ICI Housing and Silo

These two images are taken from a 1929 ICI publication entitled A Short Account Of The Activities Of The Company, a hardback limited edition book.

The first is of some of the ICI housing built for the factory workforce with this particular location being at the junction of Mill Lane and New Road and a scene little altered in 70 years.

The second image is of one of the storage silos showing the conveyor system along its roof and then down into the rail cars below. Only one of the many silos built now remains and that can be seen to the east of Haverton Hill Road but this particular silo could well be 5 Silo which stood on Nitrates Avenue close to the fire station?

Details courtesy of David Thompson.

8 thoughts on “ICI Housing and Silo

  1. Not quite correct. The Conveyor on top of the Silo brought the product from Production buildings (WG2 WG3) into the Silo. Traps were opened in the roof a chute fitted and the product sent off the conveyor into the Silo where it built up from the floor. As the Silo filled the chutes would be moved to the next trap exit until the silo was full. A huge Scraper inside the Silo then scraped the product from the heap into floor openings and a conveyor under the silo that led to a bucket lift, then up a tower onto another Conveyor across to the Packing sheds where it was bagged up by Ladies on the packing conveyors, sent down a chute onto the shoulders of the Railway loaders, who then stacked it in the railway wagons.
    The Silo was to an Italian design that had no foundations the flat base sat on what had been marsh land, the outer ribs being the strength of the building, the whole silo when full actually sank under the load and then as it emptied rose again, Number 5 being able to hold 100,000 Tons when full, fertiliser being seasonal it filled in Winter and emptied in Spring.
    Considering the time it was built it was an advanced Engineering effort and as it was still running in my time, the Heavy Fabrication Group doing the Maintenance on the whole system among other things it proved the initial principle was sound.


  2. We use to drive past those silos when I was a bairn enroute from Stockton to Hartlepool and my Dad told me that their sloped design was to help deflect bombs but I’m not if it’s true or not?


    • As well as the structural problems solved by this design, mentioned elsewhere, (huge unobstructed storage space, no tall vertical walls requiring deep foundations, etc.), what better shape could there be to house a heaped pile of loose material than the shape of a heap of loose material itself. I think this is the most likely reason for the parabolic cross-section shape, sorry not quite as dramatic as bomb deflection


  3. I worked as a student on the ICI Research complex and used to foray into the works most lunchtimes. I remember this very silo. I think one of them blew up in the late 60s owing to the ammonium nitrate contents being contaminated with nitrite – all down to wrong valves being turned on somewhere.


    • Myths about ICI continue even though what we knew and worked with has gone. The silo was a huge empty space filled with a loose product, having used Explosive in the Army I know you need to compact it then contain it that could not happen in a silo.
      The Silos were built long before the war, I doubt they even thought about them being bombed. The Beehive shape is known by engineers to be very strong. The ribs being external and the skin added after the ribs were in place, a bomb would have gone straight through the skin and exploded in an empty space.
      The land ICI was built on was bogland, the silo’s had a flat base extending over a large area it was basically much like a sprung mattress. With the weight in it when loaded it sank about a foot then as it emptied the compacted ground under the silo was released lifting it back up. That was all planned by the engineers who built them, they knew what they were doing.
      ICI was not the safest place to work two plants exploded in my time one just vanished, several vessels blew up, one explosion I was walking down the road heard and saw nothing but found myself eating gravel. Some men ran to me and picked me up saying did it hit you. “what” they pointed to the dished end of the vessel that had blown over my head and landed several yards from me, the blast had knocked me down and when we got a crane to lift the dished end it weighed two tons. I often thought I was safer in the army than ICI.


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