Nobel Enterprises (phonetic: [nobél]) is a chemicals business that used to be based at Ardeer, near to the North Ayrshire town of Stevenston in Scotland. Specializing in nitrogen-based propellants and explosives and nitrocellulose-based products such as varnishes and inks. It was formerly ICI Nobel, a division of the chemicals group ICI, but was then sold to Inabata, a Japanese trading firm. The business was sold on to Chemring Group in 2005 and is now a Scottish Company (Chemring Energetics UK Ltd) part of Chemring Group.
Nobel Industries Limited was founded in 1870 by Swedish chemist and industrialist Alfred Nobel for the production of the new explosive dynamite. Ardeer, on the coast at Ayrshire, was chosen for the company's first factory. The business later diversified into the production of blasting gelatine, gelignite, ballistite, guncotton, and cordite. At its peak, the factory employed nearly 13,000 men and women.
In 1926, the firm merged with Brunner, Mond & Company, the United Alkali Company, and the British Dyestuffs Corporation, creating a new group, Imperial Chemical Industries, then one of Britain's largest firms. Nobel Industries continued as the ICI Nobel division of the company.
ICI Ardeer was commonly known locally as the 'factory' or the 'Dinnamite'. At the time the company generally provided higher quality employment regarding terms and conditions and pension rights than other local firms. At its peak, the site employed almost 13,000 workers in a fairly remote location and the Ardeer site was almost like a community, and there were so many people employed there that a bank, travel agent and dentist were at one time based on the site.
The former Western Scottish Bus Company provided tens of buses per day to transport the workers to and from the site, and there were even two trains per day to transport workers to a station within the factory which was used solely for workers and any special visitors with business in the ICI plant, and was never a regular passenger stop. Until the mid-1960s, there were two trains per day to transport workers. Although the line no longer exists, the abandoned platform remains, hidden beneath dense undergrowth.
In 2002 the division, now named Nobel Enterprises, was sold to Inabata.
On 8 September 2007 a major fire was reported at the site when 1,500-1,700 tons of nitrocellulose, stored in an open area, caught fire. There was little property damage and no serious injuries.
The site is now a flourishing energetics business employing some 300 people a Scottish Company part of Chemring Group a LSE Public Company.
Updated April 2016
- Dolan, John E. and Oglethorpe, Miles K. (1996). Explosives in the Service of Man: Ardeer and the Nobel Heritage. Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland. ISBN 0-7480-5811-7.
- McSherry, R. & M. (1998). Old Stevenston, Stenlake Publishing, Catrine.
- Miles, F.D. (1955). A History of Research in the Nobel Division of I.C.I.. Stevenston: Imperial Chemical Industries Limited, Nobel Division.
- Reader, W.J. (1970). Imperial Chemical Industries. A History: Volume 1. The Forerunners 1870-1926. London: Oxford University Press.
- BBC report of the 2007 fire