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Report - - British Cellophane Labs and Offices - 07/03/2010 | Industrial Sites | 28DaysLater.co.uk
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Report - British Cellophane Labs and Offices - 07/03/2010

clebby

( . Y . )
Regular User
#1
British Cellophane Labs and Offices, Bridgwater

Urbanity and I had a relaxing afternoon exploring British Cellophane last Sunday. Seeing as we had both already seen much of the production area, our main aim this time was to see the labs and offices. That said, we did still see some new areas, and I got to see the room full of steam engines, which was amazing!

We also visited the medical centre that day but like I said, the labs were the goal.

I'll purloin a history from wikipedia:

British Cellophane Ltd (BCL) was a joint venture company formed in 1935 between La Cellophane SA and Courtaulds, when they began building a major factory for producing Cellophane in Bridgwater, Somerset, England.

The process for manufacturing cellulose film from viscose was discovered by three English chemists, Charles Frederick Cross, Edward John Bevan and Clayton Beadle in 1898.

The factory (opened in 1937) produced cellophane up until late 1940 during World War II, when it started switching production to war munitions and specifically bailey bridges. Production ramped up through early-1944 for D-Day.

After the war the Bridgwater factory returned to producing cellophane, with its products exported worldwide. In 1962 it was employing 750+ people. In 1974 the company won the Queen's Award to Industry and by the late 1970s the site produced 40,000 tonnes of cellophane packaging film a year, employing 3,000 people. In 1988 three separate factories on the site were producing cellulose and polyethylene film, and bonded fibre fabric.

In 2004, due to dwindling sales of cellophane, Innovia decided to close one of its two plants at either Bridgwater or Tecumseh, Kansas. British economic development officials offered a $120,000 tax break over three years to Innovia to save the Bridgwater plant, while Kansas offered $2 million if it kept the plant at Tecumseh open. As a result, the profit-making Bridgwater factory closed in the summer of 2005, while the loss-making factory in Tecumsah remained open, with a loss of 250 jobs in Bridgwater.
Thanks wikipedia! For a far more detailed history go to my last report. I recommend reading it, but then I would! :gay

Labs

The CS2 Recovery Plant was the most chemically (for want of a better word) part of the site, and obviously with chemicals comes labs. I guess that in the labs here they would take samples of acids from different chemical baths and make sure they were the right pH and concentration etc. There were a few scattered labs coming off from the main plant:

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But they were nothing compared to the labs on the other side of the plant. Here, they had their own purpose built building and there were room after room of them. Rooms of funky coloured chemicals:

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The pink one smelt like fruit, almost peachy, so I think it is an ester of some sort. But the colours were pretty, so that's why I was excited. :gay

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There were also some rooms full of electical lab equipment:

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Which would have been controlled by computer:

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I was devastated by this point, having not yet found the mercury. We thought that was it for these labs, until I suggested we go downstairs on the off chance there'd be something good.

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Bingo. A huuuuge lab, which looks like everything was put out on the benches, ready to be removed, and then forgotten. Every lab goodie under the sun was there, spread out over the benches... chemicals, bottles, syringes...

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Oh, and the allusive mercury. ;)

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I was so excited by this point. I dropped various denominations in and they all bounced out and floated! How exciting is that!? :cool:

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That room was probably my favourite in all of British Cellophane. There was even a handsome wooden cabinet full of old lab glassware, displayed like you would fine china. But our next goal was the office block, particuarly the Post Office.

Offices

The admin block is a large original building overlooking the road, which still retains it's crittall windows and handsome wooden doors. British Cellophane was a very rich company, and so the admin block would have been quite classy in its day.

Inside, it is well appointed, with high ceilings, wood panneling and doors, and glass partitions. There are some 60s and 70s additions such as the linoleum floors and "crystal" light fittings, but somehow the sheer naffness of these worked in here and almost looked classy.

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The Post Office was another room I was desparate to see, and it did not disappoint. The admin block clearly closed long before the main site did (judging by some paperwork in 1988). The ammount of decay that's built up over 22 years is simply unreal in places, the Post Office being one. Knee-high ferns, plants growing out of the wall... amazing.

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Those wooden draws were where mail outgoing mail could be placed, and the plaques showed several familiar names, including Courtaulds Coventry, whom dweeb did a report on a while back. This isn't surprising, as British Cellophane was formed partly by Courtaulds in 1937, and the two firms were closely affiliated throughout their entire lives.

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It's so overgrown in there it feels as if nature has totally reclaimed it, which almost makes it surprising to find remnants of human occupation, like this stamp:

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The rest of the ground floor was taken up by the normal offices, which still had high ceilings and frosted glass partitions, just weren't as fancy as the upstairs ones.

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Well, actually, the wages office was also on the ground floor and that was pretty cool - very dated and very intact.

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Over 3,000 people were employed at Cellophane at its peak, which meant that 3,000 people had to collect their wages from this office. Now that would be a lot of money lying around, even by today's standards, so behind the counter there are two big Chubb safes in a strongroom.

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Upstairs was where the top dogs worked. The Managing Director, the Site Manager, Personnel Manager and Financial Director all had their offices up here, and it was also where the board room was loacated. They all had these plush, button tufted, faux suede padded doors - terribly 70s, terribly naff, terribly awesome.

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They weren't only brown; there were cream, red and even green ones. The above one was in the Managing Directors office; the best office in the building, with great views over the factory, a private bathroom and his own cloakroom complete with shaving socket. The cloakroom is looking a bit worse for wear these days, however:

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The boardroom also had it's own little kitchen, complete with some crystal cut glasses. How very 70s! The directors also had their own little cloakroom for board meetings:

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And that's about it for that visit. I'll no doubt be going back one day, I still have loads to see, but I'm glad I got to see something different this time.

Thanks guys.

G. :)
 
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