Film ID:
NEFA 8765



Visitor Tabs


Billingham Film Unit cine magazine feature on the Research Department’s considerable importance on the ICI Billingham site, set out as if responding to workers’ complaints: “I’d like to know just what goes on there – if you ask me it’s a waste of space and building materials”. Chemists put an electron microscope and an X-ray diffraction camera to use to advance ICI production methods.

Titles play over views of cooling towers and warehouses.

Just Billingham
November 1948
Commentary spoken by John Snagge
Sound Recording
United Motion Pictures

The Billingham Story
The key to the future
Just Billingham No. 18

A high angle view of the 20 acres of silos, factories, workshops, offices, and towers of the Billingham Division Research Department opens the film.

Technical assistants in laboratory coats work at a bench surrounded by glass bottles of chemicals. A process operator turns a valve. A tradesman works with a spanner. An aerial, then overhead view of the Research Department site follows.

There is a close-up of Dr R. Holroyd, the Divisional Research Director’s office door, which then opens. The action passes through to the Research Manager’s Weekly Conference. Progress reports are presented by various heads of section who sit around Dr. Holroyd’s desk, some of them smoking. There are close-ups of documents leafed through.

Views of the coke ovens, steam billows against the skyline. A train pulls away very slowly, steam swirling around it. Further views of industrial apparatus follow.

Close-ups of a new “boiling beds” process where solid coal is circulated in continuous motion during a chemical reaction. A technician’s eyes follow rapidly rising level of a liquid in a glass tube during a scientific experiment. A man checks over a handwritten document.

The film meets the various constituent groups of the Moving Burden Panel. An overview of the technical drawings for the new Moving Burden plant is followed by close-ups of liquids and solids flowing through scientific equipment. The film then spotlights the large scale industrial application of these experiments, “a super model”, and shows various workers operating and monitoring the equipment.

Action returns to the Conference, with close-ups of participants’ faces and a demonstration of a new Perspex production method sketched on a blackboard.

View of the Petrol-From-Coal Plant, and the Cracking Plant.

A man works, surrounded by innumerable valves, levers, and gauges. Close-up of a circular analogue dial needle rapidly increasing, a second shot later shows the same dial needle spinning round and round.

Close-up of a blackboard sketch of Iranian Oil being imported to the ICI Wilton site on Teesside, with a link joining Billingham and Wilton.

Views of the concrete cooling towers which “were found to be seriously corroded”. A woman opens a chemical cupboard for a man who retrieves a glass bottle.

Laboratory scenes follow: petri dishes are scraped, a woman looks into a microscope, a tap streams water into a square sink. A microscopic close-up of bacteria follows. The laboratory’s new electron microscope is shown, and images retrieved from this equipment are thumbed through. A chemist in a white coat smokes a pipe while examining a report.

A man uses the ultra-violet spectrometer, followed by a close-up that records its output, “a sort of autograph of the substance under examination”.

Another man uses the X-ray diffraction camera, and the electron diffraction camera.

A man and a woman work on radioactive phosphorus, used in the study of “the uptake of fertilisers from the soil by growing plants”. They use equipment to count “the electrons emitted during radioactive breakdown of the sample”. There is a close-up of an analogue counter reading 793, and ticking up one number at a time to 813.

Further shots of the factory and its plant equipment from aerial, overhead, and general angles, as well as several quick close-ups of scientific experiments in progress, end the film.

Title: A Billingham Film
Title: The End