The ICI Nobel Agency Factories In Southern Scotland :
At the onset of the Second World War (1939-1945), the British Government decided to massively expand its capability to produce
explosives for filling shells and as propellant for gun and rifle cartridges. Instead of creating another giant factory like
the First World War (1914-1918) munitions works at Gretna and Eastriggs, production was spread around a large number of government-run
sites like ROF Bishopton near Glasgow and agency industrial works like the ICI explosive works at Ardeer in Ayrshire. ICI saw a
need to increase production by establishing six new factories in South West Scotland. These were Ministry of Supply factories
run and staffed by ICI as 'Agency Factories'. They consisted of :-
ICI Nobel at Ardeer produced more cordite and incorporated explosives made elsewhere into finished ammunition. Explosives
from Ardeer were also sent to ammunition factories elsewhere in Britain.
- M/S Dumfries (Drungans) at Cargenbridge : - Produced nitrocellulose (guncotton), acids and other chemicals. Wartime
process buildings cleared but a few minor ancillary buildings survive. Filter beds of waste treatment plant also survive.
Plans of site to hand and some other data.
- M/S Dalbeattie : - Double works at Southwick (Unit 1) and Edingham (Unit 2) that produced nitroglycerine for onsite
incorporation with Drungans nitrocellulose into cordite, possibly with additives, for dual or triple base cordite. Product
mainly for artillery, machine gun and small arms propellant. Recently a Black Powder finishing works was also identified,
using structures originally meant for packing to finish part-made powder presumably from M/S Carsegowan. 2,200 staff at
peak. Very extensive buildings from all aspects of production process and complete set of ancillary buildings. The subject
of this website.
- M/S Carsegowan near Wigtown : - Produced black powder (Gunpowder) and grey powder for fuses and flares. Many buildings
still survive intact. History based on Ardeer documents written up by Dennis Sawden.
- M/S Powfoot near Annan - Western section of site produced single-base guncotton-based brown granular propellant by the
ether collodion process, for rifle and machine-gun cartridges. Eastern section produced trinitrotoluene (TNT) for shells and
bombs. Some process buildings survive re-used for farming. Most of site cleared.
- M/S Girvan (Grangeston in South Ayrshire) : - From information provided by Ian Jones and David Hodgson, apparently a
flashless cordite factory half the size of Dalbeattie. Mostly demolished and used as a municipal tip, now the site of a Grant's distillery.
Double platform from Grangeston Halt used by staff survives beside disused track. Some other structures (possibly stoving houses)
maybe being used as stores.
- M/S Newton St. Boswell (in Scottish Borders) : Charlesfield : - Produced 1 million incendiary bombs per month from 1942.
Each bomb weighed 4 lbs. (1.8 Kilos). 1,300 staff at peak. One of only two such factories in the UK. Now an industrial
estate. Wartime remains reported to be slight.
All six factories were planned and co-ordinated by Mr. Allan Wilson of ICI Nobel Division from offices at 'The Oaks' on
the outskirts of Dumfries. The oak table from 'The Oaks' was reportedly later used at the Dumfries works in the boardroom.
Between January 1942 and June 1945 the works at Drungans, Powfoot and Dalbeattie, produced one third of Britain's cordite.
This in itself testifies to the incredible importance of these long-overlooked sites. Cordite and nitrocellulose powder from
these works was shipped north to ICI Ardeer and possibly ROF Bishopton for shell and cartridge production.
Drungans and Powfoot were the only two of the six Factories known to have survived the war, Drungans works being demolished
in the 1990s but the Dumfries plastics works surviving. Powfoot lasted into the late 1980s. The other four factories were
shut and decommissioned from 1946.
Common Design Features at the Six Factories :
Whilst analysing plans and photographs, the writer uncovered the commonalty of many ancillary buildings present at the
first three of the six factories. The Canteen, the Fire Station/Decontamination and First Aid building,
the Explosive Loading Stations and even the pipe supports, show common designs at Drungans, Dalbeattie
and Carsegowan. Map analysis further indicates that the vast array of Drying, Blending and Packing Houses
at Dalbeattie was echoed in the western half of the Powfoot site. Mr. David Rudland of Dalbeattie further noted that there
were structures similar to those at Dalbeattie at Charlesfield, until its fairly recent development as an industrial estate.
Further common features are being investigated with the objective of interpreting buildings at other sites.
Further Investigation :
Research is underway for a subsite on Carsegowan and on Drungans, using field studies, surviving documents, published
information and the recollections of former staff. You are encouraged to contact the writer to pass on any recollections, no
matter how unimportant they may seem. Some of the most important analysis has been started by a few casual words from former
staff or their relatives.