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Sunday, 9 August 2009

Mr Burt

At Bethel’s Battersea works, Henry Burt experimented on what was soon to be called 'creosote'. He too was involved with a railway company - the Eastern Counties Railway. In order to fulfil orders he opened two tar works of his own - one on Bow Common and another on Millwall. In the 1850s Samuel Boulton and Thomas Heywood joined Burt and they acquired Bethel’s tar distilling patents.

By the 1880s this partnership was described as the largest distillers of gas tar in the world. In 1871 their Silvertown works, then open three years, covered eleven acres. This was achieved because they had gained the market in railway sleeper blocks and telegraph poles for much of Europe. In the 1980s the area of the works became the northern riverside of the Thames Barrier. It has been called the 'most polluted site in Europe'.

The international success of Burt, Boulton and Heywood is a very long way from the early experiments carried out by Thomas Dalton for the Chartered Company and his attempts to sell gas works tar for ship-building purposes. The intention has been to look at the relationship of the early gas industry with those who used its tar. After the 1840s many new ideas about coal tar began to bear fruit. Burt, Boulton and Heywood, and their works at the end of Prince Regent Lane are part of a world of successful tar distillers and far removed from the earlier experimenters.

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