Clinker manufacture operational: 1885-1914
Approximate total clinker production: 101,000 tonnes
Raw materials: Blue Lias Limestone (Blue Lias Formation: base of Sinemurian and top of Hettangian, 196-197 Ma) from the base of the cliffs immediately surrounding the plant and from the foreshore, conveyed to the plant by ropeway: this may well have been supplemented by imported chalk or Rheaetic Limestone from further along the shore in the later years.
Hydraulic blue lias lime was made for stucco at Lyme from the mid-18th century and Roman Cement was subsequently made using concretions (“cement stone”) in the lias shale. The site described here began making both lias lime and Roman cement around 1815. Bricks were also made from the shale and the overlying Charmouth Clay. Serious attempts to make real Portland cement began around 1885, although its production was claimed (with no justification) from 1850. There were three dry process bottle kilns in 1890. It may well be that the 1885 attempts were unsuccessful, or that the product offered failed to get a market, because the prospectus for the limited company in 1899 implies that only hydraulic lime had hitherto been produced, and, if Portland cement had been offered, it was made from as-dug material. Read the prospectus. The 1899 plan was for construction of 14 chamber kilns, but the company was under-subscribed, and by the end of 1900, only five chamber kilns had been erected, corresponding with Davis’ 1907 capacity of 120 t/week. Reconstruction in 1908 by John Lamb Spoor seems not to have affected the kiln capacity. The plant seems to have become inactive at the start of WWI. The original plant was connected to the end of the Cobb by a tramway, but this was later removed. The plant had no rail and poor landward communication, and most transport must have been originally by sea, from Lyme harbour or from the shore. Lyme was connected to the rail system in 1903, with the railhead 75 m above sea level, and the plant hauled product up the hill in steam wagons. Closure came with the shutdown of coastal trade in 1914. The plant area is now covered by a car park and harbour buildings: only one office building remains, but the remains of the ropeway foundations are still to be seen on the foreshore.
There is some suggestion that a rotary kiln was installed around 1912, but hard evidence is lacking. See discussion.
Sources: Francis, p 178: Jackson, p 285: Jo Thomas, “The building stones of Dorset: Part I. The western parishes – Upper Greensand Chert and Lower Lias” in Proceedings of the Dorset Natural History & Archaeological Society, 114, 1992, pp 161-168: Richard Bull, Industrial Lyme: Paper 6: The Cement Industry in Lyme Regis & Charmouth, Lyme Regis Museum, 5/2015 edition: 1899 prospectus in Glasgow Herald, 6/3/1899, p 4. Description of the ropeway in The Engineer, CXIX, 09/04/1915, pp 352-353. Read the prospectus and ropeway description.
© Dylan Moore 2011: commenced 24/01/2011: last edit 22/01/2017.
Approximate capacity: tonnes per year
Picture: ©English Heritage - NMR Aerofilms Collection. Britain from Above reference number EPW023895.
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This was taken in September 1928 and shows the plant from the east. In the foreground is the medieval Cobb. The foreshore and lower cliffs were of Blue Lias. A pylon just visible on the foreshore was the intermediate trestle of the ropeway. View in High Definition.