The factory was established by inventor Alexander Parkes to produce a material he named Parkesine. It operated between 1866 and 1868.

Birmingham-born inventor, Alexander Parkes, established the factory on Wallis Road in Hackney Wick to fabricate a semi-synthetic plastic of his own invention, which he named Parkesine. It was the first man-made plastic, with chemical name cellulose nitrate.

Parkes had first presented Parkesine to the public at the Great International Exhibition of 1862, where he was awarded a bronze medal for the new material. He had taken out his first related patent in 1855.

Having already had a successful career in metallurgy, Parkes was able to obtain substantial financial backing to set up Parkesine Company Ltd. with its factory in the fast-developing industrial area of Hackney Wick in 1866. The factory building can be seen on an 1870 map of the area marked as ‘Parksine Works’.

Perhaps in order to provide a return to his investors, Parkes appears to have cut costs and produced a lower quality product that suffering from shrinkage and warping and did not meet with commercial success. In 1868 he needed to put his company into liquidation, and in 1869 signed over his patent rights for producing Parkesine to Xylonite Company, a new venture that involved Parkes works manager, Daniel Spill.

The building adjacent to the ‘Parksine Works’ on Wallis Road was a waterproof clothing factory (also shown on the 1870 map) owned and run by George Spill, of George Spill & Co. It was his brother Daniel Spill that Parkes employed as works manager.

Get directions


Share your story

Do you have a story that relates to this history? At Bow Arts we're collating people's memories of these iconic places and items. To share yours, please leave a comment. You can also reply to other people.

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

  • We are descendentas of George and Daniel Spill. After our father Tristram Hudson Spill, born in Leytonstone London in 1923, passed away we started research into our British ancestry. Dad was a WWII British war veteran landing in Arromanches beaches on DDay. His great-grandfather was George Spill, grandfather of Horatio Spill. The Havkney Wick , Wallis Rd location is great to visit. Your reply is appreciated

  • Tristram Hudson Spill 1923-2009 great-grandson of George Spill, of Spill Waterroofing Works London Hackney Wick. served in the British Army fighting in El Alamein Egypt in 1942 and landed on DDay June 6th in Arromanches-Les-Bains, France during the invasion. He met his wife in 1945 during the liberation in Eindhoven. Tristram Spill is my father and we commemorate the invation in Normany every year