Albright and Wilson was founded in 1856 as a United Kingdom manufacturer of potassium chlorate and white phosphorus for the match industry. For much of its first 100 years of existence, phosphorus-derived chemicals formed the majority of its products.
It was set up as a Partnership between two Quakers, Arthur Albright, and John Edward Wilson. It became a private limited company, Albright & Wilson Ltd, in 1892; and it remained a double family-owned firm, for nearly 100 years, until 5 March 1948, when it became a public company.
Albright and Wilson expanded considerably into silicones, detergents, food additives, metal finishing chemicals, strontium based chemicals and chromium based chemicals. It was the second largest chemical manufacturer in the United Kingdom; although it was always very much smaller than ICI.
In 1971 Tenneco bought a part of Albright and Wilson's share holdings; and in 1978 obtained full ownership. In the short term, the company retained its own identity; however many of its subsidiaries were sold off. In 1995, Tenneco divested many of its assets; and parts of the original core of Albright and Wilson were transferred into a new public company, Albright and Wilson Plc which was floated on the stock market, in February of that year. However, just four years later, following disappointing results, the French chemical company Rhodia acquired Albright and Wilson in March 2000 and the century-and-a-half old name finally disappeared except in India, Australia, New Zealand and the Philippines.
Parts of the original Albright and Wilson company are now owned by the Huntsman Corporation.
After a large fire at its Avonmouth plant in 1996, which caused the temporary closure of local motorways and rail services, Albright and Wilson were fined £60,000.
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