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Report - British Xylonite/Wardle Storeys, Cattawade, Suffolk/Essex - 20/09/2010

Discussion in 'Industrial Sites' started by RaymondKHessel, Sep 23, 2010.

  1. RaymondKHessel

    RaymondKHessel 28DL Full Member
    28DL Full Member

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    For those of you who do not know (I know this site has been covered a few times before), The British Xylonite Company/Wardle Storeys Factory in Cattawade, near Manningtree, Essex was a facility involved in the production of xylonite (or better known as celluloid).

    Here is some history of the place, taken from http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/a2a/records.aspx?cat=173-hc410&cid=0#0

    History

    The British Xylonite Company could justifiably claim to be the first British firm successfully to manufacture a plastic material in commercial quantities. Xylonite, better known by its American equivalent of 'celluloid', was invented by Alexander Parkes and first displayed in 1862 under the name of 'Parkesine'. Derived from the nitro-cellulose and collodion processes, it was initially used for making domestic articles in substitution for wood, horn, ivory or tortoiseshell. Its subsequent development was closely associated with Hackney, being taken up by Daniel Spill, rubber manufacturer, in 1864 and later by the Xylonite Company at Hackney Wick and the 'Ivoride' Works at Homerton High Street. The founders of the British Xylonite Company, Levi Parsons Merriam and his son Charles, established in 1875 a small business to make combs, imitation jewellery etc. next door to the 'Ivoride' Works; the two works merged in 1879.

    The original site being small and unsuitable, it was decided in 1887 to buy land at Brantham on the Suffolk bank of the River Stour and erect a purpose-built factory; finished goods continued to be made at Homerton until 1897 when a new factory was built at Hale End near Walthamstow (its products going by the trade name of 'Halex') which also housed the head office. Other types of plastics were introduced, and in 1938 the British Xylonite Company became a holding company with three subsidiaries: B.X. Plastics making xylonite and lactoid; Halex Ltd. making finished goods, and Cascelloid Ltd. making toys and bottles at Leicester and Coalville. The Distillers Company took a half-interest in 1939 and bought the entire Group in 1961, but in 1963 it formed part of a new grouping called Bakelite Xylonite Ltd. established jointly with Union Carbide, and including plants at Birmingham, Aycliffe and Grangemouth.

    Several sales and mergers took place in the 1960s and 1970s, the most significant being the sale of the Brantham and Aycliffe sites in 1966 to British Industrial Plastics, a subsidiary of Turner and Newall Ltd., who were in turn purchased in 1977 by Storey Brothers of Lancaster, formerly a major commercial rival. The Brantham site now operates under the name of Wardle Storeys and until recently manufactured limited quantities of xylonite using traditional processes and equipment.

    The Explore

    Ok, so having been stuck in my hometown of Wisbech for a week and a half I spontaneously decided to do a bit of a 'Holden Caulfield' and went on an adventure with the aim of eventually getting into the British Xylonite Company. I had seen a few times from the train to Colchester and thought it looked pretty interesting. After sleeping rough in the laundrette of my old university in Norwich (God, I miss that place...) I got the first train to Manningtree and arrived around 7am. Getting in proved pretty easy, as far as I know there's no security, only a barbed wire fence that was easily negotiated.

    The site is pretty big, and consists of around a dozen or so buildings of various sizes. Unfortunately, the main building, which I've been led to believe used to contain some pretty sweet labs and equipment was subject to arson sometime earlier this year and is pretty ruined, although some rooms survived untouched. As a result of this however the main entrance tunnel beneath the railway line has been sealed. The place is still filled with old manuals, paperwork, booklets etc. I particularly enjoyed poking through the office which appeared to belong to either some kind of trade union or human resources manager. The place still houses a lot of manufacturing plant and other equipment, although I couldn't tell you what half of it did. Although the place has been trashed pretty badly there was still quite a bit of interesting stuff to see. I only hung around for an hour or so, on account of being bloody knackered, but I still think it was worth it. I definitely recommend it to anyone perhaps heading into Colchester from the East, it's only a short walk from the station and you can see most of it in under an hour.

    The Photos

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    More can be viewed at: http://s958.photobucket.com/albums/ae63/Mark2512/British%20Xylonite%20-%20September%202010/
     
    #1 RaymondKHessel, Sep 23, 2010
    Last edited: Sep 23, 2010

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