Clinker manufacture operational: 1907 - 1929
Approximate total clinker production: 290,000 tonnes
Crosfield’s main business was soap, but they were also a significant producer of sodium silicate. The main plant was the Bank Quay works on the Lancashire side of the Mersey in Warrington. The plant produced waste calcium carbonate from conversion of sodium carbonate to sodium hydroxide. Until 1899, the carbonate sludge was dumped in the Mersey at a rate of about 150 tonnes per week. Crosfield’s were finally prosecuted following pressure from the Ship Canal company, the Mersey Conservancy Board and the Borough of Warrington. In 1899, filter presses were installed and the resulting concentrate was re-used, some in whiting and some in bleaching powder, but mostly as agricultural lime. Sales were around 20,000 tons at £0.15 per ton in 1904-6.
Optimism about the future progressive increase in tonnage led them to embark on the cement plant project in 1905. The plant was built on the opposite (south) bank of the river, and included in the project was the construction of a transporter bridge (the first of two). The carbonate (now once again handled as sludge) was pumped to the plant over the bridge, and was washed with local clay. The plant was not up and running until the end of 1907, and Davis’ 1907 capacity of 300 t/week must have been a projection. The plant was operated, irrespective of cement trade conditions, to absorb the available carbonate waste , and only made a profit in one or two years of its life.In John Hudson Earle's diary (R 27/3/1908), he was told by the Polysius rep that Crosfield’s “have not enough waste products to keep one kiln going, but they have told (him) that they are trying to buy other waste products from Lever Bros & other soap people & if they succeed they will put a second kiln down”.
Its turnover was never more than 2% of the overall plant’s turnover. It is, however, noteworthy that the amount of cement produced was always less than half the stoichiometric amount expected from the plant’s sodium hydroxide production (2.2 tonnes cement per tonne of NaOH), and it is likely that persistent operational and product quality problems were the main factors in its failure.
In 1929, the sodium hydroxide plant was changed to the Mount process, in which calcium carbonate precipitate is converted back to lime in a rotary kiln (not the same one) and recycled. The cement plant closed when this became operational.
The plant despatched product by rail: trucks loaded on the peninsula were carried by the second transporter bridge across the Mersey to the company’s railway sidings. The site of the cement plant was subsequently redeveloped with other plant. Attempts are being made to preserve the second bridge, which is a scheduled monument - see website.
The rawmill arrangement is unknown, but evidently there were initially washmills in which the clay was combined with carbonate slurry.
Two rotary kilns were installed:
Operated: late 1919-12/1929
Sources: Jackson, pp 221, 277: A. E. Musson, Enterprise in Soap and Chemicals: Joseph Crosfield and Sons Ltd 1815-1965, Manchester University Press, 1965
© Dylan Moore 2011: last edit 26/07/15.