Cement Kilns


SPCC LogoSPCC Brand.


  • Grid reference: TQ1992108610
  • x=519921
  • y=108610
  • 50°51'52"N; 0°17'45"W
  • Civil Parish: Upper Beeding, West Sussex (the southern part of the old plant was in the parish of Old Shoreham)

Clinker manufacture operational:1883-04/1991

Approximate total clinker production: 16.6 million tonnes (26th)

Raw materials:

  • Upper Chalk (Seaford and Lewes Nodular Chalk Formation: 85-90 Ma): quarry at 520860,108820.
  • 1883-1897 Medway Alluvial Clay (by barge).
  • 1897-1900 Upper Gault Clay (Gault Formation: 100-106 Ma) from Glynde 546900,109700 (by rail).
  • 1883-1897 Lower Gault Clay (Gault Formation: 106-112 Ma) from Horton 520900,112400:
    • 1900-1950 by barge down the River Adur.
    • 1950-1981 slurried at Horton and pumped to the plant.
    • 1981-1991 by road.


  • 1883-1890 Shoreham Portland Cement Co. Ltd.
  • 1890-1897 H. R. Lewis & Co.
  • 1897-1911 Sussex Portland Cement Co. Ltd.
  • 1911-1991 BPCM (Blue Circle).

The Beeding Portland Cement Co. was founded by Richard Ballard in 1878, but there is no indication that cement was made (at least at this site) until 1883. Six Johnson chamber kilns were in operation by 1890: output 144 t/week. The plant was taken over by the Sussex company in 1897, and was considerably extended, with 8 Michele chamber kilns, 2 Schneider kilns to burn the excess dried slurry of the Michele kilns, and finally two rotary kilns were installed in 1899. The latter was the first example of an “off-the-peg” kiln package supplied by FLS, and was one of several that pre-empted APCM's abortive attempt to monopolize rotary kiln technology. The kilns started up in 1900, and appear to have run successfully from the outset. This state of the plant is particularly well documented because of a newspaper article published in October 1902.

The date of the rotary kiln start-up is of interest because in the article, the company (SPCC) claimed it was the first (apart from a few much earlier failed experiments) in Britain. FLS say the rotary kiln was unknown in Europe before they introduced it, and imply that the Shoreham kilns were the first in Britain. However, the same claim is made for other plants (see article). The actual date of light-up is not known. The FLS date (1899) is clearly of the receipt of the order. Cook gives 1902; presumably the date of the newspaper article, although the latter implies that the kilns had been operating for some time. Francis puts it “after” the Swanscombe kilns of 1901-2. Jackson says 1902. However, Spackman gives a chemical analysis of the rotary kiln clinker dated 1901. It is fair to assume that the light-up occurred in 1900 or very early in 1901. The kilns were numbers 3 and 4 in Smidth’s order list. Numbers 1 and 2 (of almost identical design) were installed at Rørdal (Aalborg), Denmark, and lit up in 1899.

Power for these kilns was by site-generated DC electricity: another first.

The chamber kilns were as follows:

  • Nos 1-4: Johnson Kilns, operated 1883-1924, output 21 t/week each.
  • Nos 5-6: Johnson Kilns, operated 1890-1924, output 30 t/week each.
  • Nos 7-10: Michele Kilns, operated 1898-1924, output 29 t/week each.
  • Nos 11-14: Michele Kilns, operated 1899-1927, output 28 t/week each.

The Schneider kilns were at 519833,108637 and 519835,108644. They were installed in 1900. Their combined output was limited by the amount of surplus dried slurry, and was around 230 t/week when all the Michele kilns were running. Heat consumption was around 4.1 MJ/kg.

After the installation of A3 in 1911, operation of the chamber and Schneider kilns was only during periods of high demand. Plant output was 184 t/d from the rotary kilns, plus 600 t/week from the static kilns. Chamber kilns 1-10 were removed in 1924, and kilns 11-14 and the Schneider kilns were removed in 1927. Rotary kilns A1 and A2 were removed in 1930 prior to replacement of A3.

It’s not clear why A3 was replaced with the similarly-sized second-hand B1, made up from bits from the kilns at Peters and West Kent. The tyre positions were adjusted to fit on the old kiln’s piers. The rest of the plant site was cleared and a new, minimal plant arrangement was installed. The plant ran intermittently during WWII, finally re-starting in early 1946.

The plant was completely rebuilt, mainly in the chalk quarry, in 1948-1950, and C1 and C2 were the first installation of a Vickers Armstrong design subsequently much replicated elsewhere. The plant re-build was regarded as state-of-the-art at the time by Blue Circle, and a detailed description was given in an article in Engineering. Kiln B1 (renamed C3) was kept in use as top-up capacity, and was modified in 1955/6 by addition of a Berz preheater (a design originally used on lime kilns) fed with filter-cake, “nodulized” by extrusion. This had moisture content 18-20%, compared with the typical slurry moisture of 42.5%. The 1959 Engineer article describes the pressing arrangements after a few years' operation - see below. The system was technically successful (unlike the UK Davis preheater installations – see Wilmington, Bevans, Dunstable) but was separately manned, and the presses were labour intensive, so the operating cost was higher than that of the wet kilns, and it was shut down in the recession of 1967. Kilns C1 and C2 were converted for filter cake feed (with no preheater) in 1983. One 20 m3 filter press for each kiln was installed in the quarry. The system proved to be limited by high dust loss loads, and failed to make economic production rates. The plant shut in 1991. Although clay was moved by barge in the early days, rail was used for all other purposes. The plant was on the LB&SC Horsham branch. This closed for all other traffic in 1965, with the section from Shoreham to the plant kept open. However, cement was all-road by 1970, coal supply was made tributary to Northfleet in 1974, and gypsum was last delivered by rail in 1980. The tracks were removed in 1988. Much of the plant including the kilns remain, in a state of increasing dilapidation.


  • In the 1910 plant there were two pairs of washmills in series, each rated at 75 kW, grinding chalk and clay together. Some modifications were made in the 1930s: regrind ball mill added?
  • In the 1950 plant, clay was initially ground at the clay quarry in a 112 kW washmill, and pumped to the plant site as a 70% moisture slurry. At the plant, chalk was milled with the clay slurry in a three-stage system:
    • Two 261 kW rough washmills used alternately
    • One 261 kW secondary washmill
    • Three 75kW screening mills in parallel
  • From the 1970s, the screening mills were abandoned in favour of hydrocyclones.
  • From 1981, to reduce slurry moisture, clay was ground at the plant in one of the screening mills converted into a washmill.

Six rotary kilns were installed in three phases:

Kiln A1

Supplier: FLS
Operated: 10/1900-1912, 1919-1924
Process: Wet
Location: Hot end 519827,108575: Cold end 519845,108574: completely enclosed.
Dimensions: Metric 18.00×1.500
Rotation (viewed from firing end): anti-clockwise.
Slope: 1/16 (3.583°)
Speed: ?
Drive: 2.24 kW
Kiln profile: 0×1500: 18000×1500: tyres at 2100, 8400, 15900: turning gear at 9375
Cooler: Cooler “vault”, elevator and vertical 3 m i.d. × 4.5 m high drum cooler shared with A2: shared rotary cooler (5.8×1.35) subsequently (1907?) added after drum cooler
Fuel: Coal
Coal mill: indirect: Kominor and ball mill
Typical Output: 25 t/d
Typical Heat Consumption: 9.3 MJ/kg

Kiln A2

Operated: 10/1900-1912, 1919-1924
Location: Hot end 519807,108564: Cold end 519856,108560: completely enclosed.
In all other respects identical to A1

Kiln A3

Supplier: Krupp
Operated: 1911-1931
Process: Wet
Location: Hot end 519807,108564: Cold end 519856,108560: completely enclosed.
Dimensions: metric 48.20×2.450 Rotation (viewed from firing end): anti-clockwise
Slope: 1/16.6 (3.454°)
Speed: ?
Drive: 30 kW
Kiln profile: 0×2450: 48200×2450: tyres at 890, 16820, 32020, 46140: turning gear at 30130
Cooler: Rotary Metric 19.75×2.000 beneath kiln
Fuel: Coal
Coal mill: indirect: ball mill
Typical Output: 1911-1914 108 t/d: 1919-1931 134 t/d
Typical Heat Consumption: 1911-1914 9.5 MJ/kg: 1919-1931 8.2 MJ/kg

Kiln B1 (=C3)

Supplier: made up using the rear of Peters A2 (originally FLS) and a new burning zone.
Operated: 10/10/1933-12/01/1967
Process: 1933-1955 Wet: 1955-1967 Semi-wet: filter cake from three 4.96 m3 0.8 MPa filter presses fed via an extruder to a Berz preheater.
Location: Hot end 519807,108564: Cold end 519856,108560: completely enclosed.

  • 1933-1/1955 163’0”×9’0?”B/7’10?”CD (metric 49.68×2.759/2.400)
  • 6/1956-1967 lengthened to 163’2⅞” (49.76 m)

Rotation (viewed from firing end): clockwise.
Slope: 1/16.6 (3.454°)
Speed: 0.5-1.4 rpm
Drive: 45 kW
Kiln profile: 0×2070: 1524×2070: 3721×2759: 15265×2759: 16866×2400: 49755×2400: tyres at 2038, 17913, 32868, 46825: turning gear at 30968
Cooler: Rotary 69’8?”×7’0” (metric 21.26×2.134) beneath kiln
Cooler profile : 0×2134, 21257×2134: tyres at 4578, 15618.
Fuel: Coal
Coal mill: ?
Typical Output: 1933-1943 178 t/d: 1944-1954 207 t/d: 1955-1967 235 t/d
Typical Heat Consumption: 1933-1943 7.53 MJ/kg: 1944-1954 7.96 MJ/kg: 1955-1967 4.86 MJ/kg.

Kiln C1

Supplier: Vickers Armstrong
Operated: 1/1951-2/1991

  • 1951-1983 Wet
  • 1983-1991 Semi-wet: filter cake from one 20 m3 1.5 MPa filter press fed directly to kiln

Location: Hot end 519974,108624: Cold end 520080,108629: completely enclosed.
Dimensions: 350’0”× 11’6”B/10’0¼“CD (metric 106.68×3.505/3.054)
Rotation (viewed from firing end): anti-clockwise.
Slope: 1/24 (2.388°)
Speed: 0.52-1.33 rpm: from 1983, 2 rpm max
Drive: 112 kW
Kiln profile: 0×3048: 3785×3048: 6833×3505: 26035×3505: 29083×3054: 105156×3054: 105766×2121: 106680×2121: tyres at 2743, 21184, 40691, 60198, 79705, 99212: turning gear at 43510
Cooler: Rotary 90’0”×9’0¾” (metric 27.43×2.762) beneath kiln
Cooler profile: 0×2286: 2235×2762: 27432×2762: tyres at 4877, 20574: turning gear at 18288.
Fuel: Coal
Coal mill: direct: two No18 Atritors: from late 1980s, second-hand PHI roller mill
Typical Output: 1951-1969 557 t/d: 1970-1983 490 t/d: 1983-1991 434 t/d
Typical Heat Consumption: 1951-1969 7.30 MJ/kg: 1970-1983 7.13 MJ/kg: 1983-1991 5.39 MJ/kg

Kiln C2

Operated: 2/1951 to 4/1991
Location: Hot end 519973,108635: Cold end 520080,108640: completely enclosed.
Typical Output: 1951-1969 555 t/d: 1970-1983 480 t/d: 1983-1991 448 t/d
Typical Heat Consumption: 1951-1969 7.39 MJ/kg: 1970-1983 7.12 MJ/kg: 1983-1991 5.42 MJ/kg
In all other respects identical to C1

Sources: Cook, pp 42, 53, 115: Francis, pp 175, 257: Jackson, pp 257, 297: Pugh, pp 51, 154, 269-270: “Cement Works at Shoreham, Sussex”, Engineering, July 27, 1951: "New Cement Works at Shoreham", Cement and Lime Manufacture, 24, 1951, pp 71-93: "Shoreham Cement Works", The Engineer 192, 27 July 1951, pp 122-126: "Filtering Cement Slurry", The Engineer, 208, 28 August 1959, p 155: 1902 Newspaper article

© Dylan Moore 2011: commenced 05/01/2011: last edit 31/12/2016.

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Old Maps

Shoreham Old DetailThis is a snap-shot plan of the plant in 1912.

Shoreham New DetailThis is a composite map containing details from different eras that may not have co-existed.

Approximate capacity: tonnes per year
Shoreham Capacity

Shoreham 1902
Picture courtesy of Alan Collier. Picture accompanying the 1902 newspaper article, with a view from the northeast. To the left of the road in the mouth of the quarry are (foreground) the gas producer house, with the building housing the gas engine (which drove the washmills) behind. Beyond and to the left are the washmills. These were fed by tramway with chalk from the quarry face to the left and clay brought under the road from the quay. The fourteen chamber kilns are in the centre, connected to the two tallest stacks. The Schneider kilns are to the right, located so that feed material could be brought direct from the chamber kiln drying floors. Beyond in the loop of the river are the power house (with short masonry stack) and the finish mills. To the right are the two slim stacks of the rotary kilns and in the background is the long roof of the newer set of cement stores, contributing to the total holding capacity of three months' production.

Shoreham 1923
Picture: Crown Copyright 1923: British Geological Survey Cat. No. P202388. This shows the plant viewed from the west in 1923, before the chamber kilns and Schneider kilns had been cleared. The Schneider kilns are clearly visible at the north end of the plant. The tall concrete stack installed for Kiln 3 is now present.

Shoreham Picture
Picture: ©English Heritage - NMR Aerofilms Collection. Catalogue number H1398. A high-definition version can be obtained from English Heritage. This was taken on 6/6/1934, viewed from the west, showing the plant following its 1933 renovation. Slurry was supplied by washmills across the road. Coal is fed direct from rail trucks to the coal mill. The clinker goes direct to a new 300 kW finish mill in the building to the right of the kiln house, and the cement goes to a set of eight bins in the despatch building used by the previous plant. The River Adur is in the bottom left: clay was brought down the river by barge from Horton.

Shoreham 1979
Picture: ©NERC 1979: British Geological Survey Cat. No. P212485. This is the view from the west in 1979, before the semi-wet process was installed.

Filter Presses on kiln C3

The 1959 Engineer article describes the kiln C3 slurry filtration system as the first in Britain, although the vacuum filtration system at Billingham had been in use for nearly 30 years. It was however certainly the first to use plate-and-frame pressure presses.

The project started in January 1955, and was completed 17 months later, indicating that it was commissioned in June 1956. There were three presses, each with 80 4 ft square plates, operating at 120 psi (827 kPa). Each was said to produce about 10 tons of cake per batch. The moisture content was said to be 18-19%, and 17-18 batches were completed every 24 hours, indicating a mean cycle time of around 82 minutes. Since cake of 18.5% moisture content has a density of around 2053 kg/m3, cakes of effective dimensions 46.5 × 46.5 × 1.75 inches would weigh 127 kg, and 80 of these would yield 10.19 tonnes of cake. The kiln averaged 235 tonnes/day of clinker, and probably made as much as 265 tonnes/day at peak production, requiring 539 tonnes/day of cake. Since the three presses were producing 540 tonnes/day, there was little overtaking capacity, and occasional down-time for filter cloth cleaning and replacement would have limited the kiln production.

Nylon filter cloths had been selected, and these were said to last for about 2000 cycles each, or 3000 cycles after repairs.