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British Industrial History

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Castner Kellner Co

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Castner Kellner Alkali Co, chemical manufacturers, of Weston Point, Runcorn and Carville, Wallsend-on-Tyne

1895 Formed as a public company to work, in Great Britain and the British Colonies (except Canada), the patents of Mr Hamilton Y. Castner and Dr Carl Kellner for the manufacture of caustic alkali and bleaching powder. Arrangements had been made with the Aluminium Co of London Ltd, the owners of the Castner patents, and Messrs Solvay et Cie, sole owners by purchase (except for Austria) of the Kellner patents[1]. Directors included F Burton (William Burton and Sons, chemical manufacturers), H Y Castner (Aluminium Co), F Hardcastle (Thomas Hardcastle and Sons), C Kellner (Kellner Partington Pulp Co), W Mather (Mather and Platt), Sir Henry Roscoe (Aluminium Co)[2].

1900 Castner Kellner Co agreed to purchase the Aluminium Co[3], and the electrolytic manufacture of sodium, which had become that company's main business, was transferred to Weston Point.

The firm's chief product was caustic soda, in a higher degree of purity than was available from the Leblanc process.

Sales resistance had to be overcome at first, but demand rose with the introduction of sodium hydroxide for 'mercerising' cotton in 1899 (a development with which Mather was also associated).

The by-product chlorine was utilised to make bleaching powder, causing prices to slump, but other outlets were also sought.

1901 At the flotation of the Power-Gas Corporation, George Beilby (who was a director) was listed as director of Castner Kellner Co[4].

1907 Operated the electrolytic alkali process at Runcorn; new works opened at Wallsend-on-Tyne[5].

1908 Another product introduced was sodium perborate, which was used in washing powders.

WW1: manufactured a range of chemicals for wartime industry. Chlorine was specially made for military use.

1916 Alkali maker Castner Kellner Co of Wallsend-on-Tyne had allied itself with Brunner, Mond and Co[6] and there was an exchange of shares. The company ceased to have a separate existence in 1920 when Brunner-Mond became one of the foundations of ICI Ltd.

1917 Alexander Fleck (1889-1968), later Lord Fleck, joined Castner Kellner Co as chief chemist. His interest was in the manufacture of sodium, required for sodium cyanide for gold extraction in the manufacture of light alloys[7].

Post-WWI Chlorine was used to prepare a range of chlorinated hydrocarbons such as trichlorethylene.

1920 Brunner, Mond and Co took over Castner Kellner Co by exchange of shares[8].

1921 The first British pilot plant for the Haber process was built at Weston Point, using by-product hydrogen.

1926 As a subsidiary of Brunner Mond the firm became part of ICI at its creation

1929 ICI decided to close the Wallsend works and amalgamate it with the Allhusen Works at Gateshead and the Cassel Cyanide Co of Glasgow; the 3 works were concentrated at Billingham South, called Cassel Works which became one of the principal factories of ICI's General Chemicals Division[9]. Production of chlorine and chlorinated products continued at Weston Point

WWII Production of large quantities of hydrogen (for balloons) and cyclohexanol (for nylon).

1950s Castner Kellner Electrolytic Co ??

1960s the Runcorn site was still in use and known as Caster-Kellner works.


See Also

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Sources of Information

  1. The Times, 23 October 1895
  2. The Times, 23 October 1895
  3. The Times, 9 August 1900
  4. The Times, 23 July 1901
  5. The Times, 3 June 1907
  6. The Times, 7 August 1968
  7. The Times, 7 August 1968
  8. The Times, 23 February 1920
  9. The Times, 7 August 1968
  • A Century of Chemistry on Tyneside by W.A. Campbell on behalf of the Newcastle Upon Tyne Section of the Society of Chemical Industry.
  • Archives of the British chemical industry, 1750-1914: a handlist. By Peter J. T. Morris and Colin A. Russell. Edited by John Graham Smith. 1988.