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Sunday, 9 August 2009

Mr. Cotton

Samples of sulphate of ammonia were also sent, on request, to 'Messrs. Cotton of Kennelworth'. Attempts to find out who they were have not proved easy ‑ an examination of suitably named roads in London and surroundings has revealed very little that might lead to an identification.

The Warwickshire town of Kenilworth seems a very great distance from Westminster. However in 1816 it had the promise of a through canal link to London that might be attractive to a local entrepreneur. There are other instances where new canal links led to new customers - for example, a lime tenderer from Sussex who enquired at the time the Wey and Arun Canal was being built.

Cotton himself has not been identified but he seems to fit the description of a Thomas Cotton who was at work making 'blue' in Hogg Lane, Kenilworth fifteen years after this date.

If it was this Mr. Cotton who enquired it would be interesting to know why - was there someone local to Kenilworth with a particular interest in ammonia. However, working on the hypothesis that sulphate of ammonia was being investigated for agricultural use, it has not been possible to connect Kenilworth with any improving agriculturalists of the period. Earl Spencer, a member of the Board of Agriculture was based a few miles from Kenilworth, at Althorpe House - but no connection seems to exist. Stoneleigh, the present Royal Agricultural Society building at Kenilworth was in other ownership until the twentieth century - so is not a factor in this.

The reason for Cotton's interest in sulphate remains unknown. He seems to have expected a bulk use for the sulphate of ammonia because he asked how much it would cost per ton. Having examined it however, he wrote back to say that it was 'unfit for use of any description'.

As a result of Cotton's comments Chartered said that Richards' operations ought to be ‘immediately suspended' - leading to the conclusion that Cotton's opinions were valued and that he must have been someone of more consequence than an obscure Midlands' chemical manufacturer.

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