A history of Welwyn Garden City and British Lead Mills ahead of 90th anniversary

British Lead Mills Welwyn Garden City

The British Lead Mills site back when it opened in 1932. - Credit: Our Welwyn Garden City

With the British Lead Mills in Welwyn Garden City celebrating its 90th anniversary in June, we look at the history of the site.

Incorporated on June 23, 1932, the plant was constructed on a plot of land at the corner of Bridge Road East and Peartree Lane after directors agreed on a lease in the town, with the factory fully operational by 1933.

British Lead Mills’ early history was one filled with takeover bids, including a firmly rejected offer from Associated Lead Manufacturers Ltd in December 1932.

The company continued to trade successfully manufacturing lead sheet and pipe for a number of industries, although there was plenty of pre-war concerns about the importing of lead products from Europe.

British Lead Mills Welwyn Garden City

An aerial view of the BLM site in the 1970s. - Credit: Our Welwyn Garden City

During the Second World War, the Welwyn Garden City factory continued to operate, but switch activities towards the war effort with the production of lead rod for bullet manufacture.

There were concerns within the company though about being entirely dependent on other lead manufacturers for the supply of the refined product, with a proposal approved by the British Lead Mills board in October 1941 to recover lead from scrap.

At the end of the conflict, business returned to normal with sheet production ramping up at the end of the decade and the start of the Cold War as demand exceeding supply.

British Lead Mills Welwyn Garden City

The BLM site in Peartree Lane. - Credit: Our Welwyn Garden City

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This led to a number of changes to the company, including the acquisition of the Firth Company Ltd in 1948, a manufacture of steel wire and rope. This led to the significant growth in the variety of products produced by the new company.

The key decision to purchase a Morgan Crucible Rotary Furnace was made in 1951, which allowed waste from smelting and refining operations could be recovered.

This decision brought the company’s refining, smelting, milling and extruding processes closer to how they operate today.

Throughout the 1950s, 60s and 70s, British Lead Mills was acquired by a number of companies, and as it celebrates turning 90 years old it moves into a new era once again, with the company set to be taken over and renamed Ecobat.

British Lead Mills Welwyn Garden City

Milling operations back in 2012. - Credit: Our Welwyn Garden City