ICI Billingham c1970

Imperial Chemicals Company (ICI) was founded in December 1926, from the merger of four companies: Brunner Mond, Nobel Explosives, United Alkali Company, and British Dyestuffs Corporation. This joint-merger was to enable the British chemicals industry to compete worldwide with DuPont Chemicals, USA, and IG Farben Chemicals, Germany. (I G Farben was dissolved in 1945/46) the new ICI company produced chemicals,explosives, fertilisers, insecticides, dyestuffs, non-ferrous metals, and paints. ICI played a key role in manufacturing Perspex, Dulux paints, polyethylene and Terylene, and in a joint venture with Courtaulds Ltd, they produced Nylon. The first trading year the turnover was £27 million. In the 1940s and 50s, the company established its famous pharmaceutical business and developed a number of key fabric products including Crimplene. In 1962, ICI developed the controversial herbicide, paraquat. Early pesticide development included Gramoxone, an efficient herbicide that apart from killing weeds also killed insects and worms. From 1982 to 1987, the company was led by the charismatic John Harvey-Jones. In June 2007, the Dutch firm AkzoNobel (owner of Crown Berger paints) bid £7.2 billion for ICI. The initial bid was rejected by the ICI board. However, a subsequent bid for £8 billion was accepted in August 2007. Completion of the takeover of ICI by AkzoNobel was announced on 2 January 2008. As we all know the main ICI plants were situated in Billingham and Wilton. At one time ICI industries employed 60 000 staff.

Details courtesy of Bob Wilson. Photo © Ben Brooksbank (cc-by-sa/2.0)

8 thoughts on “ICI Billingham c1970

  1. James (Jimmy) Carrol Manager of the Sheet Iron Shop sadly passed away at age 87. He was well known throughout the factory.
    Sheet Iron was part of the Factory main workshops group that maintained the plants, and Jimmy was a popular man.
    R.I.P. Jim.


  2. ICI started on the downward slope when Beeching was with them. Perhaps this had something to do with its demise. However this in the past and the damage is done. The question arises where do we go from here?
    J. Norman Kidd


    • We have all admired ICI, and over the years its wonderful achievements. Yet with the passage of time, the situation may well alter and it could become infamous for inventing Plastic; a product ICI initially called synthetic polythene renamed later ‘plastic,’ proving worldwide today to be almost indestructible, one that can remain in the soil and floating about in the sea for years after being irresponsibly dumped by others.
      The other ICI problem product, causing concern is the herbicide Paraquat whose use is banned in all 27 states in Europe, and a further 40 countries outside the E.U. Paraquat (glyphosate) is associated with a wide range of illnesses, including lymphoma, genetic damage, liver and kidney damage, environmental damage, including water contamination and harm to amphibians. If you have ever wondered why we no longer have thousands of street sparrows in England, and why our farmers no longer see earthworms and slugs in their fields in the numbers they once did, then blame paraquat. Earthworms were a birds’ number one food source, and if you poison the worms, it follows that birds and wild fowl will die eventually from starvation.



  3. Thanks to my father who joined ICI (then Synthonia Ammonia and Nitrates) in the Dirty Thirties as a shift supervisor in the Power House while Mr. Ablard, originally the turbine manufacturer’s on-site supervisor during construction of the plant, who stayed on as the Superintendent of the Power House for the remainder of his career. As a further note, ICI then fostered the careers of my two older sisters and then indenturing me as an apprentice. I was made a journeyman after my stint as a soldier and enjoyed meaningful promotions for several years afterwards until the colonies (yes, Canada was still a colony) beckoned me, where I again thrived professionally until my retirement. I owe a great debt of gratitude to my mentors throughout ICI’s vast Billingham facility for preparing me for the challenges I have encountered, and for widening my field of knowledge, instilled during my years of service there. And so, ICI has disappeared as an entity but remains fondly in my memory.
    Many thanks for the rundown provided here, revealing details hitherto unknown by me.


  4. They were the first British non oil company to make over a billion pound profit in about 1984 and a year later they made over 1.5 billion pound profit and at their height they employed over 110,000 people world wide how the mighty have fallen.


  5. My family lived in Swiss cottage near Seal Sands roundabout, my dad John Simpson worked for ICI as a salt drawer in the 1940s.


    • My dad was named Donald Simpson Cook I do believe the Simpson came from your family. Nana and grandad lived on the Wynyard estate breeding and training shooting dogs.


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