Nobel Enterprises (phonetic: [nobél]) is a chemicals business based at Ardeer, near to the North Ayrshire town of Stevenston in Scotland. It specialises in nitrogen-based propellants and explosives and nitrocellulose-based products such as varnishes and inks. It was formerly ICI Nobel, a division of the chemicals group ICI, but is now owned by Inabata & Company, a Japanese trading firm.
Nobel Industries Limited was founded in 1870 by Swedish chemist and industrialist Alfred Nobel for the production of the new explosive dynamite. Ardeer, on the coast at Ayrshire, was chosen for the company's first factory. The business later diversified into the production of blasting gelatine, gelignite, ballistite, guncotton, and cordite. At its peak, the factory was employing nearly 13,000 workers.
In 1926, the firm merged with Brunner, Mond & Company, the United Alkali Company, and the British Dyestuffs Corporation, creating a new group, Imperial Chemical Industries, then one of Britain's largest firms. Nobel Industries continued as the ICI Nobel division of the company.
ICI Ardeer was commonly known locally as the 'factory' or the 'Dinnamite'. At the time the company generally provided higher quality employment regarding terms and conditions and pension rights than other local firms. The Ardeer site was almost like a community, and there were so many people employed there that a bank, travel agent and dentist were at one time based on the site. The former Western Scottish Bus Company provided tens of buses per day to transport the workers to and from the site, and until the mid 1960s there were even two trains per day to transport workers to a station within the factory.
Interestingly though, a documentary some years ago[when?] revealed that some workers on the site may have been addicted to nitroglycerine simply by being in contact with it every day. In the programme, ex-workers spoke of the terrible headaches they encountered during their annual holidays, which it is suspected was caused by the absence of the product from their day to day lives.
In 2002 the division, now named Nobel Enterprises, was sold to Inabata.
On 8 September 2007 a major fire was reported at the site when 1,500-1,700 tons of nitrocellulose, stored in an open area, caught fire. There was little property damage and no serious injuries.
- AkzoNobel which also carries on the Nobel name after purchasing ICI in 2008
- Dolan, John E. and Oglethorpe, Miles K. (1996). Explosives in the Service of Man: Ardeer and the Nobel Heritage. Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland. ISBN 0-7480-5811-7.
- McSherry, R. & M. (1998). Old Stevenston, Stenlake Publishing, Catrine.
- Miles, F.D. (1955). A History of Research in the Nobel Division of I.C.I.. Stevenston: Imperial Chemical Industries Limited, Nobel Division.
- Reader, W.J. (1970). Imperial Chemical Industries. A History: Volume 1. The Forerunners 1870-1926. London: Oxford University Press.
- BBC report of the 2007 fire
- www.nobel-enterprises.com - the company's website
- John E. Dolan. "Nobel in Scotland". nobelprize.org. http://nobelprize.org/alfred_nobel/industrial/articles/dolan/index.html.
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