|Headquarters||Clayton, Manchester, England|
Charles Dreyfus was a French emigrant chemist and entrepreneur, who founded the Clayton Aniline Company on 29 May 1876. The company obtained a lease on a parcel of land in Clayton, Manchester, sandwiched between the Manchester and Ashton Canal and Chatham Street (later known as Clipstone Street). With an initial share capital of £40,000[a] the company began production of aniline and aniline salt.
In 1894, a brilliant young organic chemist Arthur George Green joined the company. Green had discovered the dye primuline in 1887 and under his guidance the company rapidly expanded its range of dyes. Green left the company in 1901.
In 1897, the company was placed into voluntary liquidation and then reformed under the same name with an issued share capital of £140,000. Max Baerlein was appointed as company chairman with Charles Dreyfus as managing director.
Chaim Weizmann joined the company in 1905 as a part-time research consultant, leaving in 1908 to pursue an academic career. Weizmann would later achieve fame through his work on bacterial fermentation and go on to become the first president of Israel.
On 1 May 1911, the Society of Chemical Industry in Basle (later known as CIBA), took control of the company and in 1913 Charles Dreyfus resigned.
World War I
The outbreak of war with Germany in 1914 led to lucrative contracts for the company including the production of 1,500 tons of TNT. The sites facilities were expanded considerably during the war including the construction of a new azo dyes plant (building 183) in 1918. TNT manufacture at the plant ceased following a series of accidents at other explosives factories such as those at Silvertown and Ashton-under-Lyne. Sylvain Dreyfus, a nephew of Charles Dreyfus, perished in the Ashton-under-Lyne disaster when the Hooley Hill Rubber and Chemical Works exploded. These and other accidents prompted the Government to concentrate explosives manufacture at factories sited well away from built up areas.
In September 1918, the Basle Community of Interests was formed from an alliance between Society of Chemical Industry in Basle, the Sandoz Chemical Company Ltd and J.R. Geigy SA. The agreement between the three companies allowed the sharing of research and technical resources whilst each company retained its own autonomy. Later that same year, Sandoz and Geigy each acquired a financial interest in the Clayton Aniline Company.
1919 to 1939
During the inter war period the company continued to invest in new plant and products. The Dyestuffs (Import Regulation) Act 1920 had given British dye producers much needed protection from cheap imports and provided an impetus to increasing the range of dyes and intermediates produced at Clayton. In 1930, an additional azo dyes plant (building 187) was completed followed in 1938 by the construction of a new vat dyes complex (buildings 188, 189 and 190). The completion of the vat dyes project was held up by the outbreak of war in 1939.
World War II
In 1940, a new Ministry of Supply factory (building 300) was constructed adjacent to the site for the manufacture of explosives additive Centralite I. The company also gained an important contract to manufacture monomethylaniline used as an antiknock agent in high octane aviation fuel. In 1941, a new aniline plant was built with an output of around 100 tons per week.
On 5 October 1942, a near catastrophe befell the site when an ethylation autoclave caught fire, which threatened the adjacent phosgenation unit. Department manager Eric Shaw risked his life to disconnect and remove to safety gas cylinders filled with phosgene, that were in danger of exploding. Shaw was awarded an MBE in 1943 for his actions. Also commended for their bravery were J.T. Read, J. Wood and R. Dean.
The Second World War ended in 1945 and the company began its post war reconstruction. The Centralite plant (building 300) was acquired from the Government and re-equipped as an intermediates plant and plans were drawn up for a new intermediates plant (building 151) which was completed in 1951. Other projects undertaken in the early 1950s included a new PAK-ice plant, a new power plant and a new waste gas tunnel and chimney. The company also began the removal of a chemical spoil heap nicknamed the “mucky mountain”, which was left behind by a soda ash manufacturer that previously occupied the site.
1957 to 1965
In 1957, a plan was drawn up to re-build virtually the whole of the site. The project involved the construction of a new triphenylmethane dyes plant (building 75), a new laboratories block (building 80), a milling and blending plant (building 81), an intermediates plant (building 74) and a new azo dyes plant (building 48). An additional azo dyes plant (building 46) was added to the scheme in 1965 to replace (building 187). Extra warehousing was also added to the site including a new intermediates warehouse (building 71) and a new raw materials warehouse (building 50).
1964 marked the end of an era for the company with the decision to cease aniline production at Clayton. The aniline plant was demolished the following year.
In 1971, CIBA and Geigy merged to form CIBA-GEIGY. The combined group retained a majority share holding in the Clayton Aniline Company with Sandoz holding the remaining 25% of the equity. CAC was allowed to continue as a separate subsidiary under the chairmanship of Sir Arthur Vere Harvey.
At its peak in the 1970s, the site occupied over 57 acres and employed over 2,000 people. However, due to the gradual demise of the British textile industry, most textile production shifted to countries such as China and India with the textile dye industry following.
CIBA merged with Sandoz in 1997 to form Ciba Speciality Chemicals, leaving Clayton as a manufacturing site for metal complex dyes for wool and nylon, and pigments used for carbonless copying and thermal printer papers.
In 2002, the company made 70 members of staff redundant and in 2004 the announcement was made that the site would be closing with the loss of over 300 jobs. A small number of staff were retained to assist in the decommissioning of the plant. The last workers left the site in 2007 and the remainder of the buildings were demolished shortly afterwards.
- ColorantsHistory.Org. "Clayton Aniline Company Manchester". Colorantshistory.org. Retrieved 2014-06-28.
- "New Companies: Clayton Aniline". Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser. British Newspaper Archive. 6 June 1876. p. 3. (subscription required)
- Abrahart, E. N. The Clayton Aniline Company 1876–1976.