Explosives for war
Loading British guns
In 1902, with tensions building up between the British and the Dutch over South Africa, the Pitsea factory added buildings for the manufacture of cordite, a smokeless explosive used as a propellant in military shells.
Cordite manufacturing buildings featured distinctive bays with the dividing walls extending upwards between rooms above the roof to control possible spread of fire.
The RSPB visitor centre opposite the Wat Tyler Centre was once a cordite building.
Guncotton was a primary ingredient of cordite, a mix of waste from the Lancashire cotton mills and nitro-glycerine. Its manufacture was highly dangerous, as proven in the fatal 1913 guncotton explosion at Pitsea.
Guncotton needed to be thoroughly 'picked' by hand to remove any impurities.