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Sunday, 9 August 2009

Sales of ammonia salts

Several of the early London gas companies made ammonia salts from their ammoniacal liquor. Sales of these salts seem to have been steady, although it is difficult to work out how much was made and sold. Who bought them? Is it possible to find out anything about the customers?

Some of the gas companies recorded some information about who bought ammonia salts from them, but they do not do so very consistently. Both Phoenix and Chartered companies recorded some details, but as with other such sales the surviving records probably only highlight large and/or unusual customers. The surviving records of the Imperial Gas Company show almost nothing about sales of salts. This is particularly unfortunate because appropriate records with details of a specialist ammonia products plant at Millwall would have been very valuable.

The gas companies made three ammonia salts: sal ammoniac, sulphate of ammonia and carbonate of ammonia. These are the terms that will be used for them in the remainder of this text - they are the names most commonly used in the early gas company minute books.

The following notes on who bought what ammonia salt does not pretend to be based on an exhaustive study of the gas minute books - they are not always well written or indexed and many volumes are not available for consultation at the Greater London Record Office. They should, however, provide a rough guide to what is there.


Prices quoted for these salts are often so vague as to be meaningless. For example, 'carbonate will be £52 in casks and £56 in jars’ is not specific. It sometimes appears that the prices quoted are special ones and the price paid by ordinary customers is never given.

Transactions with large purchasers who dealt with Chartered sometimes involved barter deals for sulphuric or hydrochloric acid. Thus, 'Mr. Malades has 100 carboys of acid muriatic and will barter for sulphate of ammonia at 25/6 or muriate of ammonia at 25/‑‑cwt'. In such deals the actual price was not given. Offers of this nature were made to other companies. For instance 'Mr. Elliott offered to take sulphur made by the company at 14/-..... and supply the company with brown vitriol at 2/8’ but Phoenix Company were "not inclined to accept the offer".

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