Tyne and Wear HER(12722): Lemington, Bells Close Chemical Works - Details
Lemington, Bells Close Chemical Works
Chemical Production Site
Around 1793 Archibald Cochrane, 9th Earl of Dundonald, had a coal-tar distillery at Bells Close. This was the first alkali factory on the Tyne. The exact location is not known but the tar works were adjacent to an iron works (possibly in order that the coke could be used in smelting), presumably the Tyne Iron Works (HER 4346). It is therefore assumed that the tar works stood east of Tyne Iron Works, on the river bank in front of Holy Saviour Church. At the works the experimental production of soda was undertaken under the name of Losh and Co. (the partners were Dundonald, John Losh and Aubone Surtees, the banker). One of the processes depended on the solubility of sodium and potassium chlorides and sulphates. Salt and waste potassium sulphate from soap works were dissolved in water and evaporated until crystals of sodium sulphate were formed. The remaining potassium chloride was sold to alum makers in Yorkshire. The sodium sulphate was then heated with sawdust and iron oxide to form a small amount of impure soda. However most of the Bells Close soda was made by a different method discovered by Swedish chemist Scheele. Salt and lead oxide were stirred into a paste with water and left for a few days. Cautic soda was formed along with yellow basic chloride of lead (known as Turner's Yellow). The Bells Close factory only worked for four years, but the experiements enabled the parters to produce soda at their Walker factory from 1798 (HER 4197).
University of Newcastle upon Tyne Department of Extra-Mural Studies, 1961, The Old Tyneside Chemical Trade, chapter V, page 12