Casebourne Billingham Pioneer Brand cement logo Casebourne's Pioneer Brand.
ICI cement logo ICI sold cement under its own brand from 1928, continuing at Tunstead after Billingham closed.


  • Conventional plant:
    • Grid reference: NZ48222220
    • x=448220
    • y=522200
    • 54°35'34"N; 1°15'14"W
    • Civil Parish: Billingham, County Durham
  • Sulfuric acid plant:
    • Grid reference: NZ48022263
    • x=448020
    • y=522630
    • 54°35'48"N; 1°15'24"W
    • Civil Parish: Billingham, County Durham

Clinker manufacture operational: 1904 - 1970

Approximate clinker production to 2015:

  • Conventional 7.7 million tonnes
  • Anhydrite process 4.7 million tonnes

Overall 12.4 million tonnes (34th).

Raw materials:

  • Limestone components:
    • 1904-1919: Thames Chalk by sea, supplemented with chalk by rail from Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire during the war
    • 1920-1931: Lower Chalk (Ferriby Chalk Formation: 94-100 Ma) and Middle Chalk (Welton Chalk Formation: 90-94 Ma) from Wharram-le-Street, East Yorkshire 485900,465300
    • 1929-1970: Fertilizer plant waste calcium carbonate conveyed to the plant by a 550 m conveyor and a 1.57 km ropeway.
  • Clay component: Boulder Clay from Saltholme, Cowpen Bewley, County Durham 449600,423200
  • Anhydrite component:
    • 1924-1930: Permian Hartlepool Anhydrite Formation (259 Ma) from Warren mine.
    • 11/1927-1970: Permian Billingham Anhydrite Formation (255 Ma) from Billingham mine. 5-6 m seam of anhydrite (53-55% SO3) in pillar-and-stall mine beneath the plant covering 5 km2, via 237 m shaft at 447755,522710, transferred to the plant by belt conveyor.


  • 1903-1920 Casebourne and Co. Ltd
  • 1920-1926 Casebourne’s Pioneer Cement Co. Ltd
  • 1926-1928 Casebourne & Co. (1926) Ltd
  • 1928-1972 ICI

This was alternatively called Casebourne’s Works, Haverton Hill Works or Pioneer Works. It was the longest-lasting and most diverse in the category of waste-consuming cement plants, and by far the largest in terms of total output. It could arguably be treated as two plants, since the conventional and sulphuric acid plants were rather far apart, but their operation was always closely coordinated. It was initially constructed to replace the cramped Cliff House site in West Hartlepool, with good wharfage on the River Tees on previously undeveloped land east of the Tees Salt Works which was the first industry in the area. It would use chalk ballast from the area, supplemented and subsequently replaced by chalk shipped directly from the Thames. The installation of four rotary kilns was the largest of the time outside the APCM orbit, Davis' 1907 capacity of 1200 t/week indicating that the kilns were each producing around 45 t/day. The plant claimed that they were the first rotary kilns in Britain. Something like fifty kilns had in fact preceded them (see article). However, it appears to have been the first-started green-field plant to be designed exclusively with rotary kilns — the contemporaneous Fellner & Ziegler plant at Norman started most probably in September 1904, about a month later.

During the disruption of shipping in WWI, Thames chalk was briefly brought in by rail before being replaced (in 1919) by chalk from Wharram. Clinker was also being purchased from Earle’s during 1917. Despite these difficulties the plant (uniquely among the northern plants) ran through the war. The alternative raw material source was probably the reason for the plant’s longevity compared with others in this group: among the north-east coast plants, only this, Warren and Wilmington had the confidence to replace Thames chalk with a local material, and the others were rapidly killed off by WWI and the subsequent two decades. Nevertheless, because of transport costs and royalties, Wharram chalk was still expensive, costing in 1926 £0.15 per tonne at a time when cement was selling for £2.00. Warren, still on Thames chalk, were paying £0.275.

A government project was set up in 1917 to construct a Haber process ammonia plant to the northwest of the plant to make synthetic fertilizer independent of imports. Synthetic Ammonia and Nitrates Ltd (SA&N: a purpose-formed subsidiary of Brunner-Mond) bought the still-empty site plus rights to the process in 1920, and a plant finally got under way in January 1924. Trials for use of “sulfate plant mud” as a replacement for chalk at the cement plant took place in December 1924-January 1925, and from then on, the Wharram chalk was partially or totally replaced with this waste calcium carbonate, which was otherwise dumped at sea. The mud contained unreacted anhydrite and ammonia, and the clinker was always high in sulfate. In 1926, a new cement company was launched (with SA&N money) to finance a major upgrade, and following the successful commissioning of kiln B1 using waste carbonate, ICI, the successors of SA&N, bought the company out in 1928.

In 1929, ICI converted the kilns to a nominal “semi-wet” process by use of vacuum filters, which reduced feed moisture content from a typical 41.5% to a thick paste of around 30% H2O – a 40% reduction. Vacuum filtration, because of its low pressure drop, can’t produce a highly-consolidated filter cake. It was the first British plant to employ the semi-wet process. Nonetheless, high fuel consumptions around 8.6 MJ/kg were the norm.

In 1931, the UK’s first Anhydrite Process kiln was started on a site some distance away. From this time on, both conventional and anhydrite process clinker was produced, the finished cement being made at the conventional plant from a blend of the two. The anhydrite process clinker was transferred to the main plant by aerial ropeway (0.33 km). The first kiln was lit 10 February 1930, but did not make clinker for some time and only made a usable product from May 1931. The anhydrite kilns had a lower production rate than anticipated, and it was a long time before even moderate run times on good product were achieved. The plant ran through WWII, except that B1 was out of action 26/7/1942 to April 1943 due to a direct bomb hit on the burning zone and the coal mill. Following the sulfur-shortage scare of the early 1950s, a third, larger anhydrite kiln was installed in 1954, while ICI also collaborated in the building of Widnes. The clinker ropeway was de-commissioned at this point, and clinker was moved to the conventional plant by road.

The plant was designed from the outset for efficient water transport, necessary for bringing in chalk, and much product was shipped by water. The wharf was maintained for shipping product by ICI, although this function had disappeared by the time the plant closed. Situated in a major industrial area, its landward communications by road and rail were excellent.

In 1970, the replacement of the sulfuric acid process and the shut-down of the ammonium sulfate plant caused the closure of both sulfuric acid and conventional kilns. The sites were cleared fairly promptly. The cement plant area remains waste ground. The sulphuric acid plant site is now occupied by a municipal recycling and incinerator facility. The shafts of the anhydrite mine are capped and fenced off, but evidently still accessible, since the mine was proposed as a dump for low-level nuclear waste. The Wharram chalk processing plant is still in place, although derelict (see York Stories website and a remarkable video).

Please contact me with any relevant information or corrections. I am particularly interested in firmer dates and statistics.


  • The early plant had two washmills in series, fed with chalk and clay simultaneously from tram wagons. With the use of Wharram chalk, a crusher was installed ahead of the washmill, producing chalk below 10 mm.
  • In the 1926 plant fine sulfate mud, clay and sand were fed to a new washmill (?size) and the slurry was reground in an Edgar Allen tube mill (?size).
  • The sulfuric acid plant had two 450 kW open-circuit four-chamber FLS ball mills. An ?Ernest Newell 450 kW ball mill was added for Kiln S3.

Nine rotary kilns were installed: six conventional and three anhydrite process kilns:

Kiln A1

Supplier: Fellner & Ziegler
Operated: 10/08/1904-04/09/1929
Process: Wet
Location: hot end 448163,522211: cold end 448134,522186: entirely enclosed.

  • 1904-1923 metric 30.00 × 2.000
  • 1924-1929 lengthened to 125’0” (38.10 m)

Rotation (viewed from firing end): clockwise
Slope: ?
Speed: ?
Drive: ?
Kiln profile:

  • 1904-1923 0×2000: 30000×2000: tyres at 2400, 13500, 25500: turning gear at 13750
  • 1923-1929 0×2000: 38100×2000: Tyres at 2400, 13500, 25500, 36480

Cooler: rotary: metric 10.00 × 1.000 beneath kiln
Cooler profile: 0×1067: 8230×1067: tyres at 191, 7430: turning gear at 6287.
Fuel: Coal
Coal mill: indirect: Krupp ball mill common to four kilns
Exhaust: natural draught direct to stack. A cyclone and ID fan were added to kiln 4 in 1928 as a pilot for those fitted to kilns B1 and B2.
Typical Output: 1904-1923 45 t/d: 1924-1929 52 t/d
Typical Heat Consumption: 1904-1923 12.5 MJ/kg: 1924-1929 12.45 MJ/kg

Kiln A2

Location: hot end 448167,522207: cold end 448138,522182: entirely enclosed.

Rotation (viewed from firing end): anticlockwise
Identical in all other respects to A1.

Kiln A3

Location: hot end 448171,522202: cold end 448142,522177: entirely enclosed.

Rotation (viewed from firing end): clockwise
Identical in all other respects to A1.

Kiln A4

Location: hot end 448175,522197: cold end 448146,522172: entirely enclosed.

Rotation (viewed from firing end): anticlockwise
Identical in all other respects to A1.

Kiln B1 (=A5)

Supplier: FLS
Operated: 20/10/1927-03/07/1970
Process: Wet until 08/1929 then semi-wet
Location: hot end 448220,522237: cold end 448237,522157: entirely enclosed.
Dimensions (from cooler ports): Metric 82.00 × 2.850B / 2.550CD
Rotation (viewed from firing end): anti-clockwise
Slope: 1/25 (2.292°)
Speed: ?
Drive: ?
Kiln profile (from cooler ports): -2200×2850: 22600×2850: 25000×2550: 82000×2550: Tyres 2200, 13600, 31000, 50100, 71700: turning gear 33700.
Cooler: Unax planetary 12 × 4.11 × 0.880
Fuel: Coal
Coal mill: indirect: Tirax ball mill: direct by Atritor from 6/1958
Exhaust: ID fan direct to stack: cyclone added before the fan in 1930: Lodge Cottrell electrostatic precipitator added 2/1939.
Typical Output: 1927-1929 210 t/d: 1929-1947 216 t/d: 1948-1959 221 t/d: 1960-1970 210 t/d
Typical Heat Consumption: 1927-1929 9.5 MJ/kg: 1929-1947 7.55 MJ/kg: 1948-1959 7.29 MJ/kg: 1960-1970 7.65 MJ/kg

Kiln B2

Supplier: Vickers Armstrong
Operated: 24/08/1929-02/12/1970
Process: semi-wet
Location: hot end 448210,522241: cold end 448228,522155: entirely enclosed.
Dimensions (from cooler ports): 288’4½” × 9’10½”B / 8’10½”CD (metric 87.90 × 3.010 / 2.705)
Rotation (viewed from firing end): ?
Slope: ?
Speed: ?
Drive: ?
Kiln profile (from cooler ports): -610×3010: 28956×3010: 30937×2705: 87897×2705: tyres at 7010, 22860, 39167, 56007, 72542, 85496.
Cooler: reflex “Recuperator” planetary 12 × 4.12 × 1.207
Fuel: Coal
Coal mill: Initially indirect by common ball mill: direct by Atritor from 6/1958
Exhaust: ID fan direct to stack: cyclone added before the fan in 1930: Lodge Cottrell electrostatic precipitator added 10/1947.
Typical Output: 1929-1947 247 t/d: 1948-1959 252 t/d: 1960-1970 245 t/d
Typical Heat Consumption: 1929-1947 8.05 MJ/kg: 1948-1959 7.97 MJ/kg: 1960-1970 8.2 MJ/kg

Kiln S1

Supplier: Vickers Armstrong
Operated: 05/1931 -04/1970
According to Moses (op cit) the acid plant was started on the backup sulfur burners 14/12/1929, and the kiln was lit on 10/2/1930, but the kiln made no viable clinker at all during 1930, despite running for some 1800 hours. As with other kilns (e.g. Humber, Kent) for the purposes of this work I date start-up from the time some sort of usable product was made, in this case after major modifications and overhaul, in May 1931. It should be noticed that it was practice on the Anhydrite Process plants to count as output only product that could be used in cement, significant amounts not meeting this criterion being dumped and written off. This is in distinct contrast to cement industry practice, where anything that emerges from the front of the kiln is classed as clinker by definition.
Process: Anhydrite
Location: Hot end (cooler ports) 448062,522606: Cold end (feed scoops) 447998,522619: entirely enclosed.
Dimensions (from cooler ports): 222’1”× 11’0”B / 9’0”C / 11’0”D (metric 68.58 × 3.353 / 2.743 / 3.353). Rawmix was fed to these kilns through scoops 7’9" from the cold end, so the effective length was really 214’4” (65.329 m).
Rotation (viewed from firing end): clockwise
Slope: ?
Speed: ?
Drive: ?
Kiln profile (from cooler ports): -584×2743: 864×2743: 4369×3353: 24943×3353: 26822×2743: 50546×2743: 52476×3353: 67691×3353: tyres at 5817, 20371, 34011, 47879, 61671: turning gear at 31801: scoops at 65329.
Cooler: Reflex “Recuperator” planetary 12 × 12’0” × 3’6” (metric 12× 3.66 × 1.067)
Fuel: Coal
Coal mill: direct fired: Rema mill?
Exhaust: suction provided by acid plant blowers and scrubbed by acid plant gas cleaning.
Typical Output: 1931-1937 97 t/d: 1937-1945 127 t/d: 1945-1970 163 t/d
Typical Heat Consumption: 1931-1937 14.78 MJ/kg: 1937-1945 11.43 MJ/kg: 1945-1970 10.0 MJ/kg

Kiln S2

Location: Hot end (cooler ports) 448061,522597: Cold end (feed scoops) 447997,522610: entirely enclosed.
Operated: 12/1/1935-07/1970
Typical Output: 1935-1937 105 t/d: 1937-1945 126 t/d: 1945-1970 163 t/d
Typical Heat Consumption: 1935-1937 13.26 MJ/kg: 1937-1945 11.43 MJ/kg: 1945-1970 10.0 MJ/kg
Identical in all other respects to S1

Kiln S3

Supplier: Edgar Allen
Operated: 12/1954-10/1970
Process: Anhydrite
Location: hot end (cooler ports) 448075,522646: cold end 447969,522667: unenclosed.
Dimensions (from cooler ports): 353’0”× 13’0”B / 10’0”C / 13’0”D (metric 107.59 × 3.962 / 3.048 / 3.962)
Rotation (viewed from firing end): anticlockwise
Slope: 1/25 (2.292°)
Speed: 0.50-1.05 rpm
Drive: 113 kW
Kiln profile (from cooler ports): -610×3962: 28346×3962: 32004×3048: 96012×3048: 99670×3962: 107594×3962: tyres at 7010, 25070, 45491, 65151, 85344, 104242: turning gear at 50597
Cooler: Reflex planetary
Fuel: Coal
Coal mill: ?
Exhaust: suction provided by acid plant blowers and scrubbed by acid plant gas cleaning.
Typical Output: 251 t/d
Typical Heat Consumption: 9.9 MJ/kg

Sources: Cook, pp 72, 97, 116: Francis, pp 229-230: Jackson, pp 217, 273, 275: Pugh, p 109: D. W. F. Hardie, J. Davidson Pratt, A History of the Modern British Chemical Industry, Pergamon Press Ltd., 1966, pp 123, 125: Description of No.1 Sulphuric Acid Plant, Billingham, ICI General Chemicals Division Report, 1/7/1930 (Catalyst Archive GCD101057): J. Manning, “Sulphuric Acid and Cement from Anhydrite” in Proceedings of the Fertiliser Society, 15, 8/11/1951: R. H. Moses et al, History of the Cement and Sulphuric Acid Plant, Billingham, 1929-1951, ICI Billingham Report, 1953 (Teesside Archives A121456) : W. Readman, Brief record of the Casebourne Works & Portland cement manufacture 1866-1927, ICI Billingham Report, 1950 (Teesside Archives A121073): V. Turley, Illustrated History of Casebourne’s Cement Plant 1862-1972, 1980, (Teesside Archives U/CB/9): “The Billingham Mine”, Mine & Quarry Engineering, December 1953 (retrieved from DMM)

Data regarding the Billingham anhydrite process plant

This is a description of the plant as installed in the 1930s, and is included because of the special interest of the unusual process.

Anhydrite was crushed to 25 mm at the mine and brought to the plant by one 30 m and one 150 m conveyor belt. It was stored in two 950 t rawmill feed silos (square section, 18 m high). The mine also supplied the ICI ammonium sulfate plant, via an 800 m ropeway.

Clay of 25% moisture content was dried in a 28’× 5’7” (metric 8.53 × 1.702) gas-fired co-current rotary drier at 3.81 t/hr.

A separate drier (24’6”× 4’11”, metric 7.47 × 1.499) was used for coke (11% moisture, 3.86 t/hr) and sand (10% moisture, 1.53 t/hr).

The dried clay, coke and sand were stored in pairs of silos of nominal capacities 280 t, 165 t and 500 t. These fed two open-circuit four-chamber FLS tube mills of inside-shell dimensions 11.00 × 2.200 m. These turned at 18.1 rpm and drew 450 kW supplied through Symmetro gearboxes. Output was 17.3 t/hr of raw meal with 2% >90 μm.

The meal was elevated to four 300 t square section silos from which it could be withdrawn and elevated to a set of four small aerated mixers discharging into four 340 t square section kiln feed silos. These, when full (and if dischargeable – a big if), were sufficient for four days’ kiln run.

The meal was moved by dual conveyor sets to the sump of the scoops feeding the kiln. The kiln was as described above. The kiln house entirely enclosed the kiln section, and was laid out to accommodate two kilns, with Kiln 1 on the north side. The kiln was direct-fired, raw coal being supplied from an 85 t hopper.

Kiln product was stored in a 1400 t bunker with five discharge points feeding the aerial ropeway conveying it to the conventional cement plant.

The kiln exhaust was supplied with a pair of sulfur burners to maintain SO2 content during kiln light-up. Before the precipitators, there was a steel auxiliary stack (with no fan) to maintain minimum kiln draught during acid plant stoppage. The four in-parallel dust precipitators were placed before the gas cooling tower. Dust captured was returned directly to the kiln feed sump. Kiln exit temperatures were 750-840ºC and the precipitators functioned only as drop-out boxes.

The gases were next cooled in water-sprayed conditioning towers. The moist cool gas was cleaned using mist (wet) precipitators which removed essentially all the remaining dust, and most of the water. The water from the conditioning towers and mist precipitators naturally contained considerable amounts of dissolved SO2. The SO2 was reclaimed in a stripping tower with a counter current of air, the latter being then re-introduced into the main gas stream.

The gas now passed into drying towers, in which the remaining humidity was removed by washing with 98% sulfuric acid. The now dry gas contained SO2, CO2, N2 and free air, and further air was introduced in order to get the correct SO2/O2 ratio. The diluted acid from the driers was re-used downstream. The dry gas now passed through a set of parallel ID fans ("blowers") that provided the sole flow energy for the entire system, including the kilns.

The gas now passed under pressure into the four parallel catalytic converter/heat exchanger units. The heat exchanger used the exothermic heat of the reaction in the converters to pre-heat the gas to the required reaction temperature (400-410°C). The gas in which the SO2 had largely been converted to SO3 was now led into absorption towers which took up the SO3 in re-circulating 98% sulfuric acid, the stronger acid thus produced being diluted back to 98% by bleeding in diluted acid from the gas driers (above). The finished acid bled from this circuit was put though coolers prior to storage.

Units in parallel could be isolated for maintenance while the rest of the plant ran on, but isolation required insertion and removal of blanking plates, almost always involving short but complete shut-downs.

Acid was held in six 370 t storage tanks. Tail gas still contained some SO2 and was scrubbed with ammonia, producing a substantial amount of ammonium sulfate as a by-product.

With the installation of Kiln 2, most of the downstream plant was not extended. The first kiln had fallen so far short of its planned output (250 t/day clinker) that the second kiln was more a back-up than a doubling of capacity. The relaxation of raw meal fineness miraculously obviated the need for extra raw milling capacity.