Archive centreWhitehaven
ReferenceYDB 59
TitleAlbright and Wilson Limited, Marchon Works, Whitehaven
DescriptionDirectors' minutes, 1939-1972; Share certificates, 1926-1969; Title deeds, 1955-1956; Accounts, 1941-1969; Annual Reports, 1955-1995; Company operations literature and product information, 1955-1998; Marchon shipping and Whitehaven harbour, papers and photographs, 1956-1992; publicity material, press cuttings and other company information, 1940s-1995; Marchon Sports and Social Club: accounts and correspondence, 1982-1999; ceremonial and awards: various papers, 1954-1992; photographs, 1942-2000; papers relating to mines, 1952-1997.
Date1926-1999
Extent15 boxes
ContextThe company name Marchon derives from the surnames of its two founders Frederick Marzillier and Frank Schon. Marzillier was born in London in 1906, educated in the UK and Germany and settled in London in 1934. Frank (originally Franz) Schon was born in Austria in 1912, and educated in Vienna and Prague. Although trained in the law he worked for a chemicals company in Prague. Of Jewish descent, he and his wife escaped from the Nazi invasion of Czechoslovakia and came to England in 1939. After a brief internment in the Isle of Man, he joined Ludwig Schon (no relation), a chemical company in London, for which Marzillier was already working.
Marchon history: some key dates and events
1939: Marzillier and Schon register Marchon Products Ltd, an imports/export company, based in City of London (6 Dec).
1941: Company moves to Whitehaven to escape bombing, and sets up in derelict property in Hensingham.
1941-1944:Company produces firelighters at a number of premises in the Whitehaven area including a British Legion hut in Swing Pump Lane and the Guinea Warehouse. Schon’s brother-in-law Otto Secher joins the business.
1943: Opened on Kells site of former Ladysmith pit.
1944: Production of detergents begins with ‘Four Square’ and ‘Spel’ washing powders.
1945: Workforce of 87 at end of war.
1946: S4 and S5 plants acquired from munitions works at Drigg and Sellafield; workforce at 180.
1948: Government loan acquired for construction of S6 stores and office block; c400 employees on site.
1949: Producing firelighters, detergent powders and liquids, alkylolamides of fatty acids and intermediates for shampoos and toothpastes. Following a trip by Schon to the USA, a deal is signed to produce British version of ‘FAB’, Colgate, Palmolive and Peet’s detergent powder.
1951: Workforce at 580.
1951-1954: Rapid growth in production of detergent intermediates and moves into speciality surfactants. Production of phosphoric acid for sodium tripolyphosphate on site by ‘wet process’ (phosphoric rock combined with sulphuric acid and then purified).
1954: New plant for production of fatty alcohols opened by Sir Henry Tizard (22 Jun); growth in market for sodium tripolyphosphate increases demand for sulphuric acid. Marchon acquires government loan to mine anhydrite at Whitehaven site for production of sulphuric acid.
1955: New anhydrite development opens as Solway Chemicals Ltd, consisting of anhydrite mine at Sandwith, cement kilns and acid plant. Mine opened by Sir Robert Chance (11 Jan); acid plant opened by HRH Duke of Edinburgh (24 Nov); Marchon Products acquired by Albright and Wilson Ltd (A & W); Frank Schon remains at Whitehaven as Managing Director and becomes a director of A & W.
1956: Second phosphoric acid plant opens on Whitehaven site; growth in organic chemicals side by production of methyl esters and alkylolamides for foam boosters for detergents and shampoos; Baker-Perkins sulphonation plant developed for sulphonating fatty alcohols, alkyl ethers and detergent intermediates; Italian subsidiary formed as Marchon Italiana SpA (20 Nov).
1957: Cargo ship Marchon Trader launched at Sunderland (28 May); Oil Additives Plant commissioned for production of viscosity modifiers for lubricating oils; ‘Eltersol’ plant for production of detergent wetting agents commissioned; workforce at 1700.
1958: Fred Marzillier retires as co-director of Marchon (Jan).
1961: Freedom of Whitehaven granted to Marzillier and Schon; cargo ship Marchon Enterprise launched at Wallsend (Nov); Marchon Italiana plant opens at Castiglione delle Stiviere, Mantova, Italy; third ‘wet process’ acid plant commissioned (F3).
1962: Cargo ship Marchon Venturer launched at Wallsend (17 Feb); silo building commences at Whitehaven harbour for phosphate rock; third kiln inaugurated at Solway plant by Lord Fleck (May).
1964: New plant at Barrowmouth commences production of fatty alcohols.
1965: Fourth and fifth kilns at Solway plant inaugurated by Harold Wilson.
1966: First of three Queen’s Awards for Export Achievement awarded to Marchon Products; Frank Schon awarded knighthood.
1967: Frank Schon resigns from board of A & W following disagreement over future strategy of phosphorus production (5 May); Otto Secher and Peter Baines take over as Chairman and Managing Director of Marchon.
1968: Marchon Products and overseas subsidiaries become Marchon Division of A & W (1 Apr); fourth ‘wet process’ acid plant commissioned (F4); Marchon France formed (11 Jun).
1969: Production commences at Marchon France at St Mihiel near Paris; Marchon wins second Queen’s Export Award; workforce at 2267 (Jan).
1971: Following financial problems caused by its investment in phosphorus production at Long Harbour, Canada, A & W is acquired by Tenneco Inc; Otto Secher retires, succeeded by Danny Fagandini.
1972: Frank Schon created Baron Schon of Whitehaven; second Marchon Italiana factory opens at Frosinone, near Rome; Marchon Espanola (formed Aug 1970) begins production at Alcover, Spain (Dec).
1973: Following successful pilots, large plant authorised at Whitehaven (known as ‘MO’) for production of purified wet phosphoric acid (PWA); decision taken to replace anydrite process of sulphuric acid production by sulphur burning - first sulphur burner commences operation at Whitehaven and two anhydrite kilns close, second burner authorised; John Wills succeeds Danny Fagandini as Divisional Managing Director (Aug).
1975: Remaining kilns and anhydrite mine close; Marchon Division becomes part of A & W Detergents and Chemicals Group (8 Dec).
1976: Second sulphur burner opened (23 Jan); MO PWA plant goes on stream.
1977: Authorisation given for construction of massive new phosphoric acid plant (F5) and PWA plant (MMO); further commissioning of plants at Whitehaven for speciality surfactants; new Sports and Social Club opens (31 Mar); Martin Rowe appointed Site Director; Whitehaven workforce at 2250.
1978: Full takeover of A & W by Tenneco; major engineering strike at Whitehaven works.
1980: F5/MMO plant opened by Queen Elizabeth II (21 Mar).
1982: Martin Rowe dies, replaced by Terry Palmer as Site Director; workforce at 2000.
1987: Completion of new plant at Whitehaven (MOS) to produce food grade PWA: workforce at 1700; Greenpeace attempts to block outfall pipe.
1988-1992: Whitehaven plant becomes focus for criticism from environmentalists, culminating in a prosecution by Greenpeace, 1990; in response A & W initiate large investment in environmental improvements at Whitehaven site; unions agree to remove demarcation for process and technical workers, leading to multi-skilling and reduction of workforce, 1988-1989; John Markham appointed Site Director, 1989.
1991: Eltersols plant closes.
1992: F5 closes, due to production and pollution problems and is replaced by phosphoric acid imports from Morocco into Workington. Imports of phosphoric rock into Whitehaven harbour cease. Raffinate plant, to encapsulate pollutants in landfill, begins operation.
1994: Sodium Lauryl Sulphate plants close. Whitehaven workforce at 900.
1995: Frank Schon dies (7 Jan); A & W divested by Tenneco and floated as a PLC on London Stock Exchange (Apr); expansion of PWA plant at Whitehaven commissioned; Ray Cranke appointed Whitehaven Site Director.
1997: Sulphuric acid plant closes.
1999-2005: In a complex series of deals, A & W is acquired by Rhodia (an offshoot of Rhone-Poulenc), which rationalises production to France and winds down Whitehaven site; workforce at 700 (Mar 1999), 500 (Apr 2000), 300 (Jun 2000); detergents and surfactants business is sold to Huntsman of Salt Lake City; phosphate production at Whitehaven ceases with loss of 160 jobs (Dec 2001); 150 staff employed during 2003 on decontamination work at Whitehaven site. June 2004, announcement made to safeguard remaining 82 jobs overturned by notice in Dec 2004 of closure of the site by June 2005.
Following closure plant and buildings were demolished over several years and the land cleared for construction of housing.
ArrangementYDB 59/1: Directors' minutes
YDB 59/2: Share certificates
YDB 59/3: Land holding
YDB 59/4: Accounts: Marchon Group
YDB 59/5: Accounts and reports: Albright and Wilson
YDB 59/6: Company operations literature
YDB 59/7: Product information
YDB 59/8: Marchon shipping and Whitehaven harbour
YDB 59/9: Publicity material and press cuttings
YDB 59/10: Marchon Sports and Social Club
YDB 59/11: Ceremonial, visits and awards
YDB 59/12: Photographs
YDB 59/13: Railways and mines
YDB 59/14: Correspondence
YDB 59/15: Construction
Related materialPrinted material and press cuttings, 1950s-2001, and editions of Albright News and Marchon News are available in the Local Studies Collection. More company booklets are held at Ref: YDX 31. Awards and photographs are also held by the Beacon Museum, Whitehaven.
Publication detailsFurther information on the history of Marchon is available in Whitehaven, an illustrated history by Daniel Hay (Michael Moon, 1966-1987); Albright and Wilson, the last 50 years by Hugh Podger (Brewin Books, Studley, 2002); Whitehaven, history and guide by Alan W Routledge (Tempus, Stroud, 2002); Marchon: the Whitehaven chemical works by Alan W Routledge (Tempus, Stroud, 2005).
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