Memories of ICI

By Pat Thomas

I joined ICI in September 1964 straight from WGC Grammar School.  I was thrilled to follow my sister’s footsteps and was given a place in ICI Plastics Division Secretarial Training School which was situated alongside the Technical Services Building.  I remember having to pass an entrance ‘exam’ which allowed me to do Pitmans shorthand as well.  I can remember having lessons in the morning and then being assigned to other departments in the afternoon and I was sent to the Photographic and Printing Section.  I recall our typing teacher being very strict and we were not allowed to look at the keys as we typed.  We typed to a metronome and used old fashioned typewriters where you had to change the ribbon spools.  I still have the love of typing and am still office based and use the keyboard every day, as well as using my Pitmans shorthand.  After completing the secretarial training most girls were placed in a typing pool and I can remember being there for just a couple of weeks before I was given a post within the Engineering Department.  Whilst I was in the typing pool I can remember typing up the menus for the Director’s dining room and the staff canteen.  My sister had been working in Fluon Technical Services and when she took another post in another department I was fortunate enough to get the job that she had vacated and I worked in Fluon Tech Services until 1972 when my husband and I moved from Welwyn Garden City and I transferred to the Manchester Sales Office.  My days at ICI were the happiest of my life and I remember my work colleagues with great affection.  When I left Welwyn I kept in touch with my head of department after his retirement and did meet up with him and his wife many years later.  Technical Services was a long building and the offices were on one floor with the labs on the floor below.  I don’t know how many miles we used to walk around the building and around the whole site.  Every day the tea trolley was a highlight with the tea lady coming round in the morning with freshly made rolls and in the afternoon the trolley was laden with cakes.  We so looked forward to the tea trolley.  I also remember an ICI house being on the site and I used to act as a photographic model and have photos of me hanging out washing on a washing line and another unloading shopping within the ICI house kitchen.  For several summers I also remember being seconded to work for a couple of the ICI Directors when their secretaries were on annual leave.  This was regarded as a great honour. I met my husband at ICI.  He was working in Research Department and attending Hatfield Technical College.  He used to play rugby for ICI and we have several newspaper cuttings of the ICI team in action. In those days if you worked overtime, on top of being paid for the hours that you worked you also got food provided. I also remember an explosion occurring on site probably in the 1960’s.  Sadly, a man who lived a few doors away from us was killed and I remember he had young children. I often think of those who I worked with at ICI – so many names, and so many faces – they were such happy days and I can still remember all the different plastic smells as you walked along the Tech Service corridor.

This page was added on 22/08/2012.

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  • How lovely to go back into this site after some years and re-read my original posting and all the subsequent posts. I remember Mr Colpus who died as I also lived in Pippens (No 2) and I can remember the family well. A lot of the people that I worked with are now well into retirement or, sadly, have passed away. However, memories never fade and I am so thankful that I worked in such a wonderful and happy place for nine years . How many people can say that about their job these days!!

    By Pat Thomas (28/09/2023)
  • The man killed in the ICI explosion was actually called Edward George Colpus (not Tom) who left behind his wife Roselyn and 3 young children: Lorraine, Deborah and Ralph Colpus (my father who was only 4 at the time).

    By Hannah Colpus (27/09/2023)
  • My father Ian clarke worked at ici Wilton all his life from the age of 17 to 71 he was very badly injured in the 1969 explosion which resulted in him being skin grafted from head to foot and spending months in recovery ici was his life

    By Heather clarke (08/06/2023)
  • Comment submitted on behalf of Alan Newbold:

    Was very pleased to find this as a couple of former colleagues have also contributed. I visited WGC from Mond Division to scale up Haloflex from the lab 5 litre autoclave in Runcorn to 100 litre scale in the semi-tech plant. I was a 16 years old lab assistant and accompanied Dave Cornwell and Ray Evans. Derek Law was a shift team leader at the plant and years later joined us at Runcorn Heath when the WGC plant was closed. Ray Harvey, Martin Woodall, Adrian Pusey and many others too.

    By Marion Hill (15/10/2021)
  • I joined as a student apprentice in September 1959 at their training school. Day release in WGC college building, old Nissan huts until moving to New Campus buildings and later Hatfield Technical College, Spent time in Alkathene Processing and Site Services Drawing Offices. DO, dominated by contract draughtsmen, whom I had to “train“ to ICI standards. Such rigid pay scales only based on age so left in 1964 for Norton Abrasives just down the road. Another company who managed to destroy itself in WGC. No regrets, basic engineering training has proved excellent in future work, especially in Europe.

    By Ken Doggrell (13/03/2021)
  • It is nice for me to revisit this site and to see the comments made since my posting in 2012. I think we can all look back and be grateful for having the opportunity to work for such a great company. I worked with so many wonderful people and made many wonderful friends. I often wonder how their lives turned out. I can picture them all so clearly. If anyone can remember me I was Pat Bird in those days . It would be lovely to hear from anyone

    By Pat Thomas (17/08/2020)
  • Regarding the explosion at ICI Plastics in the 1960’s. The man who was killed was called Tom Colpus. He lived in Pippens. He left a wife and three children, two girls and a boy. I lived in Pippens with my parents and I went to Monks Walk School.

    By Keith Whye (11/08/2020)
  • My father Geoff Arm worked for many years at ICI as did my sister Sharon who was a typist & my brother Steven who was a plumber. I remember the Christmas parties with great affection during the 60s.
    If anyone out there remembers my dad please get in touch…
    [You can do this by sending your message to Thanks, Ed]

    By Denise SPARROW (13/02/2020)
  • I started in the Research 3 building in 1964. The explosion occured in the PU plant and sadly only at least one operator was killed. But it could have been much worse. I was working on the bottom floor of the building. But the explosion was on a Sunday. So only the operators were there. If it had been a weekday I would have been killed as the outoclave fell through 4 (?) steel floors and buried itself where I used to stand.

    By Chris Murray (28/10/2019)
  • Hi Chris, thank you for sharing. That must have been a horrible time, and to know that circumstances could have been different for you. Ed.

    By Jenny Dart (14/11/2019)
  • Hello Brian Snowden my name is Simon Griffin I was your apprentice in 1975 under Eddie Wilde. What are you up to these days. I was in Welwyn Garden this week and was horrified to see Nabisco under demolition. My father was an Engineer there when I was born in 1958.

    By Simon Griffin (18/05/2019)
  • I am an I.C.I baby through and through. My father was Ray Richards, in senior management Plastics c.1967-8. His secretary was Helen Anderson. Anyone remember him?

    By John Richards (11/06/2016)
  • Anybody remember Linda Thomas worked as a typist about 1965-1967 l believe she emigrated to Australia,she lived in Heronswood gardens about this time,l would like to know how she got on.

    By Bernard Knight (21/03/2016)
  • Hi everyone out there, I joined the site as an electrician in 1975 and still use the club house (shire park club) now.

    BUT NOT MUCH LONGER the club will close in June 2016 the last ICI building left.

    there is going to be a last ICI party there in June, please anyone who knows ex employees let them no and watch this space for further info.

    By Brian Snowden (15/03/2016)
  • I saw an advertisement in the newspaper (Welwyn Times?) in 1969 asking for a secretary at ICI.  I worked at Nabisco back then, and I had no idea that ICI had its own secretarial school, and  did not recruit secretaries/typists from the surrounding areas!  Unless, of course, there was a very unusual circumstance.  I applied for the post, and I got it!  I soon found out why they advertised outside the site!  No one wanted the job!  I set to work for Dr D K Baird in Tech Services…. anyone who ever worked for him needs no explanation!  He was a nightmare!  However, I adored the site, and loved working for ICI.  After Dr Baird ‘sacked’ me, I was moved to Tewin Road in the Engineering Department, as under?-secretary to Miss Ellis who worked for Mr Dineen (spelling?  This WAS a long time ago!).  When they moved away from Tewin Road back to the main site, I elected to stay on to work for Mr Ken Gee and the engineers and the drawing office who moved in.  That is how I met my future husband, David Boden.  I moved up north to Hillhouse and eventually worked for first Mond Division, then Plastics Construction, and I was the secretary there when ‘Corvic’ 9 was built.  David and I have been married for 43 years now; he is retired – but I still work in a secretarial capacity (for a Catholic priest!) to keep us in the manner to which we have become accustomed….. ICI was the very best company to work for IN THE WORLD.  How very sad that it went belly up.  I think everyone who worked for that company will have brilliant memories of how good it was.  There will never be another like it.  (And yes, I remember the tea trolley too – how I missed it at Tewin Road!)

    By Liz Boden (29/01/2016)
  • Hi, I went to the ICI Secretarial Training School in the late 1970’s and the shorthand style then was Greg Simplified I believe.  I worked there for a couple of years after graduating where I met my husband (an Australian who was working in the IT dept) and I now live in Australia.  

    By Denise Hughes (Covell) (05/01/2016)
  • Like you Pat, I left from Welwyn Garden City Grammar School with O Levels in 1958 whilst working part-time at Welwyn Coachworks. I left Welwyn Coachworks that September, and started working at Imperial Chemical Plastics (ICI) in November 1958 in the Photographic and Printing Section. I worked printing and copying various papers, contracts etc for the company that had been typed by the various typists – oh happy days! I left ICI in 1961 and went to Polypenco.

    By George Boston (20/08/2015)
  • My father left Murphy Radios in 1964 and went to work for ICI Welwyn in the Engineering Department. He was there for 11 years and then retired. Dad was an engineer all his working life,and could make many different things.

    By George Stevens (10/08/2015)
  • After a 5-year apprenticeship, my husband joined ICI in Welwyn Garden City in 1967 and in 1971 he changed to ICI Wilton for three years. Oh the good ole days!

    By Wendy Johnson (31/03/2015)
  • Although I never worked at ICI my father Eric Watson worked there for many years.  I think that being an ICI kid was one of the most wonderful aspects of my life.  There were wonderful Christmas parties for us, movie nights and even tennis lessons.  I also have wonderful memories of going to watch my father play lawn bowls every week.

    By Diane Watson (07/02/2015)
  • I was trained in the secretarial school in 1971 or 72 it was an intensive course and then we worked in a typing pool. After that I worked in a small office in Analytical as an audio typist The boss was called Mr. Squirrel and his Secretary was Linda Westbury her husband worked in accounts it was an amazing place to work. Each day we had the postman come round they were all characters. The coffee trolley was truly incredible with fresh warm rolls butter and cheese.


    By Angela Barrah (13/10/2014)
  • I am a Solicitor who represents ICI and I am trying to find any ex-employees who may have knowledge of the Kitchens and how they operated at the Welwyn site. If you think that you may be able to assist I would be obliged if you could email me (

    By Shelley Hawker (14/01/2013)
  • Pat is quite right about the tea trolley loaded with fresh cakes etc as I worked in the staff canteen from 1966-1972 where the kitchen had it’s own bakery.The baker was a wonderful man named Joe Wren who was Hatfield Hyde born and bred.Joe made all the bread and cakes fresh every day-I think he started at 4.00am! We catered for approx.1,200 customers per day in the main canteen plus the Directors Room and the Visitors Room-both with waitress service. I really enjoyed my time as a young man at I.C.I. there was a great Social Club and football,rugby and cricket pitches plus a bowling green-all on site.We also had a lot of social functions especially at Christmas. Great to see the aerial photos of the site.

    By Roger Taylor (11/11/2012)