The Fowlea Brook near Ravensdale, Tunstall

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Date:April 1964

Description:Looking south from beside the Fowlea Brook towards the Talke Chemical Company's sulphuric acid works (left) and the National Benzole petroleum works (right). Behind is the higher land of Bradwell Woods. The small building in the centre is a signal box on the main railway line which runs across the top half of the photograph.

The Fowlea Brook is a tributary of the River Trent, just 6 miles (9.5 km) long. It starts at Peacock Hay and flows through Chatterley and onto Longport, where the Scotia Brook joins. Having flowed through Etruria and Stoke, it joins the Trent just before Fenton. For a lot of its course it is hidden from view in culverts.

Both The Staffordshire Chemical Co Ltd. and The New Acid Co. were subsidiaries of Shelton Bar which was owned by John Summers Ltd, of Shotton, Cheshire.
Staffordshire Chemicals refined the crude tar from the coking ovens at Shelton Bar, some of which, arrived each working day in three canal boats, each carrying 20 tons. They passed through a tunnel under the main railway line into a basin about half a mile from the factory. At the side of the basin was a hut with a steam driven pump which sent the tar up to the factory.
The process started by loading the tar into large steel retorts, under which a coal fire was lit.
The fractions were basically: Light Oils, Heavy Oils, Road Tar and the residue was pitch.
The light oils went to the Benzol Plant where it was refined further to give benzene, toluene xylene and heavy naphtha.
The heavy oils went to the creosote plant and gave creosote oil and naphthalene.
Road tar was sent to various places and collected by tar spraying lorries for road construction.
The pitch was run into open pitch bays, made by building walls of soft clay. They were about 60 feet across and when the solid pitch was about 5 feet thick, it was shattered by blasting with dynamite and loaded into lorries.

Attached to the factory was a National Benzol petrol depo. This dated from 1919 and supplied petrol to local garages. This consisted of a 50/50 mixture of benzene ans a base spirit.

In 1932 The whole factory suffered a enormous fire, in which about sixteen people died. Workers who escaped, told me that sixty fire engines attended.

The New Acid Co. was one of the few lead-chamber sulphuric acid plants left in the country. It was situated across the main railway line. The plant was made of lead sheets which were welded together by workers called 'lead-burners'. There were five large rectangular chambers, each the size of a small village hall and two new conical chambers which you can see in you photo. These had the lead suspended in a steel frame and were constructed in about 1958 by a Company from Ipswich.
The main reason for the Company's existence was to supply sulphuric acid to Shelton Bar for descaling the steel. Some was loaded into rail tanks and sent to Norfolk for making Sulphate of Ammonia fertiliser.
Sulphur dioxide gas was produced by burning Spent Oxide from various gas works. The gas works used the fresh oxide which consisted of iron oxide, peat and sawdust to remove sulphur from the town gas Acid Co purchased the oxide when it was 'spent'. Acid Co then produced new oxide from the residual iron oxide from the burners and sold it back to the gas works.

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Creators: Mr Bert Bentley - Creator

Image courtesy of: Stoke on Trent City Archives.

Donor ref:SD1480/083-24 (204/35144)

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