Cheshire | Archive | 2006 | August | 23

Winnington history in the making

From the archive, first published Wednesday 23rd Aug 2006.

DIGNITARIES, historians and representatives of interested organisations gathered at the former ICI Winnington laboratories last week to mark an historic achievement.

It was back in 1933 when a purely accidental discovery by Reginald Gibson and Eric Fawcett produced what is now know as polythene at Winnington.

Now, 73 years later, a plaque has been unveiled at the site - part of Brunner Mond - to mark the achievement of Gibson and Fawcett.

Their discovery helped the Allies win the Second World War with polythene used as electrical insulation for air and shipborne radar in the crucial battle of the Atlantic during 1943.

Stuart Hogg, president of Northwich and District Heritage Society, which commissioned the plaque, said: "Given that importance, it is surprising more has not been made of the discovery.

"What kept you, someone might say?

"I think it must be due to the fact that in 1958 polythene's marketing and manufacture was transferred to ICI's plastics division at Welwyn and the plant at Wilton in the north east.

"Employees of ICI locally knew we had discovered it and since half of Northwich was employed by ICI, until 10 years ago it must have seemed unnecessary to proclaim it."

Ron Gibson, the son of Reginald, who now lives in Leeds, was particularly proud to be present at the occasion.

He was wearing a polythene label on the lapel of his jacket, which came from the very first batch of polythene and was presented to his late father.


Ron said: "He was a very modest man.

"Very few people apart from ICI people knew about it.

"Just two weeks before he died in 1983 he was at the science museum in London to present them with the original apparatus. It must have been a fantastic event."

Other dignitaries included Vale Royal Deputy Mayor, Clr Doug Shingler, Mark Chitty, from Brunner Mond, Harold Fielding, from the Royal Society of Chemistry and David Hayes, from Vale Royal Borough Council.

A leaflet has been produced by Northwich and District Heritage Society about the history of polythene which is available from the Salt Museum.

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