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Home > Mines, Quarries & Sites > National Explosives Factory

National Explosives Factory (United Kingdom)

Established in 1888, to produce dynamite for blasting in the mines, the National Explosives Company expanded rapidly to produce three tons per day in 1890. The Works covered 300 acres and over 1800 people worked there. Up to 2,000 tons of Cordite, Gelatine, Nitro-Glycerine and Gelignite were manufactured there for the Army and the Navy until 1919, when all production was stopped. The site was still used to store explosives until the 1960s, when it was finally abandoned.
The Spur-line remained in operation until 1922, while the Works were being stripped and cleared. The Company had had it’s own engine specially-built by Peckett and Son of Bristol. It was a four-coupled saddle tank locomotive which, because of the dangers of setting off an explosion, had been fitted with a spark-arresting funnel, which was believed to have been sold in 1924 to the Wire Works at wmbran in Monmouthshire.
All that remains of the factory buildings, storage bays and nitrating vats can still be found to the North and East of the site. The Chimney Stack14, although partially stripped of its special acid-resistant bricks, is still standing and was renovated in November 1998.
The Denitrification Towers were lined with blocks of Volvic Lava from
the Puy-de-Dome region of France because it was resistant to acid and
had thermal properties. Some of the Volvic stones were used to line the original kiln at Bernard Leach’s Pottery in St. Ives.
Great care should be taken when visiting this site. The Dynamite Works have been closed for nearly forty years and many of the vats and storage pits are very overgrown. Four of the five shafts of the Boiling Well Mine were still in existence until the spring of 2000 when they were capped by the Cornwall County Council’s Countryside Agency. The shafts crossed the Towans on a line, E.N.E.-W.S.W. in direction.


Thanks to the expertise of IClOk and his contacts I can now add the history of the imprtant little engine.

Built 1917 and delivered new to Hayle Towans (given in Peckett order book)
Peckett and Co Works number 1448
Type M5 0-4-0 Tank Loco
Cyls (2) 10" x 15"
Site closed in 1919 but used for storage
Loco sold to J.C.Hill & Co Cwmbran mill in 1924
Then to Whitchurch Hill & Co Ltd wire Works in 1926. Cut up for scrap on site in December 1966

Photos of National Explosives Factory

Photographs Of National Explosives
Photographs Of National Explosives (28 photos)
Last updated October 4th 2016 by ttxela
Historic Photographs Of National Explosives
Historic Photographs Of National Explosives (0 photos)
Last updated July 7th 2008 by carnkie

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