August and September witnessed the sad and unnecessary loss of Banbury’s aluminium factory, built in 1930-31 and extended in 1938 by Wallis Gilbert & Partners, architects of the famous Hoover and Firestone factories and the less famous Spencer corset factory. ‘The Ally’ was easily the most important employer in the town from the ’30s to the ’70s and it was a matter of enormous local pride that the factory had produced over 60% of the country’s rolled and extruded aluminium through the period of pre-war re-armament and through the Battle of Britain and the Blitz. Whilst CDC had decided it would be inappropriate to use its planning powers to enforce the retention of the factory buildings, it had committed to ‘seek their retention through negotiation’, following pressure from this Society and its own elected members. In the event, once demolition commenced, CDC declined an invitation from this Society to negotiate the retention of the frontmost rolling mills, to include the possible offer of a rebate of empty building business rates to the site owner on the grounds that this source of income would be lost anyway once the buildings had been demolished.
Anyone hoping that the demolition marked the beginning of the site’s return to employment use will be sadly disappointed, as no new use for the site has come forward. The town has thus been robbed of a major historic and material resource and a large part of its collective psyche for no real gain. The loss is made all the more painful as it was well known that the Swan Foundry were very keen to take over some of the existing buildings so as to allow them to relocate from Swan Close in advance of the Canalside redevelopment. Now the site is so clearly a derelict brownfield site with no end use in prospect, we are greatly concerned for the continued security and well-being of the remaining listed gates, war-memorial and offices. This year’s workers’ Remembrance event on the 11th November was attended by the Chairman of the Civic Society. It was a solemn and poignant occasion.
Lost – The entire manufacturing plant was demolished in August and September
Saved – The former offices