Looking back at ICI: A rare glimpse inside the plants of the Fylde chemical giant

It all started back in the Victorian era.

Thursday, 13th September 2018, 4:07 pm
Updated Thursday, 13th September 2018, 4:17 pm
Shift tester Paul Glennie at work in the laboratory at ICI in 1982

The discovery of millions of tons of rock salt under the banks of the Over Wyre countryside at Preesall and Stalmine led an enterprising group of Victorians to found the Fleetwood Salt Company, in 1890. Later that year, it taken over by the United Alkali Company.

There was industrial growth on both side of the river, especially at Thornton and Fleetwood, which eventually became part of the giant ICI company.

ICI was formed in 1926. Over the years, it grew to operate a number of chemical sites around the world.

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Medical experts who provide emergency cover for Thorntons ICI Hillhouse site were given a talk on the companys health and safety and given a tour, in 1993

Wartime brought chlorine production to Thornton. In 1941, ICI General Chemical Divisions started so acquire the assets of Hillhouse and Burn Hall Works, in Thornton, from the Ministry of Supply. This process continued until the 1950s.

In 1953, a power plant was built at Bourne Way, to provide the ICI plant with its electricity and steam to run its massive operation.

In 1964, ICI General Chemicals and Alkali Divisions merged to become ICI Mond Division. Mond Division took over the running of Burn Hall plants, under contracts to various business groups.

In 1988, ICI Chemical and Polymers Ltd was formed.

The hydrogen sphere at the ICI Mond Division Hillhouse Works, Thornton, in November 1972

Close to 90,000 tons of chlorine a year were produced at one point at Hillhouse.

There was even a Poulton to ICI train line.

But it suffered a decline in the 1990s and in 1999, the chemical arm of Hillhouse was taken over by Japanese investor Asahi Glass.

By the mid 90s, ICI had built a new polyurethane plant in Holland and was transferring work there, as the Thornton plants were ageing.

February 1972: ICI Burn Hall works accident notice board

The decision was made in 1992 to close the chlorine plant at ICI Hillhouse.

The last surviving ICI plant was Fluon, at Hillhouse and that was sold in 1999.

Frank Horridge with a windscreen washer bottle for a Tornado jet aircraft, in 1982
ICI Hillhouse, pictured in January 1977
Shakespeare Primary School pupils being shown around ICI Hillhouses in 1994
Stan Giles, Steve Walsh and Mike Poole at work at ICI in 1982
Senior research chemist Dr Les Gregson in the Fluon plant, at ICI Thornton