Wallerscote Island

Trafford Park, Billingham, Wilton, Winnington and Blackley were all part of my father’s lexicon. Each of these places were synonymous with large scale chemical plants which dominated the local landscape.  They may not have been pretty to look at but they had a certain grandeur and each represented massive industrial endeavor which generated wealth and employment on a large scale.  All of the plants were owned and operated by Imperial Chemical Industries (ICI), the company my father worked for all his life.

Sir Denys Henderson, who died on May 21st this year aged 83, was an Aberdonian solicitor who rose to be chairman of ICI and presided over the de-merger which ended the company’s ascendancy as a great industrial conglomerate. I don’t think my dad would have held him in high regard – he was deeply saddened when the origins of his pension changed from  Imperial Chemical Industries to meaningless AstraZeneca.

Sir Denys was possibly a gifted man but he was a lawyer well versed in winning an argument.  In my experience, the problem with lawyers operating outside the legal profession is that the argument is their entire focus, never mind its financial, ethical or technical merits.  With hindsight, it is evident that deconstructing ICI was not a noble endeavor nor a proud epitaph.  The evidence is everywhere.  Our recent canal trip, which started from Anderton, overlooks the original ICI Winnington and Wallerscote Island soda ash plants.

At Wallerscote, limestone from the Peak District arrived by train, brine was pumped up from beneath the Cheshire subsoil and the manufactured soda ash was exported on ships which came up the river Weaver via the the Mersey.  At it’s peak, the site employed 6000 people and now it is being demolished, like so much that has fallen into the hands of TATA The plan is to replace it with 3000 homes.  Given the ongoing demise of the local heavy industry, it begs the question, what will everyone be doing.

Eve of destruction ... Eve of destruction ... Eve of destruction ... Eve of destruction ...Eve of destruction ...


  1. mostlymonochrome · June 8, 2016

    Good post, both the words and the pictures.

  2. Tish Farrell · June 8, 2016

    You raise some very serious points here, Robin. If the country produces nothing but homes, which seems to be the way of things all over the place, where are people going to work? The world gets dafter by the day.

    • northumbrianlight · June 8, 2016

      Indeed it does, Tish. I am not taking political sides, I simply don’t understand what is fueling the economic ‘recovery’ – it just feels like it is built on sand.

      • Tish Farrell · June 9, 2016

        And not only that, often littering up green field sites, which will never be recovered as open space.

  3. Cate Franklyn · June 9, 2016

    Great images, my kind of stuff. In Brooklyn they finally tore down the old Domino sugar factory to make room for a huge apartment complex. All of NYC city is becoming nothing but huge apartment buildings. ???????

    • northumbrianlight · June 9, 2016

      Hi Cate – this post was definitely inspired by your images – I will catch up with your blog soon – all the best, Robin

  4. LaVagabonde · June 9, 2016

    Wow, Robin. Stark images, haunting words. What will everyone be doing? Fast food workers are being replaced by robots as we speak. By 2025, one in three jobs will be done by robots or software: http://www.computerworld.com/article/2691607/one-in-three-jobs-will-be-taken-by-software-or-robots-by-2025.html So, will those still working be paying for everyone else? Or…

    • northumbrianlight · June 9, 2016

      Thanks for the link, Julie – interesting article. Robots at McDonalds could only be an improvement 🙂

  5. restlessjo · June 10, 2016

    I seem to have sat through nights and nights of EU debate, Robin. I’m not sure why because my husband has the remote and he sent in his postal vote ages ago. My Dad too was with ICI for most of his working life. I remember attending his retirement presentation, a long while back.

    • northumbrianlight · June 11, 2016

      ICI was a good family company in its day, Jo – we went to the am-dram shows, the sports days and spent a lot of time at the social club – my first exposure to tennis courts, bowls and snooker. All gone the way of Wallerscote I imagine. Re the EU debate, I enjoyed this letter to The Times – “Thanks for alerting us to the assertion by the Chief Executive of J P Morgan Chase that Brexit could mean 4,000 fewer bankers. I was wavering before I read that”.
      All the best and have a great weekend, R.

      • restlessjo · June 11, 2016

        You might just have decided me, Robin! 🙂 🙂 You, too!

  6. litadoolan · June 30, 2016

    Wow thank you for nailing my conundrum of why my pals with legal backgrounds can make challenging theatre buddies – they won’t leave any detail of the plot unturned. Penny has dropped. I guess they train them well. The photographs here contain so much detail it is hard to stop looking at them. Will pop back to this I know. You have captured a moment in our industrial history in a magnificent way. Bravo and thank you.

    • northumbrianlight · July 1, 2016

      Glad to be of service Lita 😉 This is an apolitical blog but I confess that the lawyers I had in mind were the ones I came across most regularly in my career – they worked for the European Commission.

  7. Pingback: Return to Wallerscote … | northumbrian : light

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