10 thoughts on “Aerial View of ICI Billingham

  1. Fred go onto the Search at the top of the Picture Stockton page and type in:-
    Hydrogenation Stall Billingham 1935.
    A post will come up but if no picture shows click on the date that will be in blue type.
    Frank.

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  2. My reasons for thinking that the tank farm in the photograph was built at the time when ICI began its coal hydrogenation activities, comes from the picture I posted a couple of months back. This showed the same tank farm gas holder and silo. At the time it was planned and built there would have been no thought of war.
    See https://picturestocktonarchive.wordpress.com/…/ici-billingham-coal-hydrogenation-sit…

    The same picture, but of much poorer quality is shown in the official history of the first fifty years of ICI and the area can be located in the Britain form Above aerial views of ICI Billingham in 1949.

    But I still don’t know where the actual hydrogenator stalls were or how many there were.

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  3. I hate to see industry disappear, and something the size of Billingham ICI especially. Modern technology as made most of the ICI I knew redundant. I worked at the factory for twenty four years, and my Father, for over thirty years before that. I lived in Billingham from 1950 to 1980, and still remember the smells (when the wind was in the right direction) as a child. I also remember the siren that marked the end of a shift. You could hear it all over. My Father was a shift fitter on engineering workshops, and I knew when he would be coming home by the siren. I never thought the smells were bad, although cycling down Belasis Avenue towards Haverton, when there was a leak of Ammonia, with streaming eyes may have been an exception.

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  4. I worked out of Chilton House for many years, but surprisingly didn’t have many projects on Teesside as I was predominantly with films, plastics and Severnside fertilisers.
    What used to baffle us when there was a gas leak, or other emergency, the buildings for ICI employees were locked down and nobody was allowed to leave until the event had passed. However, from the windows of the building you could see children, outside, playing on their bikes or in the garden amidst the “toxic” release.

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    • Some were locked down some had to fix it. Usually a leak would occur inside a plant the men would evacuate quickly and then it was locate shut down and fix the problem. Mainly it would be Ammonia which would dissipate quite quickly once shut down, there were Gas masks always available and every man on the plant knew the escape rout from the gas leak, or in the odd case Acid leak. By the time it got from the factory plant to the outside it would be just a bad smell. The Children in the Crescent had been breathing fumes all their lives probably they were immune.
      ICI had a firm policy on news of trouble in the plants, say nothing and if pushed deny you knew anything about anything, Journalists would get a management statement which would have gone past the Lawyers first. There were explosions fires and leaks, at times quite dramatic but you never read much about them. “A small fire occurred on one of our plants it was extinguished by the plant Firemen and the ICI fire brigade” yes apart from Stockton, Middlesbrough and Durham brigade attending as well. Water under the bridge now, long gone but the tales we could tell.
      Frank.

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  5. Fred, Look at the centre picture under the main picture, an aerial view of Oil Works showing the stills and even the hundred ton crane built to lift them. The storage tanks for fuel would not have been in the middle of the works during war time as they were bombs waiting for a light, the Tank Farm was the other side of New Road Billingham with built up dams around them to catch liquid if it was released.
    The main picture was after my time although the white area next to the Crescent was once the Plaster Board Plant which was moved to the Riverside in my time, the old Tower and Stacks knocked down before they fell down.
    The two main Avenues running from top to bottom are Nitrates Ave and Ammonia Ave with a cross road between them German Road built by POW’s during the 1st World War commonly known as Nitric Acid Road to those not knowing the history.
    The first Ammonia plants and Fertiliser plants were either side of the Ammonia Ave, the Ammonia production to the North of the Ave and the stone crushing Fertiliser Packing plants and Storage Silo’s the other side of the Ave, everything in one area. The heavy ammonia plants were closed down when the New Steam Reforming Plants were built though the fertiliser and packing plants were still doing the same job, more of it more quickly and cheaply.
    All a memory now locked in the heads off those of us still around, three of my family worked there, ICI gave us the good life and retirement pensions to continue the good life as it did for so many people around Teesside.

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  6. Yes it is a very sad sight to see the demise of the once much revered ICI works when the employees would enjoy shares in the company, all the roads within the complex had associated names to the product.
    I found it all the more poignant at the UK’s loss as we drove toward Rotterdam from the Europort and witnessed the miles and miles of thriving industry, my thinking was remembering passing ICI as we biked to Seaton Carew.
    All that said, lets not forget the pollution, the cat smell, the strange mist that would blot out the sun if the wind was in the wrong direction and the wet windscreen that turned a white’ish colour after switching on the windscreen wipers.

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  7. Just off the centre of the picture towards the top right there is a collection of oil storage tanks. Could someone confirm that this was originally built to store petrol from the coal hydrogenation plant? If I am right a small section of this site contained the distillation towers for splitting the crude petrol into the appropriate products.

    And could some indicate where the coal hydrogenating “stalls” were located? Over to you Frank!

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  8. Crescent Avenue and the arcs of streets are in the foreground of the picture. Just above them are the remains of the synthetic ammonia section of ICI, the foundation of the company in Billingham.

    Recent aerial pictures on Google show that this area has been completely cleared, with part of it being used as a car park. I would guess that the colour picture was taken in the early nineties.

    All very sad. Similar views are apparent in my old haunting grounds at the Dorman Long sites in South Bank and Grangetown.

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