Thursday, 1 March 2012


A couple of weeks ago I made a comment in my favourite watering hole about our super climate here in Hampshire, enjoying beautiful sunshine whilst other less fortunate counties suffered appalling conditions.

Warming to my theme I explained to my bemused listeners that it was all down to the New Forest, the Isle of Wight, and the Downs, not that I think  they have anything to do with it, creating updrafts and sending all the nasty stuff north of Watford.

Then a rustic voice said  "It be because of Fawley Refinery, it's 'er sending up all that warm air that does it"

That shut us up.   We had never given that a thought.

Then somebody said they if we took the ferry to the Isle of Wight we would see steam rising  from off the sea, from where hot water was pumped out from Fawley, but he had been in the pub a couple of hours so we were not sure about that one.

But given the prevailing wind being from the south west, which I think is bottom left, then it could just add up.

Whilst there has been a refinery on the site since about 1925, the present extensive works at Fawley date from the early 1950's, at which time stories abounded around here as to how agricultural workers could abandon their £3 a week job (and extra cheese ration at harvest time) and go stamp out welders sparks for £15 a week at Fawley.  I still don't know if that was an urban myth as my application for a job a 'Stamper out of Welders Sparks' was never answered.

Although I never made it as a Stamper I do know that even in the 1940's we enjoyed a mild climate in Hampshire, in spite of the thick snow of that vicious winter of 1947/48, whilst others to the north of us fared much worse.  Not long after that I departed to distant parts - all the way to London, which was really foreign service in those days, with a slow train from Wickham, and change at Alton,   although I did come back for a while in the 1950's.

After much wandering around this world I returned to my beloved Hampshire in 2004 and have observed since then that in spite of some rough weather in less favoured counties to the north of us,  we still do pretty well.

How much of our favoured status is due to Fawley Refinery?    Are they part of  our weather protecting screen ?  I don't have a clue about that,  so I have written  to them asking if they could point us in the direction of somebody who can ome along and talk to us about it, and the history of Fawley Refinery - where they get the crude stuff from and what they do with it.

On a visit to Kwinana Refinery in Western Australia in 1959,  not long  before it opened for business, I was introduced to a thing called a 'Catalytic Cracker'.  A massive tower through which  the good oil percolated, sorting itself out on the way down, or something like that......possibly even into paraffin  for all I know - the stuff which filled our lamps in the Hampshire I once knew.

 'Catalytic Cracker'.   I just love the way those words roll off the tongue  and would be delighted to know Fawley has some of that.  I do hope they find somebody to come and talk to us.

John G

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