Clayton Aniline Company Works

Project Profile

Project Title :

Clayton Aniline Company Works, Manchester

Client :

WYG Environment Planning Transport Ltd (WYG) for Brookshaw Developments Limited

Type of Work :

Historic Building Assessment,
Desk-Based Assessment, Planning Advice

Project Gallery 

Johnson's map of 1819   CUI plan dating to 1898  
Engraving of the site made in 1869   Clayton Works locomotive  
Clayton Aniline Works aerial photograph   Clayton Works  


The Clayton Aniline Company

Manchester's 19th century chemical works

NAA were commissioned by WYG Environment Planning Transport Ltd to undertake a detailed Desk-Based Assessment of part of the former Clayton Aniline Company works (CAC), near Manchester. Our work was needed to supplement a more general desk-based assessment of a wider study area, and was required to map the detailed development history of two particular plots, one of which was the original site of what was to become one of Europe's leading chemical works.

The company was founded in 1876 by Dr Charles Dreyfus, one of the leading chemists of the age. The following year, in 1877, the Clayton Aniline Company works were built, located just to the south of the Ashton Canal and the existing Chatham Street (later Clipstone Street). For many years the plant was at the forefront of synthetic dyestuff manufacturing. Aniline is an 'intermediate' or a material from which dyes can be made, rather than the final dye itself. It was initially produced for sale only but soon the Company developed its own dye works to the south of Chatham Street. However, in the early years of the 20th century the CAC struggled to compete with other producers of synthetic dyestuffs, mainly in Europe, and the company was taken over by Chemicals Industry Basle (CIBA). It remained a CIBA company until it closed in 2005.

During the First World War, the works were requisitioned to make explosives. To facilitate the movement of munitions the government invested in the construction of a new branch railway which ran into the heart of the site. This, and other war time improvements, greatly benefited the company when dye production eventually started again. Similarly, the next major phase of development was undertaken during the Second World War, when the works produced boosting agents for aviation fuel, although work also continued after the war until the 1950s. The primary alterations were the gradual demolition of some of the original 19th century buildings and their replacement, on a similar footprint, with buildings serving a similar function. However, it was various improvements in the mid-1960s which led to the greatest changes in layout, particularly in the area adjacent to the canal. The emphasis in this area shifted from manufacturing to administration, welfare, engineering and maintenance, and as a result, the majority of the old production buildings, including those built in the 1940s-50s were swept away and replaced by 1960s office blocks and large open spaces. This is very much how the works survived until the site was finally cleared in 2007.

The assessment concluded that there was moderate potential for the survival of below ground remains, relating to both the buildings and also of the processes involved in the early development of synthetic dyestuff manufacturing. The archaeology of the chemicals industry has received very little attention to date and any such remains were, therefore, considered to be significant. The assessment also proved useful in helping the client to map areas of high potential for below ground contamination

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