Did you know that when you leave Sydney Wharf on one of our boats, approximately 40 minutes later, you pass through Bathampton where the original Plasticine factory was sited! Who hasn't as a child had fun making things out of plasticine? Sometimes they come alive, just ask Wallis & Gromit!
William Harbutt, an art teacher in Bath, England, formulated Plasticine in 1897. Harbutt wanted a non-drying clay for his sculpture students. He created a non-toxic, sterile, soft and malleable clay that did not dry when exposed to air.
Harbutt received a patent in 1899 and commercial production started at a factory in Bathampton in 1900. The original Plasticine was grey. Four colours were produced for initial sale to the public. Plasticine was popular with children, was widely used in schools for teaching art, and has found a wide variety of other uses (for example moulding casts for plaster, and plastics).
Plasticine is approximately 65% bulking agent (principal gypsum), 10% petroleum jelly, 5% lime, 10% lanolin and 10% stearic acid. It cannot be hardened by firing, melts when exposed to heat, and is flammable at higher temperatures.
Harbutt patented a different formulation in 1915, which added wool fibres to give plasticine a stronger composition intended for earplugs, and as a sterile dressing for wounds and burns.
The Harbutt company marketed Plasticine as a children's toy by producing modelling kits based on characters from children's stories, such as Noddy, the Mr. Men and Paddington Bear.
The original Plasticine factory was destroyed by fire in 1963 and replaced by a modern building. The Harbutt company produced Plasticine in Bathampton until 1983, when production was moved to Thailand. The site is now a small enclave of houses called The Harbutts situated just before the George pub, Bathampton on the right-hand side as you travel along the canal. It's amazing what you find along the canal.