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Ministry of Supply Factory, Dalbeattie -
 View of Nitration Hills, Unit 2 (Edingham)

Ministry of Supply Factory, Dalbeattie
World War II Cordite Works

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Stoving Houses :-

Key Facts :-

  • Steam heated forced drying of cordite.
  • Evaporation of acetone and collection.
  • Adjacent to Acetone Recovery Stills.
  • Similar to Drying/Steeping Houses but no roof vents.
  • No surviving Stoving Houses in Unit 2.
  • Three surviving Stoving Houses in Unit 1.
  • 'Soft panels' and doors in case of explosions.
  • Roofs designed to shed incendiary bombs.



Stoving Houses (SH) in Acetone Recovery Section :

Introduction...

These remarkable and unusual structures consist of long eight-chamber sheds with a front veranda for loading and unloading cordite from the narrow-gauge site railway system. The back passage of the sheds has two enlargements for steam-heated boilers, which provided the heat for radiators in each of the eight chambers. Cordite brought from the Die Pressing Houses retained a considerable quantity of the acetone used in manufacturing, so the radiators were used to drive off the acetone. Acetone, unbonded Nitroglycerine and some water vapour were evaporated by the heat and removed by a ventilation system linked by pipes to Acetone Recovery Houses (ACRHO).

All five Stoving Houses in Unit 2 (Edingham) were demolished in 1980, together with their two wide and one narrow ACRHO. The equivalent section in Unit 1 (Southwick) partly survived; a wide and a narrow ACRHO survive near their three Stoving Houses, but a further pair of Stoving Houses and their wide ACRHO were demolished.

Archaeological Details and Interpretation of the Stoving Houses :

Analysis of map outlines disclosed that the Stoving Houses were structures with a front veranda and two rear projections, the rear of each building towards adjacent cruciform-plan structures that at first were interpreted as boilers. Further analysis made it clear that two pairs of Stoving Houses were paired with the wider cruciform-plan ACRHO, whilst a narrow ACRHO was linked to one adjacent Stoving House.

Ground surveys revealed the truth about both the Stoving Houses and the ACRHO 'cruciform halls'. Pipe supports from the rear of each SH led to an adjacent 'porch' on an ACRHO. The SH themselves resembled the Drying/Blending Houses, except that the internal back passages held elaborate pipe supports and the inside door of each Stoving Room had been lined with zinc. Structurally, there was also a difference in the vents from each room - a single large vent in a Drying House, leading to an external ventilator stack, but a Stoving House had two smaller circular vents that were plumbed into pipework. The massive concrete and brick foundations are common in design in both Stoving and Drying Houses, standing up to five feet above the base concrete. This was obviously intended to prevent damp penetration, as were the underlying dwarf walls visible at some demolished Houses.

In front of the Stoving Houses were simple concrete-roofed verandas enclosed by precast concrete frames sheathed in asbestos cement. The verandas were unloading stations for the narrow-gauge railway bogie wagons used to transport explosives and stores round the site. Judging from pictures from Ardeer and information from Carsegowan, 1,100 lbs (530 Kilos) of explosive could be moved on one bogie using up to six women or a horse. The cases of raw cordite would be brought in through the doors from the platform, then their contents would have been spread on perforated zinc trays supported on timber racking. The footmarks of the racking supports are present on the acid resistant gritless asphalt that covered the floor. The staff would have left the Stoving Room once unloading was complete, then locked the door and turned on the heating. After a suitable period (possibly a week or two) the radiators would be turned off and the trays cleared into cases, before the cordite was transported on a bogie to the Drying Houses.

Following the closure of the works, most equipment was recovered or scrapped. The Stoving Houses have been used for farm purposes - possibly as delivery sheds for lambs or calves - and little survives but the details referred to.

Unit 1 Stoving House A Stoving Room with radiator
 feeds and two vapour vents.
Unit 1 Stoving House A Stoving Room with radiator feeds and two vapour vents.


Conclusion :

Interpretation of these structures and their layout was assisted by evidence from Holton Heath, but the majority of features needed gradual logical analysis and interpretation. The Stoving Houses are an essential part of the Acetone Recovery process and are the final major use of energy in the cordite production process.

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© 2006 Richard Edkins, Dalbeattie Internet. All rights reserved.

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