Cement Kilns

Chalk in Cam Valley cement manufacture

Cam Valley Plants

Map of the Cam Valley cement plants
The plant names on this map are now clickable.
Barrington Bottisham Lode Burwell Cam Blue Lias East Anglian Hauxton Meldreth Norman Rhee Valley Romsey Town Royston Saxon Standard

Key

Cam Valley Map Key

The Chalk escarpment extends northward from the Thames Valley in the form of the Chiltern Hills. At its northern end, in East Anglia, the ridge becomes progressively lower and flatter, so that the outcrops of the Lower Chalk and Chalk Marl at the base become much broader. The Totternhoe Stone, which separates these rocks, was historically quarried in Cambridgeshire for hydraulic lime and as “clunch” building stone, while the lower portions of the Chalk Marl were extensively quarried in the mid-nineteenth century for the phosphatic nodules known (erroneously) as “coprolites”, which were used as fertilizer. Most of the marl, except at the base, contains 70-80% calcium carbonate, and when Portland cement began to be popular, many attempts were made to use the marl for cement, the earliest of which was probably Standard. Some sections of the marl were found to have about the right chemistry for the Portland cement of the time, and at many locations the marl was burned “as dug” as a “natural” cement. Several plants claimed to possess the only such “perfect” raw material. A number of Portland cement plants started up in this way in the 1880s and 1890s: in most cases it quickly transpired that this method of manufacture would not yield a competitive product.

Butler said of Cambridgeshire cement of the early 1880s: “it certainly was the most utter rubbish that was ever honoured with the name of Portland Cement”!

The plants that survived this realisation then began making a blended rawmix using marl with or without added Grey or Middle Chalk. Most of the plants remained small, the last plant created (Barrington in 1927) being the largest. Only two plants (Norman and Barrington) invested in rotary kilns, but the simplicity of manufacture in the area allowed a few plants with static kilns to struggle on until the last three (Cam Blue Lias, East Anglian and Rhee Valley) were killed off by the Depression almost simultaneously in 1934. This left only the rotary plants, and the closure of Norman in 1984 and Barrington in November 2008 marked the extinction of the area’s cement industry.

Links to plants in the Cam valley

Evolution of capacity (annual clinker tonnes) in the Cam Valley

Cam Valley cement capacity by kiln type

© Dylan Moore 2011; last edit 22/10/14.