Bonnington chemical works (1822–1878): pioneer coal tar company

Beverley F. Ronalds

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    1 Citation (Scopus)


    Established in 1822 to process the coal tar and ammoniacal liquor residues of the Edinburgh gasworks, the Bonnington Chemical Works was an early and unusual facility in an era when coal gas residues were generally regarded as a burden. Its special place in the history of fossil fuel chemical manufacture has gone unnoticed and its operations have not been analysed previously, despite there being considerable source material. Here the lifecycle of the plant is explored in detail to understand its instigation, subsequent growth, and why it later closed, with emphasis on the ongoing evolution of its product range and corresponding manufacturing methods, production scale and prices. A key element in its extended success–the integrated scientific, technical and commercial skill of the various managers–is illustrated, as are interrelationships of the Bonnington works with the gradual development of the overall coal tar sector and broader industrial, political and social influences.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)73-91
    Number of pages19
    JournalInternational Journal for the History of Engineering and Technology
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 2020


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