Dangerous Energy

BookDangerous Energy

Dangerous Energy

The archaeology of gunpowder and military explosives manufacture

English Heritage

2014

June 15th, 2014

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This book comprises a national study of the explosives industry and provides a framework for identification of its industrial archaeology and social history.

Few monuments of gunpowder manufacture survive in Britain from the Middle Ages, although its existence is documented. Late 17th-century water-powered works are identifiable but sparse. In the later 18th century, however, the industry was transformed by state acquisition of key factories, notably at Faversham and at Waltham Abbey.In the mid-19th century developments in Britain paralleled those in continental Europe and in America, namely a shift to production on an industrial scale related to advances in armaments technology.

The urgency and large-scale demands of the two world wars brought state-directed or state-led solutions to explosives production in the 20th century. Yhe book’s concluding section looks at planning, preservation, conservation and presentation in relation to prospective future uses of these sites.

This book comprises a national study of the explosives industry and provides a framework for identification of its industrial archaeology and social history. Few monuments of gunpowder manufacture survive in Britain from the Middle Ages, although its existence is documented. Late 17th-century water-powered works are identifiable but sparse. In the later 18th century, however, the industry was transformed by state acquisition of key factories, notably at Faversham and at Waltham Abbey. In the mid-19th century developments in Britain paralleled those in continental Europe and in America, namely a shift to production on an industrial scale related to advances in armaments technology. The urgency and large-scale demands of the two world wars brought state-directed or state-led solutions to explosives production in the 20th century. The book’s concluding section looks at planning, preservation, conservation and presentation in relation to prospective future uses of these sites.

Author Information

Author and archaeologist at Historic England, Cambridge.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents
Section TitlePagePrice
Cover1
Half-Title Page2
Title Page3
Copyright Page344
Contents4
Illustrations6
Tables13
Foreword14
Acknowledgements15
Summary17
Resume18
Zusammenfassung19
Introduction20
Scope20
Previous work20
Objectives22
Wow!22
1. 'Success to the Black Art!'23
Origins23
The beginnings of manufacture in England28
Gunpowder in the later sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries30
The Civil War 1642–936
The second half of the seventeenth century and the eighteenth century38
The 1772 Act49
2. The royal factories 1759–185052
Introduction52
The first royal gunpowder factory – Faversham53
Reorganisation of the royal powder works under William Congreve54
Expansion of state involvement in gunpowder supply in the early nineteenthcentury70
Safety81
Transport82
Housing82
Retrenchment83
3. Gunpowder manufacture in the second half of the nineteenth century89
Trends and influences: competition and rivalry89
Stimuli to change: the race begins90
Expansion at Waltham Abbey RGPF91
Parallels and imitators115
Housing and work force118
Legislation and safety119
4. The demise of gunpowder129
The gunpowder industry in 1900129
RGPF Waltham Abbey130
The Great War 1914–18130
Merger and Explosives Trades Ltd131
Refurbishment at Faversham132
The end of gunpowder at Waltham Abbey RGPF136
The end of black powder manufacture in England137
ICI Ardeer black powder factory137
The Second World War 1939–45139
5. The development of the chemical explosives industry, c 1850–1914141
Introduction141
Explosives143
The Nobel Dynamite Trust and its competitors151
The raw materials – chemicals, plant, and people170
Housing174
6. The Great War 1914–18177
'A chemists' war', delivered by 'men of push and go'177
Factory types – propellants manufacture181
Factory types – high explosives manufacture189
Factory types – National Filling Factories192
Factory architecture, materials, and infrastructure205
The social history of munitions209
The impact of peace216
7. Rearmament and the Second World War219
The inter-war years: the 1920s and early 1930s219
Rearmament and the Royal Ordnance Factories (ROF)224
Planning the new programme224
Factory types – propellants manufacture225
Factory types – high explosives manufacture231
Factory types – filling factories233
Factory architecture, materials, and infrastructure246
Post-war, Korea, and after258
8. The archaeology of rocketry261
Origins262
The Congreve rocket262
The Second World War265
Post-war rockets268
A new industry274
Manufacture and handling of rocket propellants275
'Blue Streak'277
An end282
9. Survival and reuse285
The legacy of powder works and their contribution to the modern landscape285
Waltham Abbey: the conservation of the site286
Public access294
Gazetteer296
Glossary and abbreviations312
Bibliography316
Index329