Built in 1863, Atlas Works – pioneers of some of the first synthetic dye colours – was one of few Victorian factories in Hackney Wick to survive until the late 20th Century.

Built in 1863, Atlas dye works was one of the first mass-producers of commercial aniline, or synthetic, dyes. The first synthetic dye was discovered by a student chemist William Perkin in east London in 1856. Previously, dyes were made from organic sources, such as indigo, woad or turmeric.

The factory’s situation on the Lea’s riverbank was ideal, with water needed to wash away excess dye or chemicals. The building itself was said to have been in the Arts and Crafts style, with detailing in blue brick and the frontage topped with a large stone statue of the Greek mythological Titan, Atlas. Several synthetic dye colours were pioneered at Atlas, including magenta, Meldola blue and alkali green. Traces of coloured dyes were said to have been embedded in the factory walls, visible right up to the time of its demolition. The building remained a dye works until the early 20th century, from which it had various uses until it was completely knocked down in the 1980s.

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