Some of you will recall the days when dark smoke from the coal fires was a regular sight from our chimneys. The air needed to be cleaned up and the pollution stopped.


In 1932 ‘a company was born that was soon to prove that while there is no smoke without fire, there certainly could be fire without smoke’. This company eventually became known as Rexco. Within the next few years after success with its processes and inventions (where others had failed) ‘The first Rexco plant to be built came into production in 1935 on a site adjacent to Mansfield Colliery.’

‘Coal for the process was supplied from the colliery which was then working the Top Hard seam at the price of 11s [55p] per ton. The Mansfield plant which consisted of two batchwise retorts cost £2,279 16s 9d.’ ‘The plant carbonised 3,095 tons of coal in its first full year, the retorts having a 36 hour cycle.’


‘Further development at that stage was curtailed by the Second World War’. ‘However the plant was very active through the war making a motor fuel under the trade name of Motor Rexco and large tonnages of charcoal’.


‘Coal became more plentiful from 1948 onwards which allowed this small plant to go back to full production and eventually sufficient was available for other plants to be built. [sic] By 1954 capacity at the Mansfield plant had been increased to 30,000 tons of coal carbonised per annum.’

Over the years Rexco had expanded greatly and established more plants including those at Edwinstowe, Snibston Leicestershire and Comrie Colliery in Fife.


The plant at Mansfield had been in production for 37 years when the decision was made to close it ‘because of the uneconomic cost of bringing it up to modern standards.’


In November 1981 just prior to their Golden Anniversary, Rexco had become part of the Burnett and Hallamshire Group.

Information taken from Pamphlet ’50 Golden Years of Pure Energy from Rexco’ / Advert 1953 & Mansfield Chronicle Advertiser 13th April 1972.


No doubt this will stir a few memories not only for our readers/viewers who worked at Rexco, but it will also take people back to the days when smokeless fuel was first introduced. ‘Going Smokeless’ was not very popular at first, people were used to laying the fire with newspaper, sticks and coal to get a good blazing fire going. Not forgetting that today’s children won’t know any of this.



Comments about this page

  • I remember John and Nellie. They used to be regulars in mum and dad’s pub, the White Post Inn at Farnsfield. Happy days.

    By Jane (10/02/2021)
  • January 1961 at the age of 16 I started work at Midland Rexco, after completing a year’s commercial course at Derby Road College, Mansfield. I learnt so much in the 14 months there and it gave me good grounding for furthering my few years in various aspects of office life.
    I was the tea-girl and one of the foremen always had condensed cream spooned into his mug and teased me saying if I tried some it would put hairs on my chest. I must admit the smell from the retorts filled everything, including all our clothes.

    By Margaret Taylor (Davis) (11/12/2020)
  • Rexco was pulled up by John Brown who came from Scotland, he came to Bolsover Colliery Company under John T Rice, my mother’s family were friends, my mother a long standing friend of Nellie who married John, Rexco was taken up by John. John and Nellie lived on Oak Tree Lane, Heather Dene, they moved to Farnsfield, Tippings Lane, no children. I have been friends of Howard a cousin. Rice’s and my mother’s side were long standing friends from The Cuckney area, and friends of the Portlands who often called in for tea, and were known as the ‘old folks’.

    By Mark Wilson (08/11/2019)
  • I worked at the Rexco plants from 1968 to 1976 as a Technical Assistant. It provided me with excellent training for a future in the chemical industry both in the UK and South Africa where I now reside. I have fond memories of my work mates Gerry Smith, Stuart Morris. John Colledge and often wonder where they are today? Would like to hear from them.

    By Richard Winter (03/09/2019)
  • I worked at the Edwinstowe Rexco plant during the early 70’s. It was shift work and a good place to work, particularly 7 during the winter because the heat from the retorts kept you warm!  Training was given while on the job by the old hands who were excellent to work with.  Once a retort had been emptied we would move the rail trucks down the track to the conveyor for loading using a brake stick. It was real ‘man’s work’, I enjoyed my time there and the pay was good.


    By Glenn Sutcliffe (23/02/2018)
  • Very surprising in how little time, our times change. It does not seem all that long ago that everyone had an open fire, the cold house first thing in a morning, the sensible ones staying beneath the covers whilst dad made the fire first thing. The smoggy atmosphere during the autumn and on winter days when you could taste the smoke in the air. The sound of the shovel going in the coalhouse, folk sweeping their spillages off the road when the coalmen had been. Soot was used on the gardens and allotments when the flues where swept, ashes for the path on icy days to give some grip-and the mess when it thawed! I don’t think anyone misses the dirty marks left on their washing though. Now all gone, fireplaces bricked up, terminal’s on the once smoking stack, and we now pay through the nose for gas to heat our radiators instead. How times change.

    By John (31/05/2014)
  • I remember the wartime and the carbonized coal. To us these were known as  Co-Eggs. For some reason I always believed the egg shaped Co- Eggs were made up and compressed from the slack and coal dust from the coal, and was a by product  of the coal waste.  Up to 1953, gas was our only utility in the home, and to light these Co- Eggs, we had a gas-poker, which when lit was placed under the Co-Eggs to start the fire and glow that they produced. I also recall having to trek down to Wharf Road, to the Coal yard with an old home made barrow for a cwt. of these Co-Eggs at I believe it was 2s-9d for a cwt. 

    By alan curtis (31/05/2014)
  • Did a boiler explode at Rexco Edwinstowe in 1972 or 1973?

    By Dawn Metheringham (29/05/2013)

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