The brothers Thomas and Edwin Morgan were prospectors. After four days of fruitless searching for a non-existent lode of Silver in Queensland Australia. They camped in a valley near the river Dee and Edwin went for a walk and decided to swing a pick at an interesting black boulder that had obviously rolled down the hillside into the valley. A chip flew off and it glinted, the year was 1882. It was the greatest individual gold strike in History.
They consulted a Bank Manager. His name, William Knox D'Arcy, the son of a local solicitor. Together with the brothers they formed the Mount Morgan Gold Mining Co with a nominal capital of one million pounds.
Edwin Morgan's chance blow started something which continues today
It was William Knox D'Arcy who began the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company after approaching the Government of Iran in 1901 for exploration licences to:
"search for, obtain, exploit, develop, render suitable for trade, carry away and sell natural gas, petroleum, asphalt and ozokerite throughout the extent of the Persian Empire with the exception of five Northern provinces."
The Anglo-Iranian Oil Company subsequently struck oil in commercial quantities on May 16th 1908 at Masjid-i-Sulaiman in South Persia. The letter to the British Foreign office said:
I am directed by the secretary Sir Edward Grey to inform you that he has received a telegram from His Majesty's Chargé d' Affaires at Tehran reporting that the operators of your Syndicate have struck oil at One thousand two hundred feet which rises intermittently seventy-five feet above the level of the ground
Mr Marling's telegram is founded on a telegraphic report dated the 28th. ultimo from His Majesty's Consul General at Bushire
I am Sir
Your Most obedient
The strike was just in time for the boon in domestic automobile ownership and aviation.
D'Arcy also began the subsidiary of Anglo-Iranian Oil Company for further exploration purposes and the D'Arcy Exploration Company was created to continue the exploration for oil in other countries.
Since oil was discovered at the UK's first commercial Oilfield in 1939 at Eakring, the field had been operated by the D'Arcy Exploration company but in 1949 this company became British Petroleum.
The Anglo-Iranian Oil Company operations were to continue in Persia until the 1950's when Dr Mosaddeq took power in that country. He was to nationalise the Oil Industry there and BP failed to reach satisfactory arrangements with the new government. Therefore BP decided to shut down it's operations in Iran and evacuate it's personnel.
This led to an influx of people to Eakring who were experienced in exploration and production. This proved a boon for the UK onshore Oil industry as the first post war oilfield was discovered at Plungar in the Vale of Belvoir, Leicestershire. There were more successes at Egmanton, Bothamsall and South Leverton in Nottinghamshire, Corringham, Gainsborough and Glentworth in Lincolnshire and Kimmeridge in Dorset. All operations were initially run from Eakring. The research centre was at Kirklington Hall, Kirklington much of BP's research was carried out at Kirklington Hall and was visited by many prominent scientists and engineers. One visitor was Sir Frank Whittle, inventor of the jet engine, who also invented the world's first jet powered drill which was first used at Plungar, Nottinghamshire. Kirklington Hall is now a private school.
Gainsborough posed a problem not hitherto encountered, a part of the reservoir lay directly beneath the town and could not be reached by conventional vertical drilling. It was here that Britain's first deviated wells (arguably the world's first) were slant drilled from a railway yard at Gainsborough Central Station. Operations being run from Eakring
There were further discoveries at Torksey and Wareham and by 1964 BP's annual oil production figures had surpassed the 1943 peak reaching 127491 tons. But this year the government ended the preferential tax treatment for producers of indigenous light oils to meet the obligation entered into under the European Free Trade Agreement. This had a catastrophic effect on Eakring.
With a cheap and plentiful supply of oil from the Middle East and interest now turning to the North Sea, BP suspended development of the Gainsborough and Wareham fields and concentrated funds on North Sea Oil exploration.
But Eakring still had a significant role to play and continued as an important operational centre in the offshore business. In 1965 Eakring operated BP's first offshore well in UK waters at Lulworth Bank in Weymouth Bay.
But more significantly Eakring played a major part in the company's sortie into the North Sea with the Sea Gem jack-up barge the drilling section of which had been pre-assembled and run up in the Eakring yard. The rig included a number of Eakring based staff and was joined to its platform section and floated out from a Teeside yard and spudding an exploration well in June 1965.
But it was to be an expedition that experienced both success and disaster. The rig was to make the first hydrocarbon discovery in the British Sector in the North Sea, into what is now the West Sole field. However on Boxing Day 1965 the Sea Gem sank with the tragic loss of fourteen lives. Details of the disaster can be found at the Dukes Wood Oil Museum.
The find was significant however and spurred BP on to explore further in the North Sea and their operations based was moved to Great Yarmouth. At this time they also moved operations to the Tetney heliport and later to Dundee, Easington, near Hull and Sullom Voe in the Shetlands and to Dyce near to Aberdeen Airport.
In 1973 world oil price rises and the discovery of the Wytch Farm field in Dorset BP renewed interest in onshore activities. In 1979 Eakring assumed ownership of the field from British Gas with the production of 6000 barrels a day but with very firm plans to develop it into Europe's largest onshore oilfield.
In the 1980's another oilfield was discovered near the village of Scothern in Lincolnshire and this led to the development of Britain's second largest onshore oilfield at Welton. Three further discoveries were made at Stainton and Scampton North nearby to Welton.
By the mid 1980'a Eakring was drilling more onshore wells than the company was offshore and this renewed exploration programme led to many other smaller finds.
By 1987 BP had become the largest holder of net onshore acreage in Britain through the acquisition of exploration and production licences of smaller independent companies.
|It was in June 1987 that the
wartime memories came back to Eakring when the Dukes Wood Nature trail was
officially opened by the former BP chief geologist Sir Peter Kent. Peter
Kent had also been interested in Nature Conservation and was involved in
the Nottinghamshire Trust for Nature.
In 1988 the Nature reserve was visited by Sir David Attenborough (right) who praised BP for the way it had worked with the then Nottinghamshire Trust for Nature Conservation in creating a site of such historical and environmental interest.
The statue to the Oil Patch Warrior was unveiled by the secretary of state for industry John Wakeham in 1991 and several surviving members of the group who came over in 1943 came over from the United States for the unveiling.
The Museum was started in 1995 and continues to look after the site as a historical reminder of oil operations in and around Dukes Wood and Eakring and to look over the nature reserve to educate and inform the young and the older generations.
Naturalist Sir David Attenborough pictured next to a nodding donkey at Dukes Wood in November 1988.