The Zinc Works
In 1906, part of Seaton Snook was purchased by the Zinc Corporation of Broken Hill Australia, from landowners the Franklyn family and John Scott, 3rd Earl of Eldon. The new zinc works were built, with accompanying road and rail links to Greatham and the Hartlepools, and houses for the workers. A chorale to commemorate the opening of these first houses was later recorded, and can be heard under The Zinc Works Band. The first zinc was cast in 1908.
The Seaton Snook Zinc Works was a “horizontal distillation furnace”, an inefficient and small-scale plant, which was nonetheless the most common process found in Britain until the 1950s. Zinc ore (or “concentrates”) would be roasted on a conveyor belt to produce manageable bocks of material called sinter.
The sinter would be heated in a blast furnace, releasing zinc as a vapour, which would be collected and condensed from the retort and cast into slabs of (not-quite-pure) zinc. Sulphuric acid was an important byproduct of the process - even more so than the zinc itself during wartime - which ensured the plant stayed open consistently until the accident in 1968.
Field recordings of the plant, including the 1968 accident, were made by office worker Agatha Pilkington.