Grace's Guide

British Industrial History

Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 147,398 pages of information and 233,518 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

United Alkali Co

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August 1899.
February 1901.
1911. Chloride of Zinc.
Pearl Dust.

United Alkali Company Limited of Cunard Building, Liverpool. Cables: Ubique. (1922)

1890 The company was formed at a time when the British chemical industry mainly consisted of family-run concerns making acids and alkalis but with insufficient financial reserves to compete with the more economic Solvay process for making alkali installed by Brunner, Mond and Co[1]. In protection United Alkali Co was formed to bring together producers of soda ash using the older Leblanc process (the product was used in the glass, textile, soap, and paper industries). The company was registered on 1 November, for the purpose of acquiring 40[2] chemical works in the United Kingdom (including auxiliary plant for making ammonia soda, glycerine, potash, soap, artificial manures, etc), as well as salt mines and works in the county of Durham [3]

1891 John Brock was chairman of United Alkali Co; he pioneered rationalization of the industry which brought brief initial success. Profits peaked in 1892 and thereafter declined rapidly, due in part to American tariff barriers.

1891 Prospectus published for shares in the company. Agreements were made between John Brock and James Hawke Dennis and 40+ companies [4]:

England - West District

England - East District



Salt Works

Arrangements had also been made to acquire the Leblanc businesses of:

1892 Established ammonia-soda works at Fleetwood[5]

1894 Acquired Lancashire Metal Co

1897 United Alkali Co fought back against the American tariffs by establishing a factory in Michigan which was run by the North American Chemical Company, of which John Brock was president, but this venture failed to improve the fortunes of the company. Brock retired as chairman of the UAC in 1913.

1903-6 Acquired pyrites mines at Tinto Santa Rosa, Sotiel Coronada and Concepcion (province of Huelve, Southern Spain)[6]

1906 Acquired Henderson Works of Irvine

1907 Said to control nearly all of the British companies producing alkali and bleach by the Leblanc Process. Had recently purchased (copper) mines in Spain[7].

WWI: In the absence of German imports, and due to insufficient investment, the UK chemical industry was dependent for supplies of ammonia on imports of nitrate of soda from Chile to supplement supplies from gas works[8].

1916 Acquired the works of J. B. Aitken. Closed 1917

1917 Advert. [9] List of chemicals available from United Alkali. Also listed companies in the group as:

1922 Advert for Brands:- "Hand-in-Hand", "HB", "Allhusen", "Bull", "Kangaroo", "Tiger", "Redheart", "Muspratt", "Skull". Also as Manufacturers of numerous Chemicals. (Stand No. A.2) [10]

1926 One of the 4 major British chemical companies which were merged to form Imperial Chemical Industries, the others being Brunner, Mond and Co, Nobel Industries and British Dyestuffs Corporation.

1926 June. Sir Max Muspratt was chairman of the company.[11]

1932 Transferred the Spanish mines to Compania Anonyma de Buitron.

See Also


Sources of Information

  • [3] Wikipedia
  • [4] Colorants History/British Dyestuffs
  1. The Times, 11 March 1952
  2. The Times, 10 November 1890
  3. The Stock Exchange Year Book 1908
  4. The Times, 10 February 1891
  5. National Archives [1]
  6. National Archives [2]
  7. The Times, 3 June 1907
  8. The Times, 11 March 1952
  9. [1917 Worrall's Yorkshire Textile Directory]] Advert p140
  10. 1922 British Industries Fair Advert ccxi and p80
  11. The Engineer 1926/06/25