The refinery c.2014 (BTP) and 2016 (Slayaaaa) prior to the demolition of its many towers
The refinery was built over Coryton village (Kynochtown) and Kynoch’s munitions factory (the site of which still remains just north of the refinery – see here). The explosives factory operated from the late 1890s up until 1919 serving through the First World War. The refinery has its origins in 1953 and possibly prior, although the refinery as we know it was mainly built through the 1970s when the village was demolished to make room for it, although refineries existed at Shell Haven and Thames Haven since the early twentieth century. It ceased refining in 2012 and the iconic flare stack which could be seen burning for miles was removed. The refinery and its landmark features came to define the area to locals, and its cultural influence is evident in rhythm and blues band Dr. Feelgood’s songs ‘All Through the City’ (“Stand and watch the towers burning at the break of day”) and ‘Sneaking Suspicion’ (“Midnight on the river in the light of the flames”). The Corringham pub ‘the Cat Cracker’ was named after the refinery’s tower of winding pipes, and was converted into a Co-Op in late 2013. The iconic catalytic cracker and flare stack have since been demolished, as has much of the refinery infrastructure including the generator house. However, the iconic chimney has been kept, and some of the vessels are still used for fuel storage. Some excellent photography of these which we sadly never saw are visible on 28 Days Later both here (chimneys and control rooms) and here (boiler house). We have been kindly allowed to include the first further below.
We visited the refinery in 2021 and captured some high-quality photography of what remains of the site, along with the last remaining (and main) chimney which has become an icon of the Thames Estuary’s horizon.
Whilst parts of the refinery remain complete with pipework and fuel tanks, the central area once occupied by the towering structures captured by Slayaaa in 2016 (see below) is now flattened, leaving not much more than the chimney and a few bridges left. It is now used as a shipping container storage yard. We were able to reach the incredible structure and photograph it both up close and from the inside of its base.
We managed to capture these photographs of the semi-abandoned refinery site during an overnight infiltration in 2019. Much of the main structures and towers seen in the 2016 imagery was long gone, but the chimney and various vessels still survived in-situ. We feel privileged to have been able to get so close to this definitive landmark of our childhood. Venturing to the site with Sam (Unleashed Exploring), he bravely climbed the chimney and captured the incredible view at sunset. Below are our photographs of some of the surviving equipment and vessels, as well as shots of part of the Thames Haven line and suffocated historic River Fleet; once surrounded by the quaint village of Kynochtown. Also thanks to Luke Baker Photography for some of these shots.
Below our Sam’s excellent photographs of the surviving main chimney top and its incredible view across Coryton and Hole Haven:
January 2016 Pre-Demolition Shots by Slayaaaa
Thanks to slayaaaa from 28 Days Later for allowing us to share their incredible night photography of the refinery captured only months before much of it was demolished which we ourselves personally did not manage to capture. These long exposures show views of various chimneys, gas towers, pipework and control rooms. The full set and write-up can be seen here.
December 2014 Shots From Canvey Island
2011 Permission Night Visit from Manorway Roundabout
“Thanks to BTP Joe’s persuasive style, we managed to receive access to take pictures of Coryton Refinery from the Manorway Road. We went in the evening when it was dark, although a foggy night along with the darkness meant most of our pictures came out blurry. Only three of mine were focused enough to make it into this post out of the many we took! What was good about the trip was the sights we saw. The scale, engineering, and complexity of it was an amazing spectacle, although the air was thick with an oily smell and droplets of moisture.”
Comment by Phil Walpole
“I am no expert on Coryton and it’s history. But, parts of the old Kynochtown still existed in the 1950’s. in the shape of bungalows. I lived in Coryton during this time, in a fairly new house built I think by the oil company. The road name was Freeman Avenue. The refinery was right next to the houses and many a time it became my playgroung. There used to be a manor house, just a short distance from where I lived and can recall being inside it many times. I think it became a social club for those that worked for Mobile. I have a very hazy memory of the refinery being built and can recall what seem to have been dozens of busses bringing in the workman who built it. Following the flood in 1953 and an explosion a couple years later my family moved to Basildon, which was a new town then. I can remember a pond in a place that is now Basildon town centre. As for Coryton, I think it was all knocked down in the early 70’s . I like the photo’s of the refinery, my dad worked there for over 20 years.”