Any memories or accounts of people working on the telescope at Jodrell Bank?

This is the Mark II radio telescope under construction by Head Wrightson in 1963.  When completed it was transported to its home at the Jodrell Bank Observatory, Cheshire.  Jodrell Bank (www.jodrellbank.net) is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  In 2017 the Mark II was designated as a Grade I listed building, the highest grading awarded to buildings of “exceptional interest”.

The Mark II is part of the MERLIN array of radio telescopes.  (That’s Multi-Element Radio Linked Interferometer Network in case it comes up as a pub quiz question and you want to impress your team mates). The array consists of up to seven radio telescopes observing phenomena such as galaxies, quasars and interstellar gas clouds.  We knew Head Wrightson’s work went around the world, but we can see it also reached far out into the universe…

If you worked on the telescope or knew people who did please let us know!

Power Gas Letter from Company Metallurgist

Gordon Harnby was the company metallurgist for Power Gas, who at that time were the leaders in constructing steam reformers for the manufacture of town gas. The actual process had been developed by ICI Billingham. Their big innovation was that the process could use naphtha (cheap petrol). It was the technology that saved the British Gas Industry, greatly reducing the cost of gas. Furthermore, because the gas was supplied at high pressure, it could be piped over a wide area. Much of Teesside was supplied from a steam reforming plant at Hartlepool. The letter heading shows that by 1967 the company had been absorbed by Davy United.

However, the reformed gas boilers on these plants suffered from a serious corrosion problem, and Power Gas was cooperating with the R&D people in British Gas at London Research Station to find a solution. I eventually took over this job and met Gordon on a couple of occasions. Once at Bowesfield Lane. The letter from Gordon is to my predecessor, Peter Neufeld, and is full of good advice about the materials we should use in constructing a “side stream test rig” for testing more resistant boiler tubes.

The other picture reveals the cause of the corrosion. You are looking at the tube plate of a fire-tube type boiler. White potassium carbonate, carried over from the reformer, has deposited on the entrance of the tubes. When the boiler is operating, the deposit formed a sticky sludge which was highly corrosive, resulting in burst boiler tubes.

Images and details courtesy of Fred Starr.

Michaelson Road Bridge built by Head Wrightson

The Michaelson Road Bridge in Barrow-in-Furness was built in two stages to replace the old Lift and Roll bridge by Head Wrightson c1960s. Due to submarines being built in the same area, the bridge was constructed in a vertical position and once complete it was maneuvered into its horizontal position.

Photograph and details courtesy of Tony Campbell.

ICI heritage event, Sunday 14 October 2018

A ‘Memories of ICI’ event was held in the High Grange Community Centre in Billingham on Sunday 14 October 2018 which was organised by Billingham North Ward councillors Chris Barlow and Lauriane Povey and supported by the Billingham Legacy Foundation . Together they had managed to loan some of the Teesside Archives collection relating to the three local ICI sites at Billingham, North Tees and Wilton and had on display bound copies of the various ICI in-house newspapers and magazines such as the ‘Billingham Post’ as well as a vast collection of photographs, training manuals and technical drawings. There were also several loaned items from retired company workers including both long service medals and watches.

Because of the success of this first event another one is taking place at the same venue on Sunday 10 March, 10am to 4pm with free tea, coffee and cake too – a must for any former ICI employee or anyone interested in local history. Highly recommended!
For more details contact Cllr Chris Barlow; chris.barlow@stockton.gov.uk

Photographs and details courtesy of David Thompson.

Volunteers needed for exciting heritage project!

We’re looking to recruit a team of volunteers to conserve, catalogue and digitise an important collection of over 16,000 photographic negatives.  The photos detail the work carried out by Head Wrightson, the major industrial company based in Thornaby-on-Tees, from 1958-1978.  The collection was donated to Stockton Library Service by Company Photographer Alan Simpson in 2012 and contains hundreds of images of employees and social events, providing a fascinating visual insight into the culture of the company and of the time.

Thanks to a National Lottery grant this unique archive can now be conserved and made available online.  Training will be provided by Teesside Archives and Stockton Library service.  We do not require volunteers to have special skills or experience, but the role would suit someone who is literate and numerate and comfortable with using IT.

If you’d like to play a part in the preservation of our area’s industrial heritage please contact Stockton Reference Library on 01642 528079 email: reference.library@stockton.gov.uk

Venator Site Under Construction

This was taken from the Hartlepool to Port Clarence road, the same day as I took the picture of the first of the Hartlepool reactors being built. This can be made out in the far distance. I believe that the photograph shows the initial stages of construction at the Venator site. It would have been one of the first chemical plants to be built in this area, which was nothing more than a desolate, swampy, windswept and totally uninteresting section of land that was being reclaimed from the Tees estuary.

Photograph and details courtesy of Fred Starr.

Construction of Hartlepool AGR Nuclear Reactor, 1969

These two pictures show the first of the two Hartlepool Advanced Gas Cooled Reactors, under construction around 1969. But I understand that it took until 1984 before the reactors went into service. This was typical of the building time of the AGRs, and was one reason why this British approach to nuclear energy fell out of favour. Since then the nuclear programme in Britain has been rudderless. Nevertheless the reactors at Hartlepool have been given a life extension until the mid 2020s.

The AGRs were the most efficient type of nuclear plant, turning more than 40% of the energy in nuclear fuel into electricity. But this required them to run at over 600 deg centigrade and resulted in a new form of high temperature corrosion. This was the second reason for the AGR programme being chopped.

Photographs and details courtesy of Fred Starr.

Cargo Fleet Works, 1st January 1987

Last of CRW (Wed 28.1.87), burning of the last beam… starting to go… just about gone… on the ground… and after the dust has settled. Thursday 1st January 1987.

Photographs and details courtesy of Robert Greenwell.

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)

View from Port Clarence c1880

This view is taken from the top of the Bell Ironworks blast furnaces in Port Clarence. The two men would have had the job of charging the blast furnaces, dropping iron ore, coke and limestone into what is called the bell. I would guess that the furnace at this time would have been off line.

There is a ferry, halfway across the river, in the middle distance. This would have been at the location where the Transporter Bridge now stands. The Clarence Railway comes in from the Stockton direction, on an embankment (which is still there), and then splits into branches serving the blast furnaces, salt wells and tar distilleries. But it is possible that the turn off to the river is where the original staithes at Port Clarence were built. The buildings near the railway bridge (hard to make out) , which goes over the road leading to the ferries, would have been part of the Port Clarence railway station.

Image and details courtesy of Fred Starr.