Report - - Coalite, Bolsover, Derbyshire, August 2019 | Industrial Sites | 28DaysLater.co.uk

Report - Coalite, Bolsover, Derbyshire, August 2019


28DL Regular User
Regular User
1. The History
Close to Junction 29A of the M1, near Bolsover, the former Coalite site covers a huge 120 acres. Coalite is a brand of low-temperature coke used as a smokeless fuel. The title refers to the residue left behind when coal is carbonised at 640 degrees C and the fact it lighter than coal. It was invented by Thomas Parker in 1904. It was popular as domestic use due to its attractive flame. The downsides are that is burns quickly, it produces a lot of ash and gives of sulphurous fumes. Two years after Thomas Parker died in 1915, the forerunner of the Coalite company was formed with the building of a production unit at Barugh near Barnsley. Then in the 1920s, two more plants at Askern (near Doncaster) and at East Greenwich (in London) were opened.

In 1936 the Smoke Abatement Society awarded its inventor a posthumous gold medal. In April 1937, the main manufacturing plant at Buttermilk Lane, Bolsover in Derbyshire was opened by Prince George, Duke of Kent. Back in the day it was the largest one of its type in the world. By that time Coalite had a group of companies with Derbyshire Coalite Co.Ltd running the solid fuel production at Bolsover. Coal was delivered by rail to the site from the nearby Bolsover colliery.

Picture of the plant from the 1930s:

Coalite by HughieDW, on Flickr

By 1939, the company was also producing a low-octane petrol called "Coalene" in addition to diesel and other fuel oils. It was a key supplier to both the army and navy during World War II. Post-war, in 1952 the Head Office address was moved from London to Bolsover. In 1956, after the introduction of the Clean Air Act 1956 Coalite was licensed as an "authorised fuel" and demand increased, and the company expanded accordingly. Additionally, in the 1950s, Coalite’s older plants were closed and production concentrated at the expanded Bolsover and Askern plants. The coal oil and liquor from all these plants was processed at the central refinery at the Bolsover plant. At its peak, in 1972, the Bolsover site employed 1,200 people

Old Coalite advert:

2019-09-26_10-02-09 by HughieDW, on Flickr

In 1986 the group acquired Hargreaves Fuel distribution services creating a very diverse and with many subsidiaries that were unrelated to its core business (including sheep farming!). Their profile was further raised by sponsoring Chesterfield FC. The solid-fuel side of the business began to shrink (as it lost out to cheaper natural gas) in the 1980s and the company was taken over by Anglo United in 1989. During the 1990s there were financial difficulties. This was down to the relatively small Anglo United had borrowed heavily (from HSBC) to buy the much larger Coalite group. The intention had been to service this debt by asset stripping Coalite's many subsidiaries. However, the sell-off did not realise as much cash as expected and even a raid on the company pension fund did little to reduce the debt. Deprived of critical investment funds, by the late 90s it was making losses of £2 million per annum. The adverse publicity over land and river pollution further adversely affected the sales of its products.

In 2002, Anglo was bought by a consortium. They duly transferred all the group’s debt over to Coalite and the company then went into receivership. The ovens continued producing Coalite until the Bolsover works finally closed down in 2004. It first went into administration and then receivership, leaving a considerable number of redundant employees with much reduced pensions. From 2005 the Bolsover works were gradually cleared, and the buildings demolished. Bolsover Land Ltd bought the land in 2012 with an aim to both regenerate a large contaminated brownfield site and to help reduce the pressure on the protected north Derbyshire green belt. From November 2016, decontamination of the area began. In the same year it was reported that more than 650 new homes could be built, and 1,500 jobs created under an exciting masterplan for the derelict Coalite site. Bolsover District Council also granted outline planning permission to develop 31 hectares of the site for general industrial purposes and warehousing. Subsequently nothing materialised and the site still remained a sprawling empty industrial wasteland.

Bolsover Land Limited, a joint venture between and DSM Group and Marcol Industrial, backed by Derbyshire County Council, had plans to bring the former chemical plant back into use. Initial costs for the development had been £23 million. However in July 2019 new broke that HS2 will cut straight through the site resulting in no homes being built. Instead, the site would now only offer warehouse space for new businesses, with work not starting until next year and will not be completed until 2024.

2. The Explore
If you search 28DL you’ll see quite a few reports on the site circa 2006 onwards when the works had been closed down but not yet demo’ed (see the "Similar Threads" list at the bottom of the report). Understandably, the reports dried up once the majority of the site had been demoed and the place pretty much forgotten about. Recently, having passed the site when on my way to another place I latterly searched GoogleMaps and spotted parts of the works that appeared to still be in-situ. Hence early one Autumn morning I took the short drive over here. It was a very easy in and it didn’t take long for me to find the two major bits of the site still remaining – the water supply works by the river Doe Lea and some of the oil storage tank facilities. Only representing a fraction of this massive site, it certainly still merited an hours mooch. This was more so made the case by the vast amounts of lovely graff work by two of my fave artists - Brayk and Colorquix.

Word of caution though. Don’t walk between the two storage tanks. Got my walking boots covered in some form of crude oil stuff and despite washing them had to bin them!

3. The Pictures

First up is what appears to be some sort of weigh-bridge area:

Coalite 20 by HughieDW, on Flickr

Coalite 22 by HughieDW, on Flickr

Coalite 24 by HughieDW, on Flickr

Coalite 25 by HughieDW, on Flickr

Then it’s on to the waterworks bit. And greeted by some lovely Brayk:

Coalite 01 by HughieDW, on Flickr

Coalite 28 by HughieDW, on Flickr

Coalite 27 by HughieDW, on Flickr

Coalite 26 by HughieDW, on Flickr

Coalite 06 by HughieDW, on Flickr

Loads of Colorquix:

Coalite 03 by HughieDW, on Flickr

This looks like some sort of cooling-frame?

Coalite 05 by HughieDW, on Flickr

img3164 by HughieDW, on Flickr

img3165 by HughieDW, on Flickr

Brayk flaunting it:

img3161 by HughieDW, on Flickr

Then it’s onto the oil storage area:

img3175 by HughieDW, on Flickr

Coalite 08 by HughieDW, on Flickr

Not too sure what this piece of machinery did:

Coalite 16 by HughieDW, on Flickr

One of my fave bits of graff:

Coalite 17 by HughieDW, on Flickr

Almost too much lovely graff to take in:

img3197 by HughieDW, on Flickr

Gotta love Colorquix:

img3178 by HughieDW, on Flickr

Some serious interconnecting pipeage:

Coalite 12 by HughieDW, on Flickr

img3190 by HughieDW, on Flickr

This is the oil marsh to avoid!

img3183 by HughieDW, on Flickr

Coalite 11 by HughieDW, on Flickr

Coalite 18 by HughieDW, on Flickr

Coalite 10 by HughieDW, on Flickr

img3200 by HughieDW, on Flickr
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28DL Full Member
28DL Full Member
Re future use of the site.
Right from when HS2 was first announced, 2013/2014 there was always a proposal to use part the the Coalite site as a Northern Train depot.


28DL Full Member
28DL Full Member
Worth going just for the graff love coulorquix. Thanks for sharing, just need to get of my lazy ass and visit. Its on my doorstep so no excuse!!


28DL Regular User
Regular User
Worth going just for the graff love coulorquix. Thanks for sharing, just need to get of my lazy ass and visit. Its on my doorstep so no excuse!!
Cheers mate. Just don't get paddling in that oil slick between the tanks!


28DL Full Member
28DL Full Member
When I worked at the Post Office someone rented some cheap office space on Buttermilk Lane. If staff had been there, you could tell the minute they walked back into the AGD. In the end the union negotiated special laundry rates for people who worked there.

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