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Tyne and Wear HER(3545): Felling Chemical Works - Details

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Felling Chemical Works




Chemical Product Site

Chemical Works

Early Modern


Documentary Evidence

John Lee and Company (Hugh Lee Pattinson and George Burnett) founded a factory in 1833. There is a water colour painting of this dated 1846 and line drawings in the Penny Magazine for 1844. Originally the site covered 11 acres, in 1846 15 acres and 1848 over 17 acres. In addition to the furnaces, chambers, towers and sheds there was also a cooperage where the barrels for soda and bleaching powder were made, a saw pit, joiner's shop, blacksmith'd and plumber's. Sulphuric acid was made in four lead chambers. The large amounts of salt used in the process were stored in a stone building measuring 210 feet by 47 feet into which an overhead railway ran at a height of 25 feet. The decomposing house in which salt was heated with sulphuric acid to form saltcake, measured 240 feet by 44 feet and contained six furnaces. The chimney was 230 feet high. Despite the installation of a condensing treatment to remove the hydrochloric acid gas, the firm was still prosecuted for allowing acid fumes to blight the countryside. For converting saltcake to crude soda (black ash) four ball furnaces were provided. A bleaching powder section was erected in 1842. John Lee had taken out a patent in 1841 for an improved chamber for treated manganese dioxide with hydrochloric acid to make chlorine. In 1846 W.W. Pattinson patented a method of using steam in the chlorine stills. There were three lime kilns for burning lime and a slaking house. The remainder of the works was given over to the manufacture of alum. Furnances roasted the clay, aluminium salts were dissolved in sulphuric acid in tanks. In 1838 the facilities at the works were published in the Penny Magazine. There were five worker's cottages, two foremen's houses and a public house within the site. The houses and factory were lit by gas made on the site. In 1855 the works were mortgaged for £18,000 to the Rev. Philip Kearney and Robert Leadbitter, and the money was used to expand the works. Some of the land on which Heworth Chemical Works stood was bought. Felling Chemical Works obtained exclusive rights to manufacture 'pearl hardening' or calcium sulphate for the paper industry. Excess chlorine from the alkali works was used to bleach the newly introduced Esparto grass to make paper. The works closed in 1886 and 1400 men were out of work.




<< HER 3545 >> 1st edition Ordnance Survey Map, c.1855, 6 inch scale, Durham, 3; University of Newcastle upon Tyne Department of Extra-Mural Studies, 1961, The Old Tyneside Chemical Trade, chapter IX, pages 21-26

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