Shell Research
Home Up Dorans Sweeney 1 Statement of Claim Shell's lawyers John Dyer Contact Thornton Staff



 Shell Research Limited, company No. 00539964-incorporated 13 October 1954, as a subsidiary of NV Koninklijke Nederlandsche Petroleum Maatschappij (Royal Dutch Group). The Royal Dutch/Shell Group comprises over 2,000 companies in more than 100 countries. The Royal/Shell Group is the most profitable oil Multinational in the world.  It is the second largest in the private sector, responsible for 5% of the world’s oil and gas production (more than any other private company), and holds both the largest exploration area and the greatest proven reserves.  Shell is reputably the tenth largest corporation in the world, by turnover. Shell Research Limited is a research arm of the Shell Group, and undertook nuclear research programmes from the 1950’s onwards. Shell research Limited's  principal research centre, at Thornton Cheshire, was utilised for nuclear, military and other research

A brief early history of the Thornton Research Centre, owner Shell Research Limited.  Thornton was originally known as Aero­Engine Laboratory (AEL).  Built in 1940 at the outset of the Second World War the decision to build was taken early in 1939.  The AEL (Thornton) was built on land southeast of the existing Stanlow Refinery, established in 1922.  The Military connection was direct from the start.  Quote  'the scientists and engineers who moved to Thornton came to develop better fuels and lubricants for the RAF....'  It was due to the war that the Lubricating Oil Laboratory  (LOL) and the Bataafsche Petroleum Maatshappij  (BPM) moved to Thornton.  Shell's fuels and lubricants research for markets outside North America had previously been carried out in Holland. 

The Lubricating Oil Laboratory (LOL) and the Bataafsche Petroleum Maatshappij Laboratory (BPML) responsible for research followed the Aero-Engine Laboratory (1940) over the next four years into 'chemicals from oil'.  Academics were recruited from Cambridge to AEL in 1940 included T.P. Hughes (chief chemist) C. B.  (Cyril) Davies, Roy Baldwin, and Sidney Daniel.  Norman Kendal arrived as senior research engineer along with Harold Slade and Maurice O'Farrel with John Richards and Cohn Mackenzie.  The laboratory was then working 24 hours a day seven days a week.  So vital was the research that some of the academics actualy lived on the premises.  The Laboratory continued to extend its areas of expertise throughout the war. 

In 1942, it was officially' agreed that a Ministry Committee on which Shell was represented would decide the laboratory work.  The decision being that Shell would manage the laboratory and pay the bills; in return, the Ministry would obtain priorities for staff and equipment.  Quote  'This arrangement helped the AEL to acquire staff, facilities and sources of information that would otherwise not have been on offer'.  Professor Ronald Norrish of Emmanuel College, Cambridge (later a Nobel prize winner for chemistry) and with Roy Baldwin, later    Professor of Physical Chemistry at Hull University worked on problems such as visible exhaust flames from aircraft engines which acted as aiming points for enemy interceptors.  At AEL, Sir Frank Whittle (of jet engine fame) was to say that the decisive factor in the success of his gas turbines was Shell’s development of the fuel atomisation systems, burners and flame tubes.  AEL (Thornton) cooperated with amongst others Riardo’s new premises at Oxford; worked with Britannia Laboratories Cambridge and Liverpool University.  The work was, of course, 'hush-hush'.

In 1946, the Ministry handed back AEL to Shell.  In the same year, Brigadier R. A. Bagnold, elected fellow of the Royal Society for his work on the movements of sediments by wind and water famous as the leader of the Long-Range Desert Reconnaissance Group, was appointed Director of research for Shell.  On January 1st 1947, he was appointed the first 'Director” at Thornton; his main task was to reorganize Thornton.  One of his symbolic acts of unification was to drop the familiar names, Aero-Engine Laboratory, Lubrication Oils laboratory, etc. etc. and replace them with numbers and letters preceded by the word 'Block'.  Buildings were named 'Number 1 Block',  'Number 2 Block' etc. The senior dining room became  'Number I Mess'.  This after the end of the war, supposedly after Thornton had become a civilian research centre,  Hence, its military culture ingrained, with Shell's-the military industrial complex unified, so to speak.  Shell would exploit its military (nuclear) contacts in the forthcoming decades, for its and not the national interest's.


'John Dyer' and the 'Statement of Claim' (buttons) give a detailed account of events.

Following the Shell's lawyers button (Wiseman first) is instructive.