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Ministry of Supply Factory, Dalbeattie -
 View of Nitration Hills, Unit 2 (Edingham)

Ministry of Supply Factory Dalbeattie
World War II Cordite Works

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Water Supplies and Sewerage :-

Key Facts :-

  • Both reservoir and river water used.
  • Main source Lochenkit Reservoir, with Filter Beds at Areeming.
  • 100,000 gallon Service Reservoir on Aiket Hill.
  • Loch Fern investigated to see if Knock Burn's dammed ponds had been used, but 1946 aerial photographs sadly confirmed the ponds had not existed at that time.
  • Knock Burn and Kirkgunzeon Lane river water and site drainage water used in process cooling and firefighting.
  • Drainage a significant problem for the Factory site - pumping essential in Unit 1.
  • Site had its own sewage works and filter beds, the Unit 1 examples surviving.

Ministry of Supply Factory Dalbeattie - Service Reservoir
Ministry of Supply Factory Dalbeattie - Service Reservoir


Identification of Structures - Water Supply and Sewerage

Reliable water supply and sewerage are the little-respected essentials for any large industrial or residential development. The manufacture of explosives requires water for dilution and washing chemicals and equipment during processing, also for steam to transfer heat where it is needed. Additional water is needed for fire-fighting and safety precautions, for staff washing, toilets, showers, cooking, laundry and drinking.

The supply at Dalbeattie appears to have been divided into two types - a reservoir-fed drinking-quality supply from the Lochenkit Reservoir and a cooling and firefighting supply from site drainage, local burns and ponds. The Lochenkit supply was apparently sufficient for Unit 2 and some Unit 1 household needs, but process cooling and firefighting required additional impure supplies.

An extensive system of earthenware drains and ditch drains was installed to try to reduce the groundwater levels in this naturally wet site. Damaged by later activities, this system's manholes and pipes are still visible in many parts of the site, particularly in Unit 1 (Southwick). Field surveys of the Factory have revealed two ponds at the lowest sections of the Factory, either side of the Kirkgunzeon Lane north of the railway viaduct. The Pumping Station on the eastern pond appears to have been the intake for drainage and river water used as process coolant and possibly for fire-fighting.

Areeming Treatment Works
Areeming Treatment Works
Service Reservoir - Step Fragments
Service Reservoir - Step Fragments
Edingham Pump House
Edingham Pump House

Reservoir-fed Drinking Quality Water :

The rainy climate of South West Scotland had already been harnessed by the hydro-electric scheme at Tongland north of Kirkcudbright in the early 1930s; this may have been in the planners' minds when considering Dalbeattie. The water supply for MS Factory Dalbeattie came from near Corsock at the Lochenkit Reservoir (NGR NX803757) and filtered half a mile away at the Lochenkit Treatment Works (NGR NX792756) near Areeming, before being piped fourteen miles to a 100,000 gallon covered service reservoir on Aiket Hill (NGR NX834634) overlooking the works site (NGR NX834646). A 1945 report on water supply indicates that Lochenkit had a capacity of up to 300,000 gallons per day, but that the Factory at Dalbeattie received between 80,000 and 100,000 gallons per day.

At the A711 roadside, in line between the service reservoir and the works, is a strongly-built brick building (NGR NX839631) with a concrete roof. Matthew Taylor, in a telephone conversation on 29/05/2006, stated that this was the pumping station for water from the service reservoir. Presumably this would have ensured that the supply had sufficient pressure to reach the tops of buildings in Unit 1 (Southwick) which would have been nearly a mile from the service reservoir. Matthew recalled that the empty building had been sold to a man who wanted to turn it into a filling station, but the project failed and it was just used as storage. As far as is known, the pumping station did not draw any water from the Edingham Loch, a shallow and silted-up natural feature, merely acting as a booster for water from Aiket Hill service reservoir.

A further and recent development came from a study of the Knock Burn. This drains the much larger Loch Fern reservoir (NGR NXZ864626) about a mile east of the works on the east side of Barclosh Hill. Graham Cook confirmed that Loch Fern was originally an estate sporting lake with its own boathouse and a sluice to control water release into Knock Burn. He further confirmed that no service reservoir existed on Barclosh Hill, the logical location, and has no evidence for any water intake from Loch Fern for any purpose.

Loch Fern from SW
Loch Fern from SW
Knock Burn reservoirs from NW
Knock Burn fishing ponds from NW
Knock Burn canal with flag iris bed
Knock Burn canal with flag iris bed

River and Burn Process Water :

The Lochenkit supply is impressive but relatively low to cover on its own the entire requirements of the two large Units of Southwick and Edingham. The writer had guessed that the Kirkgunzeon Lane flowing through the site could have been used, as might the Knock Burn flowing through Unit 1 (Southwick). Survey visits showed that two bunded surface reservoirs had been constructed in the course of the Knock Burn, with a capacity assessed at around 1,000,000 gallons. Thus far, no intakes have been photographed there or along the course of the Kirkgunzeon Lane within the Factory site, although the Unit 1 Pump House near the Kirkgunzeon Lane bridges may have been used.

Written proof from G.M. Nicholson's document Acids Recovery Plant - Failure of Factory Services - Revised Instructions (15/12/42) has references to 'River Water' actually being used in the Denitration and Fortified Acid Mixing processes and the 'Pots' used for spent acid re-concentration. Apparently the water was for cooling purposes, but further investigation will be needed. There are references to 'Gravitation Water' being used in place of river water, possibly tapped from the supply from the service reservoir.

Matthew Taylor in a telephone conversation on 29/05/2006, stated that he thought Stelrad's had built and stocked the Knock Burn surface reservoirs as trout fishing for their clients. On discussion, he modified this by agreeing that it might be the case that the pre-existing reservoirs had indeed been stocked for fishing purposes. Bill Woods later stated that the Knock Burrvoirs had been stocked by the Dalbeattie Angling Association, who now use the old Dalbeattie Municipal Reservoir instead. Examination of the old spillway of the Knock Burn reservoirs shows that the concrete bases of at least two pipe supports are set in or on it, but the Royal Commission produced 1946 aerial photographs proving that Knock Burn - although canalised - had not been dammed, the seeming dams and bunding being raised Narrow Gauge bogie railway traverses.

Conversations with Graham and Sandra Cook of Barclosh Farm revealed that Loch Fern at the head of Knock Burn had been a pre-war boating and fishing lake for a local estate. It appears that the Loch and its sluice acted as a convenient wartime header resevoir for the Burn and its reservoirs within Unit 1 in the Factory. For most of its course from the railway line up to the reservoirs, the Knock Burn was retained in a concrete canal. This may have been to prevent flooding in the low-lying area occupied by the Wash Water Settlement Hills of the Nitroglycerine section. It is unclear whether Loch Fern was ever used to provide process water by gravity flow, although that would seem sensible, but the previous theory of factory use of Knock Burn now has to be discarded.

The Drainage System and its Pump House :

This ingenious system seems to have made use of the naturally wet site in a remarkably clever way. Field drains and ditches, supplemented by land drains, settling manholes and glazed earthenware pipes, were used to gather and drain site water. The water was channeled to ponds at the lowest part of the Factory site, either side of the Kirkgunzeon Lane and just north of the Kirkgunzeon Lane Viaduct. The water could then either be discharged through sluices into the Lane burn or pumped from a large Pump House into pressure mains to provide cooling water for site processes and probably to fill Emergency Water Supply (EWS) tanks.

The Pump House and intakes in Unit 1 survive in remarkably good condition, although the pumps and the motor to run them were removed many years ago. WARNING : DO NOT APPROACH CLOSER TO THE PUMP HOUSE THAN THE NEARBY ROAD. THE POND IS AS TOXIC AS A SEPTIC TANK FROM CATTLE WASTES AND IS DANGEROUSLY DEEP. The photographs on this page are the safest way to observe the details :-

  • Settlement tank with baffles beside Pump House. Possibly coolant tank for backup diesel engine.
  • Sluicegates on riverside and Pump House ends of pond. Presumably to control flow to and from Kirkgunzeon Lade and into intake housing.
  • Intake debris filters and sediment settling tank, to reduce mud content of pumped water.
  • Interior with bases for two pumps (probably centrifugal design) and later poured concrete base.
  • Chimney cowling on roof. May have been for diesel engine exhaust, as backup to electrical pumping system.
  • Large insulated intake pipe under viaduct (pipe end severed by acetylene cutter) goes towards end of (now drained) pond on west side of Lane. It seems that this water from Unit 2 was pumped by the Pump House in Unit 1.
It is still unclear whether the Unit 1 Pump House supplied more than Unit 1 itself. Given the water supply from Lochenkit Reservoir it is possible that this and the Pump House near Edingham Farm were sufficient for Unit 2. Although there are a pair of unidentified insulated steel pressure pipes under the viaduct, it is uncertain whether these are anything other than supply pipes for Auchenkit drinking-quality water.

Details of Sewerage Services are given separately.

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© 2006 Richard Edkins, Dalbeattie Internet.