CHAPTER 4 : 1859-1878


The activities of the Johnson brothers during this period are described in Chapter 6. After their downfall their company, the Runcorn Soap & Alkali Company, prospered for a time, the years 1865-1875 seeing a boom in the Leblanc industry after the ending of the American Civil War. The company was one of the largest in the Widnes and Runcorn area, its activity being almost as great as the two largest Widnes factories, Hutchinson & Co. and Gaskell-Deacon & Co. Production of alkali reached a peak in the late 1870s1 .

In 1860, three former employees of the Johnsons went into partnership and set up a business at Old Quay on the bank of the Old Quay canal to make soap and to extract copper. The partners were Neil Matheson and Duncan McKecknie, both Scotsmen who originated in the same Scottish village and who were both managers at Johnson's, together with Charles Wigg, their agent in Liverpool. Soap production was soon abandoned and the business concentrated on the production of copper .2

As the Johnson brothers had been criticised for pollution, so was Charles Wigg. The lands and mansion of Sir Richard Brooke at Norton Priory were directly in the line of the prevailing wind from Wigg's works and he demanded retribution for the damage caused to his crops3 .

After the fall of the Johnsons, the Runcorn Soap and Alkali Company stopped making soap and concentrated in the production of heavy chemicals, including sulphuric acid, hydrochloric acid, saltcake and bleaching powder4 .

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