BLINKHORN'S CHEMICAL WORKS BOLTON

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Stanley
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BLINKHORN'S CHEMICAL WORKS BOLTON

Post by Stanley » 09 Oct 2015, 04:47

Blinkhorn's chemical works
From the Bolton Evening News, first published Tuesday 9th Jul 2002.
WITHIN the last few years, the land bounded by Waterloo Street, Kay Street, Turton Street and part of Slater Lane has been transformed from what was a heavily industrialised district into a multi-occupancy business park.
During the demolition of the old buildings, the remains of Chemist Street (which originally ran between Waterloo and Kay Streets) were eliminated, and thus the last vestige of the chemical works of William Blinkhorn where was at one time the tallest chimney in England, disappeared into history.
From the Minute Books of the Trustees of Little Bolton (Bolton Central Library Archives) can be seen how the manufacture of chemicals for the soap, bleaching and glass trades was at first encouraged because the siting of such works were on the outskirts of the town. But, as the town expanded, the noxious fumes from the furnaces caused a major rethink by the Trustees.
William Blinkhorn is listed in the 1824 Directory as a plumber and glazier in Barn Street (now Folds Road), and as a contractor to the Trustees was paid £29 19s (£29.95) on October 6, 1826, "in full discharge of his account". This was a sizeable sum at that time, and, in all probability ,was connected with the building of Little Bolton Town Hall. Then, on June 5, 1829, he was paid £27 8s2½d (£27.41) "out of the lamp rate" for connecting with gas the townships lamps, gas being purchased from the Gt. Bolton Gas Co.
The 1829 Directory lists him as the owner of a 'Patent Lead Pipe Manufacturer" in Chorley Street as well as being a plumber and glazier.
After some discussion between September, 1828, and January, 1829, the Trustees agreed to lease to William land at "Smedley Brow" (Kay Street area) at 1s 3d (6p) per square yard "and have materials given in" and that the ground rent to be secured by "a substantial building being placed on it in two years time". Thus the scene was set for the establishment of a chemical works which would soon create an atmospheric nuisance of major impact upon the locality.
Evidence of the size of the works may be inferred from the Trustee Minute Books December 24, 1838, which show £10916s (£109.80) in outstanding rates.
At the same time the Trustees agreed to sell him land in Barn Street for an unspecified purpose, for £60 5s (£60.25), and the Law Clerk was instructed to proceed with the lease "In the Best Manner Possible".
That William Blinkhorn was established by 1836 as a chemical manufacturer can be seen in the Trustee Minutes Chimney Raising Book for June 3, 1836, with an instruction that he must raise the chimney of his "Chymical and Other Works, situate near Kay Street, to 30 yards", the address of his works given as "Chymist Street". At which time he seems to have been living in some comfort as his house in Bridge Street had six bedrooms, drawing, dining and breakfast rooms, and a stable and gig house.
Evidence of compliance may be deduced from the Bolton Free Press January 12, 1839, with a report of a hurricane in Bolton, and that "the large chimney of Mr Blinkhorn's Chemical Works was forced out of perpendicular".
The chimney was not successful in its fume dispersal, and following a memorial to the Trustees from the ratepayers that "steps be taken to remove the works of William Blinkhorn and John Rainforth (School Hill) on account of nuisance", and in November 1840 a deputation was authorised by the Trustees, after a great deal of discussion on Clause 92 of the Police Act, to visit both works. Its function was "to ascertain what they intended to do about the great nuisance created by their works and so much complained about".
The chemical works were producing sulphuric acid, bleaching commodities and alkali for the textile, soap and glass trades. With the knowledge available at the time, the burning of salt, sulphur and saltpetre produced various fumes including hydrochloric acid gas, and the only known way of disposal was to the atmosphere via a tall chimney. This was never successful, as it created acid rain over a wide area dependant on the strength and direction of the winds.
By surreptitious means the Trustee Law Clerk, Mr Gordon, managed to obtain samples of the work's products and sent them for analysis to a leading Liverpool chemist, Mr G Rogerson, who had even visited the works at some point. His reply confirmed them to be "of soda-ash prepared in an alkali works". A long and detailed report (Trustee Minutes Nov.1840) observes that "In England soda-ash in alkali works is obtained from common salt... in the first stage muriatic (hydrochloric) acid gas escapes into the air from the large chimney... has a peculiar pungent odour.... having great affinity for water will extend over a great space and fall to the ground. It will injure and destroy vegetation, tarnish and rust metals.... excites coughing, smarts the eyes.... a serious public nuisance".
The Report also commented on works refuse, including the smell of sulphuretted hydrogen (rotten eggs).... confined to the neighbourhood of the works ... injurious to health".
That William Blinkhorn was aware of the situation and, at the time of the report seemed to be doing something to alleviate the problem, for Mr Rogerson noted "I have observed a series of flues in progress of contracting, apparently with the view of passing a current of water through the channels and condensing vapours".
The overall effect of the Report was that he arranged for a Mr Ashton of Blakeley, Manchester, to build a much higher chimney to the designs of a Manchester architect, Mr Tattersall. The Bolton Free Press June 11, 1842, gives an account of the start with William, his wife and two sons, James Barrow the Works manager, and Mr Ashton each laying one brick on the ground level 42.5ft diameter octagonal base five feet from the actual below ground foundations. The height was 367.5ft and 24ft diameter at the top, in late September 1842 the last of the 8-9000 bricks was laid by Mr Ashton, and, with due Victorian ceremony, it was pronounced "open".
To mark the occasion of the chimney being opened in 1842, cannon fired salutes, a balloon ascended, and "Mr Fisher's excellent cornopean band assembled at the top and played."
This was followed by an evening devoted to "A Grand fireworks display of coloured lights and bombshells arranged by the eminent pyrotechnic artist Mr T H Merridge, from the Public Gardens of London and Dublin, and the Zoological Gardens in Manchester". These had been fired 1,000ft into the air from the top of the chimney, and had been paid for by "a group of gentlemen to celebrate the most splendid piece of chimney architecture in England".
The Bolton Free Press for October 1, 1842, reported that up to 3,400 persons had ascended the chimney via the internal construction hoist to view the town from an unusual vantage point. Among those who braved the ascent was the Bolton artist, Selim Rothwell, who sat on the top and sketched the town, panoramic copies of his painting were advertised for sale in the Bolton Chronicle March 11, 1848.
The 1847 map of Bolton shows the chimney completely isolated from the processing part of the works, the nearest inhabited houses were in Turton Street and the top of Kay Street, Waterloo Street (called "road"), did not contain a single house and the view northwards one of complete open aspect.
For a couple of years all seemed well and without complaints from either the public or Trustees; some confirmation of this is shown in the Bolton Chronicle January 13, 1844, report of a "celebratory meeting of workmen of the Sick Society connected with William Blinkhorn's Chemical Works".
On this occasion a reported 609 people met on the fifth anniversary of the Society at "Abraham Cleggs, Chemist Arms, in Kay Street". It was announced that the Society funds were satisfactory, and the reporter, somewhat impressed, wished that "Other works should have similar institutions".
Yet, despite the new chimney, and attempts to filter his works effluent, success eluded him, particularly as complaints had been made to the Trustees of chemical pollution damaging paper production at the Springfield Paperworks, who extracted water from the River Croal into which the Little Bolton sewers emptied (now a business park for Staples, Toys R Us and others).
The years between 1839 and 1847 covered a period of trade fluctuation and political agitation by Chartists and "Plug Rioters", the latter intent on mill sabotage, causing great distress for the working population.
In 1839 it was reported that an eighth of the rateable properties were untenanted and the following year many families were existing on "two pence per day for food". In 1841 Henry Ashworth - a leading Bolton industrialist - announced that of 50 mills in Bolton, usually employing 8,124 workers, 30 with 5061 employees, were either idle or on a four day week, a situation continuing into 1842 with 10,000 on Parish relief.
The effects were felt by the local bleachworks in reduced cloth processing, which in turn meant a falling demand for the chemicals produced by William Blinkhorn's works and others in the same trade.
This situation resulted in William Blinkhorn going into voluntary liquidation, a contributory factor being the cost of the new chimney and sewer constructed to link with the main sewer.
Thus, in mid April, 1845, the works and 16 houses in Chemist Street were put up for sale, later on other parts, including the tall chimney, were also sold off. It would seem that the major buyers were Dobson and Metcalfe, Textile Engineers and their purchase money paid William Blinkhorn's outstanding debts, and left a bit surplus for him to consider restarting.
This is clear from the Trustee Minutes for February 6, 1846, which state that the Surveyor was told to check the veracity of his intentions to recommence chemical making at Green Heys (next to Chemist Street), and if correct, "he will face decided opposition from the Trustees by every means in their power".
This must have been taken seriously by him, for nothing seems to have been heard of him since. The 1849 Directory listed only a Mrs Susan Blinkhorn living in Bark Street, so it seems as though the family decided that the time was ripe for retirement from Bolton.
By the time of Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee in 1897 the general area housed not only Dobson and Barlow's Works (name changed in 1850), J Musgrave's Globe Ironworks, and the "Four Factories" of Knowles.
In 1897 the tall chimney was illuminated by electric arc lights as part of the town's celebrations. In 1909 the brickwork under the stone cap was found to be unsafe, the top was removed and the height reduced by 41ft. Eventually Dobson and Barlow’s moved completely to Bradley Fold, and part of the site occupied by B&F Carter, Engineers; Legat and Dawson, Wholesale Chemists; John Willie's furniture warehouse, the Bolton Gate Co and the Bolton Co-op Society's garage.
Today nothing remains of these establishments on the site, it now houses the Gates Retail Park, and the vast B&Q Warehouse.
William Blinkhorn's chimney on which he had pinned his economic hopes was reduced in 1940 by another 176ft, and finally demolished in 1967 and the foundations buried somewhere under the floor of B&Q Warehouse.
From the Bolton Evening News
http://www.thisislancashire.co.uk
© Newsquest Media Group 2002
Stanley Challenger Graham
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Re: BLINKHORN'S CHEMICAL WORKS BOLTON

Post by chinatyke » 09 Oct 2015, 08:54

Stanley wrote:. The height was 367.5ft and 24ft diameter at the top, in late September 1842 the last of the 8-9000 bricks was laid by Mr Ashton, and, with due Victorian ceremony, it was pronounced "open".
Assuming a course of bricks and mortar are 6" high, that works out at 11 - 12 bricks per course. Something wrong there! :confused:

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Re: BLINKHORN'S CHEMICAL WORKS BOLTON

Post by Stanley » 10 Oct 2015, 04:26

I didn't write the article China. I always automatically discount estimates of the numbers of bricks anyway, nobody was counting as they laid them!
Stanley Challenger Graham
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"Beware of certitude" (Jimmy Reid)
The floggings will continue until morale improves!

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