EVERARD HESKETH: PIONEER IN REFRIGERATION
John Hall died in 1836 and left the business to his sons John and Edward, it now became J & E Hall. His gunpowder factories at Faversham and Erith went to his sons William and Peter and the paper mill at Horton Kirby to his son Henry.
John Hall junior died in 1850 and by the time Edward died in 1875 the firm was in the doldrums and the machinery was obsolete. Briefly it passed to Beckwith and Burke and in 1880 came under the control of the chief draughtsman Everard Hesketh who was joined by William Godfrey in 1881. Hesketh found J & E Hall, a jack-of-all-trades, and looked around for some new branch of engineering in which they could specialise. He found it at the Paris Exhibition of 1878 - Refrigeration.
FIRST DEVELOPMENTS IN REFRIGERATION - THE COLD AIR METHOD
Robert Applegarth, a remarkably forward-looking trade union pioneer, brought a Giffard cold air machine to England and sent it to J & E Hall. A steam engine compressed the air in a separate cylinder, a water jacket removed the resultant heat from the compressed air which then expanded through pipes to the refrigeration chamber becoming very cold as it did so. The snags were ironed out in Halls design office and a compact unit was produced for cargo ships. J & E Hall was not the only firm to set the possibilities and there was considerable rivalry, but in due course they supplied refrigeration plant for ships to bring meat from South America and Australia. In 1886 the 'SS Selembria' with Hall's refrigeration brought 30,000 carcasses of mutton from the Falkland Islands. They were also making cold air machines for storing the meat after landing. On a human level this was the end of 'salt horse', scurvy and live animals penned on the deck. For emigrants to the Antipodes it meant relative luxury.
It is often said that Britain invents but does not exploit inventions, J. & E. Hall under Hesketh often bought foreign inventions and developed them to become leaders in the field. In 1887 he acquired the patent rights of Franz Windhausen's CO2 refrigeration system which is superior to the cold air method in 1890, after long experiment, James Nelson & Sons 'Highland Chief' with Halls CO2, system brought in 39,000 carcasses of mutton and 2,000 quarters of beef with no spoilage at all.
THE NEW CO2 SYSTEM
The earlier system had blown cold air directly into the refrigeration chamber but in the CO2 system the cold was conveyed by a closed circuit of brine filled pipes up to 200 feet long. J & E Hall was probably the first firm in Britain to use electric welding for the joints. Variable degrees of cold could now be arranged for different cargoes in the same ship. In 1895 the 'Gothic' brought the first cargo of chilled beef from New Zealand. Halls brine pipes also revolutionised the carriage of fruit by sea and imports of apples, pears, peaches, tomatoes and grapes from South Africa, Australia, Canada and the Carribean increased enormously after 1890. Temperature has to be controlled within 2% during the entire voyage.
Up to 1897 bananas could only be carried short distances, mainly from the Canary Islands, and carried on deck and taken below in bad weather. Then the Elder Dempster ships 'Port Morant', 'Port Maria' and later 'Port Royal', 'Port Antonio' and 'Port Kingston' were fitted with Hall CO2 air coolers and fans to carry up to 40,000 bunches of bananas' from the West Indies where banana growing replaced the dying sugar industry. Today the Geest Line banana ships 'Geestport', 'Geestbay' etc have Hall conditioning systems. Air conditioning for storing fruit on land was also developed which would have interested John Hall senior because he inherited a market garden from his father-in-law who made him a stallholder at Covent Garden.
In its first centenary year, 1885, J. & E. Hall employed 275; by 1910 the number was 850 in an extended works lit by electricity. The firm dominated the ever-increasing market afloat and ashore for cold storage and what we now call air-conditioning. Warships needed cooling for their magazines and cooling for the crew spaces in the Tropics, ice-making machines and refrigerators. Eight hospital ships and 18 warships were equipped for the Japanese navy in 1901/4. Smithfield market was given ten miles of brine pipes and three of the London hospitals had Halls machinery. By 1924 54% of the world's refrigerated cargo ships had been fitted by Halls of Dartford and by 1955 60%.
Refrigeration on land extends beyond the storing of meat and fruit. Breweries need it and so do ice rinks. By 1938 air conditioning plant had become second only to brewery refrigeration in the land contracts and specialised applications made it possible to work mines at depths like the 8,330ft of the Ooregum mine in India.The 'Queen Mary' carried Halls refrigeration and air conditioning on her maiden voyage in 1936.
DEVELOPMENTS DURING WORLD WAR TWO
As the 1939-45 war approached the government organised 18 ¼ million
cubic feet of refrigerated storage space in the United Kingdom and Halls
equipped 37% of it. By 1941 the U-boats had seriously reduced the number
of refrigerated merchant ships and Halls engineered a crash programme
of fitting 20 tramp steamers with simple refrigeration and raising the
capacity of the remaining ships to the limit. Air conditioning refrigeration
and ammunition hoists were provided for every type of warship and the
shops made 6,130 magnetic mines, 550 paravanes, 2,800 mine sinkers, 15,000
firing pistols for depth charges and 2 ½ million 2 -inch mortar
Air conditioning was supplied for the Combined Operations HQ and the Emergency Government HG under Horseferry Road. The stations on the partly built Central Line of the Underground were air conditioned for munitions production and so was the quarry where the nation's art treasures were stored. Charles Croucher was seconded to the War Office to help plan ACRE (Air Conditioning Refrigeration East) for which Halls supplied cooling plant for the 14th Army base hospitals and enormous refrigerated storage space for the Middle East.
During the Second World War the company pioneered the development of a special kind of refrigeration plant used by the blood transfusion service. Thanks to Hall's it was possible for fresh blood to be freeze-dried and stored in powdered form for re-use at a later date. This was one of the earliest applications of freeze-drying techniques, which are now standard procedures in medical and other scientific work. In recent years, the company has been involved with the development of new technology to provide sophisticated refrigeration and air conditioning systems for industrial plant, abattoirs, mortuaries, blood banks, ships, computer rooms, offshore oil platforms and nuclear power plants.