Cement Kilns

John Bazley White & Brothers

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John Bazley White's Swanscombe cement logoJohn Bazley White Brand.

John Bazley White was the only large company of the pre-1900 period, and was the main promoter and precursor of APCM.

The original John Bazley White began in the cement industry in partnership with Charles Francis, making Roman Cement at Nine Elms (London). The first kiln started up on 21/6/1810. The firm bought James Frost's Swanscombe plant in 1833, and continued making "artificial cement" there. The partnership with Francis was dissolved in 1836: Francis kept the Nine Elms plant, and White kept Swanscombe. White's began Portland cement production in 1845, when I. C. Johnson, then the Swanscombe plant manager, emulated the techniques originated by William Aspdin at Rotherhithe. After a faltering start, during which “Roman” and “British” cements were still the main products, White’s expanded production of Portland cement, largely by securing export markets, and Swanscombe became the largest British Portland cement manufacturing plant, remaining so for more than 80 years.

The company went public in 1883 as John Bazley White & Brothers, Ltd. Scions of the family continued to chair it. In the 1890s, it became apparent to the larger firms that, with the proliferation of small, inefficient plants, the industry needed rationalization, and White’s took the lead, buying Gillingham, Quarry and Greenhithe in 1893, Globe in 1895 and Bridge in 1897. Such piecemeal acquisitions, however, only scratched the surface, and White’s, along with the second biggest company, Hilton, Anderson and Brooks, began negotiating with the other large players, using Henry Osborne O'Hagan as a go-between. This resulted in the formation of APCM, with Frederick Anthony White as its first chairman.

Swanscombe remained the principal and largest plant of the new combine, with the installation of sixteen rotary kilns. Various Whites remained as board members of Blue Circle throughout the first half of the twentieth century, and the name was preserved in one of the company’s first overseas ventures in South Africa. “Whites Works” in the Orange Free State continued in operation until the 1980s, and the plant settlement, near Hennenman, is still called White’s today.

Cement plants at the time of the APCM takeover:

© Dylan Moore 2011: last edit 17/12/12.

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