Wick Curiosity Shop

The Collection

Wick Industry




18th century


Hackney Wick


Hackney Wick’s has long been a centre of production and invention.

Industrial development in Hackney really began to take off in the late 18th century: Lewis Berger, the pioneer paint manufacturer, moved his factory to Homerton in 1780.
Xyolite and the world's first synthetic plastic, parkesine, invented by Alexander Parkes, was manufactured here from 1866 to 1868.
Shellac, a natural polymer was manufactured at the Lea Works by A.F. Suter and Co.at the Victory Works.
Oil distiller Carless, Capel & Leonard, credited with introduction of the term petrol in the 1890s was based in Hackney Wick,
Brooke Simpson Spiller, the founders of british dyestuffs industries was based at Atlas Works. Atlas Works where Jewish Chemist Prof Raphael Meldola discovered Meldola blue.The firm of W.C.Barnes of the Phoenix Works was also engaged in the aniline dye industry at Hackney Wick.Eugene Serre, whose father introduced drycleaning to England expanded the business into a former tar factory in White Post Lane.
A lot of people lived close to the factories around Hackney Wick so they could get to work easily. Six thousand people lived there in 1879 in cramped housing built on top of rubbish tips. The river nearby which they used for water was dirty because it was polluted from all the chemicals the factories tipped into it. It was the most unhealthy place to live in Hackney and many people died as a result..Social decline may have started with the expansion of the workhouse, of Berger's factory, and of industry at Hackney Wick. It increased with speculative building and with the construction of the railway from 1847. Victoria Park station served Hackney Wick from 1856, although Homerton had its own station only from 1868.