LondonEast-UK is part of BD Group
History of LondonEast-UK
LondonEast-UK has a long and fascinating history for scientific innovation dating back to the 1930s. Throughout the site, there are features and exhibits that showcase and celebrate its history and the pioneering work that was undertaken there.
Purchase of site
May & Baker bought 60 acres of land in Dagenham in 1919.
Construction of site
Work began on building the site in 1932. By late 1934, the cocaine and ephedrine plants were nearing completion, making May & Baker the only manufacturer of cocaine and its salts.
M&B 693 was discovered by May & Baker Ltd in 1937, and was one of the first generation of sulphonamide antibiotics. As the first chemical cure for pneumonia, it was hailed as a wonder drug. It could also prevent the growth of blood-poisoning bacteria in wounds and was used to protect against gangrene.
By 1938 the factory employed 1000 staff and was the undisputed leader in the chemotherapeutic field with the legendary M&B 693.
World War Two
During the war, skilled labour was in short supply and women were increasingly employed to do work previously done by men.
The site manufactured enormous quantities of methyl bromide, which was vital for the production of fire extinguishers used in service aircraft, tanks and boats.
The war brought an even greater need for the drug M&B 693.
For the protection of the workers, 31 underground shelters were built, a further seven ‘surface’ shelters and four others that were partially underground – with each shelter housing 50 people.
The factories’ ‘early warning system’ was linked to the RAF Radar Station at Hornchurch and was so efficient that local residents would ignore the official warning and only take action when they heard the M&B warning.
50 Italian prisoners of war worked willingly on the site, and one member of staff even married a prisoner, settling down to a life in a Sicilian vineyard after the war.
Despite the Germans knowing the location of the M&B site, it was considered a real tribute to the efficiency of the emergency services that no loss of life occurred during the war and the longest the factory was ever out of action was 24 hours.
The Duke of Edinburgh visited the Research Institute Site on 11 December 1962. Nine showcases and five display panels were installed to explain the work that was done at the site.
On 12th September 1963, an old 50kg German bomb was scooped up by a mechanical shovel but only found when it was dumped to fill a pond on the east end of the factory. A bomb disposal unit from Horsham in Surrey made the bomb safe and arranged its removal.
On 21 April 1969, The Queen’s Birthday, Her Majesty conferred her award upon May & Baker in recognition of its technological innovation in the development of herbicides. The honour recognised the company’s achievement in the invention of two weedkillers, bromoxynil and ioxynil, developed to control weeds in the production of cereals, linseed and sugar cane.
On Her Majesty’s birthday in 1974, she conferred her award upon May & Baker for the innovative development of the weedkiller Asoulox.
May & Baker was awarded its third Queen’s Award in 1977 for export achievement. The company more than doubled its exports between 1973 and 1975.
In autumn 1972 a fully integrated system for packing tablets and capsules was introduced. Five different sizes of plastic ‘Securitainers’ were used for the M&B range of tablets and capsule packs. It filled, capped and controlled labelling to provide the required safety and security.
The fourth Queen’s Awards was awarded in 1982 for technological innovation, recognising 20 years of work with metronidazole (FLAGYL) in the management of anaerobic infections.
A fifth award was awarded in 1983 for Export Achievement.
In December 1982, a new £7 million sterile production facility – D37 – was officially opened by the Duke of Kent. D37 was built on the bowling green and tennis courts.
D75 was opened in 1984 to increase efficiency, reduce handling and improve safety by the introduction of High Shear granulation and Fluid Bed Technologies. The building was designed so that the operator did not come into contact with the product in powder form apart from dispensing. The building and technology was ‘state of the art’ at the time.
In 1985 May & Baker’s name changed to Rhône-Poulenc. May & Baker had become a wholly-owned subsidiary of Rhône-Poulenc in 1935 but didn’t change its name until 1985. Trading as Rhône-Poulenc commenced in 1988.
In 1990 Rhône-Poulenc and Rorer Healthcare merged to be Rhône-Poulenc Rorer (RPR).
Ampoule production switched from Cologne to Dagenham in 1992 and supplied Germany, Italy and USA. Filling was done in D37 Aseptic area 2 on a Strunk machine and bulk ampoules were sent to Cologne for packing for the European markets. Finished packs for the USA were produced at Dagenham on the Uhlmann line in D33.
1n 1998 RPR was awarded the Queen’s Award for Export Achievement for Taxotere.
In 1999 RPR merged with HMR to become Aventis Pharma.
In 2002 buildings D41 and D45 were demolished with controlled explosions.
In June 2004 Sanofi-Synthelabo signed an agreement with Pfizer regarding the divestment of Aventis’s interest in Campto in response to requests made by the competition authorities. Aventis markets Campto which was first launched in 1995.
Sanofi-Synthelabo and Aventis merged in September 2004.
In November 2009 it was announced that the Dagenham site would cease manufacturing with its products being transferred to other Sanofi-Aventis sites by 2013.
In 2011 the company dropped the suffix Aventis from its name.
2013 the site was sold to SOG Group.
In 2018 the site was acquired by BD Group.