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Avonmouth Bulk Storage
St Andrews Road, Avonmouth, near Bristol, Somerset, UK
Avonmouth Bulk Storage
associated engineer
Oscar Faber
date  1935
era  Modern  |  category  Building  |  reference  ST518794
photo  Richard Coates
Oscar Faber (1886-1956) designed two steel framed bulk storage buildings — containing phosphate and superphosphate — for National Fertilizers Ltd, which were built at the National Smelting Company Ltd’s plant in Avonmouth. One of the buildings has been demolished and the site is now a metal management and recycling depot.
The bedrock in Avonmouth is some 21.3m below the surface and above that the ground is very soft, though there is a hard lens of rock some 13.7-15.2m below ground level. To avoid excessive settlement, the sites for the stores were founded on 406mm square reinforced concrete piles — some stopping at the rock lens and some continuing onto bedrock. The piles were spaced more closely in the centre of the buildings were the bulk (loose) material would be heaped up and further apart at the edges where the load was lower.
The phosphate store is extant, though no longer used for phosphate. It is 91.4m long, 33.5m wide and 15.2m high and could store up to 17,000 cubic metres of material weighing some 27,250 tonnes. The floor is a 305mm thick reinforced concrete raft.
It has a curved shell that is both roof and walls, made from a series of pairs of parabolic steel trusses hinged at the top. Each truss is a braced lattice of steel angle sections, up to 2.9m deep in the centre and narrower at the ends. This longitudinal ribcage of trusses is clad with corrugated galvanised iron sheeting for the bottom 3m of its height and in corrugated asbestos sheeting for the remainder, inset with panels of patent glazing for natural lighting.
The phosphate was discharged into the store by belt conveyors running along the inside of the roof ridge. It was removed by a winched scoop at floor level, which tipped it into a pit and from there it was taken by conveyor to the process building to be incorporated into fertiliser. These operations were controlled from a cabin halfway up the interior of the roof, accessed by an exterior stairway.
The superphosphate store had vertical walls and a pitched roof framed in steel trusses, with a reinforced concrete floor. It was 30.5m wide and 21.8m high, with a 7.6m wide screening tower attached to one side. The roof was clad with V-beam iron sheeting and the walls with corrugated asbestos sheeting, with top panels of patent glazing.
Superphosphate was delivered to the store by a 28m span travelling crane with grab, and removed by an elevator discharging into the screening tower. Bagged material was loaded onto vehicles via a loading platform at the base of the tower.
National Fertilizers Ltd was a subsidiary of Fisons (founded by Edward Packard in 1843), and was sold to the Imperial Smelting Corporation Ltd (ISC) in 1942. The plant was used for zinc smelting, and closed in about 2000. Faber’s superphosphate store was demolished at an unknown date.
Research: ECPK, Prof. Richard Coates
"Some Recent Industrial Buildings" by Oscar Faber, in The Structural Engineer, London, pp.466-481, November 1937
"Oscar Faber, his work, his firm & afterwards" by John Faber, Quiller Press, London 1989

Avonmouth Bulk Storage