Tag Archive | Chlorine

18th April 1985. Deadly Secrets.

By 1940, 38 million gas-masks had been issued, in Britain, despite the use of gas being prohibited under the Geneva Protocol.

Today in 1985 the St.Helen’s [Lancashire] Star front page lead with an article which revealed that they had been inundated with evidence regarding the previous existence of poison gas works in the area.

Many complained about the ‘high proportion of the workers whom had since died suffering from lung and skin problems.’ (1)

The article had responded to a BBC Timewatch Programme of the previous week. The Ministry of Defence (MOD) denied the existence of the Sutton Oak Plant at St. Helens, which had supposedly produced phosgene gas up to the 1950s.

Between the World-Wars the UK was a major centre for the research, development and manufacture of chemical warfare agents and early in WWII  Sutton Oak Plant (Chemical Defence Research Establishment (CDRE), was  making mustard gas. It also pioneered research into sarin and other nerve agents.

In 1954 the St. Helens Plant had closed and work transferred to the Chemical Defence Establishment (CDE), Nancekuke, in Cornwall, where production and testing took place as well as work involving material and equipment removed from conquered Germany.

When this site closed in 1980 all the equipment was buried in an old mine shaft. The site was then reinstated as RAF Portreath.

We had been prepared for the possibility of chemical warfare for on 27th August 1939, the Treasury had applied for £546,000 to develop a top secret chemical weapons plant at Rhydymwyn near Mold, Flint, North Wales.

At the site atomic bomb and mustard gas research was undertaken after Churchill had called on ICI to find a secret location to produce chemical weapons.By 1943 it was employing 2,000.

Documents later reveal our determination to us gas for when invasion seemed imminent, after Dunkirk, General Brook in charge of anti-invasion preparations, ‘had every intention of using sprayed mustard-gas on the beaches.(2)

In April 1941 Churchill sent letter to his Secretary of State for War: ‘I remain far from satisfied with the state of our preparations for offensive chemical warfare, should this be forced upon us by the actions of the enemy..’

Later in the war Churchill is quoted: ‘I should be prepared to anything that would hit the enemy.’  However he was dissuaded from action owing to the probability of reprisals.(3)

By 1942-3 Britain had built up its stockpiles of chemical weapons, looking forward to D-Day.(4)

After the war countries were obliged to declare their chemical facilities and agree to inspections, by the Chemical Warfare Convention.

Today the site where the poison gas was manufactured in St.Helens is now a ‘clean’ Industrial Estate, called Abbotsfield Park.



It was John Davy, brother of the famous chemist Humphrey, in 1812, who synthesized phosgene when he exposed Carbonic Oxide (Carbon Monoxide), and Chlorine ( COCl2) to sunlight. It was widely used in the 19thc in the dyeing industry.

(1) The locals referred to the factory as Magnum, a former occupier of the factory.

(2) Alanbrooke Diaries (22.9.1940), 2001.

(3) Paxman, J.&Harris R. 1982, The war that never was.

(4) There were four main sites including apart from the three mention there was Randle in Cheshire. There were also four forward Filling depots, along with according to the Independent article 60 other sites where the safety policy was haphazard.

Ref: Independent.co.uk/60-secret-gas- sites-uncovered. Christopher Bellamy Tuesday, 4.6.1996.

Ref: chemicalwarfare_sufferers_anti_invasion_defence_sufferers/WWII.

Ref: wikipedia.org/chemical_warfare_and_uk/Britain’s plan to use gas and phosgene to repel invaders.References to many publications.

Ref: Churchill-Most -Secret PM Personal Minute to Chief of Staff, 6th July 1944.

Ref:Google phosgene gas plant in Britain.

Ref:Sutton beauty.org.uk/suttonhistory/poisongas.


29th June 1817 – The Salt of the Earth.

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Sel, poivre and vinaigre, in any language still tastes the same. Photo by Author.


SALT-Religion: Most famous Biblical story relates to Lot’s wife being turned into pillar of salt. ‘The Lord God of Israel gave the Kingdom…to David…by a Covenant of Salt’. Salt appears in Bible over 40 times, including the expression in the Title.

Science: Common salt, the preservative before fridges, comprises the alkali metal Sodium which when combined with the halogen gas, Chlorine, results in the Compound, Sodium Chloride (NaCl).

The number of electrons in an atom of sodium, a constituent of common salt (as with all atoms) equals the number of protons. Sodium has 11 electrons 11 protons and 12 neutrons in its neutral state: Atomic Number is thus 11 and Atomic Weight is 23.


Nostalgia: The Author remembers the name Cerebos Salt on the side of a railway bridge spanning the road near his home.

Who would have thought that the infant John Corbett (1817-1901) baptised Today on the 29th June 1817 at St Michael’s Brierley Hill, would later be the ‘Salt King’ of 19th century industrial Britain. 

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Corbett had built Chateaux Impney, Worcs., and became a local benefactor. His sign was the raven which appeared on his buildings.

It was in 1830 when Fardon, Gossage & Company built a factory on the east side of the Birmingham-Worcester Canal. Thomas Fardon had been a salt maker in Droitwich having factories on an eight acre site at Stoke Prior north east of Droitwich which had been bought from the Dean and Chapter of Worcester Cathedral.

In 1835 the Company became British Alkali, which with its 8 acres was one of three salt companies shown on the 1848 Tithe Map. The other two were the  Imperial Salt & Alkali, with 6 acres and the  Imperial Salt & Chemical, with an acre. However by 1850 the ventures hit bad times and the works abandoned.

So in 1851 Imperial Salt & Alkali Works was offered for sale at Auction Mart in London, and this is where John Corbett, the son of Joseph whose canal business had suffered from railway competition, stepped in and on 6th July 1853 concluded an agreement to buy from the Trustees, the British Alkali Company which had been liquidated the previous year.

Two down one to go, for then Corbett obtained a 21 years lease of the Imperial Salt & Chemical Company which lay on the opposite canal bank. It was by these acquisitions at Stoke Prior, that Corbett was to revolutionise English salt production.

In 1888 he sold out to the Salt Union Ltd conglomerate in Cheshire, and elsewhere, for £660,000, which company now held a virtual monopoly in England thus enabling it increase prices and so profitability.

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Stoke Prior Salt Works by Canal.

Moving to the 1930’s The Salt Union from 1937 became part of Imperial Chemical Industries, ICI Salt Ltd, Stoke Prior Salt Works, and ICI Ltd Salt Division from 1.1.1943 until 31.12.1960. However geological problems and cheap imports forced the closure of the works 15.2.1972.

Salt has also a long history in the north-east of England where the salt works in Billingham grew up near the ancient salt track which had Wearmouth to north and Whitby to the south.

And  in 1290 Robert de Brus the grandfather of Robert Bruce King of Scotland granted a salt pan to Sir John Rumundebi formerly held by Adam the Miller at a rental of a pair of white gloves and a penny paid at Easter. Production was by evaporating sea-water. An early account of salt manufacturing at Coatham near Redcar is described BELOW IN NOTES.

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Early Cerebos Logo.The name comes from Ceres Roman god of wheat and os Latin for bone.

Before the 1890’s salt came in blocks, but it was in 1891 that pharmacist George Bowie mixed phosphate and common salt to produce a free-pouring table salt which George Weddell improved on leading to the commercial brand of Cerebos.

Cerebos of Greatham, Stockton-0n-Tees was registered in November 1903, to amalgamate ‘the rights for all countries and to acquire salt works and mines’, and launched Saxa Salt in 1907. In 1968 Cerebos was acquired by Rank McDougal Hovis.

Ref: John Corbett on miac.org.uk/Corbett.htm.found under Fardon & Gossage.

Ref: wikipedia/salt

Ref:wikibooks.org/wiki/high_school_chemistry. High School chemistry/th

See POST of 24th June (alkali earth metals).


‘And as the Tyde comes in yt bringeth a small wash sea-cole which is imployed to the makinge of salte, and as the Fuell of the poore fisher Townes adjoining; the oylie sulpherousness beinge mixed with the Salte of the Sea as yt floweth, and consequently hard to take fyre, or to Keepe in longe with quenching they have a Meanes, by makinge small vaults to passe under the hearthes, into which by foresetting the wynde with a board, they force yt to enter, and soe to serve instead of a payre of bellowes, which they call in a proper worde of Art, a Blowecole’.

Next POST and final one for JUNE, looks at the sea battle of Beachy Head.


Alkali metals from the top of the Group 1 are: Lithium (Li), Sodium (Na), Potassium (K), Rubidium (Rb), Cesium (Cs) and Francium (Fr). They are all very reactive in that they have only one electron in the valence (outer) shell, and are only one away from the ‘Duet Rule’  (of Hydrogen), of two electrons needed in that outer shell. As a result they are keen to bond with another element by losing the electron

For example Sodium gives up its electron with chlorine(Cl), which having seven electrons and keen to complete its outer shell to eight (‘Octet Rule’) which makes it an ideal candidate to pinch the sodium one, resulting in the bonding of both elements.

Thus we get the common salt compound (NaCl) and stability.

Chlorine is a searing halogen gas and is not found in its natural state but only in compounds.