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Collections and Historical Documentation

If you have a question about our collection please contact


We have an extensive collection of (mostly local) photographs, the Peter Spence archive, the entire ICI General Chemicals Division research archive and much research done by the original Museum Project regarding the chemical industry in the North-West.  We also have several ad hoc documents prepared for various enquiries over the years.  We also have the J W Towers and Co Ltd archive. These latter are available to download by clicking on the links below and are in MS Word 97 format, as this seems to be popular.  You can find our acquisition and disposal policy here.

We have worked with the Public Catalogue Foundation (now Art UK) to make our small collection of oils paintings accessible to everyone. Ask for details (see contact page).

Ditton Brook Iron Co.

Library List (MS Excel 97)

Complete list of all obects in the collection (MS Excel97).  The first item (a shovel from Thomas Bolton's Copper Works) was collected on 22 April 1982

Map List (MS Excel97)

Brief Early History of the Everite from original sources

List of files from the Clayton Aniline Company

A book entitled Gateways: The History of Laporte 1888-1988 which was comissioned by Laporte in 1998 but publication was then withdrawn for unknown reasons.
Brief history of the Widnes Foundry and Engineering Company (from the 1948 Centenary Brochure), with original punctuation but with no illustrations

We have recently transcribed the Peter Spence letter book number 1 (1859-1882) (also No2 letter book and No3 letter book), along with slected letters from his son Frank's letter book (1879-1882) which help to make sense of some of the information in Peter Spence's letters. There is also a spreadsheet with Peter Spence Limited's pricing schedules, which are referred to in the Peter Spence letterbook and are cross-referenced for convenience.

Peter Spence also wrote a combined diary/lab book. This file contains a transcription of a large part of diary from the period 1852-1856.

There is also here a copy of the Pendleton Alum Works nuisance correspondance in the Manchester Guardian during April and May 1856. This problem caused Peter Spence considerable difficulties and eventually lead to his works being relocated.

Commemorative brochure produced by Fisons Ltd in 1972 to mark the cessation of manufacturing at  Whiffen and Sons (who had been absorbed into Fisons Fine Chemicals in 1966) former Loughborough site.  Covers period 1654 - 1972.  No illustrations.

A partial transcript of 


Including the initial declaration and various correspondence and depositions concerning the case against the St Helens alkali manufacturer Josiah Christopher Gamble and others.  Complete with original spelling in some cases, plus some transcription errors.

Full list of the contents of the research files produced by the Museum Project regarding alkali works along with soap works, and other firms in the Widnes and Runcorn area.  Some notes from places further afield as well.

We are also indexing the miscellaneous topic files with titles such as "Transport" etc. This list will be available shortly

Pages 48 - 52 from the 1948 50th anniversary book for Orr's Zinc White works in Widnes.  Produced by The Imperial Smelting Company, the then owners of the company.  This document has the original page breaks and punctuation but with no illustrations.
Whole text from the Orr's Zinc White 25th anniversary brochure 1923.  This document has the original page breaks and punctuation but with no illustrations.
Article about the Widnes Transporter Bridge from Meccano Magazine April 1960

A complete list of all Catalyst's copies of ICI employee publications such as ICI Magazine including the various divisional publications, for example Hexagon Courier or Alkali News (MS Excel). Some ICI Magazines are available to view here. More will be added in the coming months

Thanks to Judith Wilde we now have searchable copies of Alkali News for certain years. Click here to see the files. We also have copies of the Winnington Works Circulars 1942-47

Some copies of General Chemicals Division News can be found here. More to follow in the coming months.

Seahorse is the Magazine for the Ward Blenkinsop group of companies. It runs from 1961 to about 1986. Some issues are available to view here. More will be added in the coming months

List of films in the Brunner Mond film collection (extant films rather than full list that was assumed upon initial loan) (MS Excel). We also have a slightly more descriptive list which is based on notes made by voluteer viewers.

Translation of the introduction to the book Nicolas Leblanc  Sa Vie, Ses Travaux, et L'Histoire de la Soude Artificielle written by Auguste Anastasi grandson of Leblanc
The Story of Murgatroyds.  Printed booklet reprinted from 1961 Spring and Summer editions of DCL Gazette giving the history of the Murgatroyd Salt Works including subsequent salt and chemical companies from 1889 until the date of publication.  This document has embedded text and is searchable.
Summary of labour returns from ICI Pilkington Sullivan Works between 1926 and 1938, showing the effect of factory amalgamations, economic factors etc.  We will augment this with scanned images of the documents as soon as possible.
Complete list of research files donated to Catalyst from ICI General Chemicals Group (and predecessors) dated 1896 - 1998  This list includes files listed in the document above and is based on our own cataloguing of these files.  It is the definitive list of all 25,263 documents. As of November 2014 we have finished adding authors and circulees to this list.
List of items from the McKechnie collection.  McKechnie Bothers manufactured copper sulphate in Widnes from 1892, after their father's works in St Helens was absorbed into the UAC in 1891
Competitive analysis of Albright & Wilson prepared by ICI in March 1960.  Notable amongst the list of recipients is Richard Beeching, then Technical Director of ICI, who became well-known later as the Chairman of the British Railways Board.  This document has embedded text and is searchable.
A report in pdf format on the origins and development of the Hutchinson Dock Estate in West bank in Widnes, produced for the original Museum Project in March 1985, using the original documents from the Estate.  This document has embedded text and is searchable
Lists of documents from J W Towers (later Gallenkamps) and from Bowmans (catalogued by Christina Evans).

An article by Gordon Rintoul from 1984 entitled "The Chemical Industry in Runcorn and Weston 1800 - 1930".  This is an excellent summary of the origins and development of the industry complete with footnotes.

A map of ICI works worldwide taken from a copy of "A short account of the activities of the Company" published by ICI Ltd. before the Second World War
A map showing all ICI works in the United Kingdom as of May 1955
A memorandum published by ICI in 1950 "THE PARENT COMPANY AND ITS INTERESTS IN THE UNITED KINGDOM" with facts about the company’s origins, its functions, its composition, and its direction. Additionally it aims to answer questions that people outside the company might have had such as "Is ICI too big ?" or "Is ICI a monopoly?".

A list of documents recently received regarding leases granted, revoked etc by the Trustees of the Hutchinson Dock Estate. With details of area, parties involved, sums involved and description. The original documents can be seen on request.

A complete list of all documents donated to us by the estate of the late A H Constable, last Superintent of the Dock Estate

The Anglo-American Council on Productivity was formed in the autumn of 1948 on the initiative of Sir Stafford Cripps, the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The purpose of the Council was to promote economic well-being by a free exchange of knowledge in the realm of industrial organisation, method and technique, and thereby to assist British industry to raise the level of its productivity.

The principal means adopted to achieve this end was to send to America Industrial Teams, the members of which were drawn in equal numbers from the supervisory, the technical and the workshop levels. The business of the Teams was to study American production methods, to report their observations and findings and to make recommendations. This is the Heavy Chemicals Report.

A list of works acquired by the UAC upon it's formation in 1890, with subsequent acquisitions, and dates of closure and amalgamations of works.  This list was prepared by DWF Hardie in 1958
Towards the end of WW2, and thereafter, a thorough examination of German industry was undertaken by various Allied agencies.  The UK investigations were prepared for the British Intelligence Objectives Sub-Committee (BIOS), US reports by the Field Information Agency, Technical (FIAT) and joint reports for the Combined Intelligence Objectives Sub-Committee (CIOS).

Collectively these reports are a good overview of many aspects of industry, and we have about 280 of these reports on various topics related to the chemical industry, showing who was doing what and where in Germany and Austria.  We have listed the titles and contents pages (a typical title is "Research Report on Benzyl Chloride Xylylenechloride Triethanolamine, Triethanolamine Fatty Acids Esters and Methylolacetaphenon"), and you can download the list here.

If you want to read any report, contact us.

We have acquired the rent books from S Owens the Widnes estate agency, for the period from 1910 until the agency was taken over by the Halifax in 1988.  These show the addresses for which Owens was responsible, along with the rent payer's name and the value of the rent.  Books from 1910 until 1939 are available for inspection.  We also have various ledgers showing the beneficiaries of the rents received.

Some images from a presentation. These show the plan of the proposed Lancashire Plateway through Widnes. The map is from a bound copy in our collection.

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