Fawley prepares for 70th anniversary celebrations

Preparations are underway to mark the 70th anniversary of the ‘new’ refinery at Fawley in September. Newsline spoke to Alison Jones, Fawley community manager, who is helping to co-ordinate the celebrations with Fawley’s Behaviours and Culture team.

“Everything at Fawley has 70th anniversary branding this year,” says Alison. “The 10 large information boards displayed in Fawley’s conference centre are being upgraded to mark the anniversary and digital signage is being used across the site. New photographs have been commissioned to hang throughout the administration building too.

Fawley prepares for 70th anniversary celebrations

“We are also producing a special commemorative brochure to highlight how the products and chemicals manufactured at Fawley are used in modern life. Much technical innovation has taken place here over the years, so we will bring the business units to life through the stories of those who work for them.”

In a nod to the site’s role at the heart of Fawley’s community life, the commemorative brochure will also profile some of the families who’ve worked at the site, explains Alison. “In the past, local people have followed in the footsteps of their parents, uncles, aunts and even grandparents to join ExxonMobil,” she says. “Of course, that doesn’t happen these days, as all recruitment is handled centrally!”

Although it is the refinery’s 70th anniversary this year, Fawley has been an industrial location for more than a century. Back in the 1920s, the Anglo Gulf West Indies Petroleum Corporation (AGWI) acquired marshland at Fawley to build the original refinery. This was later taken over by Anglo-American Oil who expanded the operation and introduced the Esso brand in the 1930s.

By the end of the Second World War, the oil industry was facing a big challenge to meet the nation’s increasing demand for petroleum products, so in 1946, planning began for a new refinery on a scale not previously seen in Europe. Some 3,000 acres of the Cadland Estate overlooking Southampton Water were acquired from the Drummond family and the Fawley site was expanded to form the ‘new’ refinery known today.

Construction began in the summer of 1949 when a contingent of c5,000 British workers arrived at Fawley, bolstered by more than 70 American supervisors experienced in refinery work. Finished ahead of schedule, the new and modern plant was already in full production by the time of its official opening on September 14, 1951.

Prime Minister Atlee was one of 5,393 guests who enjoyed a banquet in a huge marquee on site to celebrate the occasion, in the spirit of ‘The Festival of Britain’, the major national exhibition that was staged that year in an attempt to boost British exports as the country struggled to recover from the Second World War. It’s this anniversary that is being marked in September this year.

“As the refinery has grown, so too has the local community,” Alison says. “Many people originally relocated to Fawley to work for ExxonMobil, and they in turn have had families who have worked here too. Their lives have been inextricably linked with the site. The popular sports and social club was used by many families, including my own, to celebrate milestones,” she reminisces.

Alison understands the sentiment the site at Fawley creates. As she prepares to retire this summer after 31 years’ service for ExxonMobil, she reflects: “Fawley holds many memories for many people - it’s a collective of community stories. It has been part of my life history too.”

If you or your family have any memories or photographs of Fawley that you would like to share, please email ExxonMobilFawleyPastaff@exxonmobil.com so we can add them to the intranet or feature them in In Touch magazine.

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Fawley prepares for 70th anniversary celebrations