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Britain's lost munitions factories

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The UK-wide Home Front Legacy project, coordinated by the Council for British Archaeology, is calling on volunteers to help track down a series of lesser-known ‘National’ munitions factories created to kickstart the war effort. These sites can often be difficult to pinpoint, as existing factories tended to be repurposed for war work, rather than being purpose built. 

Often, very little of the original fabric of the building survives so company records and, critically, local knowledge are likely to be the most useful source of information. Can you help? 

Of the 170 factories we have been researching, the following are the most elusive;

  • HM Explosives Factory Colnbrook (Belgian govenment guncotton works)
  • National Filling factories at: Abbey Wood no. 11 (Kings Norton Metal Co.) & Southwark no. 8 (Sumner street)
  • Trench Warfare Filling Factory Fulham (Stevenage Road)
  • National Small Arms Ammunition Factory Coundon (Coventry) – a very small factory that employed only 78 people
  • Chemical Warfare Factory Langley (Birmingham)
  • National Gauge Factories at: Croydon (Gloucester Road, Vidal Engineering Co.) & Kilburn (Fairfax Yard)
  • National Tool Factory Gateshead (Coulthards Lane)
  • National Salvage Depots, where material recovered from battlefields was sorted and repaired for re-use. Often located in ports, we are hoping to track down sites at: Blyth, Immingham, Ridham & Trafford Park
  • National Cartridge and Box Repair Factory Dagenham Dock
  • National Gun Carriage Repair Factory Southampton (Empress Road)
  • National Box Factories at: Castleford, Leeds (J H Abrahams Ltd Wellington Strret), Lechworth, Liverpool (Brasenose Road Bootle), Luton, Woolwich (Watt Torrance and Co. Trinity Street), Guildford (Walnut Tree Close) & Maidstone
  • Willesden (Park Royal) Non-returnable Box Depot
  • National Steel Billet Breaking Factory Trafford Park
  • Cotton Waste Mills, used to process cotton waste for the manufacture of explosives. Typically these were existing Textile mills. We are seeking information on:
  • Cloughfold Mills in Rawtenstall
  • Hall's Mill in Whaley Bridge. 
  • National Fuse Filling Factory, Chaul End, Bedfordshire. This had a special railway station was built for the workers. The station is now disused but its location is recorded, however where the factory lay in relation to the station is still unknown

An outline of the different types of factories can be found at:

To get involved in the Home Front Legacy project and build a fuller picture of your local area’s involvement in the First World War, and update local and national records visit: You can also follow the project on Twitter: @homefrontlegacy

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