Albright’s toxic archive links #9 A fatal blow (2)

This post deals with another fatal explosion at the Albright and Wilson factory in Langley, this time from 1951. This year was of course the much celebrated “centenary year” of the enterprise between the two chemical proprietors.

The Yorkshire Evening Post from 10th July 1951 was quick off the mark, detailing early reports of what had taken place at the Research and Development plant.

More detail came later in the Birmingham Daily Gazette the following day detailing how the toss of a coin proved eventful for one man and left another dead. Joseph Cutler aged 30 of Smethwick died from his injuries when the drying oven exploded.

A quote from a survivor is quite telling.

“The work in this department is dangerous because phosphorus burns the flesh. We have to wear long coats and rubber boots”

The article reveals that the dead man’s father also worked at the factory before quoting W.B Albright who immediately attempts to pour cold water on any blame for the factory- a typical ploy that resurfaces many times in the future, just as it had about the God awful cat piss smell that they and particularly he had created.

The article also confirms that several other men were badly burnt and hospitalised, with one, Joseph Partridge of Langley “dangerously ill”

It would transpire that he also died from his injuries, as the article from 12th July in the Birmingham Daily Gazette confirms.


I believe that the building in question had been given planning permission just one year earlier reference OB/48/50  ” proposed erection of research laboratory” and had been approved on 28/6/50 by that rotten borough council.

If one had any doubt about how little this company cared for its workforce, shifting blame to almost anything to escape questions which should have been asked about its own shabby operations, then what transpired out of the official subsequent inquest some time later should leave no doubt. The article from The Birmingham Daily Gazette of 28th September 1951 reveals a company desperate to shift blame onto anything but itself.

How is it possible that the cause of this explosion was not known? Was coroner Playne on the AW payroll, given their connections with health boards in the area? The idea that a cigarette end could have been dropped is total speculation, and I believe highly unlikely given the manner in which the staff at this company would have been fully aware of the risks involved- unless of course they were utterly stupid.

The most interesting thing to come of this hushed up whitewash and cover up of an inquest is the relevant question asked from the fire brigade as to why they had not been called- as professionals to deal with the fire. The pillock Jackson, obviously so in charge of the situation that one of his own died and others were burnt , was obviously briefed on what to say, and then chirping in we have Messrs Topley and Inglis who appear able to conclude that their chemicals, the way in which they were stored and handled had nothing to do with the explosion. Topley is perhaps best known for providing the formula for the disastrous joke known as AW bombs– which are even today causing flammable problems wherever they are discovered.

In the centenary book the following is noted on page 322

“His services to the company were many and various. Not least of them was his tactful handling of an indignant (Barking) Lady Mayor and Corporation when an explosion, which they believed was due in part to phosphide getting into the works drains, blew up a row of sewer manholes in River Road.”


I have to say that Albright and Wilson escaped here with corporate manslaughter- that is what would be investigated today by legislation designed to route out employers such as them. The toss of a coin was obviously in the hands of a fate already sealed by poor industrial practices with chemicals dangerous to the employees and the wider community at large.

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Albright’s toxic archive links #8 A fatal blow (1)


The Albright and Wilson factory site at Langley is regarded by some misguided individuals as a “heritage” site- usually those who were or are involved within the chemical industry themselves and believe that in some way we should all be very grateful to those who established these polluting environmental death sites in one small place.

But Albright and Wilson’s dire record in not only polluting the local environment is perhaps only surpassed by the manner in which some of its staff paid the ultimate price with their lives for making the insidious cult of money making Quaker weirdo’s a shed load of money so that they could live in comfort in leafy Edgbaston and other such more prosperous none black country industrial locations.

This article from 1899 from The Bromyard News. is one such early example of a fatal blow at the Trinity Street factory- the year before  founder Arthur Albright at 89 popped his clogs.

Poor Eli Guest (54), of Langley along with two other men were burnt when a boiler exploded, and he did not survive.

Making phosphorus, as well as using it at all was a very dangerous business. The photo below from nine years prior to this incident shows a group of men, one of them also named Guest with phosphorus retorts, the old way of making this insidious chemical. Given the manner in which whole families worked for the two controlling families, it would not be unreasonable to believe that they may have been related.

Though the pure fantasy of the company presented in the centennial book “100 years of phosphorus making” attempts to portray the Quaker families as some form of moral heroes overcoming adversity, the reality of the situation is that the Albright and Wilson’s were at the very centre of high society and its potty traditions, and controlled matters of law/commerce for their own personal monetary gain. Part of this was class servitude of other local families- and it would continue over generations in this way.

From 100 years of phosphorus making (1951)

Some of these old retorts still exist in Oldbury used to make a wall, their contents long since spilt or dumped in some piece of ground or cut, and no doubt still lurking somewhere it shouldn’t.


Albright and Wilson the company would boast long and loud over the years about its convalescent homes and providing their employees with care, but the Quaker philosophy was really one of managing living automatons to replace others, and damaged goods would be better out of sight than a reminder to others of the very real dangers that their workforce faced.

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The lying chemical spinners

After drawing attention to the mystery surrounding the sudden deaths of healthy birds on this chemical “hazardous waste” lagoon in the late 90’s, some articles appeared in the Express and Star newspaper concerning this and the eventual direct link with the chemicals contained in there being entirely responsible for the deaths. Comments made by Rhodia at the time– particularly by their health and safety director Tom Dutton, are now quite laughable, but entirely consistent with the liars at Trinity Street’s previous rebuttals of how their operations at their factory site affected the environment going back many years previous.

The article below appeared in the local paper on 18/3/2008. The linkage of the sediment to the deaths was of course the entire issue, the issue that Rhodia spinners like Dutton and other dishonest work managers at the factory had not gone into at meetings where they appeared mystified by why birds were dropping dead on their waste facility.

The fears that the birds had swallowed toxic materials were entirely accurate. The article deals with the then most recent death of a swan captured on video for the first time– which we now know from experts in the US was entirely consistent with white phosphorus poisoning of wildfowl seen in Alaska. So protective of their chemical endeavours, Rhodia did not even bother to inform those undertaking post mortems of the risks posed by those chemicals- as was revealed when I enquired to the AHVLA conducting them. I called here for the sediment to be tested- which of course would reveal the level of p4 in the accessible sediment.

From Express and Star 18/3/2008

The quote from Dutton below gives away nothing, just spin and no direct answer to my hypothesis which he knew was correct.

In January of 2009, the serious chemical fire at the Rhodia Trinity Street factory brought renewed attention on their entire operations. The claim by Rhodia that “the lagoon does not contain any chemical that caused  the fire at the Rhodia Oldbury site on January 2nd”   is absolutely false.

From the HSE report into the fire on 2nd January 2009 at Rhodia’s Oldbury plant.

There is no difference between white phosphorus and “yellow” phosphorus in terms of toxicity.  They are one and the same.It is also a distraction technique to try to not link the issues of human heath and safety and the obvious bird deaths caused by the same chemicals. The breakdown chemicals from Albright and Wilson’s/Rhodia’s operations should not be used disingenuously to try to negate their linked environmental damage.

Fires in connection with this site appear to have been occurring throughout the disastrous period of dumping here and allowed to “burn themselves out”. The incidents also occurred when this site was under licence and still receiving waste far more recently than this- indeed a suspicious fire occurred when they removed barrels put on to allegedly stop birds landing on the pool with the sediment on them igniting, as did other licence breaches which I recorded at the time.

From Express and Star 13/1/2009

There certainly ARE conclusive links between the chemicals contained in the pool and the bird deaths– but no thanks to the Rhodia spin and deception trying to conceal this.

Subsequent to these conclusive links between the pool contents allowed to be dumped under licence, (and in no way this licence regulation stopping this from happening), Rhodia then suddenly announced that they were putting cctv cameras at the pool. This was of course in response to the fact that they knew that I would be recording any future issues and had already sent these videos to experts in the US who agreed with our conclusions.

The Health and Safety executive are shown on record in minutes I obtained via an FOI request about advising Rhodia about safety issues at the site, though when I asked them what advice they had given, they claimed that this comment had been erroneously minuted. Frankly I don’t believe this was the case.

The timing of this camera installation being installed AFTER the conclusive links between the birds being poisoned by the chemicals within this installation put there only by the site operators, I will leave people to draw their own conclusions.

Here’s a video of when they were chasing swans off the site using a motor boat.


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Albright’s toxic archive links #7 The return of the Oldbury stink panther

You can’t keep a bad smell down- especially if it involves Albright and Wilson and their polluting phosphorus fun factory. :mrgreen:

In this archive piece from The Birmingham post from 28th May 1968 via The British newspaper archive,  we learn from the then Labour MP for the area of Oldbury and Halesowen, John Horner, that it continued long after Mrs Gunn and co had raised previous issues some 11 years previous and also after their PR spin stink guru S.T Melsom had left Oldbury Council. By then they had no doubt found his suitable “fixer” replacement. Of course they had been assured then that Albright and Wilson would deal with it- but obviously not as time tells.

The piece reveals that the MP had written to the company about a local community “outcry” about Albright’s dirty odours. This concerned the direct fundamental chemical at this site and its production- toxic white phosphorus and the poisoner of birds at their satellite rattlechain dump.

“Mr Horner said he had been assured by the firm in January that the plant would be closed before the summer.”

It’s odd the way in which several posts and pages that I have written on this website now link together. The closure threat at Albright and Wilson’s disastrous Newfoundland Longharbour factory– as a direct result of their massive contamination of this area meant that production at Oldbury would be delayed being scaled back. So therefore because of one “phos” up in a foreign country, pollution in this one would continue.

It was obviously so serious that the MP raised it in The House of commons- as the Hansard record shows on December 2nd 1968     .

“Oldbury bears the scars of the Industrial Revolution. Much of it is dirty and overcrowded. It has smells, smells that have been there for a long time…………..We have the largest phosphorus plant in Western Europe; they do not talk about clean air in that part of Oldbury.”

“Shhhhhhh” -pussy

We know from the announcement in Albright World issue dated  February 1970 that “old smokey” as they called it closed finally in this year. Though the pollution content of white phosphorus may have reduced in terms of what they were dumping in waste at Rattlechain, the amount they had previously tipped and continued to tip in “hazardous waste” meant that pollution was far from over in the Oldbury area- even if the smell had subsided, the stink of poison beneath the water had not.

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Sydney Sheldon’s Trans-port

Was the Tividale trickster “gender fluid”  or just trying it on with the law?

I always had my doubts about Mr Sydney Sheldon, he of the ruining of Barnett’s brickworks fame into a commercial free for all tip come flogging off of parcels of land for housing. The demise of the area and urban creep owes much to his treachery, as does whatever grubby deals were done with Albright and Wilson amongst others during his time in control of a brickworks come entrepreneurial building operation, and I am one to speak ill of the dead when they left nothing but illness behind them. He died a very wealthy man and everything happening around the rattlechain lagoon has its genesis from his actions. This article from the excellent British newspaper archive reveals more of his highly dubious character and just leaps straight out like a drag race. 😆

It appears that speedy Syd “the builder” had been caught by the rozzers doing a bat out of hell down the carriageway. A simple stop and fine you may think from this fine upstanding member of the Tividale community banged to rights- but not Sydney. 😯

It appears the Chelmarsh conman had a real problem with giving his details to the authorities- you might ask “what had he got to hide?”

When caught, Sheldon refused to give the court his date of birth and sex. The misdemeanour cost him £10, as the September 1970 article reveals.

He protested “I don’t see why on earth I should be turned into just another number and filed in some computer”. 😆 

Technophobe prisoner number six was obviously in quite a hurry, but ended up stranded in the village of the damned.

So what exactly was his problem with authority and why the ridiculous reason for declining to give his gender? Was he a part time Rattlechain RuPaul with bricks in his bra, a woman within a man’s body or some form of pioneer of “uman rights” years ahead of his time?

The answer of course is none of the above, yet bizarrely with the insane manner in which the “uman rights” industry has been emboldened with politically correct bollocks, such a stance of refusing to answer such a question today in court may even be given the time of day in some European court of utter madness. He was just a conman that had been caught out and he didn’t like it.

Like Samuel Barnett before him, who also came to untimely grief when speeding on his horse down the same road, he appears to have believed that he was somehow immune from anything- even the law. The reasons why such records including gender identity were and still are needed are set out below, and if that offends any snowflake today then I really couldn’t give a shit.


But this wasn’t the first time that he had been in trouble with the law, or before the beak.

He appears to have been embroiled into taking the law into his own hands when evicting someone from their allotment by causing criminal damage in 1959 as these two articles also from The Birmingham Post reveal.


Found guilty , the trespasser was made to pay £50. Ultimately it appears to confirm what I had already gathered about the man from his dodgy business dealings with the brickworks when selling them off. There was little interest in this, and this “Trans- Christian Anderson”  obviously told people what they wanted to hear- apart from the law it seems.

Flytipping – especially of chemical waste would flourish around his “business”. No wonder he didn’t want his details on the police national computer. I just wonder if his “transport” business had anything to do with the Duport group that tipped waste after selling off the land?

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Albright’s toxic archive links #6- The importance of thieving Ernest


Another interesting piece I have stumbled upon comes from 10th April 1958 Birmingham Daily Post- just 9 days after the local concern about the rattlechain waste and its effects on human health.

This concerns the named foreman Ernest Sulley,  in charge of all waste disposal at Albright and Wilson’s Trinity Street site. It is indicated in the article that he had been responsible for  this for some time- 24 years- ie from 1934.

Sulley had pleaded guilty at Oldbury magistrates to stealing “steel drums” from his employer. He had sold them for scrap to tatters pocketing the cash himself- but this really isn’t what interests me about this article. What interests me is the clear reference to how waste was being disposed of by the company under this mans direct control. Read on…..

“For 34 years Sulley had been yard foreman at the factory, and was responsible for the disposal of steel drums which had contained chemicals. The procedure was for a contractor’s lorry to tip them in a water filled pit, but two years ago Sulley began having them delivered to a scrap dealer. He then collected payment at an average of £1 6s for each load.”

So in this incredible paragraph we get confirmation that Sulley was directly responsible for organising the disposal of Albright and Wilson’s factory waste- and had been for many years.  There are other conclusions that can be drawn.

  • We learn that a lorry was used to tip the drums into “a water filled pit”- of course this is rattlechain lagoon– and this gives decisive evidence that road haulage was being used as well as by canal transport to dispose of the toxic waste into the drink.
  • Sulley came up with a scheme whereby the waste in drums was diverted to a scrap dealer! One has to ask therefore- what the fuck did the tatters do with the toxic waste- and where did they dump it before snatching the barrels?
  • This crook, not contented with ripping off Albright and Wilson- (I couldn’t care less about that), was complicit in the disposal of toxic waste into the environment- both at rattlechain and also God knows where else.
  • It says much about how Albright and Wilson’s waste control systems were none existent and how as a company they could not have cared less about what they were doing with the waste- and at this time in their history they were doing rather well financially.
  • What do we make of Sulley’s involvement in tackling “the Oldbury smell” and that the company had proposed dumping the barrels into the North Sea?

No matter that Kenneth Wilson- (a high ranking magistrate in this part of the world that Sulley could not have chosen a worse boss to rip off) 😀 , Albright and Wilson were as responsible for whatever environmental crimes that this piece of Langley thieving crap committed. The only questions that should have been asked- though of course the Albright and Wilson’s dire waste disposal regime was not in question- was the morality of what they were doing by disposing of this toxic rubbish into an underwater pit. Ernie was just another dodgy cog in a bigger crooked wheel.

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The Rattlechain smell buried in Rowley Regis


Another explosive revelatory newspaper article has come to light from Tuesday 1st April 1958 Birmingham Daily Post. The headline

“Tividale ‘Up in Arms’ over smell from tip” is certainly no April fool, but just further confirmation that this site was on the radar of both local people and the then Rowley Regis council. The council themselves  had already raised the concern about phosphorus at the site being “a peril to children” just five months earlier.

The “obnoxious smell” coming from the named “Rattlechain marl hole” is clearly connected to the waste that Albright and Wilson were dumping there. Connected by the people, the newspaper and by the councillors. At this point in history there was no licence required or waste permit and no inspections. We also know that British Waterways were also using it as a free for all tip from the canal side at this time.

It is also incredible that Albright and Wilson had the major “Oldbury Smell” issue at this very same time, and had claimed via their political spokesman, that they were going to dispose of it into the sea. It appears beyond possible coincidence that these smell issues are unconnected.

“It was claimed that Messrs Albright and Wilson Manufacturing Ltd had written to the council claiming that planning permission to use the marl hole for tipping was not required.”

This of course is hotly debateable and it would have been interesting as to how Albright and Wilson had come to this conclusion in the letter to the committee.

“Ald D. Gilbert suggested that the smell was injurious to health. Food became contaminated”

“When tipping took place the residue which fell from the lorries set alight and gave off a smell. Blue vapour came off the tip. In one factory the smell had made a number of workers sick.”

He is of course absolutely correct in stating this, though appears to not see the linkage of why the firm should not be tipping in the open air.

The described situation at this site is clearly stating that

  • Deliveries of waste were being made by road haulage to the site- as was also stated in the article about the white phosphorus being a “peril to children”
  • White phosphorus is the waste being described here- and it was falling off the lorry and catching fire!
  • The associated smell was phosphine gas- and no doubt the blue vapour further proof of this!
  • Of course it made workers sick FFS! It is a highly toxic gas, and the owners of this site appear, and still appear to have a problem with their same gas.

“Alderman Gilbert considered that the firm should make alternative arrangements to dispose of waste material.”

Absolutely correct, but this was a firm with a family linkage to every facet of high society and friends in high places- like the councillors running the rotten Oldbury borough at this time.

“Councillor K. Wakeman said that while the firm had a right to use the marl hole for tipping, it had no right to create a nuisance that was detrimental to health. The matter is to be discussed at the next meeting of the planning committee.”

It is again the case that Albright and Wilson’s “right” is not particularly certain at all, either legally and certainly not morally.

Obviously this article asks further questions as to what happened next with this story and what was actually discussed and recorded at the next planning committee of the Rowley Regis council? As I  currently cannot find any further story in connection with this, the only course was to see what remains of planning records for this borough.

Rowley Regis Borough Council.

Very little evidence remains of the existence of this authority- like this canal bridge plate in Tividale.

This authority ceased to exist in 1966 when it merged with the rotten borough of Oldbury and Smethwick and became “Warley”. A further eight years later would see it become part of Sandwell Metropolitan Borough council. It is this authority which holds all existing known records of the former Rowley Regis Borough in its archives.

According to the archivist at Sandwell I spoke to, the story goes that on Rowley Regis ceasing to exist, the town hall and the Town Clerks office was sealed up for around 30 years. It was only on demolition of the building, (I believe to extend Haden Hill Leisure centre) that the room and the one inch thick dust that had accumulated revealed some of the treasures left there. Unfortunately a broken window in the room suggested a possible break in had occurred at some point, but with much of what was there going in skips, someone thought to save at least some of it. And so below the three surviving volumes related to matters planning in Rowley Regis that someone had thought to preserve are all that appears to be left. These are

Planning Committee – Minute Book 2 (03/03/1950 -01/12/1954)

Planning Committee – Minute Book 3 (05/01/1955 – 25/07/1956)

Plans, Road and Works Committee – Minute Book 2 (03/01/1947 – 30/07/1951)

Unfortunately and also rather conveniently of course, no minutes exist for the year in question that would record what was said about this article and the rattlechain marl hole smell, as well as if the council concluded that Albright and Wilson did not need planning permission to deposit waste there and also why if this was the case?

There are a few interesting observations within the books and some of the councillors mentioned in the article appear, but the only reference to the area concerns the Brickworks.

This refers to the interim development order in 1947 to which there is also a great mystery. The mystery is that no planning permission was ever given to Albright and Wilson to tip waste at the site when they were alleged to have “acquired” the site in 1948.

Albright and Wilson’s claim that they did not need planning permission in the article is highly dubious as this was a clear change of use for the site- but as we know when they acquired the licence in 1978, it was then stated that the site had been “operational since 1942”- indicating that they were using it then at a time when they were still a British Government Ministry of Supply contractor in World War Two, as well as being on a care and maintenance basis at their Langley factory.

Another source from a planning file comes from the development of the adjacent former London works steel factory, now the Autobase site. This is entitled “Note for file :tipping at rear of London Works Steel premises Tipton Road Tividale.

Part d of this confirms the fact that Barnett’s brickworks had a planning application never determined and which I have looked at HERE in the 1940’s planning history for this site.

“The plans on microfilm appear to include the site of what is now the Albright and Wilson pool in the application site at the rear of the sewage works but not land west of John’s Lane, therefore , not including any part of the London works steel site.”

Unfortunately it appears that the councillors at Rowley Regis, though playing to the gallery of public concern were behind closed doors very poor at determining the facts of the case, though if they did , this was a time when money in envelopes changed hands, and “the society of friends” could influence their way into getting their filthy way.

None of this history of public ill health connected to this site was ever discussed by The Health protection agency in the so called Human health risk assessment– the history supplied by the liars at Trinity Street was simply air brushed out or made vague. Liars of works managers like Peter Bloore made up stories about “toothpaste” to hide what real waste had been dumped  there and its clear dangers, dangers that were being felt here.

It is also worth mentioning the Chemical Hazards and Identification Risk Surveillance group’s take on the fact that the site was clearly causing deaths of birds by systemic phosphorus poisoning.


When the ill judged housing on the adjacent former sewage works was approved under appeal, none of this information had come to light and even the chairman (person) at SMBC of the planning committee at that time, (a GP herself no less),  didn’t appear to have a clue as to what was dumped in there, or offer any opinion on the public health issues surrounding it.

Rattlechain lagoon and its contents remain a threat to public health whatever anyone claims to the contrary. It just now has better “labelling” than it did when the stench of Albright and Wilson used to tip their toxic waste there.

Hazardous waste



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Rattlechain lagoon 1957- phosphorus “a peril to children”


For many years I had heard the stories from many unconnected people- and they couldn’t all have been mistaken in remembering daydreams from childhood or early adulthood. Rattlechain lagoon the former marlhole that had once served the adjoining brickworks was a dangerous playground for children and skimming stones across the pool produced “sparks” when the phosphorus in the low water levelled pit reacted.

I subsequently met local old boy Malcom Edge who agreed to let me reproduce an excellent piece about his recollections of the era that had earlier appeared online. 

“Oh such fun it was to heave large bricks and rocks from the neighbouring Rattlechain Brickworks, into this sludge and watch in delight as the resulting splash would erupt into flames.”

I now have the documented proof which confirms this, that others would like to forget and pass off as “urban legend” . The article below is vindication of everything that Malcolm and others from the local area remember and it is proof that this lagoon was known to be “a peril to children” back in the 1950’s. It is also proof that the council at this time – Rowley Regis, were concerned about what was going on there, concerned enough to be questioning if it should be occurring there at all. The only question one can ask from this is why the bloody hell did it continue for so long after this- in fact for almost another 50 years concerning depositing the highly dangerous and toxic waste there?

This newspaper article “Glowing water ‘peril to children’ from the 4th November 1957 Birmingham Post and Gazette confirms that Rowley Regis council were aware of this danger and expressed it as such in the public domain.

“Rowley Regis council foresees danger and is trying to stop an Oldbury firm depositing phosphorus there. “


Here we have a councillor E.N Thorne stating in public that

“This is a menace to the youngsters of the area.”

The article states that “It is also alleged that the phosphorus gives off a nasty smell.”

There is of course no “alleged” about this fact, as what is described here would be phosphine gas and the smell of rotten eggs/garlic. Of course the adjacent sewage works at this time may have helped to mask this smell- but there is no doubt that it would have been there.

Further revelations are provided in the ending statement.

“It is brought to the marlhole by canal barge. Sometimes it is brought by lorry and dumped on the side of the marlhole where it burns itself out.”


The picture above from 1950 appears to confirm that a form of service road was being used for offloading of waste from this area by road haulage. The remains of this are still present at the site today. Here’s what it looked like in 1955. The subsidiary smaller lagoon (created around 1961) from within the main single pool that was laughably known as “the clean side lagoon” by The Environment agency as well as the liars of Albright and Wilson and latterly Rhodia, is not of course in this picture as it did not exist at this point.

We are aware of the phosphorus canal traffic legacy from excellent first hand primary sources from David Wilson and more latterly Roy Martin, but the revelation that it was also brought by lorry at this time indicates far more than was previously admitted by the liars of Trinity Street. This would significantly increase the amount of waste that they were dumping there- particularly barrelled wastes where they conveniently have always claimed no records existed before 1974 with site licensing.

one polluted lagoon – there is no “clean side”

It shows no health and safety whatsoever and also shows total disregard for the safety of the public. Let’s be clear here that this material and its breakdown products are dangerous to human health.  The “glowing” phossy water, though obviously poisonous is less of a concern than the sediment under the water that it was hiding. I’m not sure if the councillors really got this point- and I’m certain that few have ever since! I do however note that just 5 years after this local concern of white phosphorus being dumped in an open pit in Tividale , the substance was banned for use in rat poison by Government legislation for being “cruel in it’s effect”. WHY THEN NO BAN ON DUMPING IT IN THE OPEN AIR?

That it was dumped to burn itself out means that particles of white phosphorus would remain within the area. Not all phosphorus  disappears when left to “burn itself out”. The staining on the bank would appear to show what was occurring at this time.

Let’s also be aware that at this time Albright and Wilson had a considerable “smell” problem in Oldbury and had talked of dumping it into the North Sea. I doubt very much it ever left Rowley Regis and this marlhole.

Only some 40 odd years later would systemic poisoning by white phosphorus in the unfortunate wildfowl landing in this swamp be proven , after the long denials of the company that had dumped it there- they knew full well what was to blame all along.

The white/yellow phosphorus peril is still all there ,  it’s what lies beneath rattlechain lagoon.

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Albright’s toxic archive links #5- Sleepless in Handsworth

Hot on the heels of how the continuing “Oldbury smell” had tainted chocolate in Birmingham come yet more newspaper articles from the brilliant British newspaper archive. In the report below from the Birmingham Post of 4th December 1957.

This appears to tie in several threads-

  • The confederacy of apologist Alderman Melsom
  • The old “new equipment” line used before
  • The tainting of the chocolate
  • Trying to claim that the waste chemicals of the process would be “dumped at sea”.

Dump it under water in barrels

A subsequent letter however from the following year in the same paper suggests that this plan did not appear to work. The Handsworth correspondent in the 13th May 1958 article wrote;


Sleepless from Handsworth makes some interesting points about the “vile fumes” and potential links to lung cancer and public health. Perhaps he or she should have tried to count cats instead of sheep.

But with people like Melsom in charge of health in the rotten borough of Oldbury, what chance of any real investigation into that? Melsom and co would just be looking to get the problem out of their borough, and I have absolutely no doubt that Rowley Regis provided that opportunity.

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Former Tividale sewage works- Where there’s muck…..

The former Tividale sewage works area off John’s Lane has a long and murky history, almost as filthy as the solids that once passed through it. This post looks at some of the developments that occurred up to its eventual demise and offloading in around 1988.

It was for many years the immediate southern neighbour to the former rattlechain brickworks pit (rattlechain lagoon), and over time had some changes made to the site layout.

The picture above is from 1950 and shows the now water and phosphorus contaminated former clay pit (rattlechain lagoon). Note that it is one single pool and not the current subdivided two lagoon setup. Waste was being dumped into this one single pool by Albright and Wilson, the division of the pool by causeway path occurred around 1961 with the raising of the water levels- to cover the increasing level of phosphorus waste and to ensure that it did not catch fire.

John’s Lane runs along the top of the shot, and just out of shot, this lane would later be diverted in the 1970’s.

Settling tanks and filter beds are clearly visible on the land now encompassing Callaghan and Wilson Drives.

There appear to be some outhouse buildings near to John’s Lane and 6 main “crap circle” formations. These were an engineers cottage and an office and engine house.

For modern day reference, here is an overlay map of where these tanks would have been located on the current two streets.

Just two years after these pictures, a planning application to Staffordshire county council sought permission for the construction of new filter beds.

This was numbered 1082. A plan of the proposals is shown below.

It is perhaps better to look at this plan side on showing John’s Lane on the left and the lagoon boundary at the top.

The application was submitted by The Upper stour valley main sewerage board, then located in Cradley Heath.

The application was recommended for approval

The following notice appeared in The Warley News Telephone. At this point in time the area had few houses in the vicinity and so was unlikely to receive any objections regarding smells- Oldbury produced enough of its own at this point in history!

A file note in the application gives an interesting insight into the infrastructure in Tividale at the time.

This claims that there were 3620 houses, with a population of 11,800 people. A surface mineral working area of 80 acres and an industrial area of 175 acres.

The application was approved on 1st October 1952.


This image from 1955 shows the changes to the site following the application.

This image from 1961 shows the site as it stood 6 years later.

W01941 Approved with conditions (outline) 27/06/68 Construction of sludge drying beds

Sidney Sheldon the dodgy brickworks owner who did little with the site to make bricks had sold part of the land next to the Sewage works to The Upper Main Drainage Authority so that they could use the land for “sludge drying purposes” by 27th June 1968 when this permission was granted.

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It is clear that a deal between Warley Borough Council and Sheldon was at this point in the offing when the Drainage Authority entered the fray. The council recommended  a seven year period of the dumping of excrement on this land.

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A letter from Arthur Wright of The Upper Main Drainage Authority to the town clerk of the council once again evidences how the Chelmarsh conman was always at the centre of obtaining the best price for land which he had absolutely no intention of using for brickmaking purposes- as granted in application 216.

Sheldon was approached by the authority in February 1967, yet it was obviously known to him that the council were also intent of buying the land also. Was he just trying to hold out to get  the best price?

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In the application referred to, Wright appears oblivious to the multiple applications previously submitted, which is difficult to believe given the authorities presence in the area for some years. Sheldon would have course known all about previous granted applications- granted under false purposes.

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The form B submitted shows the lucky recipient of the cash sale for allowing human waste to be dumped.

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It is extremely doubtful that condition 3 regards “reinstatement of the land” was carried out, except that is covering it over with foundry sand.

This is how the site looked in 1971

It should be noted that the approved sludge drying beds lie outside the area of the current Wilson Drive on land abandoned by subsequent so called “reclamation”. That is another story of how money followed muck as well as houses built on shit land.

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2006 Barratt Homes building their houses on the former sewage works.

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