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British Industrial History

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British Aluminium Co

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October 1914. Aluminium bonnet and scuttle dash.
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04th March 1961.
1964. Continuous tube forming and welding machine.
1964. Plug drawing heavy tube on 150-ton drawbench.
1964. 1,250-ton extrusion press.
1964. Two-high hand mill bay of Rheola works at Resolven in the Vale of Neath.
1964. Roll grinding shop of Rheola works.
1964. Hot line general view - Rheola works.
1964. Rheola works Ingersoll scalping machine.
1964. Rheola works
February 1965.

British Aluminium Co or Baco of Adelaide House, King William Street, London, EC4. London Warehouse: St. Pancras Road. also in: Birmingham; Manchester; Leeds; Bristol; Newcastle-on-Tyne; Glasgow. Telephone: Mansion House 5561 and 8074 (6 lines). Telegraphic Address: "Cryolite, Bilgate, London". (1937)

1894 Company founded. The British Aluminium Co Ltd was formed on 7 May, acquiring the British and colonial rights for the Bayer and Héroult patents for alumina extraction and aluminium reduction. The company was registered to acquire mines in the north of Ireland, and certain patent rights connected with the manufacture of aluminium, with a freehold factory at Foyers, near Inverness. [1]

Until the end of the 19th century, aluminium was still regarded as a precious metal, due to the difficulties experienced in its extraction. This situation began to change with the discovery of two new processes: one for extracting alumina from the ore (bauxite) and the other for converting alumina into the metal aluminium by electrolysis.

1887 The extraction process was perfected by Karl Joseph Bayer of Austria between 1887 and 1892, whilst the reduction process was discovered simultaneously by Charles Martin Hall of Oberlin, Ohio, USA and Paul Louis Toussaint Héroult of France, in 1886. The immediate effect of this discovery was a fall in the price of aluminium to about a quarter of its previous price. Within a few years the price had further fallen to about a twentieth of the original price.

1894 Incorporated as a Limited Company.

First plant using the process to extract Aluminium was established at the Falls of Foyers, Inverness-shire

1896 Foyers plant started operation

By 1897 The plant was making one-tenth of the world's supply of aluminium.

1897 British Aluminium Co commenced production of carbon at Greenock, Inverclyde. Rolling mills were situated at Milton, Stoke-on-Trent, and Warrington, Cheshire, in England.

1898 William Thomson (Baron Kelvin) took a personal interest in the development of the company, acting as scientific adviser, and becoming a member of the board of directors. A key figure in the development of the company was a former student of William Thomson (Lord Kelvin), Sir W. Murray Morrison, who started work as an engineer at Foyers, Highland, in 1895.

1895 The electrolytic process depended upon the availability of vast supplies of cheaply produced electricity, and the Highlands of Scotland offered potential for this, in the form of hydro-electric power. The first aluminium ingots were produced at Foyers, Highland, in 1895, and the first hydro-electric powered smelter was opened at Foyers, Highland, in 1896, followed by two further smelters at Kinlochleven, Highland, (1909) and Lochaber, Highland, (1929), with subsidiary companies being formed for the development of each.

1898 Early attempts at mining bauxite near Larne, Northern Ireland, were unsuccessful and in 1898 the company acquired a controlling interest in Union des Bauxites of Southern France which had extensive bauxite resources.

1907 British Aluminium established reduction facilities at Stangfjord and Kristiansand in Norway.

1908 The Kinlochleven complex opened, which was six times bigger than Foyers; it had involved building a village, a huge reservoir, a power plant, and a smelter - also see Loch Leven Water Power Works

1910 Became a public company.

1912 Exhibitor at the Non-Ferrous Metals Exhibition at the Royal Agricultural Halls[2].

1914 Employees 3,000. [3]

Reduction works had been built at Larne, Northern Ireland, and continued to operate using imported ore and was augmented from 1917 by a further reduction works at Burntisland, Fife.

WWI. During the First World War bauxite rights were acquired in British Guiana.

1924 Incorporated the North British Aluminium Co to construct and operate aluminium works in Inverness-shire, including carrying out for the Lochaber Power Co a sufficient portion of the hydraulic and hydro-electric works to supply the aluminium works[4]

1926 The British and Colonial Bauxite Co was formed and acquired extensive bauxite deposits in the Gold Coast, Ghana, in 1928.

1927 Murray Morrison appointed MD, and later deputy chairman

1929 Opened the Lochaber smelter, involving the longest tunnel of its kind in the world, under the foot of Ben Nevis.

1937 British Industries Fair Advert for latest developments in Aluminium. Aluminium and its Alloys in all standard forms. Alloy Forgings. Castings and die Castings. Latest developments with Aluminium, including "Brytal" Reflector process, Anodic Coatings, Free-cutting Alloy BA 35, Superpurity Aluminium. (Engineering/Metals/Quarry, Roads and Mining/Transport Section - Stand Nos. D.911 and D.808). [5]

1937 Aluminium producers.[6]

1938 Established another alumina factory at Newport, Monmouthshire

1939 See Aircraft Industry Suppliers

WWII. During the Second World War communications with the deposits in Ghana were greatly improved.

1943 It acquired interests in the Norwegian aluminium industry and opened a reduction factory at Travancore, India, in 1943.

1944 Opened a state-of-the-art rolling mill at Falkirk

1950s By the early 1950s, the company was the UK market leader but was frustrated in finding export markets and new bauxite resources.

1955 British Aluminium Co acquired a majority interest in Magnesium Elektron[7].

1955/57 The company acquired interests in major plants in Canada and British Guiana and in bauxite deposits in Australia but finance problems left it vulnerable

1958 British Aluminium Co Ltd was taken over by the two companies, the US Reynolds Metals and T. I. Aluminium. It had a semi-fabricating plant at Falkirk[8] . The company lost its rights to the Australian deposits through its failure to exploit them quickly enough, and its partnership with the Australian firm Comalajo.

1961 Employs 10,000 persons. Parent of 8 UK companies. [9]

1961 Construction of a new rolling mill was commenced at Falkirk, leading to over-capacity in the UK.

1963 Motor Show exhibitor. Decorative and functional aluminium trim. [10]

1967 The company was owned by Tube Investments (49.5 percent), Reynolds (48.1 percent) and the general public (2.4 percent)[11]

1967 The Foyers plant closed - much of the original equipment was still in use, a testimony to the original execution.

1968 The company divested its interests in Canada and decided to build a large smelter at Invergordon, Highland, a decision based on the promise of low-cost electricity from nuclear power.

1971 Commissioned an aluminium smelter at Invergordon, stimulated by government funding[12]. Mid-summer: Invergordon reached full production.

1978 Reynolds sold its stake in British Aluminium Co and T. I. Aluminium increased its holding to 58% with 42% being floated.

1981 The Invergordon smelter was closed[13]

1982 March: Baco announced massive losses this month. Baco 58% owned by TI which also lost heavily overall in 1981, crashed from a £12.1 million 1980 profit to a pre-tax loss of £22.3 million. However the Invergordon closure turned Baco into a net purchaser of aluminium even though it has two other UK smelters. The company continues to invest in downstream operations. The final stage of a £1 million programme at Heavy Duty Alloy Extrusions in Workington saw a new furnace complex replacing three old others.[14]

1982 The Canadian-owned Alcan Aluminium UK Ltd acquired British Aluminium Co, the resultant new company being called British Alcan Ltd.

See Also

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Sources of Information

  1. The Stock Exchange Year Book 1908
  2. The Times, 19 June 1912
  3. 1914 Whitakers Red Book
  4. The Times, Feb 21, 1925
  5. 1937 British Industries Fair Advert p605; and p338
  6. 1937 The Aeroplane Directory of the Aviation and Allied Industries
  7. The Times, 12 March 1955
  8. The Times Nov 05, 1970
  9. 1961 Guide to Key British Enterprises
  10. 1963 Motor Show
  11. The Times, Oct 05, 1967
  12. The Times, Nov 05, 1970
  13. The Times, Dec 30, 1981
  14. The Engineer 1982/03/18
  • [1] NAHSTE Website
  • AA. [2] Image courtesy of Aviation Ancestry
  • Biography of Murray Morrison, ODNB