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This article is about the company. For the medieval village, see Whessoe (deserted village).
Industry Metal engineering
Predecessors W & A Kitching
Founded 1890
Headquarters Darlington, County Durham, UK

Whessoe is a company based in Darlington and on Teesside in North East England. It was formerly a supplier of chemical, oil and nuclear plant and instrumentation, and today is a manufacturer of low temperature storage.


Background – W. and A. Kitching[edit]

The Whessoe Company traces its origins back to an iron foundry shop founded in 1790. The family business was inherited by William Kitching (d. 1850) and Alfred Kitchin (1808–1882), both Quakers, who established the Hope Town Foundry in Darlington in 1832.[1][2][map 1]

Both William and Alfred Kitching were on the board of the Stockton and Darlington Railway, as well as being shareholders or its subsidiaries.[3] and the company built several locomotives for the company, including subcontracted manufacturing and repair work from Timothy Hackworth.[4] 0-6-0 Hackworth designed "Tory" class locomotive "Derwent", built 1845 is preserved as part of the National collection.[5]

In 1860 the 'Hope Town Foundry' site was sold to the Stockton and Darlington Railway allowing the S&DR to extend its own site (see Hopetown Carriage Works), the works and equipment was moved to another site (later known as the Whessoe Foundry) also in Darlington.[map 2] In 1861 A. Kitching was recorded as employing 45 people.[1]

The business passed from the Kitchings to their cousin Charles I'anson.[2][6] The term 'Whessoe Foundry' was first applied to Charles Ianson & Company in the 1860s, the name Whessoe being a locality name applied to the foundry.[7]

From 1850 to 1890 the company expanded into the manufacture of steel structures, cranes, and gas works equipment.[8] In 1881 the company became a limited liability company.[9]

Whessoe Foundry Company[edit]

In 1890 the Whessoe Foundry Company Limited was formed, and in 1920 the company was publicly listed on the London Stock Exchange as Whessoe Foundry and Engineering Co Ltd,[8][10] Shell acquired 51% of the shares.[11] From 1890 onwards the company became focused on equipment for the gas and oil industries, such as gas holders,[8] as well as making tunnel linings for underground railways,[9] and later expanded into equipment for the nuclear and petrochemical industries.[8]

In the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s the company split into various specialist divisions and then ultimately into Whessoe LGA Gas Technology Ltd which specialised in cryogenic and LT (low temperature) storage and capital construction projects and Whessoe Varec.[citation needed] Whessoe Varec focused on marine tanker and tank farm inventory management systems, providing complete solutions for inventory management, loss control, tank gauging and environmental safety, both onshore and offshore.[citation needed] Throughout this period the Heavy Engineering Divisions were major contractors in offshore construction, hydro-electric scheme penstocks,[citation needed] and in nuclear power, being involved with the design and construction of reactor vessels for most British stations from Calder Hall to the AGR (Advanced gas-cooler reactors) at Hunterston B and Hinkley B.[12] To reduce site construction these later AGR reactor vessels were fabricated at Darlington, constructed under cover at Dock Point on Teesside and floated to the construction sites on large barges. Many highly specialised products such as emergency coolers for nuclear submarines, submarine escape facilities, wind tunnels and nuclear fuel transportation flasks were also made on a 'jobbing' basis in the Darlington factory.[citation needed]

Whessoe LGA[edit]

Whessoe LGA Gas Technology retained its headquarters in Darlington, no longer with a factory but with construction operations world wide. This company was owned by the German company Preussag Noell, it was then bought by Skanska and still operates (2008) now under Arabic ownership in the field of cryogenic and LT storage as Whessoe Oil and Gas.[13]

Whessoe Varec[edit]

In 1997 Endress+Hauser acquired Whessoe Varec.[11]


  1. ^ a b Sources:
  2. ^ a b Sources:
  3. ^ Maurice W. Kirby (1993 [2002]), The Origins of Railway Enterprise, Appendix 2 "Directors and senior salaried officials of the Stockton and Darlington Railway Company, 1825–1962", p.184; see also p.118, 188
  4. ^ Maurice W. Kirby (1993 [2002]), The Origins of Railway Enterprise, pp.67, 104–5
  5. ^ Sources:
  6. ^ "British locomotive manufacturers", www.steamindex.com, I'Anson, C. & Co, Hope Town Foundry, Darlington 
  7. ^ Wood R 'History of Whessoe' (unpublished MSS: 1954) DCRO
  8. ^ a b c d "Company History", www.whessoe.co.uk (Whessoe Projects Ltd.), retrieved April 2012 
  9. ^ a b "Whessoe Foundry", www.gracesguide.co.uk, retrieved 17 April 2012 
  10. ^ "Whessoe", www.gracesguide.co.uk, retrieved 17 April 2012 
  11. ^ a b "Whessoe Varec Europe", www.whessoevarec.com, retrieved April 2012 
  12. ^ "Growth in Nuclear Reactor Pressure Vessels (advert)". New Scientist 23 (407). 3 September 1964. ISSN 0262-4079. 
  13. ^ Whessoe Oil & Gas Ltd[dead link]


Map locations[edit]

External links[edit]