May 22, 2023
Lost in time: 21 pictures exploring the remains of Castleford's abandoned Hickson and Welch chemical plant
Hickson and Welch was a chemical works located in north Castleford between the River Aire and the Aire & Calder Navigation Canal, close to the now disused Castleford Viaduct. In 1893, London-born
Hickson and Welch was a chemical works located in north Castleford between the River Aire and the Aire & Calder Navigation Canal, close to the now disused Castleford Viaduct.
In 1893, London-born Ernest Hickson founded a company to introduce sulphur black (a sulphur dye) to the British cotton industry.
Ultimately, in 1915, Hickson & Partners Ltd was founded and the company moved into Castleford where they produced TNT until the end of World War One in 1918.
After this they changed to the production of dyes and the processing of acids.
Unfortunately, the plant suffered three major explosions throughout their time of operation.
In November 1926 a blast occurred while workers were packing an intermediate dye, thought to be non-explosive, where two men died.
On July 4, 1930, just before noon, there was a huge explosion on the site's nitration plant. It severely damaged the factory, killing 13 people and injuring more than 30 others. Many neighbouring homes made uninhabitable.
Ernest Hickson later died of natural causes that same year and the company was liquidated.
Mr Hickson’s son Bernard and Colbeck Welch created a new company, and in 1931 'Hickson and Welch' was born, rising from the ashes.
The company produced wood protection, furniture coatings and organic chemicals over the years specialising in DDT, a pesticide, becoming the UK's largest manufacturer.
Hickson & Partners Ltd became a public company on 30 November 1951, later becoming known as Hickson International from 1985.
On September 21 1992, another explosion occurred. Fire workers – four men and woman died – many more were injured in the incident which caused around £3.5m damage.
In August 2000 Hickson International plc was bought by Arch Chemicals, a chemical company.
At the time Hickson employed over 1,300 people, had assets of £73 million, and a revenue of £208 million.
In 2002, Powergen (now E.ON UK) installed a £30 million combined heat and power gas turbine power station at the site, which included a huge steam turbine.
Years later, the company was rebranded as C6 Solutions and closed in July 2005.
Since its closure, the site remained derelict for over a decade until Wakefield Council decided to start demolition.
Whilst most of the site was demolished in 2016, and the power station demolished in 2021, remnants from the once thriving business remain.
Castleford's Hickson & Welch chemical plant in 2006, the year after it closed its doors for good. Photo: Jayne Claughton
The old plant is located in north Castleford between the River Aire and the Aire and Calder Navigation Canal. Photo: Lost Places & Forgotten Faces
Ernest Hickson first founded the company in 1893 to introduce sulphur black (a sulphur dye) to the British cotton industry. Photo: Lost Places & Forgotten Faces
In 1915, Hickson & Partners Ltd was founded and the company moved into Castleford. Photo: Lost Places & Forgotten Faces