A History of Marchon Works at Whitehaven

by John Kennedy and Gordon Atkinson

1939 Frank Schon (subsequently Lord Schon) and Fred Marzillier registered Marchon Products Ltd. and occupied an office in London.

1940 As the blitz intensified, Schon and Marzillier moved to West Cumbria and restarted the Marchon operation in Whitehaven.~
1941 Production of chemicals began in the form of firelighter blocks manufactured from sawdust, coal distillation residues and napthalene. The ‘factory’ was first the garage of Mr Schon’s home in Hensingham, then premises in Swingpump Lane, supplemented by use of a small warehouse in Whitehaven (the Guinea Warehouse, Newtown).
1943 Operations transferred to seven acres of the site at Kells.
1944 Commissioning of S1 Plant: first manufacture of toiletry intermediates.
1949 Sir Stafford Cripps opened a 50,000 square foot warehouse complex and new offices.

1952 First sod cut by Lord Adams for the Solway Works (sulphuric acid/cement plant).~
1953 First Phosphate plant commissioned.
1954 First Fatty Alcohol plant opened by Sir Henry Tizard.~
1955 Anhydrite Mine opened by Lord Lieutenant Sir Robert Chance. (Mine remained operational until the mid 70’s.) Duke of Edinburgh visited Marchon. First two sulphuric acid plants opened. A&W Ltd. purchased Marchon Products Ltd. Marchon Italiana registered.
1957 First phosphate-rock carrier Marchon Trader built for the Morocco-Whitehaven run. Oil Additives plant opened. Eltesol plant opened. Fred Marzillier retired from executive directorship.

1961 Marchon Italiana’s Castiglione factory opened. F3 phosphoric acid plant opened. Second carrier Marchon Enterprise built.
1962 Third Sulphuric Acid plant opened. Marchon Venturer built.
1963 Whitehaven technology used for two detergent plants in Russia.
1964 New Fatty Alcohol plant built.
1966 First Queen’s Award for Export Achievement. Frank Schon knighted.
1967 Fourth and fifth Sulphuric Acid plants opened. Sir Frank Schon resigneed from A&W board.
1968 F4 Phosphoric Acid plant opened. Marchon France registered. Marchon Products became A&W‘s Marchon Division.
1969 Marchon France’s factory began producing. Second Queen’s Award for Export Achievement.

1972 Sir Frank Schon made Baron. Second factory opened in Italy (Frosinone). Factory opened in Spain (Alcover). Marchon Division (headquartered at Whitehaven)  took responsibility for A&W’s agricultural business (several factories in Lincolnshire). (These interests were sold in the early 80’s.)
1973 Marchon Division given responsibility for overseas A&W companies e.g. in Australia and India and for sales offices on European mainland. Conversion of sulphuric acid production from the anhydrite to the sulphur-burning route began with changeover of two of the five streams.
1975 Third Queen’s Award for Export Achievement. Whitehaven made headquarters of A&W’s Detergents and Chemicals Group with responsibility for 10 UK and 7 overseas factories plus worldwide network of sales offices and agents.~
1976 First Phosphoric Acid Purification plant (MO Plant) opened. Last sulphuric acid/cement kiln decommissioned. All sulphuric acid now produced from liquid sulphur. Fourth Sodium Tripolyphosphate plant (DS4) commissioned making Marchon Works largest single-site producer of this material in the world.
1977 Marchon Sports & Social Club building in Coach Road. Whitehaven opened by Lord Lieutenant John Wade.
1978 Tenneco takes full ownership of A&W.
1979 Second Phosphoric Acid Purification plant (MMO Plant) and fifth Wet Process Phosphoric Acid plant (F5) commissioned.

1980 New Phosphoric Acid complex comprising F5 Wet Process Phosphoric Acid plant and MMO Purified Phosphoric Acid plant officially opened by HM The Queen.
1984 Third Phosphoric Acid Purification plant (UFEX) opened.
1987 Extended and developed version of MO plant, re-christened MOS plant opened. As part of company-wide restructuring, commercial operations transferred from Whitehaven to A&W’s European headquarters in Birmingham.
1989 Extension of Oil Additive plant opened.

1990 Reflecting heightened public concern nationally and internationally on environmental issues. £6 million spent at the works on reducing emissions of dust and fumes. First Environmental Plan published. Demolition/clearances programme begun.
1991 Structuring of Works Manage­ment. Computerised company-wide programmes for order processing and production planning (PRMS) and engineering maintenance (Idhammar) introduced. Private prosecution by Greenpeace. Greenpeace block outfall pipe. Road tanker deliveries sub­contracted to Tankfreight.
1992 F5 Phosphoric Acid plant closed. Raffinate Treatment plant and Landfill site opened. Discharges of gypsum and heavy metals from phosphoric acid manufacture eliminated. Completion of BS5750 programme for the site. Demolition of Whitehaven Harbour silos.
1994 Albright and Wilson re-floated on the London Stock Exchange as an independent company.
1997 PWA expansion – £8.5 million project to boost overall capacity by 30,000 metric tonnes per annum.
1999 Rhodia, a French company, took over Albright and Wilson.   

2000 Whitehaven’s phosphate activities were run down and eventually closed.
2001 Huntsman, a private American company, bought Whitehaven’s surfactant Plants from Rhodia.
2004 Whitehaven’s surfactant activities run down, with virtual closure of the site in 2005


  • Was the largest single-site producer of Sulphuric Acid in Europe
  • Was the largest single-site producer of Sodium Tripolyphospate in the world
  • Area of site 133 acres (54 hectares)
  • Maximum No of employees was about 2,500 (excludes contractors)
  • Sister factories in Europe:         France  (2),      Italy  (2),      Spain  (2),
  • Sister factories overseas:         Singapore,      Australia  (2),      South Africa

Whitehaven (History & Guide) : Alan W. Routledge.Tempus Publishing Ltd., 2002
Marchon – The Whitehaven Chemical Works : Alan W. Routledge. Tempus Publishing Ltd., 2005
A series of article in the CIHS Bulletin from 2016 to 2019 by Brian Quayle. See Publications

(Page created 04/01/06. Last updated 08/04/20)