introduction of six electric arc furnaces. At its peak, the Templeborough works, locally known as “Steelos”, produced
1.8 million tonnes of steel a year and employed 10,000 workers.
The plant closed in 1993 and remained derelict until 2001. The site was then transformed into a museum via a £46 million redevelopment. Today, a lofty, modern space fuses architecture and design with science and industry. The museum also has green credentials, with more than 2,000 photovoltaic panels fitted on its roof to power the building and its attractions.
The size of Magna is overwhelming. Two aisles run along inside the enormous building which remains, most of the time, suspended in darkness. Hooks dangle from the ceiling, while the last remaining furnace is submerged below. An arrangement of suspended walkways, steps and lifts links the four main pavilions, which are themed on the four classical elements.
The Earth pavilion is an underground cave with hands-on games and attractions. The displays are modern, vibrant and well thought-out. Visitors can climb into and control real JCB diggers, and “explode” a quarry.
The Fire pavilion is all about melting steel and electromagnetic cranes. The atmosphere is simply scorching, with visually stunning walls of fire and lightning storms. Star of the show is the fire tornado, which visitors can activate and observe in its full, fierce glory.
A giant steel wave houses the Water pavilion, which allows children and adults to explore water, and our dependency on it, in a fun, interactive setting. The chances of staying dry in this zone are slim, so visitors are advised to bring a change of clothes.
The Air pavilion hangs 15 metres overhead, in the rafters of the building. The suspended “Zeppelin” is home to a range of noisy, exciting, air-themed exhibits. Visitors can dabble in activities such as creating patterns with air cannons and taking a spin on a gyroscopic chair.
Elsewhere, interactive kiosks focus on the area’s history of steel-making. Visitors can hear stories of clocking on and off, play word games, and explore Magna’s dark underbelly with an interactive spotlight on the main walkway.
Magna’s most popular attraction is the Big Melt. The show is set around Templeborough’s remaining “E” furnace, one of the original electric arc furnaces. The steel-making process is brought back to life through theatrical lighting, pyrotechnics, smoke and original soundtracks. The Big Melt can be heard and seen from almost every part of the building, shaking everything underfoot and overhead.
For those interested in the history of the works and the steel-making process, it’s worth joining a Steel Tour. An extra behind-the-scenes tour, in the summer school holidays, includes a trip to the foundry floor and a photo-opportunity near the remaining furnace.
Visitors looking for a bigger thrill can abseil, jump from the world’s highest indoor bungee jump, or ride the zip-wire along the building.
5 things to see
The Big Melt
Find out how an electric arc furnace steel was used to make steel
Learn steel’s secrets from one of Magna’s expert guides
Aqua-Tek (May to September)
Discover what happens to water after it’s flushed away
Watch this five-metre-high spectacle in the Fire pavilion
Experience what it’s like to control this machine in the Earth pavilion