Bricklined wooden vat

Earlu 20th Century in unknown place

This bricklined wooden vat with stirrer was built at some point between the late 19th century and early 20th century at the Levenstein/Blackley dyeworks which was based in Manchester.

The vat is approximately 12 feet in diameter and 5 feet and 20 inches high and weighs approximately 4 and half tons. The exterior is made of wooden planks held in place by metal hooping, whilst the interior walls is lined with red bricks. A motor is set on top of the vat to facilitate pump the mixture in and out of the vat, and to power the internal stirrer.

This bricklined vat was originally installed at the Imperial Chemical Industries’ Blackley dyeworks which was located in Manchester, for purpose of producing ‘Kromaline’. The Blackley dyeworks was once one of the country’s oldest and historically significant sites of industrial chemistry and was previously the Levenstein Ltd dyeworks which had been in operation since the 1830s.

During the first half of the 20th century was a major producer of ‘Kromaline’, a type of sulphonated cod liver oil. Kromaline was used to treat leather to make it more durable, elastic and pliable, and was produced by mixing cod liver oil with a prepared sulphonic acid solution which would chemically alter and ‘sulphonate’ the oil.

The mixture would then be neutralized and stabilised over the course of two days with the help of diluted salt and caustic solutions. Finally, the finished Kromaline would be pumped to vats like this one, which were kept in an external storage shed. The whole process took approximately two and half days and would also produce by-product oils which were also useful such as Turkey Red Oil or Oleine sulphonation.

The Blackley dyeworks was finally closed in the 1980s after nearly 150 years of history, by this point operating as Imperial Chemical Industries’ organics research division.


Industrial Chemistry
Object Number:
wood (unidentified), metal (unknown) and brick
overall: 1778 mm, 3657.6 mm, 4.5 t
ICI Ltd. (Organics Division)