Jobs blow at iconic Hull Isis mill site as Cargill to close

Hull has been delivered another manufacturing blow after one of its most iconic factories confirmed it is closing with job losses.

The Cargill oil seed pressing plant off Stoneferry Road is to close with 36 jobs now at risk. It marks and end to the seed pressing industry in central Hull after almost 500-years.

The news comes just hours after Smith and Nephew also announced it was planning to close its Hull factory. The global medical equipment maker is moving to a new site at Melton in East Yorkshire.

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Cargill operates a sprawling site at Morley Street which will now be closed for good. It includes the landmark “Isis” oil mills building which dates back to 1912. But oil oppressing and seed crushing, which rivaled fishing as one of Hull’s most successful industries, dating back in the city to the 16 th century.

Cargill said it was closing its Hull plant due to “current market conditions” which are thought to be a sharp drop in prices for rapeseed oil and rising costs.

Cargill said the closure of the Hull seed oil plant was down to ‘market conditions’ and said 36 staff would be affected

A Cargill spokesperson told Farmers Weekly: “We can confirm Cargill has announced its intention to close its crush facility in Hull, UK, due to current market conditions. This would impact 36 positions effective end of December 2022. We are working closely with impacted employees and will be providing support throughout the transition.”

Cargill has been operating in Hull since 1985 when it took over the plant from Croda Premier Oils. It crushes up to 750 tons of rapeseed and other crops every day to extract crude oil and meal which are then used to make things like margarine, biodiesel and animal feed.

Farmer’s Weekly described the closure of Cargill as “a notable loss to processing capacity within the UK”. The loss of Cargill in Hull means there will be just three similar plants left in the UK, in Liverpool, Kent, and Warwickshire.

In 2019 demolition on part of the Cargill site began to clear away historic old mill workings around the Grade II listed Isis mill. The neighboring abandoned refinery buildings dating back to the 1950s were cleared because of safety concerns. It is unclear now what will happen to the Isis mill building, which still towers over the area, now that Cargill are leaving the site.

Cargill's sprawling site alongside the River Hull includes demolished old refineries and the iconic
Cargill’s sprawling site alongside the River Hull includes demolished old refineries and the iconic “Isis mills” building

The move is another blow too for Hull after Friday’s announcement by medical supplies maker Smith & Nephew that they are closing their iconic plant off Hessle Road for a move to a new state-of-the-art facility at Melton West Business Park, eight miles away.

Although the move is likely to secure more than 800 Smith & Nephew staffit is a major loss for Hull, including the significant Business Rate revenues it paid to Hull City Council. Today, Hull Live revealed that Smith & Nephew, which was founded in Hull more than 160-years ago, did consider pulling out of the UK altogether and moving to a new plant at Penang in Malaysia.

What was seed crushing and why was it important in Hull?

A scene dated around 1810 in Hull with a seed oil windmill visible alongside the River Hull
A scene dated around 1810 in Hull with a seed oil windmill visible alongside the River Hull

Seed oil, along with timber and fishing, was one of the key industries that made Hull one of the most important port cities in the world. The industry employed thousands of people at mills and plants on the River Hull where the seeds were imported to be crushed, processed and sold.

Local historian Paul Gibson chartered the rise and fall of Hull’s seed oil industry. He wrote: “It is almost impossible to write of Hull’s history without mentioning the seed-crushing industry, as its effects have been felt so widespread throughout the city, its industries, mercantile success, and more broadly – ​​its social condition.”

Mr Gibson wrote that Hull’s role in the industry dates back to the 16th century when Russia started importing rapeseed into Hull which was then crushed for oil by wind powered mills. By the 1920s “Hull had become the largest seed crushing and oil extracting center in the world” with almost 700,000 tons of oil seeds imported into the city every year.

His study found in 1937 there were more than 60- companies based largely around the River Hull and East Hull dealing in seed oil industry. You can find Paul Gibson’s full article here.

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