The Pitsea Explosives Factory
The Pitsea factory produced dynamite, gelignite and other explosives based on nitroglycerine for blasting rocks and mining. It also made nitroglycerine as an ingredient to be mixed with guncotton for producing cordite – a smokeless propellant used in ammunition.
In 1863 Alfred Nobel patented an invention called Dynamite. He had developed a safer way to handle the dangerous explosive Nitroglycerine. He went on to build an enormous company.
Nobel desperately wanted to sell to the huge markets of the British Empire but regulations kept him out of manufacturing in Britain. Through a loophole in the law he built a factory in Scotland. Then in 1891 the British Explosives Syndicate built a factory in Pitsea. Nobel was a secret partner to begin with but eventually was able to trade under his own name.
The Pitsea Explosives Factory mostly made explosives for mining. The factory thrived during the First World War but struggled after the Peace and closed in 1929. The Nobel business then went into chemicals becoming a household name as Imperial Chemical Industries (ICI).
Nobel's death in 1896 caused a sensation as he left no money to his family in his will. Instead he set up prizes for those "making the greatest contribution to mankind". The Nobel Prizes have been awarded every year since 1901.