Clinker manufacture operational: 1854-1938
Approximate total clinker production: 5.0 million tonnes
The plant was initially primarily concerned with brick making, using the Gault Clay quarry immediately adjacent to the plant, but also made hydraulic lime and Portland cement. The initial installation had four wet process bottle kilns and nine (216 t/week) by 1869. During 1872-1877, a further 13 kilns were added, bringing output to 578 t/week. A further eight kilns were added in 1878-1881 (total 810 t/week) and 16 more in 1885-1893 (total 1284 t/week). These kilns constituted a more or less continuous long row extending 250 m along the Medway bank. From around 1895, some of the bottle kilns were replaced with Batchelor kilns, and seven were converted to shaft kilns, converted again to Schneider format around 1901. By 1901, the complement was now 19 bottle kilns (493 t/week), 17 chamber kilns (510 t/week) and 7 shaft kilns (560 t/week) – total output 1563 t/week. In 1906, another five chamber kilns were added. With the advent of the rotary kilns, the remaining bottle kilns and the last block of chamber kilns were removed.
Rotary kilns were installed commencing 1911, to form what was at the time one of the country’s most up-to-date rotary plants. The tenuous justification for this was typical of the early APCM management style. Burham was very badly situated: it lacked any sort of landward transportation link, and its barge transport via the Medway was unsuitable for 20th century operations, since only small barges could negotiate Rochester Bridge. However, at the time of acquisition, the plant was substantially mortgaged, and continued development of the plant was necessary in order to avoid foreclosure. The rest of the chamber kilns and the Schneider kilns remained in place, and were occasionally used as top-up capacity. They last operated in 1927. The plant shut down in 1930, and kiln A4 was moved to Harbury to become kiln B2. The remaining kilns were re-started briefly in 1934 and again in 1936-1938, sending clinker by barge to Martin Earles and Crown and Quarry for grinding. The kilns were moved elsewhere: kiln A1 to Masons as kiln A4, and A2 and A3 to Golden Bay (New Zealand). The plant formally closed in 1941, but it ceased to produce clinker in 1938. The structures were demolished, and the site was abandoned as waste. The backwater of the Medway on which the plant was situated, produced by the straightening of the river in the 1830s, could only be maintained navigable by constant dredging, and has now practically silted up. Foundations, slurry backs and three slurry mixers are still present, thickly overgrown. The quarries are waste land.
Washmills were always used. In the final rotary kiln plant, there was a 120 kW washmill, two 50 kW screening mills and two 75 kW tube mills used in series, located on the edge of the clay field at 572110,161090.
Four rotary kilns were installed:
Supplier: Ernest Newell
Operated: 1913-1930, 4/6/1934-5/11/1934, 1936-8/1938
Operated: 1914-1930, 4/6/1934-5/11/1934, 1936-8/1938
© Dylan Moore 2011: commenced 07/08/2011: last edit 26/02/2017.
Approximate capacity: tonnes per year
Picture of kilns 1-3 in 1914, viewed from the west, from an early Newells advertisement. The stack to the rear is that of the finish mill power plant.