|Clayton Aniline Company
Charles Dreyfus, a chemist from Alsace, came to Manchester in 1869 as a young man and at age 28, with several friends, founded the Clayton Aniline Company in 1876 to
manufacture intermediates and dyestuffs. The plant was built alongside the Ashton Canal, close to the center of Manchester. Aniline oil and aniline salts were produced for
the local calico printers. By 1900 the company was exporting dyes across Europe and the United States. Dreyfus remained a director until his retirement in 1913.
The company became affiliated with the Society of Chemical Industry in Basle, later known as Ciba, in 1911. This was Ciba's first manufacturing location in England. During
World War I, Ciba produced explosives to aid the war effort. The company was quite proud of its dyestuffs production during the war, as evidenced by the following story, “The
Dye Situation and the Clayton Aniline Co. Ltd.” which was published by The Times in 1918:
“In view of the extraordinary publicity which continues to be given to the aniline dye trade in England, there is some danger that in the noise and clamour of warring factions the
very real and solid work that has been done by the Society of Chemical Industry in Basle, Switzerland, and ourselves may be lost sight of. A great deal of credit has been
claimed, and with considerable justice, for the assistance that certain firms gave in the early days of the war in equipping our Army and Navy with the khaki and blue that was
We have no desire to belittle that work, but we feel that we shall be doing less than justice to ourselves if we continue to remain quiet as to the way in which the main
requirements of this country were met. After August, 1914, the textile trade by no means came to a full stop, but carried on very much as usual. It it not too much to say that
the greater part of the requirement of the textile trade during the early months of the War were met by the Society of Chemical Industry in Basle. Much more could have been
done at Clayton, but our works were requisitioned for Government purposes, and we were allowed to reserve a very small portion only of our plant to continue dye
manufacture. It became necessary for us, therefore, to rely for the most part on the Basle works, and arrangements were made with the Board of Trade whereby an incteased
supply of raw material was sent to Switzerland in return for an agreed quantity of dyes. This arrangement, which was found to work adminably in practice, has continued to the
It must have been remarked even by the general public that, although a great deal was heard of the shortage of dye, the shops never appeared to have been short of brightly
coloured materials and very striking new designs. The fact is that, not only have dyers had their ordinary common dyes in reasonable quantity but they have also had the finer
and more complex dyes-the products of later research in dye manufacture-and it is these dyes which have enabled the textile trade to produce the continual new effects
which are the very life-blood of the English textile industry.
We have taken the lead in supplying dyes of this kind to England. It may be remembered some time ago an announcement was made in the public Press that the first dye of the
vat series had been manufactured in this country. We wish to point out that the Society of Chemical Industry in Basle have been manufacturing Synthetic Indigo, a vat dye, for
over seven years, and were the inventors of the Brominated Indigo series of vat colours, the most important being Ciba Blue and Ciba Violet; Ciba Scarlet “G” also was one of
their discoveries. All these products are of vital necessity in Calico Printing.
One more example. The name "Rhodamine" has come to be associated in the minds of the public with a particularly vivid shade of pink. In dye manufacture Rhodamine is a
landmark. It is one of the most important and most widely used dyes known. It is of extraordinary brilliancy, which makes it of great importance, particularly for calico printing.
Without Rhodamine a calico printer would be unable to obtain half his vivid effects. Rhodamine is, in fact, an absolute necessity, and the Rhodamine supply of this country has
come exclusively from the Society of Chemical Industry in Basle, who were amongst its first manufacturers and are the Inventors of the most important and useful brands,
namely "6G" and "3B”.
It is particularly In the realm of the calico printer that we have been of service. Calico printing admittedly stands at the head of the tinctorial arts, and English calico printing is
the best in the world . It has not lost that position during the War and our claim is that we have been of immense assistance In helping this important arm of the textile industry
to maintain that position.”
During World War II, Clayton Aniline made additives for the high octane aircraft fuel used in high performance planes such as the Spitfire and Hurricane.
Over the years the Clayton site was expanded to 57 acres, becoming the largest single manufacturing location of any company in Manchester. At the peak in the 1970s, 2500
people were employed. The company had close ties with the local community, even publishing a newspaper, reporting on local events, which was distributed to 8,000 area
homes. George Danson was Plant Manager from 1975-1989; he passed away in July 2009.
Ciba merged with Sandoz in 1997 to form Ciba Specialty Chemicals, with six divisions world-wide, with a range of chemicals-based products including lubricants, printing inks,
pharmaceuticals, plastics and colour pigments. At the time, the Clayton site manufactured metal complex dyes for wool and nylon, direct dyes for cellulosics, and colour-
formers used in carbonless copying and thermal papers.
But the increasing shift of textile manufacturing to Asia took its toll on the Clayton site production and employment levels. Around 2002 Ciba eliminated 70 jobs at the plant and
focused production on specialty dyes and chemicals used to enhance the performance and properties of textiles.
In 2004 Ciba Specialty Chemicals announced the intention to shut down the plant, with the loss of more than 300 jobs. Site manager Dr Peter Reucroft said "Our employees
have worked relentlessly over the years to make Clayton as productive as possible. However, sustained and increasing pressure from low-cost Asian competitors has made
long-term production of textile dyes and colour-formers at Clayton economically unsustainable." Reucroft said the company would help employees displaced by the closure,
including assisting those able to move to other Ciba locations.
In 2007, a retired Clayton factory worker won a six-year battle for compensation after being exposed to chemicals he says caused bladder cancer. The worker said he came
into contact with dyes for almost 30 years. The legal decision was expected to result in similar claims from other former employees.
The Clayton site was demolished in 2007, including the landmark 240 foot high chimney built in the 1950s to disperse waste gases. The site was purchased by the Harrow
Estates, which is planning a redevelopment of hundreds of new homes, shops and small businesses. Harrow Estates specializes in industrial sites, having done similar work
at the former AstraZeneca site in Blackley and at the Clariant Chemicals site in Salford. Environmental remediation will most certainly be required. The residential
neighborhood will be called Dreyfus Village in honor of Charles Dreyfus.
1) “The Dye Situation and the Clayton Aniline Co. Ltd.”, The Times, February 1, 1918
2) Phil Owen, “Historic UK Dyes Plant to Close”, Textile News and Industry Analysis, November 4, 2004,
http://www.inteletex.com/NewsDetail.asp?PubId=&NewsId=3419, accessed July 17, 2008
3) Annette Lord, “Going, going, gone,,,”, North and East Manchester Advertiser, November 23, 2007, http://www.nemasdvertiser.co.uk/news/s/1025608_going_going_gone_ ,
accessed July 17, 2008
4) “Charles Dreyfus: The Clayton Aniline Company-Ciba”, Manchester UK, http://www.manchester2002-uk.com/celebs/commerce/commerce3.html , accessed July 17, 2008
5) Don Frame, “Cancer victim wins six-year fight”, Manchester Evening News, November 30, 2007, http://www.manchestereveningnews.co.
uk/news/health/s/1026538_cancer_victim_wins_sixyear_fight , accessed July 17, 2008
6) Jo Rostron, "900 Homes after Ciba Signs-Off", North and East Manchester Advertiser, http://www.nemaadvertiser.co.uk.
/news/s/215/215011_900_homes_after_ciba_signsoff.html, accessed July 16, 2006
Charles Dreyfus (1848-1935), Founder of Clayton Aniline Co.
|Clayton Aniline Company, Manchester, ca. 1900
Image: E.N. Abrahart, The Clayton Aniline Company Limited 1876-1976
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