British Celanese – Chemical Works, Spondon, UK

British Celanese was a chemical plant in Spondon near Derby, UK, specialising in cellulose acetate fabrics, nylon based material and vinyl acetate. The factory closed in 2012.

British Celanese, Chemical Factory, Derby
 

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History of the British Celanese Plant, Spondon

British Celanese was established during World War One, when aircraft technology was in its infancy. The company was established to produce cellulose acetate dope, a substance used to stiffen the fabrics stretched over airframes and make them airtight and watertight.

Negotiations began in 1915 with the Dreyfus family who had previously established similar facilities in Germany, France and Switzerland; construction of the factory in Spondon began in 1916. Main contractors Robert McAlpine and Sons built the factory spread over a large area to minimise damage during an air strike. This method proved to be costly, totalling £3 million to build.

After the war the company began to diversify into different areas and in 1921 began to produce a filament yarn. Celanese materials suited the fashion of the 1920s and 30s and Acetate drape was very popular as an alternative to silk.

The Second World War saw the company move back into war work, focusing on parachute production and underwear. By the end of the war the company employed 20,000 people.

British Celanese, Spondon - The site was expanded massively over time

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British Celanese, Spondon – The site was expanded massively over time

Expansion after the war saw the company further develop chemical products and chemical derivatives. In May 1957 British Celanese was purchased by Courtaulds and production of vinyl acetate for emulsion paints began, along with the production of nylon based materials. Tow production also began, and acetate tow was used for cigarette filters.

World demand for filter tow grew and to meet the demand, a new £50 million plant was opened to produce Cellulose Diacetate Flake in 1998.

In September 1998 Courtaulds plc was acquired by Netherlands based Akzo Nobel. Production was run down and finally ceased in 2012. Clarifoil, a subsidiary of Celanese continues production on site.

Our Visits
Both SpiderMonkey and I had visited the chemical factory before, albeit with other people, and we both wanted a final visit before the site was demolished. Things had been quiet for a while, no one seemed to have visited recently but we were sure the place would still be standing. On arrival it was a relief to see it was all still there! One or two minor buildings had been torn down and many diggers around the site indicated days were numbered for the remaining buildings.

We soon found a way in and we were almost immediately greeted by workers! We chose a different route through the site to avoid them and had a few more close shaves throughout the day – at one point we were trapped in the corner of a room with workers just metres away from us. We somehow made it out undetected and returned the following week for a much quieter visit accompanied by PopPunkJamie.

This is my second visit to Celanese to cover more of the site – Please also view the images from my first visit to Celanese.

 

British Celanese, Spondon - Huge production lines

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British Celanese, Spondon – Huge production lines

British Celanese, Spondon - Production line detail

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British Celanese, Spondon – Production line detail

British Celanese, Spondon - One of the many production lines

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British Celanese, Spondon – One of the many production lines

British Celanese, Spondon - Sections of production line

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British Celanese, Spondon – Sections of production line

British Celanese, Spondon - Line and control panel

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British Celanese, Spondon – Line and control panel

British Celanese, Spondon - Much older production line

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British Celanese, Spondon – Much older production line

British Celanese, Spondon - Pipes and machines

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British Celanese, Spondon – Pipes and machines

British Celanese, Spondon - Machinery

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British Celanese, Spondon – Machinery

British Celanese, Spondon - Production areas

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British Celanese, Spondon – Production areas

British Celanese, Spondon - Masses of pipes and machines

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British Celanese, Spondon – Masses of pipes and machines

British Celanese, Spondon - Rows of machines

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British Celanese, Spondon – Rows of machines

British Celanese, Spondon - Room of machines

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British Celanese, Spondon – Room of machines

British Celanese, Spondon - Leading lines

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British Celanese, Spondon – Leading lines

British Celanese, Spondon - Industrial pipes

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British Celanese, Spondon – Industrial pipes

British Celanese, Spondon - Storage tanks

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British Celanese, Spondon – Storage tanks

British Celanese, Spondon - Tall tanks

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British Celanese, Spondon – Tall tanks

British Celanese, Spondon - Room containing lots of huge tanks

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British Celanese, Spondon – Room containing lots of huge tanks

British Celanese, Spondon - Green machine

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British Celanese, Spondon – Green machine

British Celanese, Spondon - Old control room

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British Celanese, Spondon – Old control room

British Celanese, Spondon - Lots of lights in an old decaying control room

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British Celanese, Spondon – Lots of lights in an old decaying control room

British Celanese, Spondon - Colourful lights in control room

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British Celanese, Spondon – Colourful lights in control room

British Celanese, Spondon - Control room computers

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British Celanese, Spondon – Control room computers

British Celanese, Spondon - Another control room in the older parts of the site

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British Celanese, Spondon – Another control room in the older parts of the site

British Celanese, Spondon - Room with strange lighting making it feel like an alien lair!

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British Celanese, Spondon – Room with strange lighting making it feel like an alien lair!

British Celanese, Spondon - Control panel

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British Celanese, Spondon – Control panel

British Celanese, Spondon - Row of tanks

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British Celanese, Spondon – Row of tanks

British Celanese, Spondon - Research and development centre

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British Celanese, Spondon – Research and development centre

British Celanese, Spondon - Test equipment

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British Celanese, Spondon – Test equipment

British Celanese, Spondon - Old computer

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British Celanese, Spondon – Old computer

British Celanese, Spondon - Test equipment on bench in R&D Centre

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British Celanese, Spondon – Test equipment on bench in R&D Centre

British Celanese, Spondon - Laboratory

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British Celanese, Spondon – Laboratory

British Celanese, Spondon - Big rotating pipes

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British Celanese, Spondon – Big rotating pipes

British Celanese, Spondon - A pair of huge rotating piles or tanks

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British Celanese, Spondon – A pair of huge rotating piles or tanks

British Celanese, Spondon - Large tanks in newer, clean area

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British Celanese, Spondon – Large tanks in newer, clean area

British Celanese, Spondon - Big tank

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British Celanese, Spondon – Big tank

British Celanese, Spondon - Machines in new area

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British Celanese, Spondon – Machines in new area

British Celanese, Spondon - Pipes and ladders

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British Celanese, Spondon – Pipes and ladders

British Celanese, Spondon - Inside the large scale production areas

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British Celanese, Spondon – Inside the large scale production areas

British Celanese, Spondon - Lots of complex machinery

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British Celanese, Spondon – Lots of complex machinery

British Celanese, Spondon - View over the newer parts

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British Celanese, Spondon – View over the newer parts

British Celanese, Spondon - Production machines

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British Celanese, Spondon – Production machines

British Celanese, Spondon - Newer, computerised control room

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British Celanese, Spondon – Newer, computerised control room

British Celanese, Spondon - Control room

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British Celanese, Spondon – Control room

British Celanese, Spondon - External pipes

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British Celanese, Spondon – External pipes

British Celanese, Spondon - Room full of pumps

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British Celanese, Spondon – Room full of pumps

British Celanese, Spondon - Truck in a warehouse

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British Celanese, Spondon – Truck in a warehouse

British Celanese, Spondon - Cooling towers

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British Celanese, Spondon – Cooling towers

British Celanese, Spondon - Inside cooling tower

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British Celanese, Spondon – Inside cooling tower

British Celanese, Spondon - Warehouse space

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British Celanese, Spondon – Warehouse space

British Celanese, Spondon - Part of the factory and wind turbine at night

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British Celanese, Spondon – Part of the factory and wind turbine at night

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