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Powfoot, Royal Ordnance Factory, Nitrocellulose Factory

Explosives Factory (20th Century)

Site Name Powfoot, Royal Ordnance Factory, Nitrocellulose Factory

Classification Explosives Factory (20th Century)

Alternative Name(s) Broom Farm

Canmore ID 66510

Site Number NY16NE 58

NGR NY 1610 6564

NGR Description NY 153 660 - 168 658 W/E; NY 165 662 - 163 653 N/S

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved.
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Administrative Areas

  • Council Dumfries And Galloway
  • Parish Annan
  • Former Region Dumfries And Galloway
  • Former District Annandale And Eskdale
  • Former County Dumfries-shire

Archaeology Notes

NY16NE 58.00 1610 6564

NY16NE 58.01 NY 1618 6564 Farmhouse, Broom Farm

NY16NE 58.02 centred on NY 1595 6583 Explosive Works (West site)

NY16NE 58.03 centred on NY 1665 6575 Explosive Works (East site)

Background History:

Powfoot Nitro-cellulose factory was founded in 1940 by the War Office to make propellants. Nitro-cellulose (comprising a mixture of linters, high-nitrogen guncotton) was supplied from Bishopton and processed into propellants such as Nobel Rifle Neonite and Cannon Powder. Later the site was re-opened to cope with the demands of other wars, including Korea and the Falklands. The propellant side orientated around Nitro-cellulose/Single Base.. The three propellant bases are NC [Nitro-cellulose], NG (Nitro-glycerine] and Picrite (flash/smoke suppressant]. Single base composes only NC. A further (E) part of the works produced TNT and has not been in production since the 1950s.

Powfoot was run by Nobel's Explosives (which is part of ICI) for the Ministry of Defence (and Royal Ordnance, subsequently privatised and sold to British Aerospace). NC processing ceased at Powfoot in November 1992 and the site was vacated by ICI on 1 March 1993. British Aerospace is now decommissioning the site, which involves making it safe, and removing all remaining explosives residue so that the explosives licence can be rescinded. Meanwhile, the factory is an SSSI with five of Britain's amphibious species present.

Most of the buildings on the site are built from composition brick (some marked 'Caledonia') and concrete. The floors in the processing areas are made of concrete, covered with a black 'Veitchy' softening layer (to eliminate the possibility of sparks). Buildings are connected by a narrow gauge railway (mostly on wooden sleepers), carrying bogeys (previously hauled by diesel pugs). These connect with dispatch points linked to the main line siding. However, in recent years all haulage has been by road.

Visted by RCAHMS (MKO), June 1993


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