Penarth Logo South Wales Portland Cement & Lime Dragon Brand. The Dragon brand remained in use well into the 1970s..


  • Grid reference: ST18246943
  • x=318240
  • y=169430
  • 51°25'5"N; 3°10'32"W
  • Civil Parish: Lavernock, Glamorgan

Clinker manufacture operational: 1889-1969

Approximate total clinker production: 5.0 million tonnes

Raw materials:

  • Blue Lias limestone and clay (St Mary's Well Bay Member: 197-200 Ma) from the quarry adjacent to the plant (ST)317700,169300, extending into the parish of Cogan: Rhaetic Limestone from the base of the pit was also occasionally used.
  • Carboniferous Limestone from Ruthin (mainly Cornelly Oolite Formation: 335-345 Ma) (SS)297400,179400 – parishes of Llanilid and St Mary Hill, Glamorgan


  • 1886-1892 W. Ll. Morcom
  • 1892-1911 South Wales Portland Cement and Lime Co. Ltd
  • 1911-1969 BPCM (Blue Circle)

The site was empty when in 1880, according to Francis, an abortive attempt to manufacture Portland cement was made at Penarth (but perhaps not here). The site had seven open kilns for lime manufacture and was developed in 1886 with two small dry process bottle kilns, and commenced operation in 1889. Around this date, two of the second-generation Ransome rotary kilns were installed. Like the others, they initially failed to operate successfully. Walter J Cooper (previously at Arlesey and Mitcheldean) arrived in 1891 and installed four dry process chamber kilns similar to those of Spackman, burning briquetted rawmix. The plant at this stage of development was described in an article in the Western Mail.

More lime kilns were added around 1895, and in 1896 a Hoffman ring (28 chamber? 280 t/week?) was added for cement. The latter seems not to have lasted beyond 1900. The plant was probably converted to wet process around 1899, with eight large chamber kilns, making 240 t/week. In 1900, one more chamber kiln was added, along with a set of four Schneider kilns (280 t/week) burning surplus dried slurry. The rotary kilns were converted to coal firing in 1901, and produced around 8 t/d each. In around 1905, a further four Schneider kilns (280 t/week) were installed, operating on dry processed briquettes, bringing the total capacity to 270 t/week chamber, 560 t/week Schneider and 70 t/week rotary, corresponding to Davis’ 1907 capacity of 900 t/week . A re-build followed the BPCM takeover, the rotary kilns being removed in 1912 and a new rotary kiln commencing in 1914. The plant operated throughout WWI. The chamber kilns shut down in 1922, and the Schneider kilns continued operation until 1927, evidently using dry process.

Initially the Blue Lias alone was used, removing the clay by rumbling. As higher C3S clinker became necessary, Ruthin quarry supplied limestone (CaCO3 92-96%) from 1939 to sweeten the mix. In 1947 Aberthaw and Blue Circle purchased the quarry as a joint venture.

The plant stopped towards the end of WWII because of lack of manpower. The plant was finally shut down to clear the market for the up-graded Aberthaw. The “Dragon” brand of the South Wales company continued in use throughout the life of the plant, and beyond: Aberthaw packed part of their output for distribution by Blue Circle in “Dragon” bags well into the 1970s. Blue Lias lime manufacture continued until WWII. From 1954 to 1965, the plant produced white lime using Ruthin stone from 5 new shaft kilns. The plant used rail for transport throughout, although its localized market gradually moved to road distribution. The site is now totally vanished under housing development. The quarries are partially flooded and used for recreational purposes.

Three rotary kilns were installed:

Kiln A1

Supplier: Ransome
Operated: installed 1/1889 – did not produce commercially until 1901 when coal firing commenced: ceased operation 1912
Process: Wet
Location: ?
Dimensions: 25’0”× 5’0” (metric 7.62 × 1.524)
Rotation (viewed from firing end): ?
Slope: ?
Speed: ?
Drive: ?
Kiln profile: ?0×1524, 7620×1524: rollers at 1905, 5715: turning gear at 3810
Cooler: none
Fuel: Initially producer gas: Coal was used from 1901
Coal Mill: ?
Typical Output: 6 t/d
Typical Heat Consumption: 13 MJ/kg

Kiln A2

Installed 1892?
Location: ?
Identical in all other respects to A1.

Kiln B1

Supplier: FLS
Operated: 1/1914-1944: 1946-1969
Process: Wet
Location: hot end 318180,169414: cold end 318239,169449: entirely enclosed.

  • 1914-7/1935 Metric 70.10 × 3.000B / 2.700CD
  • 7/1935-1969 227’11¼”× 10’0”B / 8’10¼”C / 11’10¼”D (metric 69.48 × 3.048 / 2.700 / 3.613)

Rotation (viewed from firing end): ?
Slope: 1/25 (2.292°)
Speed: ?
Drive: ?
Kiln profile:

  • 1914-1935 0×2700: 2000×2700: 2000×3000: 12000×3000: 14650×2700: 70100×2700: tyres at 1220, 15430, 29806, 46627, 63487: turning gear at 28600?
  • 1935-1969 0×2269: 3124×3048: 12141×3048: 14383×2700: 57588×2700: 58909×3613: 67037×3613: 67799×2700: 69475×2700: Tyres at 1378, 15589, 29966, 46787, 63646: turning gear at 28759?

Cooler: concentric rotary beneath kiln: replacement ex Bevans? 1933: 61’10”× 8’4?” (metric 18.85 × 2.562)
Cooler profile:

  • Original ? concentric
  • From 1933: 0×2562: 18847×2562: Tyres at 4724, 15037

Fuel: Coal
Coal Mill: ?
Exhaust: direct to stack: ID fan followed by cyclones fitted 1935.
Typical Output: 1914-1922 161 t/d: 1922-1935 211 t/d: 1935-1949 307 t/d: 1949-1961 298 t/d: 1961-1969 254 t/d
Typical Heat Consumption: 1914-1935 7.62 MJ/kg: 1935-1949 7.18 MJ/kg: 1949-1961 8.02 MJ/kg: 1961-1969 7.83 MJ/kg

Sources: Francis, pp 216-217, 234: Jackson, pp 249, 291: Pugh, p 269: Barry Dock News, 13/9/1889, p 4: Western Mail, 5/12/1895, p 7 (read this)

The following article appeared in the Western Mail (5/12/1895, p 7) and describes the plant before it expanded.



One of the most thriving industries in this locality, and the only one of its kind in the Principality of Wales, is that of the South Wales Portland Cement and Lime Company (Limited), picturesquely situated in the fields midway between Penarth and Lavernock, and which deserves to be better known than it is, having regard alike to the quantity and the quality of its productions. Besides being the only cement works in Wales (Note 1), these are the largest Aberthaw blue lias lime works in the whole of the United Kingdom (Note 2). Having recently taken over the "Pebble Limeworks" at the Port of Aberthaw, the company now control the output of the finest hydraulic lime that the world produces. To speak of "pebble lime" to an engineer or architect is to awaken his interest, for who has not heard of this wonderful product? Cargoes of the "pebbles" are shipped almost daily to different parts of England for burning into lime, and even Australia has wanted a share! The Penarth works, which, with the quarries, cover nearly 60 acres, and give employment to 150 hands, were started single- handed by Mr W. Llewellyn Morcom, the present managing director, and laid out by Mr. W. J. Cooper, F.C.S. (Note 3), under whose management they have been developed and carried on with ever-increasing success. Mr. Morcom set the industry on foot in 1889, primarily with the object of trying the new process for making Portland cement in a revolving cylinder, which, however, proved to be a failure, after the expenditure of a large sum of money upon the experiments that were at that time carried out. For the past three or four years the company have made cement in an improved class of kiln, and now turn out an article equal to any manufactured in the kingdom. They are at present putting down plant for doubling the output, to meet the rapidly-growing demand. The lime business has also developed to such an extent as to justify, or rather to render necessary, the step the management has just taken in acquiring the works at Bridgend lately carried on by the Aberthaw Blue Lias Lime Company, and the arrangements they have also just completed for the working of the "Aberthaw Pebble Lime Company's" Works at the port of Aberthaw, which will enable the company to turn out 1,000 tons of Aberthaw Blue Lias lime weekly. Telephone communication has been established between the different works. which will be managed and controlled from the Penarth centre. Besides all this, ovens have been erected at the central works for the manufacture of plaster of Paris. There is a great demand for a good article, and this manufacture will, no doubt, prove to be as successful as that of lime and cement have already done.

The processes by which the rough stone and clay are converted into the manufactured Portland Cement are sufficiently interesting to describe. The stone and clay are conveyed from the quarry in trams to the works. On reaching the "crusher" they are weighed in their respective proportions, and are not again seen until they issue from the brick presses in the shape of blocks ready for burning. The blocks are stacked in chambers adjoining the kiln (Note 4), where they are dried by the waste heat, and then they are placed in the kiln with alternate layers of coke. Under temperature which is sufficient to melt iron, the blocks are fused into what is called "clinker". This "clinker" is in turn conveyed to the grinding department, whence the finished cement is conveyed by means of long screws to the warehouse, and there deposited in different bins, each kiln being kept separate for the purpose of testing. The warehouse holds 2,000 tons of cement, which will give an impression of the magnitude of the concern; and some idea of its development may be gathered from the fact that the output when the works were first started was only 50 tons a week (Note 5). A Western Mail representative, having occasion to see Mr. Morcom in his office, was courteously taken by that gentleman over the immense pile of buildings, which have a chimney stack nearly as high as those at the Dowlais Works. Access to certain of the departments is obtained by a lift; there is a commodious yard, and the quarries reach nearly to Lavernock. A visit was first paid to the laboratories, where the raw material and the finished article are carefully tested by Mr. A. E. Turner (chemist) and his assistant. The experiments made in the laboratories are of a most searching character. In addition to seven boilers, there are five engines, 700 horse power. The warehouse, already referred to as affording accommodation for 2,000 tons of cement, covers nearly a quarter of an acre. En route Mr Morcom pointed to a few of the specialities the works are able to produce. One of these was a very fine polished mosaic, made from cement. The artificial stone department is one of the largest, and it is worthy of notice that the company is now making paving slabs under an improved process which is in course of being patented (Note 6). These paving stones becoming everywhere popular, and before long they will probably be used as extensively in Wales as they now are in London. The paving stones in Albany-road, Cardiff, must strike pedestrians as a very creditable specimen of the company's work. The stones are impervious to, and are not damaged by, frost. They do not wear away into holes which become puddles of water in the rain. The company have just laid 3,500 yards of this artificial stone for the Penarth Local Board at Penarth. and they have also supplied Cardiff, Bath, Cheltenham, Bristol, Neath and other places and give every satisfaction to the authorities of those towns. No fewer than 70 railway trucks are kept running to send material away to the different points of destination. The consumption of fuel amounts to from 150 to 200 tons a week. The warehouse and other departments were in turn visited, and it may be pointed out that these include a cooper's department, the firm making its own cement casks (Note 7). Tons of granite of different sorts are deposited in the yard and there is also a stack of gypsum, imported from Paris. for the plaster of Paris business, which is certain to develop into a very extensive branch. The stacks of artificial stone occupy thousands of yards. These slabs have a great reputation, not only for paving purposes, but (with engineers) for use as caps for pillars, steps, and copings, in the construction of railway platforms. Cement for fireproof flooring is also one of the company's specialities, which has been adopted, among other places, at the Cardiff Free Library and the "Western Mail" new buildings, St. Mary-street, Cardiff.


Note 1. There was at least one other - Afonwen, but the North was a far-off country.

Note 2. The name of Aberthaw carried great prestige, and many Blue Lias lime works in South Wales far from Aberthaw used the term. The Penarth lime was particularly unlike that of Aberthaw, being much less siliceous and with higher alkalis. Probably this actually refers to the company, which had acquired two other suppliers, one actually at Aberthaw.

Note 3. Walter Johnson Cooper (b 1869 Walsall, Staffs; d. 27/5/1928 Paignton, Devon) had worked briefly as chemist at Arlesey 1887-1889, before moving to Mitcheldean 1889-1891 as manager, where he had the opportunity to see the by-then abandoned first rotary kiln. He then moved to Penarth as manager.

Note 4. These were much like the drying chambers used by Spackman at Barrow and Isis.

Note 5. The four chamber kilns probably made about 120 t/week.

Note 6. Manufacture of slabs from pressure-moulded granite concrete is another uncanny similarity to Barrow. Was Spackman involved?

Note 7. This was universally the case.