Wednesday, 11 August 2010

The Broadford Hosepipe Towers

These occupants of the Aberdeen skyline sit amid the decaying ruins of the Broadford works, which, it seems, are being demolished piece by piece. By the looks of things, these edifices may not survive to occupy their iconic position in the hearts of Aberdonians for very much longer.

For the longest time, we thought that these impressive towers were chimneys of some sort. We just ignored the cognitive dissonance provoked by the fact that the 'chimneys' had windows at the very top. 

It was only as recently as recently that we learned that these 'chimneys' are, in fact, Hosepipe Towers which were a sizeable chunk of capital equipment back in the days when Aberdeen had a diverse economy. 

They were instrumental in the manufacture of hoses, and were used for bonding the rubber lining to the linen carcass. The unlined hoses were suspended on a circumferential rack inside the annular chamber at the top of the towers and liquid latex was fused into the woven carcass to form the water-tight pressure lining of the hose. 

Other aspects of hose manufacture are shown in a video hosted by the Scottish Screen Archive which can be seen on this web page:

Watching the video, we were reminded of what we've seen of flexible pipe/hose manufacture in the oil industry. Here's a picture from the Techip factory in Le Trait in France.

NKT also employ similar techniques at their factory in Brøndby, Denmark.

There's a Texas company called Wellstream which does similar. 

What amazes and disappoints us is that we had a centre of excellence for hose manufacture here in Aberdeen, which we failed to capitalise upon when the world's largest ever market for flexible pipe/hose landed on our foreshore in the form of the North Sea oil and gas industry.

So, for the moment the Broadford Hosepipe Towers endure on the skyline at the north of the City Centre, sitting there at the end of Charlotte St: two fingers sticking up from the past, admonishing the Potempkin Village developers of the present and serving as a warning to the future about the necessity of adding value as a prerequisite to endogenous economic growth.

With thanks to Michelle Wylie and Richard Pelling for technical and historical detail of hose manufacture in Aberdeen.

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