31st May 1942.
There is a terrible irony whereby the Germans Nikolaus Pevsner (later naturalized British architectural writer) and the 19thc Karl Baedeker, compiler of guide-books, should devote their lives to describing picturesque British towns and cities, now in danger from their countrymen.
Today in 1942 there was a ‘Baedeker Raid’ on Canterbury by German bombers, in reprisal for the RAF raid on the undefended and historic Lubeck.(1)
Many Germans over the centuries, were to settle here including Ludwig Mond who after arriving in 1862 met John Brunner whilst working at the Hutchinson Alkali Works, Widnes.
By 1873 now Brunner-Mond they acquired a site at Winnington, Northwich, Cheshire, on borrowed capital, to produce soda.
Then during World War I the Germans had discovered a method of extracting Nitrogen from the air, an element vital for explosives and fertiliser.
It was a discovery to be developed at a factory at Billingham, Teeside, previously acquired in 1920 at a knock-down price by Ludwig’s son Alfred Mond, a member of Lloyd George’s Government.(2)
Eventually Brunner-Mond became part of Imperial Chemical Industries (ICI) after amalgamation in 1926 with United Alkali, British Dye Stuffs, and Nobel Industries, developers of Nitrogen based explosives named after the Swede, Alfred Nobel who invented Dynamite.
One of the key promoters of the amalgamation was Alfred Mond, whose father Ludwig, had initially produced the benign Soda to soften the water for the house-wife.
Alfred now ironically found himself part of a conglomerate which produced explosives.
ICI formed in 1926, later in the 20thc fell from grace when the FT 30 Index replaced the company with 3i after ICI was taken over by Akzo Nobel.(3)
ICI once the bell-weather of the economy demerged into pharmaceuticals (now Astra Zeneca) with paints and chemicals being retained by a reduced ICI. Brunner-Mond were bought by TATA in 2006 and later re-sold.(4)
The final irony is that Nobel who had founded an explosive factory in Ayrshire Scotland, later part of ICI, should have instituted The Nobel Prizes, one of which is for Peace!
The statues stand outside the Research Laboratories close to the chemical works of Brunner-Mond built in 1873.
(1) Lubeck was bombed on 28th March 1942. Baedeker because the targets were taken from his guides.
(2) Clement Attlee whilst Under Secretary of War, could never find the Report of the sale, and suspected double-dealing. The senior officer involved in the Report was made a director and two others were also employed by Brunner-Mond.
(3) In sponsoring the 1926 merger Mond declared ‘we are on trial before the eyes of the entire world, and especially the eyes of our fellow citizens and of the Empire…we are the object of universal envy, admiration and criticism…’
McGowan of United Alkali responded: ‘Primarily of course the duties of a Board are to make dividends, but also in forming this combine we are doing something for the Empire’.
(4) ICI’s headquarters are at Millbank, London, built in the 1920.s by Mowlem in the style known as ‘modern brutalism’, by Sir Frank Baines, whom Mond had known at the Ministry of Works.
Ref: David Simpson 2009. The Tees Valley.
Ref: wikipedia.org/mond and brunner/Pic Images.
Ref: nobelprizes.com/alfred-nobel/Pic Image.