William Henry Perkin: The site of the factory and the grave.

William Henry Perkin is a local chemical hero of mine. The factory where he founded the British (nay, the World) fine organic chemicals industry is in Greenford, just up the road from where we live. The factory used to be close to the Black Horse pub (see below) on the banks of the grand union canal. It is now commemorated merely by a blue plaque placed on the wall of the modern joinery building occupying the location (circled in red on the photo).

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But when BBC TV contacted me to ask where his grave was, a little detective work was needed to track it down to the cemetery in Christchurch, Roxeth (near Harrow-on-the-Hill). 

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And if you ever need to track me down, my office window is the one with the translucent image of a mauveine molecular orbital.

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6 Responses to “William Henry Perkin: The site of the factory and the grave.”

  1. Henry Rzepa says:

    About a year ago, a new high school opened, south of Perkin's factory in Greenford and taking his name. The school crest is interesting; I don't suppose too many school crests incorporate a molecule! This one is of course aniline (and not the mauveine from which Perkin's fame accrues). I do wonder however why they did not pick p-toluidine instead of aniline, which molecule of course is where all those methyl groups in mauveine come. Perhaps there is also a subtle celebration of G. N. Lewis and the shared electron bond there as well (X:X)?

  2. Jim Edwards says:

    When I was young we lived at 459 Oldfield Road just up the road from the BlackHorse pub – now opposite the gates of GSK. It is now a Vets surgery. Anyway we were told that William Perkin once lived in that house – it is a very grand victorian place – but I never proved whether that was true.


    Jim Edwards.

  3. Henry Rzepa says:

    Today, March 12th, 2018, Google celebrate the 180th anniversary of William Perkin’s birth.


    I was a chemistry student at the RCS from 1953-1956. Perkin’s discoveries and achievements were constantly brought to our attention . I hope they still are. I used to live in Ealing and having talked to the local U3A group where I now live (Dacorum) and pointing out the worldwide significance of his discovery. I thought I would like to give a talk to my old contacts in Ealing on Zoom, pointing out that the borough where they live was once the centre of the synthetic dyes industry. If you have any material relating to Perkin’s Greenford factory, I should be very appreciative.

    As an aside, I could let you have an amusing anecdote relating to his centenary in 1956, if you are interetsed.

  5. Henry Rzepa says:

    Greetings Norman!

    Great to hear from you. I still go in regularly to the chemistry dept, but suspect that mention of Perkin nowadays is not as frequent as it once used to be.

    Your anecdote relating to 1956 is eagerly anticipated. I too give “in-person” talks about Perkin, most recently at the new William Perkin school “6th form” and also as it happens on the occasion of the Winchester Fashion event. These last three years or so its been Zoom. I have a ppt slide show with photos/drawings of the factory. I am in Germany at the moment, but will dig something out on my return

  6. Olwyn says:

    Hi, is this the dye works which was used as a chemical filling station from Jan 1917. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Filling_factories_in_the_United_Kingdom “Also known as Chemical Shell Assembling Station. Formerly Greenford dye works.”

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