Cement Kilns

Lyme Regis

Lyme LogoThe Lyme Regis Keystone Brand circa 1908.

Location:

  • Grid reference: SY33579157
  • x=333570
  • y=91570
  • 50°43'12"N; 2°56'27"W
  • Civil Parish: Lyme Regis, Dorset

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.

Ownership:

  • pre-1899: a succession of private owners and lessees
  • 1899-1914: Lyme Regis Cement Co. Ltd: the company was re-incorporated in 1902 and 1909.

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.



Old Maps

Approximate capacity: tonnes per year
Lyme Regis Capacity

Picture: ©English Heritage - NMR Aerofilms Collection. Britain from Above reference number EPW023895.
Britain from Above features some of the oldest and most valuable images of the Aerofilms Collection, a unique and important archive of aerial photographs. You can download images, share memories, and add information. By the end of the project in 2014, 95,000 images taken between 1919 and 1953 will be available online.
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.

The following is an edited transcript of the Prospectus for the launch of the limited company, to be found in the Glasgow Herald, 6 March 1899, p 4. I have also included a description of the ropeway that was used to bring limestone up from the southwestern end of Monmouth Beach.

The Lyme Regis plant was one of many plants using Blue Lias limestone for which the date of commencement of Portland cement manufacture is uncertain for a number of reasons. The Blue Lias was used to make hydraulic lime from early times, and had a good reputation for use in engineering masonry construction, including Smeaton's lighthouse. With the arrival on the scene of the vastly superior Portland cement, many suppliers of Blue Lias lime chose to add the new product to their product range. A few went to considerable lengths to make a genuine Portland product, but most assumed that something like Portland cement could be made by minor modifications of their lime product - mainly consisting of burning a bit hotter. The resulting product, which might class as an inferior Portland cement, or might not be Portland cement at all, was often sold successfully in limited local markets that were remote from the "Portland cement heartland" in southeast England. Until the British Standard was produced in the early 20th century, and some sort of rational definition of the product was written down, the term "Portland cement" was indiscriminately applied. This, of course, makes the study of the early history of the product and producing sites difficult.

The Prospectus issued in 1899 represents a re-writing of the history of the Lyme Regis plant, which had for a long time claimed Portland cement as a product. A similar plant at Charmouth Harbour a few miles to the east differs only in that it never went on to make a genuine Portland cement. The prospectus is of interest because it contains a technical report on the site by David Butler.

THE LYME REGIS CEMENT COMPANY (Limited).

This company has been formed to acquire a leasehold property consisting of 40 acres or thereabouts, situate at Lyme Regis, in the county of Dorset, abutting on the sea, and containing practically an inexhaustible supply of blue lias limestone, interstratified with the natural marls, from which, according to expert's opinion, the finest quality of Portland cement can be made, as has been proved by tentative work on the property.

The present lease expires in 1910, the minimum annual rental being £150 and £180 as a maximum. There is, however, an agreement for the granting of a new lease for the term of 50 years, from the 25th March, 1898, at the existing rents. The Vendors have received an offer to lease a portion of the property for quarrying purposes only to persons who are willing to pay a royalty therefor, not to exceed £500 per annum.

There are situate on the property certain works, plant, and machinery which have hitherto been used for the manufacture of hydraulic lime, and which can be utilised, and it is proposed to erect large additional works and plant which it is anticipated could be working and turning out cement within four months of commencing to erect same.

There is a harbour adjoining the property which affords every facility for shipment, and vessels can be loaded direct from the works, thus saving cost of railway carriage and extra handling (Note 1).

The exceptionally high price to which Portland cement has risen, viz., 40s per ton (Note 2), and the enormous demand therefor, proves that the present is a most opportune time to acquire this property. This demand, which has always been great commercially, is not only daily increasing on account of the new and varied uses to which Portland Cement is being constantly applied, but is also prospectively greater than at any other time, in consequence of the increased demand necessitated by the very extensive works, fortifications, &c., in course of construction at Devonport, Stonehouse, Dover (Note 3), and other places, both home and abroad. The directors are informed that cement manufacturers have now contracts booked for several years in advance, and contractors and others are experiencing great difficulty in getting the supplies requisite for their business. This will be understood when it is remembered that cement has risen within the past few months from 28s per ton to 40s per ton, and everything points to a further rise in the near future (Note 4).

The quality of the Blue Lias stone on this property is well known to engineers and contractors, and hitherto it has been used more particularly for the manufacture of Blue Lias hydraulic lime (Note 5).

The Directors believe that in acquiring this property they have secured the whole outcrop of the Blue Lias limestone in the district, and will therefore have practically the monopoly of the manufacture there (Note 6).

Samples of the stone on the property have been analysed by Professor Henry Thomas Jones, of the Chemistry Department, Aberdeen University, and his analysis (Note 7) is as follows:—

University of Aberdeen, 15th November, 1898.
Analysis of a sample of Blue Lias limestone from Lyme Regis, Dorset. It was found to contain 100 parts:—
Alumina5.95
Ferric Oxide4.25
Lime67.22
Magnesia0.94
Alkalis, principally Potash1.95
Sulphuric Acid1.97
Carbonic Acid3.26
Silica13.29
Insoluble Siliceous Residue1.17
Total100.00
This sample is an excellent Hydraulic Lime, produced from the Blue Lias Limestone Quarries at Lyme Regis in Dorset, and will, without doubt, be highly appreciated by engineers in the construction of docks, harbours, &c.
HENRY THOMAS JONES, F.I.C., late Asst. Prof. of Chemistry University of Aberdeen; Lecturer on Chemistry, Gordon's College, Aberdeen.

As evidence of the valuable nature of the Blue Lias Lime and natural Cement (Note 8) on the property, it has been distinctly recognised by the most eminent engineers as one of the best known, having been used in the construction of Westminster Bridge; by the Engineers for the docks in London, Plymouth, Southampton, Grimsby, Sunderland, the Channel Islands, Portland, Fleetwood, Hull and Leith, and for the fortifications at Inchkieth, and also throughout the construction of kindred undertakings throughout the kingdom (Note 5 again).

The property has also been inspected by Mr D. B. Butler, of Messrs Henry Faija & Co., of London, the well-known Cement Experts, and whose report thereon is as follows:-

Portland Cement Testing Works and Laboratory,
41 Old Queen Street,
Westminster,
London SW.
November, 1898.

In accordance with instructions, I visited Lyme Regis on 25th October last, and inspected the Blue Lias Stone Quarries on the foreshore east and west of the town. I also examined the existing Lime Works, and the site for the proposed cement works adjoining the harbour.

There is practically an inexhaustible supply of raw materials for cement making purposes. In addition to the rights of quarrying under some forty acres of land immediately behind the western quarry, which I understand is held on lease, and where the workable Lias Stone and Shale deposits above foreshore level are some 20 ft thick (Note 9), I am informed that the right has also been acquired of getting stone from the foreshore for a very considerable distance further westward, without taking into consideration the extensive foreshore quarries on the east of the town (Note 10). The stone from these eastern quarries, however, would only be used in case of emergency, owing to the extra cost of handling and transport to the western works.

The existing Lime Works adjoin the western quarry, and are situated at the foot of the cliff, about 200 yards west of the harbour. They consist of the usual limekilns, four pairs of 4ft. millstones in a four-storey mill-house, together with a lime-store and other buildings. The buildings are substantially constructed of stone, and with some modifications and repairs to roofs, &c., could be adapted and utilised for cement-making purposes, such, for instance, as the grinding and mixing of raw materials in the first stages of manufacture.

The site for the proposed cement works is a flat, triangular piece of land, about two acres in extent, situated at the foot of the cliff, well out of the reach of the tide, between the existing lime works and the harbour (Note 11). I would suggest that the cement-grinding mills and warehouses should be erected on that portion of the site nearest the harbour, so that if the existing lime works were enlarged and converted into a raw material grinding plant, and the kilns arranged between the two mills, the materials would pass direct from the quarry, through the successive stages of manufacture, and eventually be delivered into the warehouse close to the harbour ready for despatch to the consumer. In addition to the facilities which would thus exist for ready and advantageous transport of the manufactured material, the close proximity of the harbour would be an incalculable advantage for obtaining supplies of fuel, &c., for calcination purposes. Roughly speaking, half a ton of coal and coke is required to manufacture a ton of cement, so that this is a matter of no small importance (Note 12).

I have carefully considered the matter of cost of erection of works, and I estimate that the cost of converting and adapting the existing works, and erecting and equipping cement works to turn out 20,000 tons per annum (Note 13), would be about eighteen thousand five hundred pounds (£18,500). From figures supplied to me as to the cost of getting raw materials, price of fuel, labour, &c., I estimate the cost of production to be nineteen shillings and fivepence per ton, which figure includes an allowance of ninepence (9d) per ton royalty on the raw material used, or roughly one shilling (1s) per ton of cement produced, but inasmuch as the maximum royalty payable under the lease is £450, the actual royalty would be reduced to 5½d per ton of cement upon an output of 20,000 tons per annum, and would be still further diminished in proportion as the output increased (Note 14). If the maximum royalty of £450 is diminished by £300 (the estimated royalty to be derived from the sublet eastern quarries) the royalty for an output of 20,000 tons of cement per annum would be 1.8d only, or say 2d per ton. I understand that the present selling price at Lyme Regis is thirty-six shillings (36s) per ton, f.o.b., which, in view of the immense activity of the cement trade, I should consider to be within the mark.

At the foot of the cliff, behind the proposed cement works site, there is a large sloping bank of blue clay (Note 15), which, from samples submitted for my inspection, can be made into first-class bricks, tiles, &c. There is also a circular brick kiln on the site, with roofed drying racks arranged around it, so that bricks for the erection of the works could be made on the spot. As the lime also can be produced on the property, the necessary buildings could be erected under advantageous circumstances, and if this course were adopted, no doubt a considerable saving could be effected on the estimate of cost of erection above quote.

your truly

(signed) D. B. BUTLER.

The present issue of 50,000 shares will suffice to purchase from Mr Cotton, who is selling the same to the company at a profit, the lease, buildings, plant, &c., at the price of £25,000, payable up to £4000 in cash and the balance in cash or Shares, at the option of the Directors of this Company, thus leaving £25,000 available for the erection of additional plant, and the provision of working capital, &c. The balance of 25,000 Shares to be issued as occasion may require.

As regard the profits to be earned, the plant proposed to be erected should give an output of 20,ooo tons per annum, and as cement can be manufactured at from 18s to 20s per ton, this would leave at the present price a clear profit of 20s per ton, but assuming the profit to be only 12s per ton, the profit would amount to £12,000 per annum, which would be equivalent to 24 per cent. on the Capital of £50,000 now being issued.

The Cement Business is now one of the most prosperous in the country, and the present issue offers to investors an exceptional opportunity to acquire an interest in a sound home industry with prospects of large dividends, and also in the near future a very appreciable increase in the value of the Shares. The Directors have all personally inspected the property, and find that in addition there are large deposits of brick earth, which lie above the limestone over a considerable portion of the property, and from which bricks of the best quality can and have been manufactured (Note 16).

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The Aerial Ropeway

I found this description in The Engineer, CXIX, 09/04/1915, pp 352-353. Read The Engineer at Grace's Guide. It's part of an article entitled Aerial Ropeways No IV, devoted to ropeways designed by Bullivant & Co.

Fig. 3 - Single Cable Ropeway, Lyme Regis Cement Company. This gives a view from the far (southwest) end of the ropeway, towards the plant and the Cobb. The second and third OS map revisions were before and after the existence of this equipment, but the intermediate pylon is tentatively show on the 1925 1:2500 map. The dimensions given here allow them to be plotted with reasonable accuracy.

A general view of a second single cable ropeway is given in Fig. 3. This line was erected for the Lyme Regis Cement Company, and is employed for conveying limestone picked up at low water from the sea beach to a neighbouring kiln. The ropeway has a length of 1507ft. and in plan is straight. In profile it consists of two spans, one, the nearer in Fig. 3, being of 467ft., and the other of 1040ft. The rise from the shunt rail at the shore end when this rail is in its loading position to the shunt rail at the kiln is about 64 ft. The gauge of the line is 7ft. and the rope employed has a circumference of 2½in.

The line has a normal capacity of 15 tons per hour, although, we understand, this rate of working at times is often exceeded (Note 17). Thus with twelve carriers in use the capacity of the line can be raised to 20 tons an hour. For normal working the carriers are spaced apart on the rope at 360ft. distance. Each carrier has a net capacity of 4cwt. An engine of about 5 horse-power is used to drive the rope at a speed of 450ft. per minute. This may be considered a fairly high speed for a single cable ropeway, but the capacity per hour, it will be noticed, is not very great.

Fig. 4 - Terminal Trestle, Shunt Rail Lowered. This is the normal position for loading the buckets. Fig. 5 - Terminal Trestle, Shunt Rail Raised. The shunt rail was parked in this position when not in use, to keep it above high tide level. Fig. 6 - Discharging Terminal.

Of the trestles, the intermediate one has a height of 60ft. and at high tide its base is well covered with water. The terminal trestle on the beach is the most interesting feature of the installation. As shown in Figs. 4 and 5 it is provided with a counter-balanced shunt rail which can be elevated through a total distance of 15ft. by means of a hand winch (Note 18). In this way the gear is removed clear of the water at high tide, when, of course, the ropeway has in any event to cease working. The arrangement, we are informed, has satisfactorily withstood the test of several very severe storms. The discharging terminal, as shown in Fig. 6, is built against the kiln (Note 19) into which the limestone is tipped direct. The tensioning arrangement shown in the engraving consists of a 7-ton concrete block suspended from a 7ft. diameter pulley round which the running rope is led. This system of tensioning the rope ( . . ) can only be adopted where the line is short and the terminal platform at such a height above the ground as will give sufficient room for the weight to hang clear at all times and under all conditions.

- o - O - o -

The Phantom Rotary Kiln

In late 2015, I came aware of the bizarre suggestion that the ramshackle little Lyme Regis plant had installed a rotary kiln. It's a measure of the failure of this website that since then, virtually no new information has been received. The installation remains a ghostly spectre, although at least one item of information seems to make its existence incontrovertible. There currently exists no plan showing it, no picture showing it in action, and no reference to it in the usual industry histories, technical literature and plant reference lists.

The one source that prevents me from dismissing the whole story is a notice of sale that appeared in The Times on 23/5/1925:

FOR SALE BY AUCTION.

Plant & Machinery at the works of the Lyme Regis Cement Company, Dorset:

  • A GEC 300 kW alternator, 3 phase, 350 volts, 50 periods with surface condensing plant.
  • A Ferranti 250 kVA oil cooled transformer 350/2500 volts.
  • Three Stirling water tube boilers, 160 lb pressure, with feed water heaters and Weir feed pumps. (The tubes belonging to these boilers are at the Stirling Boiler Co's works, Motherwell).
  • Ten 3-phase, 350 volts, 50 periods motors from 9 to 60 HP (Note 20).
  • Morris 1 ton overhead hand traveller 23ft 8in span steel gantry 67 ft long.
  • Two tube mills, about 5 ft diameter, 26 ft long (Note 21).
  • Rotary cement kiln, 6 ft diameter, 94 ft long (Note 22).
  • Aerial ropeway by Bullivant, 500 yards long, with steel standards 60 ft high (see above).
  • Pooley 15-ton weighbridge.
  • Oil cabinets and other effects.

So the plant had a rotary kiln. Questions that arise are:

  • When was it installed?
  • Where did it come from?
  • How was it financed?
  • Did it ever run?

John Lamb Spoor took over the plant around 1906. He gave the townsfolk to believe that this would be a new beginning for the plant, which up to then had been mediocre and probably loss-making. However, Spoor did not relocate to Lyme, and remained at his home in the Medway area. It's natural to assume that Spoor arranged for the kiln to be installed. A new kiln of this size would have cost around £1500, at a time when the plant was making at most 5000 tons a year, with a profit (if any) of a few shillings a ton, so it's hard to see how a new kiln could be funded from revenue. There is no indication of any external funding being obtained, so one must assume that the kiln was obtained cheaply and was perhaps second hand.

A paper published by Lyme Regis Museum (Richard Bull, The Cement Industry in Lyme Regis & Charmouth, 2016, available here) gives a great deal of local information and includes several photographs of what may be the kiln. A picture of part of the kiln being towed away raises questions since the tyres seem to belong to a dryer and the diameter is too small. A picture of the kiln apparently being broken up is similarly suspect, and the real kiln is apparently to be seen, still on its rollers, in the background.

It is remarkable that in a place as frequently photographed as Lyme Regis, no pictures of the functioning kiln survive. There is one Aerofilms photograph (EPW013476) predating the removal of the kiln, taken in June 1925, giving a tantalising blurred view of what might be the kiln, located parallel to the quay-side.

A further object, in bits, is on the edge of the quay. Richard Bull also found a postcard image of the plant, apparently taken from the Cobb, giving a similar view.

The pictures and the sale data all post-date the closure of the plant in 1914. Searches for direct information before closure have drawn a blank. However, there are newspaper references to the plant, which begin in 1912. The Exeter and Plymouth Gazette followed the story for over a year. On 17/5/1912, they reported a complaint that access to the Monmouth Beach foreshore had been prevented by the erection of a barrier. This would have prevented the casual photographer from viewing the plant at low tide. On Tuesday 9/7/1912, complaints had begun. At a Council meeting:

The Town Clerk read a petition, and also two letters, from inhabitants of the Cobb complaining of the nuisance caused by the dense black smoke which came from the Cement Works. On the previous day (Sunday) three chimneys were going all the day, and it was impossible to open windows of dwelling-houses without having everything in the house covered with "blacks". The Surveyor was instructed to serve the Company with notice to abate the nuisance within 14 days.

This seems to be typical of the conditions of a kiln light-up. One of the features that make this installation seem so improbable is the lack of any prescience that the plant might become a pollution problem. Situated at beach level, to the southwest of the town, prevailing winds would inevitably drop all its dust over the sea-front of this famous resort. Three chimneys are mentioned: the power house and the kiln, and the third might be the coal dryer/mill.

A month later (Friday 16/8/1912), the paper reports another Council meeting:

Complaints having been again received as to the nuisance arising from the smoke from a chimney at the cement works, Mr Matthew moved, at this week's meeting of the Town Council, that that body take legal proceedings against the Company, as they had not abated the nuisance. Mr Long thought they should give the Company notice of the Council's intention to take such proceedings unless the nuisance were abated, and this course was eventually adopted.

It's now "a chimney". "Pro" and "anti" factions seem to be emerging. After another month (Tuesday 10/9/1912), the paper reports another Council meeting:

The Town Clerk read a letter from Mr B. D. Kilburn, of Barnstaple House, complaining that the smoke nuisance from the Cement Works still continued. The Sanitary Inspector said he had, in accordance with instructions, watched the works of the Company, and on three occasions lately dense black smoke had been emitted, the last occasion being on Friday, when it continued for 20 minutes. Mr F Mathew moved that proceedings be taken at once, remarking that the smoke was a very serious menace to the town as a holiday resort. Mr H Long said he had been given to understand that if the Council insisted upon the smoke being abated, and proceedings taken as suggested by Mr Mathew, the works would be closed down. He therefore thought that the Council should try some other method. It was eventually agreed that the Manager should be asked to meet the Council in Committee.

Evidently the Company's PR position was to tell the town that it was doing it a favour by gracing it with their cement plant. Several more reports along the same lines were published, until on Saturday 19/7/1913, the paper reported:

For some time past complaints have been made to the Lyme Regis Town Council against the Lyme Regis Cement Works, it being alleged by certain householders residing in the west end of the town that a nuisance was caused by the emission of black smoke, fumes and dust from the works. The matter was first brought to the attention of the Council some twelve months ago, complaint then being made as to the smoke nuisance. As a result of the representations made to the Company, they undertook to erect a new chimney, which work was completed about March last. The Company also put in certain smoke-abating appliances, and used smokeless coal (Note 23). Of late, however, frequent complaints have been made to the Council by the same householders, and at an adjourned meeting of the local authority (Note 24) it was decided to take counsel's opinion as to whether the Council would be justified in taking proceedings against the Company to have the nuisance abated, and also as to whether the Council would be entitled to recover expenses incurred in repairing the roads stated to be damaged by the Company's steam lorries.

The case was submitted to Mr A Macmorran, K.C., and he stated that from the description given in his instructions, there could not be any doubt in his opinion, that the work carried on occasioned a serious nuisance, and, moreover, a public nuisance. The only satisfactory remedy was by applying for an injunction in the name of the Attorney General. He also considered the Council could recover on the question of extraordinary traffic.

The Council, as the result of their deliberations, decided to take a postcard poll of the town as to whether proceedings should be taken against the Company, and this will be done in the course of the next few days (Note 25).

Large posters were placarded about in various parts of the town yesterday containing a protest from the workmen employed by the Company, and in the afternoon a procession was formed at the Company's works and marched round the town, headed by the men's own band. In front was also carried a banner, on which was inscribed: "375 men, women, and children (Note 26) depend on the works' success. Give us work, and not take our bread away" (Note 27). The proceedings passed off most orderly, there being no disturbance of any kind.

It is understood that if the case goes against the Company they will remove their works to another town (Note 28).

The salient point here is that the company built a new stack, six months or so after the problem began. This would be the 120 ft masonry stack that remained after the plant closed. Before WWI, small kilns were commonly provided with short stacks, often of rivetted mild steel, and one would imagine that this was the case here. Since the town of Lyme Regis rises sharply up a 500 ft hill above the plant, a taller stack could only move emissions further into the town centre. The "smoke-abating appliance" was probably a "wet-bottom" duct - the pictures show there was room for this. While reducing dust emissions by perhaps as much as 50%, black smoke events would have been little affected.

No proceedings followed, but with the start of WWI, the plant's boat was requisitioned, and closure followed before the end of the year. The firm went into receivership in 1915. In October 1919 there was a report that the plant was being prepared for a re-start, but this evidently didn't happen. The sale of much of the equipment occurred in 1925, as described above. Then finally, in 1936, the remaining buildings and the two masonry stacks were demolished. Several newspapers reported on the occasion, and the most significant account (although not the longest) was in the Western Times, Friday 14/8/1936:

Visitors to Lyme Regis enjoyed a spectacular thrill on Tuesday in the demolition, by the Royal Engineers (Note 29), of two chimneys at the cement works, which have been acquired by the Town Council for the purposes of development. The two chimneys were approximately 120 feet high and one of them, built by Germans, had never been used.

They fell majestically, full length, without any untoward incident and to the accompaniment of the cheers of a large crowd on the Cobb.

The cement works have not been used since the war. The property extends for 26 acres from the Cobb to the borough boundary at a point known as Devonshire Edge on the Devon-Dorset border, and includes the foreshore.

All accounts are agreed that the plant did not operate after the war. Here it is also said that one chimney had not been used, and that it had been built by Germans. The report of July 1913 implies that the new chimney was in use. The accounts here were of course gleaned from locals with 20-year-old memories, but the chimney built in March 1913 probably got little use before the rotary kiln was abandoned.

Is the kiln German? If so, it's metric.

NOTES

Note 1. Lyme was finally linked to the railway in 1903, but because of the steep coastline, the terminus was located at the top of the town and rail did not reach the harbour. At this time, it was entirely natural to assume that all cement product would be despatched by sea. The Lyme Regis plant was one of the many English plants that were driven out of existence by the blockade of coastal trade during WWI. Later, the plant hauled product up the 75 m climb to the station by steam wagon, and were sued by the Borough for the resulting damage to the roads.

Note 2. This is £213 per tonne in 2013 money!

Note 3. Pearson's had the exclusive contract for Dover, and had bought the 870 t/week Wouldham plant to supply it.

Note 4. This up-beat assessment was not shared within the industry. From 1885, the industry had had a long period of sustained growth, faltering briefly in 1895, but averaging 6.5% per annum. This peaked in the boom year of 1898, but by the spring of 1899, the market started to turn, and in 1900 production was 10% down. In the event, naturally prices were extremely volatile. While the plant might have been well-placed for supplying dock works such as those at Plymouth, if the directors had an option on such work, they would surely have mentioned it. Government work was never sourced on the spot market.

Note 5. This specious argument was regularly used - the suitability of the limestone for lime manufacture is no indication whatever of suitability for Portland cement.

Note 6. I'm not sure that a monopoly of the West Dorset market is a license to print money.

Note 7. This is the analysis of a hydraulic lime, which presumably was sourced from a single "floor" of the deposit. There is no doubt that, in combination with lower-lime stone, or some clay, it could be made into Portland cement, but there are no superlatives here, and to modern eyes, the level of alkalis is hair-raising. Because of the similarly high level of sulfate, most alkali would evaporate from a chamber kiln with hard burning.

Note 8. Although "Natural Cement" might be a term for a harder-burnt hydraulic lime, this probably refers to "Roman"-type cement made from concretions that occur in the clay layers of the Blue Lias.

Note 9. The Blue Lias outcrops at the toe of the cliff, and is overlain by 50 m of Charmouth mudstone, so the inland reserves were only viable if a use could be found for this massive overburden. The Blue Lias occupies more of the cliff further west, and beyond Seven Rock Point, Rhaetic White Lias appears at the base, perhaps offering a source of "sweetener" material.

Note 10. The lias-bearing parts of the foreshore here are all in private hands. The Crown Estate owns the foreshore in front of the town, but this is all Charmouth beds.

Note 11. The site now largely comprises the Cobb car park. The suggested layout seems to have been adopted.

Note 12. A tramway had existed between the plant and the end of the Cobb, but seems to have been removed before the new plant was built. The fuel consumption assumed is for bottle or chamber kilns: if shaft kilns had been used, fuel consumption would have been half this amount.

Note 13. Fourteen chamber kilns would be sufficient for this.

Note 14. In fact, if the output increased to infinity, the per-ton royalty would be zero. But the plant as proposed never made much more than 5000 tons a year.

Note 15. The Blue Lias dips below sea level around the Cobb, and this is the overlying Charmouth clay.

Note 16. The clay, and an existing brick kiln, was mentioned in Butler's report. A further 40'×40' brick kiln was constructed.

Note 17. Given the nature of the tides, the working week was probably 25-30 hours, so a weekly capacity of 375-450 tons of limestone is indicated. The plant cement capacity was only 120 t/week, requiring about 200 tons of stone. It could be that an equal amount of hydraulic lime was also being produced, or the plant was further upgraded after 1907.

Note 18. The highest spring tide range at Lyme is about 4.9 m, or 16 ft. The maps indicate that the pylons were located at the "mean low tide" level, about 3 ft above lowest springs. Fig. 4 shows the gear perhaps 8 ft above this level. So with the gear raised, it was about 10 ft (3 m) above highest water.

Note 19. Is it a kiln? If so, it's a lime kiln, or the company have reverted to burning unground rock. More likely, it's a three compartment storage hopper, necessary in view of the intermittent supply of stone. A rotary kiln may have been off to the right.

Note 20. Subsequent adverts listed the motors. There were also several smaller ones.

Note 21. The two largest motors were 50 and 60 HP, and mills of this size would draw that power if loaded (as they then were) with flint media. One was probably for raw and one for finish grinding.

Note 22. The length of the kiln, whether metric or imperial, is non-standard, suggesting that it has been modified by lengthening.

Note 23. The use of "smokeless" coal, while raising manufacturing costs, would have had no effect upon kiln emissions.

Note 24. This was reported 13/6/1913.

Note 25. The result was 49 for, 857 against.

Note 26. The employed workforce numbered about 110.

Note 27. It said "Give us work. Why take our bread away".

Note 28. This, of course, was an empty threat. The Company was undoubtedly on its knees, short of cash and in debt, and an enforcement notice would have been an immediate death sentence.

Note 29. The Town Council were at pains to establish that the demolition would cost them nothing.

beach
Picture: ©Dylan Moore 2010, and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence. The western "quarry": in fact, the beach at low tide, from which the successive layers of limestone, a few cm thick, and separated by layers of soft shale, were peeled back by hand labour, leaving the characteristic "onion skin" pattern on the beach. A similar technique of quarrying the foreshore was used at Aberthaw and many other coastal lime works. The wall of the Cobb is on the left.

Original content © Dylan Moore 2011: commenced 24/01/2011: last edit 09/06/2017.

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