21 March 2014

Wallerscote Island, Northwich

Between the River Weaver (bottom of above picture) and the Weaver Navigation stands, on Wallerscote Island, the last remaining part of the giant soda ash works that once dominated Northwich. Brunner Mond was founded in 1873, built its chemical works in Winnington, by the navigation, and produced its first soda ash - sodium carbonate, used in glass making, dyeing, detergents and cooking - in 1874.

BM became a limited company in 1881 and grew like Topsy, was one of the five largest soda ash producers in the world. In 1926 it joined with the British Dyestuffs Corporation, Nobel's Explosives Ltd, the United Alkali Company, and many smaller enterprises, to form Imperial Chemical Industries - the once mighty ICI.

The Brunner Mond name reappeared in 1991, when ICI divested itself of its UK and Kenya soda ash businesses. The new BM grew once more, and in 2010 acquired British Salt, a provider of one of the key ingredients of soda ash. BM was itself acquired by Tata Chemicals in 2005, and rebranded as Tata Chemicals Europe.

The main chemical plant was the other side of the Weaver, and from this led conveyor belts, running in a huge gantry over the river, to the storage, packing and loading facility on Wallerscote Island. The main plant closed in the 1980s, and has already been bulldozed - the two last photographs are taken from where it once stood. Tata closed its Northwich operation in 2013, blaming the price of gas, and the Wallerscote Island facility is being run down before demolition.

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