Marchon Products Ltd

Frank Schon and Fred Marzillier were entrepreneurial refugees from Nazi Europe. They registered Marchon Products Ltd. and occupied an office in London. As the blitz intensified, Schon and Marzillier moved to West Cumbria and restarted the Marchon operation in Whitehaven. For decades Marchon manufactured the raw materials for washing powders and toiletries nationwide, bringing a post-war boom to the town.

The production of chemicals began in the form of fire lighter blocks manufactured from sawdust, coal distillation residues and naphthalene. The ‘factory’ was first the garage of Mr Schon’s home in Hensingham, then premises in Swingpump Lane, supplemented by use of a small warehouse in Whitehaven (the Guinea Warehouse, Newtown).

In 1943, operations were transferred to a seven acre site at Kells. In 1944 the S1 Plant was commissioned where toiletry intermediates were manufactured.

In 1955 Albright and Wilson purchased Marchon Products Ltd. A&W Group now controlled the production of phosphorus compounds. However, the phosphate detergent business, which was the bread-and-butter market for Marchon, ran into terminal decline in the late 1970s as the eutrophication of inland waterways by pollution from detergent phosphate residues pressed the detergent formulators to move away from phosphates, thus removing Marchon's prime product application area.

Marchon, Whitehaven
Marchon, Whitehaven
In 1973, the Marchon Division was given responsibility for overseas A&W companies e.g. in Australia and India and for sales offices on European mainland.

Albright and Wilson expanded considerably into silicones, detergents, food additives, metal finishing chemicals, strontium based chemicals and chromium based chemicals. It was the second largest chemical manufacturer in the United Kingdom; although it was always very much smaller than ICI.

In 1971 Tenneco bought a part of Albright and Wilson's share holdings; and in 1978 obtained full ownership. In the short term, the company retained its own identity; however many of its subsidiaries were sold off. In 1995, Tenneco divested many of its assets; and parts of the original core of Albright and Wilson were transferred into a new public company, Albright and Wilson Plc which was floated on the stock market, in February of that year.

However, just four years later, following disappointing results, the French chemical company Rhodia acquired Albright and Wilson in March 2000 and the century-and-a-half old name finally disappeared except in India, Australia, New Zealand and the Philippines. Parts of the original Albright and Wilson company are now owned by the Huntsman Corporation.

Today, the huge factory in Whitehaven is no more. All buildings were razed to the ground during the years 2006/07. It was a business that at its height employed 3,000 local people. Their spending power turned Whitehaven into a thriving town. King Street became known as the Golden Mile for shopping. As Marchon fell, so too did the number of retail outlets in Whitehaven.

Kells, Whitehaven With Marchon In The Distance
Kells, Whitehaven With Marchon In The Distance


Whitehaven had been small harbour and fishing village from 13th century or earlier. Expansion began in mid-17th century with building of piers by Lowthers 1632-4 and 1679-81 and granting of market charter 1660. By the 1680s it had grown rapidly, expanding from village of c.30 households in early 17th century to a town of over 1,000 inhabitants by 1685, which more than doubled to 2,281 by 1696. Sir John Lowther had laid out grid of streets by 1680s, making Whitehaven the earliest planned new town in post-medieval Britain.

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