Clinker manufacture operational: 1914 - 1980
Approximate total clinker production: 11.1 million tonnes (36th).
Lime was made and exported at this site on a fairly large scale for more than a century before BPCM bought it in 1911. Construction of the cement plant began immediately. The raw material, originally obtained from the chalk outcrop at the foot of the Antrim plateau, was subsequently obtained by stripping back up to 100 m of overlying basalt, this being tipped in Larne Lough, forming what is now a 70 Ha peninsula of reclaimed land.
Kiln A2 was appropriated for manufacture of calcium aluminate cement from 1927, using the locally mined bauxite. This deposit had been abandoned by the aluminium industry due to its low purity (high iron content) and this probably compromised the quality of the product compared to that of Lafarge, which also started UK manufacture (at West Thurrock) in 1926. The rotary kiln process must also have been comparatively expensive. Blue Circle re-sold the Lafarge product from 1932 onwards.
The plant was on the Belfast-Larne coastal railway line for communication with Belfast (33 km) but it had a deep water wharf on the lough and could export and import in quantity. The start-up of Platin A2 in 1977 forced a retrenchment. Uprating to a competitive low cost process was not feasible due to the escalating cost of quarrying, and the last kiln stopped in 1980. The plant remained in operation, grinding Plymstock surplus clinker, but this also ceased in 1984, as shipping of ready-ground cement proved cheaper. The remains of the plant functioned as an import terminal until 2001. The quarry is now flooded, with some of the raw milling plant standing half submerged. The production part of the plant site has been cleared although many features are still identifiable. The cement handling plant remains, awaiting redevelopment decisions.
Please contact me with any relevant information or corrections. I am particularly interested in firmer dates and statistics.
?The original mills were probably a washmill for clay and a Kominor/tube mill combination of equivalent 180 kW (steam powered), a second set being added with the second kiln. Later setup not known, but presumably Vickers ball mills.
Four rotary kilns were installed:
Supplier: Vickers, previously British Standard A2: the shell was kept intact, but the tyres were moved to suit A2 piers.
Supplier: “made up” by Harland and Wolff using Metropolitan A1 (Vickers Armstrong) for the rear part. The burning zone is also of Vickers Armstrong design.
© Dylan Moore 2011: commenced 07/08/2011: last edit 31/12/2016.
Approximate capacity: tonnes per year
Picture: ©English Heritage - NMR Aerofilms Collection. Britain from Above reference number XPW028903.
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.
View from the NE in 1929, showing the two original kilns in operation. The picture confirms the essential similarity to the two more-or-less contemporary FLS kilns at Peters, and gives an idea what the latter looked like. Typical of FLS kilns of the time are the kiln feed tanks under the kilns between the cold-end piers. Also operational (black smoke) is the original power house. View in High Definition.
View from the NW around 1935, kindly supplied by Tony Graham. Note the small extent at this stage of the peninsula formed by dumping of waste basalt, ultimately extending 1.5 km up the lough.
Picture: ©NERC 1967: British Geological Survey Cat. No. P225312. This is the southeast side of the quarry viewed from the northwest in 1967, showing the layers of Paleocene Basalt that had to be removed to get at the chalk.
Picture: ©NERC 1967: British Geological Survey Cat. No. P225313. This is a view from the railway in 1967, showing the successively larger kilns A1, B2 and B3.
Picture: ©NERC 1967: British Geological Survey Cat. No. P225314. This is a view from the quarry, looking north, in 1967. In the foreground are the conical chalk store and the slurry blending tanks, two of which still stand. The kiln feed slurry tanks are to the right, in front of the stack. The cement grinding and storage area and the wharf are to the left.