|Holliday Dyes and Chemicals Works Demolition-April 2003
Photo: Copyright by Julia Clegg. Reproduced with Permission of Artist
Holliday Dyes and Chemicals Ltd. traces its roots to industrialist Read Holliday, who was born in Bradford in 1809, the son of a wool spinner. He started his own business at the age of
twenty-one, buying waste liquors from the local gas works. He distilled ammonia at Tanfield Road, off Leeds Road, Huddersfield and sold it to textile mills for wool scouring. An early sign
of his ingenuity was blending unwanted coal tar with cinders to use as fuel for the ammonia stills.
The growth of the business, along with fume complaints from neighbors, caused Holliday to move the works to Turnbridge, adjacent to the Canal, in 1839. Lacking formal training in
chemistry, he read technical publications and applied what he learned to expand the product range. He produced ammonia salts, washing powder, soda ash, Epsom salts and dye
products including Prussian blue. In 1845 he commenced distilling coal tar, becoming the biggest distiller in the north of England by 1860. He received a patent for an improved naphtha
lamp and the “Holliday Peerless Lamp” became widely used. Sales of naphtha for lamps and creosote and pitch for coal-brick (briquette) makers were highly successful. He now had
plants at six other northern sites as well as one in Bromley-By-Bow in London and a warehouse at Holburn Hill in London.
The Holliday family was also expanding; Read and his wife Emma had five sons (Thomas, Charles, John, Edgar and Robert) and three daughters (Eliza, Edith and Betsy). When Eliza died at
the age of nine, Holliday became concerned about the environmental conditions of the Turnbridge area and built a new home in the countryside of Edgerton in 1853-54. The palatial family
residence, with 34 rooms, was known as Lunn Clough Hall.
Holliday was fined on several occasions by Huddersfield authorities because of neighborhood complaints about fumes and smoke from the coal tar distillery. The most offensive
operations were moved further from residences, nearer to the River Colne on the boundary of Dalton, but still within the Turnbridge site. The stills were redesigned and fume controls
implemented. These steps allowed Holliday to stay in business. But the dangers of handling flammable products continued, as evidenced by a fire in 1859 which severely damaged the
William H. Perkin had prepared mauve, the first synthetic dye, from coal tar chemicals in 1856. Perkin built a dye factory near London in 1857. This must have inspired Holliday to become
involved in the new industry of aniline dyes and he began the manufacture of the purple-red dye magenta in 1860. Already by 1861 he was offering violet, red, and blue dyes for sale.
Patents were granted in 1863 for blue colours obtained by heating aniline, rosaniline and benzoic acid together; in 1865 for violet and blue colours obtained by treating a salt of aniline with
nitro benzole; and in 1866 for purifying green and blue colours obtained from rosaniline by the iodides of alcohol radicals. In one of the first legal cases involving infringement of a dye
patent, Read Holliday was vindicated in 1865 of a charge that he violated the patent of a competitor to produce magenta by the arsenic acid process. However the cost of litigation was
very high for the fledgling dye manufacturer.
The Holliday family had become the first producers of aniline and aniline dyes in the U.S.A. when sons Charles and Thomas Holliday set up a factory in Brooklyn in 1864 (click here for
details). The decision to start a branch in America reflects the bold vision Read Holliday had for the growth of the dye business.
Thomas Holliday was particularly inventive in the dye field; his name was on twenty-nine British patents during 1863-1898. Charles Holliday had seven patents during 1867-1884 dealing
with textile dyeing methods and the design of dyeing equipment. Read Holliday continued his own experiments and received his fifth patent in 1867, for a process to remove grease and
tar from wool with the solvent naphtha. He retired in 1868 when his firm was England’s leading chemical manufacturer and the first international manufacturer of synthetic dyes. He
turned the business over to his very capable sons Thomas, Charles and Edgar. The firm was now called Read Holliday & Sons. By 1881 Read had moved from Edgerton to Harrogate, with
Thomas and his wife living in Lunn Clough Hall. Read became interested in home construction and he built most of Queen’s Road in Harrogate. These houses today sell for about
£250,000 each. Read Holliday died in 1889 at the age of eighty.
In 1880 Robert Holliday patented a new dyeing process, known as azoic, which laid the foundation of the 20th century dyeing/printing industry (British Patent no. 2,757). This process
formed the dye directly in the fiber, resulting in good wash-fastness properties. For example a bluish-red dye was formed when diazotised beta-naphthylamine was coupled to beta-
naphthol, which was impregnated in the cotton fiber by an alkaline solution. Robert Holliday was vacationing in France when news of the patent arrived, so the new dye was named
Vacanceine Red, after the French word “vacance” for holiday. But the firm failed to develop this product range and leadership in the fast growing azoic field eventually went to the
The firm employed 145 men and 6 boys in 1881. In 1890 Read Holliday & Sons was converted into a private limited company with Thomas Holliday as Chairman and Managing Director.
The American business was also incorporated in the same year with Edgar Holliday as President. Edgar died in 1891 and Thomas died in 1897. Robert Holliday became Chairman in 1897.
The firm was near bankruptcy by 1899 because of competition from lower priced German dye manufacturers. Profits in the New York branch were also falling. However in the same year
the Boer War started and the War Office granted a large contract to the firm in order to make picric acid for explosives. The picric acid plant was built on the far side of the River Colne
away from the rest of the Turnbridge works. In 1900 there was a huge explosion and fire at the new plant.
The Chairman of the firm in 1901 was Joseph Turner, who began working at the Turnbridge works at the age of twelve. In that same year, Lionel Brook Holliday, son of Thomas Holliday,
joined the Board of Directors. In 1904-05 sales of dyes for Japanese Army blankets were very profitable. Sodium thiosulphate was sold to German customers under the trade name
“Fastogene” for making certain direct dyes retain light-fastness when the cotton fabric was washed.
The onset of World War I in August 1914 forced Read Holliday & Sons to concentrate on explosives manufacture. By 1915 the shortage of explosives in Britain was a matter of grave
concern. Lionel B. Holliday was recalled from France, where he was a Major in the Army (West Riding Regiment). He was one of the few British technical men with knowledge of picric
acid manufacture. On his return, he became responsible for a Government plant producing picric acid at Bradley. By the end of 1915 the plant was producing 100 tons of picric acid a
Meanwhile British Dyes Ltd. was formed by the takeover by the Government in 1915 of Read Holliday & Sons. The Turnbridge works also produced TNT (11 million pounds), detonator
compounds and picric acid during World War I. Major Lionel B. Holliday was not asked to join British Dyes. But he received a £10,000 share of the money from the takeover and bought
some land in Deighton, next door to the picric acid works he was running at Bradley. On this 30-acre site in Deighton, which was the former Huddersfield racecourse, he setup in 1916 the
manufacture of dyes under the name of L. B. Holliday and Co. Ltd.
In 1917 Major Holliday acquired a large number of German-owned British dye patents which were under Government control. By 1918 L. B. Holliday and Co. had 20 dyes in the line and was
producing 50 tons of dye a month with a workforce of 20 men. Major Holliday recruited many of the workers, customers and processes which had previously been at Read Holliday &
Sons, and this caused lasting friction between his company and British Dyes.
British Dyes acquired a site at Dalton and so became neighbours of Major Holliday's Deighton works. The new dye works built at Dalton had severe startup problems. In 1919 British Dyes
of Huddersfield merged with Levenstein Ltd. in Blackley to form the British Dyestuffs Corporation, which later became ICI. The Dalton Works’ problems were gradually resolved and the
site became an important part of the ICI dye business.
L. B. Holliday and Co. prospered under the leadership of Major Holliday. A Canadian branch office and warehouse were established in Montreal in 1920.
Following World War II, the Major took advantage of import barriers to expand the business. In the late 1950s there were between 800-900 employees on the Leeds Road site.
Major Holliday was well known as an owner and breeder of racehorses. He had his first winner in 1918 but his greatest success as a breeder came after World War II. His horse
“Narrator” won the Champion Stakes in 1954 and “Hethersett” won the St. Leger in 1962. He chalked up over 800 winners. He was not a betting man and never put any money on his
horses. He died in 1966 at the age of 85.
A team of shire horses was used for internal transport at the plant and their handlers proudly decked them out each May Day. The shires were stabled at Colne Bridge and were used at
the company until 1967.
Over the years the company built a reputation for the quality of their dyes and chemical intermediates. Some of these were based on anthraquinone and naphthalene. The varied
molecular structures required many types of batch reactions such as chlorination, sulphonation, nitration, cyanation, amination and diazotization.
In 1970 a new azo plant was built at a cost of £2 million. By the late 1970s, the firm had grown to become the largest privately-owned dye manufacturer in the world. The firm was an
innovator in the production of fluorescent colourings (optical brighteners) for safety wear and dyes for emergency flares and smoke colouration. The company pursued high technology
products with more profitable niche markets than commodity dyes. There was a broad range of specialty dyes for the ink industry, including high purity direct dyes for fountain pen inks,
acid and basic dye complexes for ballpoint pen inks and disperse dyes for transfer printing inks. The research director at this time was Dr. C. E. Vellins.
Heat transfer dyes were introduced for printing applications in the fast growing polyester, nylon and acrylic markets. The product line was known as SUBLAPRINT which refers to the
sublimation process for transferring the color to the substrate. Holliday had the largest range of uncut disperse dyes for the printing ink market, including letterpress, lithography,
flexography, gravure and serigraphy (screen printing). They were a fierce competitor of the larger dye makers such as ICI and Bayer.
A new manufacturing unit was built for basic dyes such as rhodamines. After laking with tannic acid, these dye complexes were used in making flexographic inks for comics and paper
wrappers where good light-fastness was not a concern. The dyes also had applications in glycol based ballpoint pen inks, coloured drawing inks and stamp pad inks. Water soluble dyes,
made for textile application, were adapted for aqueous based printing and stationery inks. Certain acid and direct dyes, with low salt content, were developed for felt-tipped and roller ball
pen inks, as well as for security printing inks for cheques.
But Holliday was still very dependent upon dyes for the textile market. The boom in synthetic fibres in the late 1970s resulted in many dye companies expanding capacity, lowering prices
and profits. The company was sold to Terry Brain, a Jersey-based businessman, in 1982 when the name was changed to Holliday Dyes and Chemicals Ltd. (HDC). In 1987 the company
was bought out by a management team led by chairman Dr. Mike Peagram. He expanded the business, now known as Holliday Chemical Holdings (HCH), to make specialty chemicals in
the UK, France and Spain before placing the company on the stock market in 1993.
A violent explosion rocked the plant and the surrounding neighborhood in June 1996. A diazo was being produced in a glass-lined vessel in order to form a phenol. The reaction had been
conducted hundreds of times before without incident. But this time a runaway reaction, the violent decomposition of the diazo, resulted in over pressurisation of the vessel. The vessel lid
and head gear were blown off, with the lid travelling 150 meters before smashing into an office wall. By sheer chance the incident happened 9:30 AM on a Sunday morning when site
activities were at a minimum and no one was injured. A thorough investigation was conducted and the unit was rebuilt with added safety features including computerised control of the
process. The total cost of the accident and the new construction was estimated at £2.7 million.
Yule Catto, the Essex-based chemicals group, purchased the company in 1997 for £225 million when it employed 500 people in Huddersfield and 1,500 worldwide.
Dye production in both Europe and the United States gradually shifted to lower cost producers in India and China. Textile production also shifted to the Far East. The Holliday Dyes and
Chemicals Works was closed in early 2001 with the loss of 162 jobs.
Artist Julia Clegg, of Milnsbridge, has documented the demise of this historic site with her own photographs, testimonies of former employees, and by a series of 17 screenprints. Her
interest was peaked by driving by the site and noticing how striking the idle buildings and machinery looked in the evening sunlight. She researched the history of the firm and got
permission to photograph the mix of old and new buildings on the site.
Clegg has captured the complex nature of the plant throughout its occupancy on Leeds Road and the consequent transformation of the site through demolition and the commencement of
new building “for another boring business park”. She used images form the photographs and company documents to create the screenprints, colouring them with shades she noticed on
The images are a stirring reminder of the loss to the area of this landmark and the end of an era for the locality and former employees. An exhibition of Clegg’s work, titled “Bismarck
Brown” and supported by an Arts Council England Lottery Grant, was held in February 2005 at the West Yorkshire Print Workshop on Huddersfield Road.
|The photographs (April 2003) and artwork below are copyright of Julia Clegg and reproduced with permission of the artist. Click on images to enlarge.
Testimonies of Former Employees-Courtesy of Julia Clegg and Peter Piwowarski:
“I started there in 1963. They used horses and carts then to ferry the acids between the sheds and even up into the ‘70’s. I planned to be there until I was 65. If you kept your nose clean in
those days, you could; but management styles changed and so did the work. I took my redundancy in ‘99.
I really enjoyed it under the Holliday regime but in 1982 the firm went into receivership and that was the end of an era”.
David Pollard, Electrician.
“I began work there in 1957, my first job. There were about 800-900 employees then. It seemed a dirty and hazardous place when I started - the mind boggles at some of the things we did
at the time in the labs! But if you had initiative and push you could get on. There was encouragement to experiment and try new things.
I spent all my working life there. Even though I secured other posts, I never took them up. Many others were the same. The most exciting times were when we bought out new products - in
fluorescents and smoke dyes we were world leaders. Now all that has gone to India. When we made Bismarck Brown in the ‘80’s, it was for cardboard colouring.” John Walker, Labs and
“I was 18 when I started there in l956 in the labs. I became a production chemist. Product Manager, and finally Audit Manager for Health and Safety. I left in ‘99.
I enjoyed working there, and made many friends over the years. In 1976 I got involved with the production of acrylic dyestuffs. They started with a deep vivid purpley red; eventually they
were making over a dozen such dyes.” Tony Wilcox.
“I started as a lab assistant in 1964 and progressed to chemist by ‘76. I ran three production units in the ‘70’s and became a project chemist, helping install new plant. Eventually I became
Production Planning manager. In the early ‘90’s the computerisation was updated to include all stock, all dye recipes, sales, export, finances, costings and production plant. We started
looking at systems in ‘91 and by ‘95 we were actually implementing after trialing, so that be the end of that year the entire site was on line. So that was the end of the specialist holding his
own knowledge as an isolated expert. By the late ‘90’s all the “knowledge” was networked throughout the plant." Dennis Lowery.
"I actually worked as an apprentice electrician at L B Hollidays for a year in (approx) 1972. It put me off electricity for life. Apart from the new Azo plant the rest of the site was on its way to
being derelict, especially Z Block where they made the Picric Acid. Whole buildings could become "live" and I had plenty of shocks whilst working on the site. There were also explosions
and I saw one man carried out of there, dead (heart attack I think).
After working in some of the colour sheds you would take a shower after work and then go to sleep in your bed at night and in the morning your bed linen was multi coloured!
I have vague recollections of electrician David Pollard and, if my memory is correct, the electricians foreman was called Maurice.
Memories, memories." Peter Piwowarski
Robert H. Swan, "A Career In Chemistry, 50 years In Dyestuffs", 21 March, 2004 (Part I, RHS@LBH 1946-1950):
"When I left Hillhouse Central School in early July 1946, aged 14 years 8 months, I did not really know what sort of a career I wished to undertake apart from possibly a career involving
chemistry. With my birthday falling on November 4th, the day before Guy Fawkes day, I became interested in pyrotechnics, more so when I had a chemistry set bought for my birthday the
previous year. I played with the set in the cellar of our home on Woodhouse Grove, Fartown, on one occasion my experiments produced hydrogen sulphide (bad egg gas ), this quickly broke
up the game of cards my mother was enjoying upstairs with her friends !. Back to 1946, my parents suggested that I should apply to one of the nearby local firms for a job. Holliday’s or ICI. It
was decided that LBs would be the better option as two former Air Raid Warden colleagues of my father who lived across the field on Red Doles Road, suggested that I would receive a
wider all round training at the firm where they worked. The ex wardens were Mr. West -Jones the foreman plumber and Fred Belbin the foreman fitter. An interview was soon arranged
with Mr. Benjamin Oliver Schofield and took place at his home on Bradley Road. Ben Schofield was the works manager, and previously an intermediates chemist, and in his youth had
attended my old school, which I believe was then Hillhouse Higher Elementary School, then a mixed school which my mother, then Dorothy Hoyle had attended about the same time. I was
duly accepted and it was arranged that I would start fairly soon.
I started in fact, still in July, the week before the Huddersfield Engineers holiday week. I reported to the Police hut on Leeds Road to see my first boss, Mr. Fred Montgomery, on the same
day as another youngster, Harold Blackburn was arriving to work for Mr. George Keir, an Azo chemist. It turned out that both of them were already on holiday so I was taken to number 10
Laboratory to be greeted by Mr. Montgomery’s assistant, Donald Cutts. Harold was also started in the same lab which was shared by the two departments. At that time Ben Schofield still
had his office in the lab and adjacently, up the stairs, were the laundry and lab stores.
Mr. Keir’s predecessor was James Herbert Wilson, known as “Azo Wilson”, who parted company with Hollidays in 1930. He was the father of future Prime Minister Harold Wilson.
German prisoners of war were still working in the Azo plant over a year after the war had ended.
My starting pay was 17/6d plus a half crown bonus, the bonus was liable to be docked for bad timekeeping or for breaking too much apparatus. The lab boys started work at 8.30 when
they had to collect a bucket of ice and begin testing the samples from the works before the chemists and senior staff arrived at 9.00. We soon learned from the other lads how to make a
simple compound which was liable to explode on contact, when small traces of the unexploded crystals were left on the shelves we were soon in bother when the cleaners were greeted
with a bang when putting things on the shelf.
As the weeks went on I began to do simple experiments, at this time it was customary for each department to carry out their own. One particular day I was carrying out a reaction involving
sodium sulphide when some of the contents were ejected and into my face and one of my eyes. Fortunately for me Mr. Montgomery immediately got me under a tap and flushed it off before
any serious damage was caused by the caustic solution. After medical treatment I had to wear an eye patch for a few days. (The following Saturday I played as usual for Huddersfield
Chess Club and made a point of quickly aiming for a draw.)
On one side of the shed was a long row of wooden tubs with agitators driven by a long line shaft, each tub was connected to the line by a leather belt onto a pair of pulleys, one fixed and
one loose,. To stop the stirring the belt was moved by a device onto the loose pulley and vice versa. When the process had been completed in that particular unit and the product
precipitated, it would be filtered out usually through a press or sometimes a box filter. The material in the press would be freed of most of the liquid content by means of compressed air
whereas box filters were operated by vacuum with the filtrate being drawn into a receiver. The filter was then emptied by shovels into wooden casks before being taken to the next stage.
For some products the filter cake still contained too much liquor and to remove this the casks were taken by horse and cart to the hydraulic presses in no. 2 shed. Here the cake was
shoveled into filter cloths and wrapped up into a series of small parcels then laid on top of one another on a series of metal plates up to about 6 feet high. The hydraulic press would then be
closed and a ram driven by compressed air pressed down onto the pile to squeeze out further liquor.
Other processes were carried out in cast iron jacketed pans, with the internal temperature being controlled, by passing either water or steam through the jacket. These vessels were
mainly used for sulphonation, where a high temperature was needed and nitrations where low temperatures were usual. (In the forties LBs still had there own railway siding where the bulk
of liquid chemicals such as acids and caustic liquor arrived in rail tankers. Adjacent to the sidings was the acid store where the chemicals were run off into smaller vessels such as 40
gallon drums or glass carboys holding 10 gallons. The carboys were located in metal frames and held in place by straw.)
Reverting to the processing, where the contents of carboys could be added fairly quickly two (usually) men would simply lift it and pour it in. Where a more controlled addition was required
the carboy was placed on a table adjacent to the vessel and siphoned in. For Nitric Acid a lead siphon was employed, as for instance was the case when carrying out a nitration in no. 59 or
60 pan. Occasionly the labourer would be given a hand by the assistant chemist who happened to be supervising the process. On one memorable occasion I was helping to lift a carboy of
nitric acid up the stairs to 59 & 60 pans when the carboy broke and splashed down my trousers, a quick dash to the nearest tap and a drenching with water saved me from serious injury.
Equally dangerous could be transferring the contents of drums into vessels. A piece of equipment, the blow boss, was screwed into the bung hole of the drum and compressed air applied
to deliver the liquid, usually acid through a pipe into the vessel. If the threads became worn and the boss was not properly sealed acid could be sprayed about around the drum with
consequent risk of burning or worse to the operative.
Early in my career I invested in a bicycle. I think it was from Wileys on Trinity St. paid for on the “never never”. Although we only had 45 minutes for lunch I was able to slip home to
Fartown along the canal bank. At this time there were very few cars and a lot of people came to work by bike. Where the car park was situated in later years there was a cycle shed which
probably held about a 100 bikes.
One memory of my teenage years at Hollidays was going by train to Blackpool with the rest of the factory where Major Holliday entertained us all to a meal at the Winter Gardens to
celebrate the 21st birthday of his son Lionel Brook Holliday. (A photograph of the occasion , together with other memorabilia of my early years was unfortunately lost when my scrap book
was loaned out and never recovered.)"
Robert H. Swan, “A Career in Chemistry, 50 years in Dyestuffs”, Part 2, RHS@LBH, 1952-1980):
"In the first part of my memoirs I described my experiences as a young lad undergoing training under a three year apprenticeship indenture at L. B. Hollidays. I completed the
apprenticeship in October 1949, shortly before my 18th birthday. It wasn’t long afterwards when I received my “call up” papers for national service and for the next 2 years, from February
23rd 1950, I served in the Royal Air Force, finally returning to “Civvy Street” in February 1952, the same month that Queen Elizabeth II acceded to the throne.
The following month I resumed work at LBs under George Whitehead in the benzene intermediates department, based mainly in No. 8 shed by the canal. The products were mostly intended
for the azo department and involved mainly nitration, sulphonation and reduction. Several sulphonations involved nitro compounds such as nitro toluene which had of course been used
there in earlier times when Major Holliday was making explosives. Two nitration processes were carried on sites at the far edge of the factory; Chloro benzene sulphonic acid was
dinitrated in 23 shed and amino phenol sulphonic was nitrated in the old ice house.. One process that I supervised daily for several years was the manufacture of benzidine disulphonic
acid. This started with a partial reduction of a nitro benzene sulphonic acid solution using zinc powder at a low temperature controlled by additions of ice, followed by an overnight
treatment with caustic soda to form the hydrazo derivative which in the following morning underwent the fascinating conversion to the benzidine derivative by the addition of acid.
It was during this period that I signed the first of several agreements as an assistant work chemist, the agreements ran for 5 years with annual increments in salary. Quite early on I found
myself working in the next door laboratory No. 13 which was under the control of Aubrey Gothard, one of the Director Chemists.( On the wall near my desk was a portrait of Dr Cramer, a
German chemist who had been brought into LBs by the Major in 1923.) Mr Gothard’s department was responsible, amongst other things, for important Naphthalene intermediates such as
Gamma and J Acids. Another important product was resorcinol, made on a large scale, with a lot of the production going for sale for use in products such as rubber, resins and a B.P.
grade used in pharmaceuticals.
It was in the early fifties that I took control of my first plant, the Tobias Acid plant in No. 40 shed based by the canal. The building had an open structured wall having been used earlier for the
manufacture of Gamma Salt, a beta naphthylamine compound which was now banned as a very potent carcinogenic agent. .Tobias Acid was made in the same autoclave by a Bucherer
reaction which involved the reaction of a solution of 2 Naphthol 1 Sulphonic Acid with ammonia and ammonium sulphite, the latter being prepared using sulphur dioxide from Mr Appleton’s
tower on the hydrosulphite plant. When a purer Naphthol Sulphonic Acid was produced in a solvent based process we were able to turn out a far superior product which in addition to
being used internally for making Gamma Acid was suitable for sale to several manufacturers of Lithol Red pigments.
Meanwhile research work also continued in the lab. In particular was some of our early work on Hydron Blue which involved a sub-zero condensation of nitroso phenol with carbazole
(obtained from the anthracene residues in the Anthraquinone plant of Dr Mannheim). A plant was eventually erected for making the dye.
Another project I worked on was comminution; our new range of disperse dyes, in particular Polycron Navy CW were proving to be very difficult to grind and disperse. The research
involved conditioning, evaluating grinding methods and dispersion formulation. After successful results Mr Brook immediately ordered a Dyno mill for the plant.
My next venture was with a range of resorcinol based coupling components used in combination with stabilised diazo components ( also made in the department) in Dye Line processes
for the reproduction of documents such as blue prints before the introduction of dry processes such as Xerox and later processes. My first product was 3(2 hydroxyethoxy) phenol made
in the laboratory using the ethylene chlorohydrin process.. Our first orders were from the Ozalid Company in Essex. When the business developed it was decided to erect a larger plant.
Following approval from Major Holliday a QVF glass plant, including a 200 litre reaction vessel, was duly installed in the old Z Sector labs. And soon we were supplying other companies. I
remember Alfred Bader of Aldrich Chemicals taking a small sample. A subsequent large scale process using ethylene oxide was introduced on the main works plants; the first stage was
in an au autoclave in no. 1 shed followed by an ether extraction in the resorcinol tower and fractional distillation. Other coupling components which followed included 4 Chloro Resorcinol &
Another chemist, Peter Scargill was also working in lab 13, When Peter left I took over his department. This included his assistant, George Kaye. Peter’s main product was Paradone Black
BL, CI Vat Black 1. The production took place in bay 2 of the Z Sector plant and involved a condensation in chlorobenzene (The Z Sector plant was a 2nd War government building for the
manufacture of Ethyl Centralite. This was a product developed in Germany for stabilising explosives. At the end of the war Major Holliday bought the plant which was then used for making
vat dyes. The adjacent laboratories were then occupied by analytical departments until they were relocated to a new 2 story building erected below the main laboratory block.)
An intermediate I made in bay 1 was Thioaniline used for a yellow azo dye. This was made heating aniline with sulphur and lead carbonate, by-product lead sulphide was removed by
filtration and recycled to the white lead manufacturers. Mr Holmes used the product for making a yellow azo dye. Another intermediate, 2,7 Dioxy naphthalene, was made from naphthalene
2,7 disulpho made in 25 shed, followed fusion in an induction furnace in 21 shed then worked up in Z Sector bay 4.
Eventually, as new photo copying processes were developed and also reactive dyes were replacing vat dyes the demand for my products had declined Mr Brook asked me to transfer one
of my assistants to work for Mr Alfred Jay with a view to him taking over his direct dye department when he retired. I chose George Kaye as the likelier prospect (More of George later!).
I was offered a job in the new Panacryl dye department. The offer was quickly withdrawn when Brian Wilkinson, the director in charge decided that the post should go to one of his own
department; Tony Wilcox. The next offer came from “Mr Brook” (young Lionel Brook Holliday). As Alfred McGough was retiring he wanted me to take over the Auramine plant. After some
thought and discussion with Alf, I declined the offer. The post was eventually taken over by my assistant Peter Littlewood. (Despite some modification the process was later shut down for
health & safety reasons; Auramine is not carcinogenic but the process can involve a carcinogen.)
Further discussion with Brook followed; he respected my decision, although he thought I was wrong, and suggested I might want to leave! He subsequently offered me a position in the new
Research Department in the new laboratory block under Dr Cyril Vellins who had joined us from ICI. Blackley. I duly started work in the new lab working on a variety of dyes including 2:1
premetallised dyes which Dr Vellins had been involved with at ICI.
The department’s major project was the development of Heat Transfer Printing dyes. These are mainly CI disperse dyes as unadulterated powders, formulated into inks and using a variety
of printing processes to produce patterns on paper. The pattern is then placed in contact with a substrate and heated in a suitable press for around 20 seconds. The process is suitable for
mainly synthetic fibres, especially polyester. By 1971 we introduced a range of Sublaprint dyes. The dyes were classified by Transfer class; A rapid, B normal, C slow and D very slow. One
of the new colours I formulated was Sublaprint Black 70065. I continued to work on evaluating a range of dyes for various synthetic fibres and also became involved in customer service
alongside Harry Broadbent. Dr Vellins became an ambassador for transfer printing and published several articles on the process. He also compiled the chapter on the subject for “The
Chemistry of Synthetic Dyes” book by Venkataraman with my assistance in checking the proofs.
Unfortunately in 1979, suffering from hypertension, I incurred a retinal hemorrhage. This meant me taking 5 months off work. Sadly Dr Vellins died while I was away.
Returning to work I continued evaluating dyes in a small canal side laboratory behind the main building. Besides testing them as transfer print dyes I also tried them as potential smoke
colours, this involved preparing a mixture of the dye with a mild fuel and a moderator and applying heat to sublime them into a glass tube.(We were already selling one or two colours to
pyrotechnical and related companies.)
In June 1980 a management meeting decided on the action needed because of the recession and in August the first batch of redundancies took place. I was one of the second group
chosen for redundancy. I received my notice on September 10th, taking effect from September 12th,. (Not good news 2 days before my wedding anniversary). For my 34 years’ service I
eventually received a cheque for £2820! Thanks to my union AMPS I obtained a further £471.05 for the remainder of my contract. Finally I would also have a deferred pension of £761.42 on
retirement at age 65. It would be almost a year before I obtained another post in the chemical dyestuff industry although in the interim I carried out consultancy work related to the Holliday’
s Sublaprint dyes."
Robert H. Swan, "Post Retirement Career in the Dyestufffs Industry", December 4, 2018:
"My career at LB Hollidays ended in the recession of 1980 and I later received a carriage clock, commemorating 34 years’ service, together with a lovely hand written letter from Brook
Holliday. It would be several months before I obtained a new position; contacting near 50 companies with enquiries.
My first try was with Croda Colours who advised me to try later on. My next prospect was pyrotechnic company Hayley & Weller. It was suggested by Holliday’s sales manager as we were
supplying them with smoke colours. I contacted them and was invited for an interview by chemist Geoff Simpson. The interview went quite well and I was asked by him to attend, with my
wife for another interview during which she could look around the local houses. When we arrived Mr Simpson had been dispatched at short notice, to France on urgent business. I was then
interviewed instead, with my wife present, by one of the bosses from the new American owners, MY Dart, who had just taken over. The interview was a disaster. A subsequent letter from
Mr Simpson said it was considered that I would not fit into the new environment. I learned recently that they are now known as Chemring Defence. I’m now well pleased that I did not get the
I spent a few months working at Willingthorne in Dewsbury for Harry Broadbent, an ex-Holliday colleague, transfer printing pyjama coat panels with England’s soccer shirt pattern and
footballer Kevin Keegan’s head. We delivered the panels to Manchester to Keegan’s agent.
During this time we were asked by Hollidays to respond to an enquiry from a customer who was using Holliday’s Sublaprint dyes. I agreed to act as a consultant and was allowed to do
some research in my old laboratory at Holliday’s! The firm of Vaportex were supplying transfer print materials to Marks & Spencer’s in France and needed to prove patent legitimacy. I was
able to complete the work and duly received a cheque for £100.
In August 1981 Dr Michael Peagram offered me a position as a self - employed consultant at Croda Colours in Brighouse. I began work on August 24th earning £30 for each day worked
I worked happily for about 9 years in Brighouse at the former Bottomley & Emerson works. However, when a new man was brought in over me as technical manager I was less happy.
When I had an offer of a post at Hays Colours in Halifax I accepted. An interesting 8 years followed and I finally retired just after my 65th birthday with a good pension and a pot of Hays
SOCIETY OF DYERS & COLOURISTS: After retirement I became an abstractor for the society’s magazine. For over 2 year I plodded away on my electric typewriter. (I had not then come
across computers and the internet.) When they decided that we should use the new technologies to directly input our contributions, I called it a day.
HOLLIDAYS: As you are aware, after a series of events, including Mike Peagram taking the firm over and putting them on the stock market, the firm eventually closed. After the factory was
demolished, as illustrated by Julia Clegg, a business park was built on the site. There is now a German car dealership on the site of the old Z Sector plant. This was a government plant
which produced Centralite, an explosive stabiliser used in the bombs we dropped on Germany.
CRODA COLOURS: Sometime after I left the firm the parent company CRODA CHEMICALS withdrew from the colour business. They are now a thriving company. The site was redeveloped
and I have recently learned from a bowling friend of mine that he helped to convert my laboratory building into a bungalow!
HAYS COLOURS: In my last year we got involved with ZENECA in a joint venture marketing paper dyes, Through a series of mergers and take overs a new company WATERSIDE COLOURS
was born based on a new factory in Halifax. The original buildings in the Pellon Lane plant are now derelict as shown on the website <derelictplaces.co.uk>.. "
1) Jim Appleby, "Bradford men who lived and dyed for the fashion world", Telegraph & Argus News, http://www.thisisbradford.co.uk/bradford__district/bradford/news/jim28.html, accessed
February 17, 2006
2) "Special dyes for inks", Ink & Print, Autumn 1990
3) Henry Zientek, "Well-known company to shut with the loss of 162 jobs", Huddersfield Daily Examiner, November 10, 2000, http://www.ichuddersfield.icnetwork.co.uk
4) "The dye is cast for sad closure", Huddersfield Daily Examiner, Feb. 9, 2001
5) Jenny Parkin, "Colour of dye firm inspires artist", Huddersfield Daily Examiner, Mar. 13, 2004
6) "Exhibition in a very appropriate place", Huddersfield Daily Examiner, Feb. 11, 2005
7) "Chemistry links?", Huddersfield Daily Examiner, Nov. 14, 2005
8) "Huddersfield: Industrial heartland", Huddersfield Daily Examiner, Nov. 14, 2005
9) "Yorkshire Racing People-Lionel & Brook Holliday", www.yorkshire-racing.co.uk
11) S. P. Waldram and S. Pardington, "Runaway Reaction During Production of an Azo Dye Intermediate", 2001;
12) "L. B. Holliday & Co. Establish Branch In Canada", American Dyestuff Reporter, Vol. 6, No. 8, February 23, 1920, p. 13
13) Maurice R. Fox, Dye-Makers of Great Britain 1856-1976, Imperial Chemical Industries PLC, Manchester, 1987
14) Thomas Jackson, personal communication, March 1, 2006
15) Robert Swan, personal communication, March 6, 2006
16) "No bet", The Gleaner (Kingston, Jamaica), January 6, 1966
ColorantsHistory.Org thanks Julia Clegg for supplying key information, photographs and artwork used in this history. We are grateful to Robert Swan for sharing his work experiences at
Holliday and to Thomas Jackson for researching the company history.
|View of Huddersfield Factories from Cowcliffe ca. 1916
Read Holliday Site in Far Left Background Amongst Smokestacks.
|Holliday Dyes and Chemicals Works
Huddersfield, United Kingdom
|Read Holliday (1809-1889)
Image Courtesy of Julia Clegg
|L. B. Holliday & Co. Ads for Heat Transfer Dyes
American Dyestuff Reporter 1974. Click to Enlarge
Reactor room was in tallest building in rear. Roof was
destroyed. Part of gearbox is in foreground. Two staffers
stand next to Engineering Offices struck by reactor lid.
Reactor room after 1996 explosion. Steel beams
cover hole in floor through which reactor was
projected. Metal cladding on building ripped off.
|Turnbridge Works, Huddersfield ca. 1865
Image: M.R. Fox, Dye-Makers of Great Britain 1856-1976
Image Copyright of ICI and Used with Permission
|Lionel Brook Holliday, Founder of L. B. Holliday and Co.
Photo: M.R. Fox, Dye-Makers of Great Britain 1856-1976
Photo Copyright of ICI and Used with Permission
|L. B. Holliday Co. Ltd. Dyes for Leather
Sales Catalogue Illustrates Bismarck Brown R Shade
Image: www.lib.udel.edu. Click to Enlarge
|Bismarck Brown R Chemical Structure
Trade Ad 1922-Click to Enlarge.
|Left: Trade Ad for Germol, A Mixture of Carbolic, Cresylic and Naphthenic Acids, Journal of the Comparitive Medicine and Vetinary Archives, Vol. 18, Philadelphia, 1897
Right: Original Glass Bottle for Germol. Photo Courtesy of Ian Lister.
By Robert J. Baptista, Revised Feb. 22. 2019
Copyright © 2019 ColorantsHistory.Org. All Rights Reserved.
Charles Holliday, son of Read Holliday, was a keen cricketer and supporter of football. He became president of the local Cricket and
Athletic Club, endowing the "Holliday Charities Cup" in 1885. This medal was awarded to 21 year old William Sykes in 1895. The back
is stamped with a number that reads RD 230701. With a magnifying glass the stamps at the bottom look like a lion, a 'b', an
anchor on its side, and the letters H.P. If you have information about this medal or Mr. Sykes, please contact ColorantsHistory.Org.
Photos courtesy of Janet Sykes.