Records of Nobel's Explosives Co Ltd, explosives manufacturers, Ardeer, North Ayrshire, Scotland

Scope and Content

  • Photographs 1860-1904
  • Financial records 1874-1876
  • Production records 1883-1923
  • Administrative records 1962-1963

Administrative / Biographical History

The British Dynamite Co Ltd was set up as a limited liability company in 1871  , under the chairmanship of Charles Randolph ( 1809-1878  ), shipbuilder. The purpose of the company was to develop and sell dynamite, a form of nitroglycerine absorbed in Kieselguhr, a clay-like material, which, shaped and cut into lengths, could be handled fairly safely. This, together with a safety fuse and detonator, had been the inventions of Alfred Bernhard Nobel ( 1833-1896  ), a Swedish born chemist and businessman. Establishing himself in, first, Sweden and then Germany, Nobel determined to expand the business further. He could raise little interest, at first, in the USA or in England, but a group of Glasgow businessmen including John Downie and George McRoberts, at that time a partner in the firm of Westquater Chemical Co , raised the initial capital of £24,000. Nobel was paid for his rights and for the work he subsequently undertook as technical adviser, in shares. In time he came to own half the original capital as well as having a profit-sharing agreement. The company set up its head office at 7 Royal Bank Place in Glasgow, Scotland, but established works in Ardeer, North Ayrshire, Scotland, along the shore of the Firth of Clyde between Stevenston, North Ayrshire, and Irvine, North Ayrshire.

Production of dynamite began in 1873  . In 1874  , The British Dynamite Co Ltd had 19 agencies in the British Isles and supplied and delivered dynamite to all locations in the British Isles. They were the sole proprietors of Alfred Nobel's patents for "superior blasting powder". Production of detonators began in 1876  at the Westquater factory, owned jointly by Nobel and George McRoberts. The company was reorganised in 1877  as Nobel's Explosives Co Ltd , with capital of £240,000. Nobel continued to set up new businesses, so that, by 1886  , there were some 15 independent corporations dealing in the production and sale of dynamite. This led to some fierce competition, in spite of the fact that Nobel continued to be a large shareholder in all the companies and to act as an adviser on matters commercial as well as technical. In 1886  , encouraged by Nobel, the Nobel-Dynamite Trust Co Ltd was set up in England, with a registered office in London, as a holding company whose shares were exchanged for the shares of five subsidiaries; four German and the largest, Nobel's Explosives Co Ltd . This sort of multi-national trust company represented a very advanced form of organisation for its day, particularly in Great Britain. By 1907  , Nobel's Explosives Co Ltd , whose head office was now located at Nobel House, 195 West George Street, Glasgow, was a contractor to the British Government.

Subsequently, Nobel turned his attention to the invention of a smokeless powder, ballistite, which was to have great significance for the armaments industry. Work continued at Ardeer and Westquater in the production and development of explosives and detonators through and after the two world wars. By Nobel's Explosives Co Ltd 1926  had been absorbed into Imperial Chemical Industries Ltd, Nobel Division . By 1972  this division was an independent trading organisation of ICI Ltd .


This material is arranged into series, which consist of numbers of items related by function and/or format. Within series, the items are generally arranged chronologically

Access Information


Acquisition Information


Other Finding Aids

Digital file level list available in searchroom

Manual file level list available at the National Register of Archives in Edinburgh (NRA(S)1814)

Alternative Form Available

No known copies

Conditions Governing Use

Applications for permission to quote should be sent to the University Archivist

Reproduction subject to usual conditions: educational use & condition of documents

Appraisal Information

This material has been appraised in line with normal procedures

Custodial History

Acquired directly from creator


None expected

Related Material

GB 800001 Journal, letter books and papers 1874-1876 (Private, enquiries to the National Register of Archives in Scotland)

For contact details of all repositories with a GB code, see the Archon repository search page


No known publications using this material

Additional Information

This material is original

Updated by Jenny Cooknell , Assistant Archivist, 12 November 1999

Updated by Lesley Richmond , Acting Director, 23 March 2000

Updated by David Powell, Hub Project Archivist, 28 February2002

Geographical Names