Kynoch Limited – Thames Explosives Works – Kynochtown

An artist’s impression of the Thames Explosives Works, c.1899. 

Facility Type & Function:

A privately operated explosives works belonging to Kynoch Limited. Initially engaged in the manufacture of cordite, gun cotton, gunpowder, cartridges and later, in the Great War, additionally produced shell cases, acetone and detonators also.

Brief History:

In 1895 the Birmingham based company of Kynoch & Company (Kynoch Limited after 1897) purchased Borley Farm which comprised 750 acres of land along Shell Haven Creek on the north banks of the River Thames to the south-east of Corringham.

With the advent of the Boer War demand for Kynoch’s traditional cartridge products had significantly risen allowing them to expand their operations. Production at the new site, known as the Thames Explosive Works, commenced in 1897. In addition to cartridges the works also initially produced cordite, gun cotton and gunpowder. By 1899 the works employed 600 people.

A 1910s postcard image of the outside gates of the Thames Explosive Works. The lions on each side of the gate columns being a direct reference to Kynoch Limited’s lion trade mark and a copy of that above their main works site at in Witton, Birmingham. 

With the outbreak of the Great War demand and production of cartridges on the site rose from 3.0 million to 7.5 million a week and additional munitions related products were manufactured. These included acetone, shell cases and detonators.  Staffing level at the site rose to the order of 5 to 6,000, most of whom were women. At the end of the war demand for the work’s products collapsed resulting in its closure in January 1919. with much of the site’s machinery, wooden buildings and other facilities being publicly sold in a 4 day sale held in November of the same year.

The Thames Explosive Works & Koynochtown. Ordnance Survey Map of 1915-19.

Like other munitions works of the Great War period the site’s workforce comprised a high proportion of women from the local area. While some of the local employees travelled to work via company owned lorries many of others travelled in and out of the site, along with raw materials and products,  via works passenger trains on the Corringham Light Railway. This purpose built line served the sites needs and connect it to the national rail network.

Like other such explosives works the site was extremely well equipped and many of the working areas were protected behind blast proof earth bunds. In addition to specialist production areas the works was served by its own internal and external road network, security gate house, power station, offices, warehouses, jetty, male and female worker’s canteens, laboratory, ambulance station and locomotive sheds.

Women workers at the Thames Explosives Works, c.1910s

As the war progressed and demand for the work’s products increased, as did its labour requirements. In response to this Kynoch built a dedicated workers colony to the south west of the site. This became know as Kynoch Town or Kynochtown. Although largely constructed of wooden huts and sheds in addition to the segregated men’s and women’s accommodation blocks Kynochtown also comprised its own railway station,  post office, general stores, Worker’s Institute, school, hospital, Y.M.C.A., cinema, managers houses, sporting facilities (which served the work’s own ladies football team) and a large recreation hall were social events were regularly held.

The Thames Explosives Works’ Gate House and Y.M.C.A. hut, c.1910s.

On nearby Canvey Island the company also built its own works hotel for the use of visiting salesmen and company officials.

The Kynoch Hotel on Canvey Island, c.1910s.

Like other munitions works of the time the shift hours were long and the work could be dangerous, although reasonably paid. In keeping with other similar industrially sensitive sites the works were also permanently guard by the army. The additional threat from Zeppelin raids was also a real one and during air raids the workers often evacuated onto the nearby marshes for safety.

The women’s site canteen at the Thames Explosive Works, c.1910s

The site of the Works was later sold to Cory Brothers Limited of Cardiff who later built an oil refinery on the site which became know as Corytown or Coryton as it is still known today despite the closure of the refinery in 2012.

For more on the site’s history on the “Gramophone” image below where a web link will taken the reader to an oral history recording about the works which is part of the BBC Radio’s “World War I at Home” Series.

Location Details:

Coryton, Corringham Marshes, Essex, England

Associated Token, Check & Pass Issues:

Check types 2, 3, and possibly 5 could equally belong to Kynoch Limited’s initial factory, the Lion Works located at Witton in Birmingham. Check type 5 is arguably more likely to be from the Thames Works as the time checks used at the Lion Works were identified as such on their reverse sides.

Type I

Function: Pay Collection Identification Check

Material: Brass

Design: Bi-facial with a plain edge

Shape & Size: Circular,  37.0 mm

Obverse: Raised legend upper half reads KYNOCH LIMITED  and in the centre field the stamped number 485 above a raised line below which a legend reads PAY CHECK , all within an outer raised edge border.

Reverse:  Raised legend around THAMES EXPLOSIVE WORKS followed by a rosette motif.  Incusely stamped within the centre field a lion’s head facing left around which, in two concentric circles is the legend KYNOCH LTD TRADE MARK.

Date: 1897 to 1919

Maker: Unknown

Published References:  Adams, S. J – The Essex Collection – Post 1820 Tokens, Tallies & Medallions. Private Publication. 2014. No. A1660.

Type 2

(Image courtesy of Stuart Adams)

Function: Unknown

Material: Tin plated iron

Design: Uniface with a plain edge and upper suspension hole

Shape & Size: Circular,  31.2 mm

Obverse: Legend around upper half reads KYNOCH LIMITED with a large raised number 1 in the centre field below which is a lion’s head facing left with the words TRADE and MARK either side of it.

Reverse:  Blank

Date: 1897 to 1919(?)

Maker: Unknown

Published References:  Adams, S. J – The Essex Collection – Post 1820 Tokens, Tallies & Medallions. Private Publication. 2014. No. A1672.

Type 3

Function: Unknown

Material: Tin plated iron

Design: Uniface with a plain edge and upper suspension hole

Shape & Size: Circular,  31.2 mm

Obverse: Legend around upper half reads KYNOCH LIMITED with a large raised number 2 in the centre field below which is a lion’s head facing left with the words TRADE and MARK either side of it.

Reverse:  Blank

Date: 1897 to 1919(?)

Maker: Unknown

Published References:  Adams, S. J – The Essex Collection – Post 1820 Tokens, Tallies & Medallions. Private Publication. 2014. No. A1673.

Type 4

Function: Time Registration Check

Material: Brass

Design: Uniface with a plain edge and upper suspension hole (Note 1)

Shape & Size: Circular,  32.3 mm

Obverse: Legend around upper half reads * KYNOCH LIMITED * and around lower half TIME CHECK with a stamped number 381 above a raised line in the centre field plus above the stamped letters Y and L (inverted).

Reverse:  Blank (Note 1)

Date: 1897 to 1919(?)

Maker: Unknown

Published References:  Adams, S. J – The Essex Collection – Post 1820 Tokens, Tallies & Medallions. Private Publication. 2014. No. A1661.

Type 5

NO IMAGE AVAILABLE

Function: Canteen/Refreshment Token (Note 2)

Material: Unknown

Design: Bi-facial with a plain edge

Shape & Size: Circular,  34.7 mm

Obverse: Raised legend around outer edge and within an outer beaded border and inner circle reads – KYNOCK LIMITED – THAMES DINING HALL . In small raised letters around bottom of inner circle is the maker’s signature SALE . BIRM 

Reverse: 6D mark of value in centre field within outer beaded border.

Date: 1897 to 1919

Maker: H.B. Sale Limited of Birmingham

Published References:  Adams, S. J – The Essex Collection – Post 1820 Tokens, Tallies & Medallions. Private Publication. 2014. No. A1669.

Type 6

Function: Canteen/Refreshment Token (Note 2)

Material: Cupro-nickel

Design: Bi-facial with a plain edge

Shape & Size: Circular,  34.7 mm

Obverse: Raised legend around outer edge and within an outer beaded border and inner circle reads – KYNOCK LIMITED – THAMES DINING HALL . In small raised letters around bottom of inner circle is the maker’s signature SALE . BIRM 

Reverse: 3D mark of value in centre field within outer beaded border.

Date: 1897 to 1919

Maker: H.B. Sale Limited of Birmingham

Published References:  Adams, S. J – The Essex Collection – Post 1820 Tokens, Tallies & Medallions. Private Publication. 2014. No. A1668.

Type 7

Function: Canteen/Refreshment Token (Note 2)

Material: Brass

Design: Bi-facial with a plain edge

Shape & Size: Circular,  34.7 mm

Obverse: Raised legend around outer edge and within an outer beaded border and inner circle reads – KYNOCK LIMITED – THAMES DINING HALL . In small raised letters around bottom of inner circle is the maker’s signature SALE . BIRM 

Reverse: 2D mark of value in centre field within outer beaded border.

Date: 1897 to 1919

Maker: H.B. Sale Limited of Birmingham

Published References:  Adams, S. J – The Essex Collection – Post 1820 Tokens, Tallies & Medallions. Private Publication. 2014. No. A1667.

Type 8

Function: Canteen/Refreshment Token (Note 2)

Material: Brass

Design: Bi-facial with a plain edge

Shape & Size: Circular,  34.7 mm

Obverse: Raised legend around outer edge and within an outer beaded border and inner circle reads – KYNOCK LIMITED – THAMES DINING HALL . In small raised letters around bottom of inner circle is the maker’s signature SALE . BIRM 

Reverse: 1D mark of value in centre field within outer beaded border.

Date: 1897 to 1919

Maker: H.B. Sale Limited of Birmingham

Published References:  Adams, S. J – The Essex Collection – Post 1820 Tokens, Tallies & Medallions. Private Publication. 2014. No. A1666.

Type 9

Function: Canteen/Refreshment Token (Note 2)

Material: Brass

Design: Bi-facial with a plain edge

Shape & Size: Circular,  34.7 mm

Obverse: Raised legend around outer edge and within an outer beaded border and inner circle reads – KYNOCK LIMITED – THAMES DINING HALL . In small raised letters around bottom of inner circle is the maker’s signature SALE . BIRM 

Reverse: 1/2D mark of value in centre field within outer beaded border.

Date: 1897 to 1919

Maker: H.B. Sale Limited of Birmingham

Published References:  Adams, S. J – The Essex Collection – Post 1820 Tokens, Tallies & Medallions. Private Publication. 2014. No. A1665.


Notes:

  1. This time check appears to have been re-struck on an earlier tool check as indicated by the remains of the following raised legend around its upper edge on its reverse side; FITTERS SHOP and across the centre field TOOLS and at the base an ornamental design.
  2. The exact location of the Thames Dining Hall referred to in this token is unknown but it is possible that it may be identified with either the men’s or women’s site canteens which are highlighted in the site map below in blue and red respectively.

 Parts of the Thames Explosive Works and Kynochtown, c.1919 indicating the men’s and women’s site canteens in blue and red respectively.

The women’s site canteen at the Thames Explosives Works, c.1910s.


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