Standard

Location:

  • Grid reference: TL38254934
  • x=538250
  • y=249340
  • 52°7'31"N; 0°1'07"E
  • Civil Parish: Barrington, Cambridgeshire

Clinker manufacture operational: 1884-1892, 1894-1896, 1898-1904

Approximate total clinker production: 45,000 tonnes

Raw materials: Chalk Marl (West Melbury Marly Chalk Formation: 97-100 Ma) from pit at 538200,249200. The reserve consisted of 93 Ha of mostly marl land, near the northwestern toe of the outcrop, 4-6 m deep, overlying 2 m of Cambridge Greensand, below which is Gault Clay. The Greensand was also worked for phosphates, and the Gault for bricks. Gray chalk (perhaps from the Barrington clunch pits) may have been brought in as a sweetener in the latter years.

Ownership:

  • 1884-1887 Edward Prime
  • 1887-1891 Natural Portland Cement Co. Ltd
  • 1891-1894 Standard Portland Cement Works
  • 1894-1898 New Barrington Cement Co.
  • 1898-1909 Royston Cement Co. Ltd (Keeble Bros.)

This was the first Cambridgeshire cement plant. Variously called Barrington (but not to be confused with the larger plant in the same parish) and Royston works. The early site made hydraulic lime from marl overlying the "coprolite" layer, which was the primary objective of the quarrying. The Prime Brothers experimented with clinkering the marl as early as 1879, but, while Portland cement was claimed as a product from 1884, it was made by burning as-dug marl of very low calcium content, and it is debateable whether any "real" Portland cement was made before 1898. There were six 30-ton bottle kilns, mainly used for lime. A Dietzsch kiln (75 t/week) was installed in 1888, and a second in around 1889. In 1891, there were four Dietzsch kilns and the cement capacity was said to be 300 t/week. These were said to be the first Dietzsch kilns in England, although they were preceded by those at Warren. The plant ran intermittently until taken over by the Keebles in 1898, when a new plant was constructed, making cement from blended ground and briquetted dried marl. However, the Keebles very soon turned their attention to the construction of the more favourable Saxon plant, and the site ceased to produce around 1904. The plant and tramway were dismantled and the land was sold for agriculture in 1909.

No rotary kilns were installed.


Sources: Francis, pp 208-209, 265: Jackson, pp 288, 296, 299: J E Marr & A E Shipley, Handbook to the Natural History of Cambridgeshire, CUP, 1904: Cambridge Independent Press, 3/12/1887, p 4 and 7/2/1891 p 4.

I commenced this page in 2009, judging the plant to be of little importance and consequently unwisely using the brief references in Francis, who gives a list of names gleaned from Companies House, and adds with comforting certainty "no details of the works have survived". The "Standard" and the "Royston" companies are listed separately. Jackson seems to have had more of an inkling, but I ignored his three separate entries as unreliable. However, I have now gathered sufficient information to allow the bare bones of a history to emerge. Of course, many other obscure plant descriptions in this website are subject to the same defects.

The Prime family were major landowners in the parish of Barrington. The lands of Westgate Farm, owned by them, were on the area of Chalk Marl to the north of the Cam. The lowest 1-2 m of the Chalk Marl in this area takes the form of Cambridge Greensand, which is a marl-cemented sandy bed with considerable amounts of phosphatic nodules that the locals fancifully called "coprolites". Digging of the Greensand along the lower edge of the Marl began in the late 1840s at Burwell, and began in Barrington in 1857. The buried beds were extracted by slot mining, and the Greensand layer was dug out entire, and washmilled to liberate the nodules. The trade boomed in the 1860s and became so lucrative that workings spread all along the outcrop across Cambridgeshire. Workings were typically operated by the local landowner, and many of the later cement plants had their origins in such workings. The industry started to decline from 1877 onwards, due mainly to competition from imported phosphate rock, and was nearly extinct by 1900.

The "coprolite" industry spawned two, initially subsidiary industries: burning the Marl above the nodule beds as hydraulic lime, and burning the Gault Clay below them for brick. The burning of Gault bricks had already established itself further to the southeast, and deepening the pits to get at the clay was a simple option, taken up in many places. The lime industry had a more hesitant start, since lime of various descriptions was already available in quantity in Cambridgeshire. Perhaps the improvement in its fortunes can be traced to a single individual. James West Knights, FIC, FCS (b 1854 Earith, Hunts, d 6/2/1929, Cambridge), was Public Analyst for the Corporation of Cambridge, and later held directorships in cement firms. Among his duties was the proving of phosphate fertilisers, and he subsequently was quoted in various company promotions as validating marls for lime and cement. To him alone can be attributed the practice of referring to the local hydraulic limes as "Blue Lias Limes". Of course, such a designation was entirely fraudulent, but, in the locality, it associated the local product with the well-respected engineering lime from the Midlands. The issue culminated in a court case in 1901, in which Charles Nelson, on behalf of the Warwickshire lias lime producers, brought an action against the Cam Portland Cement Co. Ltd to prevent them for calling their Chalk Marl-based product "Blue Lias Lime". The finding of the court was that the term defined hydraulic lime with a particular set of properties, and not its geological origin, as testified by Knights himself, and the case was dismissed. The Cam company went on to gleefully re-name itself the Cam Blue Lias Lime and Cement Co. In the section on the Chalk Marl in the Handbook to the Natural History of Cambridgeshire (1904) the writer plaintively remarks:

Unfortunately these manufacturers, when they obtain cement chemically similar to more famous cements which are known by names which declare the stratigraphical horizon of their origin, do not hesitate to apply these stratigraphical names to their Chalk Marl cement, and unless this be stopped much confusion is likely to ensue.

Presumably he avoided being more specific for fear of being sued. Knights, in claiming that the term had been used in the Cambridge area for a long time, said that it had been used at the plant at Barrington since 1884 (no doubt, at his instigation). The specific use of the Marl at Barrington for what was claimed to be Portland cement seems to date from around 1887, when the Primes' operation was bought by a new company, called the Natural Portland Cement Co. Ltd. The launching abridged prospectus (e.g. The Scotsman 5/7/1887 p 1) was as follows:

A MOST IMPORTANT DISCOVERY OF NATURAL
CEMENT DEPOSIT of nearly 6,000,000 Tons.
THE FINEST PORTLAND CEMENT PRODUCED at FIFTY
PER CENT. LESS than the ORDINARY COST.

THE NATURAL PORTLAND CEMENT COMPANY (LIMITED)

INCORPORATED UNDER THE COMPANIES ACTS, whereby the liability of the Shareholders is limited to the amount of Shares. Share Capital: £100,000 in 20,000 Shares of £5 each, and 250 4 per cent. Debentures of £100 each redeemable at Par. at the option of the Company, at any time within Ten Years. Issue of 20,000 Shares/of £5 each payable 10s. on application, £1 10s. on Allotment, £1 10s. one month after allotment, and the balance as may be required in Calls of not more than £1 per Share, with one month's notice between each Call.

DIRECTORS

Colonel J. H. SMITH, R.E., late Deputy Director of Works at the War Office, Wallington, Surrey.
F. WARBURTON STENT, Esq., C.E., Director of the Accident Insurance Company (Limited), Gracechurch Buildings, E.C.
LIONEL L. WOODHOUSE, Esq., 155 Fenchurch Street, London, E.C.
CHAS BROOK DOBSON, Esq., M.A., (late of Messrs Dobson & Co., Brewers, Burton-on-Trent), Director of .the Loan and Trust Company (Limited), 72 West Cromwell Road, Kensington S.W.
EDWARD PRIME, Esq., The Barrington Cement Works, Barrington, Cambs.

Bankers

London—THE LONDON AND WESTMINSTER BANK (LIMITED), Lothbury, E.C. and Branches.
Cambridge—Messrs FOSTER & Co., Cambridge.
Solicitors—Messrs CHINERY, ALDRIDGE & Co., 2 Brabant Court, Gracechurch Street, London, E.C.
Consulting Analyst—J. WEST KNIGHTS, F.I.C., F.C.S., Public Analyst for Cambridgeshire, Hunts, &c., the County Laboratory, Cambridge.
Auditors—Messrs JNO. F. LOVERING & Co., 77 Gresham Street, London, E.C.
Secretary (pro tem.)—A. C. DOCKERILL.
Offices—39, LOMBARD STREET, London, E.C.
Works—BARRINGTON, Cambridgeshire.

ABRIDGED PROSPECTUS.

This Company is formed for the purpose of acquiring, as a going concern, the Barrington Natural Portland Cement Works, which comprise all the necessary machinery, plant, &c. for the production of cement, together with the Barrington Freehold Estate and Natural Portland Cement Deposits, near Cambridge, comprising 230 acres of Freehold Land or thereabouts. The Company will also acquire the branch line of railway commencing at its junction with the Great Northern Railway, near Shepreth Station, and terminating in the Cement Works, and certain leasehold lands connected therewith, thus bringing them into direct railway communication with London and all parts of the country, and working under special rates and charges. These unusual advantages of communication, combined with the facility and cheapness with which this Natural Portland Cement can be raised and prepared for the market in unlimited quantities, render it impossible for any other manufacturers of cement to compete, either in price or the rapidity with which it can be produced, thus rendering this an exceptional Investment.

A Natural Portland Cement Deposit varying from 13 to 21 feet in thickness, immediately under the surface of the ground, has been proved on one hundred arid eighty acres of the property, and has been extensively opened out. Lime of the finest quality is also produced in large quantities on the estate.

The cement and lime, which are of the best quality, as will be seen from the accompanying reports, are being supplied to, and are approved of by, architects and engineers throughout the country, as well as by the Government and numerous Corporations, the Midland Railway Company. the Great Northern Railway Company, the Great Eastern Railway Company, and many others. The cement has also been tested and satisfactorily reported upon by Mr Henry Faija, M.I.C.E., F.I.A., R.I.B.A., author of "Portland Cement for Users", &c., the well-known cement expert.

Upwards of £20,000 have already been expended on plant, machinery, tramways, buildings, kilns, &c., &c., and the whole is taken over as a going concern.

With the limited means at their command, the vendors have hitherto produced over 500 tons of cement and hydraulic lime per month, and now that the new grinding machinery and kilns are at work, they are able to produce over 1000 tons per month; whereas with an additional outlay of £10,000 the works will be capable of turning out, at a cost of 9s. per ton, 40,000 tons per annum of Portland cement (equal to any cement in the market), which sells readily at 22s. to 24s. per ton, and which it is calculated would alone yield a net profit of over £24,000 per annum, or equal to over 20 per cent. per annum upon the entire capital of the Company, after allowing for interest on the debentures.

The Natural Portland Cement Deposit averages about 33,000 tons per acre, so that it will be seen there is a deposit at 5,940,000 tons on the property, which, valued at the low sum of 10s. per ton Profit, will yield a net profit of £2,970,000, or 30 times the entire share capital of the Company, and this without taking into consideration the valuable bed of material (suitable for the manufacture of terra cotta goods) which underlies some 180 acres and is of great depth. Immediately beneath the Natural Cement Deposit over an extent of some 20 acres, is a very valuable layer of coprolite of excellent quality, and throughout the whole property is a bed of brick earth of great depth, from which the vendors manufacture bricks and tiles of the finest quality.

The ordinary cost of manufacturing Portland cement of good quality cannot be estimated at less than 18s. per ton, whereas this Company, owing to the special facilities afforded by the deposit of Natural Cement, which is of uniform quality, and requires no mixing or manipulation before it is put into the kilns, can manufacture at 9s. per ton, or at half the cost of the usual system, while the deposit is practically inexhaustible.

In addition to the foregoing, the Directors propose to further develop the lime, brick, tile, and terra-cotta trades, and considerable profit is anticipated therefrom: the Directors, however, look to the cement deposits for the greater portion of the profits.

Herewith will be found the reports of the County Analyst for Cambridge, Hunts, &c. (Mr J. West Knights, F.I.C., F.C.S., &c.); F. Warburton Stent, C.E.; J. M. Milner (Messrs Marsh, Milner & Co.); and George P. Jay. Esq., J.P., together with those of cement manufacturers and experts; also sketches showing the works and the position of the natural cement deposits. Every precaution has been taken by the directors to enable intending investors to judge for themselves of the great value of the Company's property, which has only come into the market owing to the vendors having expended their entire capital in opening up and developing It. As a proof of their confidence in the undertaking the vendors will retain nearly the whole of their interest in the Company.

The Directors are pleased to say that they have secured the services of the principal vendor and managing partner for the term of five years as managing director, on terms whereby his remuneration will mainly depend upon the success of the Company.

The purchase money for the business as a going concern, together with the goodwill of same and the valuable freehold land with all rights thereto free of all encumbrances, together with the works, buildings, plant, machinery, fixtures, and trade utensils, stock, effects, and branch railway has been fixed at (as valued by Mr F. Warburton Stent, C.E.), £95,000, payable as to £27,000 in cash, £25,000 in debentures bearing 4 per cent. interest, and £43,000 in shares, or cash and shares, at the option of the Directors, leaving £30,000 working capital.

The only contract entered into is dated 9th June 1887, and made between the vendors Messrs Prime of the one part, and A. C. Dockerill on behalf of the Natural Portland Cement Company (Limited) of the other part.

All expenses up to allotment, including registration fees, advertising, legal charges, &c., except brokerage, will be borne by the vendors.

According to the prospectus, the deposit was of "Natural Portland Cement", and was in no sense a raw material requiring extensive processing to turn it into something useful. This absurd proposition was emphasised by the fact that, when the reserve was quantified, no allowance was made for the fact that dry marl loses mass - about 34% - when calcined. While this might not have been due to a deliberate attempt to deceive, it does at least testify to the technical incompetence of the promoters. Furthermore, the calculation of the reserve, with "from 13 to 21 feet in thickness" of marl, was a wild, if innocently foolish, overestimate. The 230 acres of the estate included about 50 acres of Gault Clay outcrop, about 50 acres of Cambridge Greensand outcrop, and the remaining 130 acres Chalk Marl. Because the Marl outcrop thins out to nothing, its thickness would be better described as 0-21 ft. In fact, only 55 acres had more than 13 ft of marl. A careful assessment of the estate shows that it contained about a million dry tons of Greensand, and about three million dry tons of marl, equivalent to about two million tons of what they called clinker.

The article left out the testimonials, but later that year, the company was advertised again, and more information was given. The Cambridge Independent Press (3/12/1887, p 4) produced a similar story. 5,000 £5 shares were up for sale. The people were the same, except that C B Dobson had dropped out as Director, and been replaced by F. J. Lee-Smith, Esq., Newlands Park, Sydenham. The new secretary was James Cottam. The preamble to the prospectus had undergone a subtle change. The acquisition was now complete, and the description of the virtues of the company was slightly more restrained:

These unusual advantages of communication, combined with the facility and cheapness with which, in particular, the Portland Cement can be prepared for the market in unlimited quantities, place the Company in an exceptionally favourable position to compete successfully, either in price or the rapidity of production, with other manufacturers of cement.

The Company's property is unique in its combined resources, each complementary of the other, including Cement, Bricks, Lime, Tiles, Drain Pipes, Terra Cotta, Sand, Coprolites, &c.

A Natural Portland Cement Deposit varying from 13 to 21 feet in thickness, immediately under the surface of the ground, has been proved on one hundred arid eighty acres of the property, and has been extensively opened out. This deposit is calculated to contain not less than 5,940,000 tons.

Mr J. West Knights, F.I.C., F.C.S., Public Analyst for Cambridgeshire, Hunts, &c., refers to this remarkable Deposit in the following terms:—

It consists of a natural mixture of chalk and clay in the proportion requisite for the manufacture of the finest Portland Cement, and it is quite free from any impurities or substances likely to injure the quality at the Cement. The Cement Stone is remarkably constant in its composition, and is sufficiently dry to be burnt direct in the kilns without any preliminary drying process. In the artificial process of mixing chalk and clay it is impossible to obtain a constant composition, and a slow process must always intervene between the mixing and burning operations.

With respect to the quality of the Cement, it has been tested and reported upon by Mr Henry Faija, M.I.C.E., M.I.M.E., H.A.R.I.B.A., the well-known Cement expert. This authority states as under:—

Portland Cement Testing-room and Laboratory, 4,
Great Queen-street, Westminster.
A Sample of Portland Cement. received July 5th, 1887.
Fineness:
sieve meshretained
705%
50trace
25nil

TENSILE STRENGTH PER SQUARE INCH
Water used for gauging 17.81 per cent. Briquettes placed in water 24 hours after gauging. Strain applied at the rate of 100 lb in 15 seconds in a Faija Testing Machine.
Three Days' TestSeven Days' Test
1380 lb6450 lb
2365 lb7505 lb
3385 lb8520 lb
4370 lb9475 lb
5349 lb10445 lb
average368 lbaverage479 lb
Specific Gravity, 3.03. Time of set, two and a half hours. It is an extremely well-ground Cement of average strength, and I am of opinion that it perfectly sound.

The Cement has been used by architects, engineers, contractors, and others, in many parts of the United Kingdom with satisfactory results, and the demand for it is much in excess of the company's present capacity for production with its existing mechanical appliances. The Directors have already entered into an arrangement for the erection of a Dietzsch Kiln, which is admittedly the most effective and economical yet Introduced for the burning of cement, and it is In contemplation to erect other kilns of the same type at the earliest opportunity.

HYDRAULIC LIME.

That the Lias Lime found on the Company's Estate is of the highest quality is vouched for by practical and independent testimony of the most conclusive character. Among many others, the well-known firm of Messrs Doulton and Co. of Lambeth, London, addressing Messrs Prime, the former Proprietors, write:—

We have much pleasure In stating that your Lias Lime has given perfect satisfaction to all our customers; not any complaint has been made against It

W. C. Hawker, Esq., Belmont Wharf, King's Cross, also writes:—

I have much pleasure in stating that we have supplied your Lime to our customers for between one end two years, and do not remember having a single complaint from any one.

Mr W. Saint. of Railway Building Works, Cambridge, states:—

I have used 300 tons of Hydraulic Lime from Messrs. Prime, Barrington, in the construction of the New Cattle Market at Cambridge. I am very pleased with it, as It makes exceedingly strong work. It gave every satisfaction to both the architect and clerk of works. I am now using it in other works. where it gives equal satisfaction.

As to the analytical properties of the Limestone, the following report has been furnished by Mr Henry Faija. M.I.C.E.:—

Sample of Limestone, received July 5th, 1887.
Dried roughly, lost8.50%
Moisture1.20%
Silica17.25%
Alumina4.96%
Oxide of Iron2.29%
Carbonate of Lime73.92%
Alkalies0.45%
Total

BRICK, TILE, TERRA COTTA &c.

There is practically an unlimited supply of material for the manufacture of Bricks, Drain-pipes, Tiles, Paving Squares, &c., and the quality is of the best description, as will be seen by the following extract from a report, dated Nov. 8th, 1887. by Mr J. Jopling, one of the most eminent authorities on the manufacture of bricks. &c. He reports as under:—

Quantity.—The quantity of the material is so enormous that no consideration need be given to this point.
Quality.----The quality is very good Indeed, and there can be no question that white and brimstone-coloured bricks. tiles, paving squares, &c.„ of the very highest quality and most excellent colour should be made at a very moderate cost.
Cost of Production.—The cost of producing the goods (assuming that proper appliances and capable management will he provided) should compare very favourably indeed. There is no unproductive labour to be expended (as in mostly the case), and the facilities for getting In coals and sending away your goods by means of your private railway siding gives you immense advantage.
Re Cement.—The operations of the Cement Works, being carried on in conjunction with the Brick Works, will (by reason of the help that one department can give the other) materially lessen cost of carrying on the business.

The Company has not as yet engaged in the manufacture of Terra Cotta goods, but experiments made by the former proprietors have clearly demonstrated that the material on the estate for this purpose is both abundant in quantity and of high grade as to quality.

There is also abundance of fine sand and gravel on the estate.

COPROLITES.

Immediately beneath the Cement Deposit, over an extent of some 20 acres, is a very valuable layer of Coprolite, of most excellent quality, as is evident from the following official analysis, in which Mr J. West Knights, F.I.C., F.C.S., &c., certifies as under:—

Moisture1.24%
Phosphoric Acid*26.80%
Lime43.26%
Carbonic Acid7.10%
Sand8.90%
Not determined12.70%

*Equal to Phosphate of Lime 58.50%.

The Directors are satisfied that the Company has secured a property of great value, and, in view of its varied sources of income, have no hesitation in expressing their opinion that, with the command of an adequate capital, large and permanent dividends can be realised for the Shareholders.

The Company can now produce upwards of 1,000 tons of Cement and Lime per month, and when the new grinding machinery and kilns are at work, the output will be materially increased, and it is calculated that, with a comparatively small additional outlay, the works will be capable of turning out sufficient Cement and Lime, estimated alone to yield a net profit equal to 20 per cent. per annum upon the entire capital of the Company, after allowing for interest on the Debentures.

As previously stated, the Cement Deposit if computed to contain about 5,940,000 tons which, taken at a low valuation, would repay the whole capital of the Company several times over. Immediately under the Cement Deposit, over an extent of about 20 acres, is the layer of Coprolite, and below this again throughout the whole property is the bed of brick earth, which is also of great depth.

The ordinary cost of manufacturing Portland Cement of good quality cannot be estimated at less than 18s. per ton, whereas this Company, owing to the special facilities afforded by the Cement Deposit, requiring no mixing or manipulation before it is put into the kilns, can manufacture at about half the cost of the usual system.

Upwards of £20,000 have already been expended on plant, machinery. tramways, buildings, kilns, &c., and the Works are in active operation.

The property has been secured under very favourable conditions, the Vendors receiving no cash, thus showing their confidence in the future of the Company.

Dated November 28, 1887.

The claim that the company could make cement much more cheaply than its competitors is based, in a nutshell, on the proposition that the estate had marl that was of exactly the chemistry required to make "finest Portland cement", that it was completely uniform, and that the company's material was unique in this respect. Other manufacturers must use expensive and inefficient processes and equipment to arrive at a correct and uniform raw material, but these are not needed at this site, allowing enormous savings. At this time, other landowners in Cambridgeshire were almost simultaneously persuaded that their raw materials were equally unique.

The validity of this proposition can be tested by looking at the analysis of the marl used for making hydraulic lime. The analysis appears to be relatively reliable. Assuming that it is correct, and that the marl is, as claimed, completely uniform, then the same marl must also have been used to make Portland cement. Those skilled in the art will immediately notice that the lime content is very low. If converted to clinker, the analysis would be:

SiO226.00
Al2O37.47
Fe2O33.45
CaO60.77

The Bogue C3S for this is -5%, so the composition lies outside the range of Portland cements. Like many early cements, the clinker would probably contain 5-10% alite due to inhomogeneity. Of course, the claim that the marl is homogenous is absurd. Even if rate of deposition of carbonate and clay minerals were constant over the three million years during which the 40 m of Chalk Marl was laid down (75,000 years per metre), then Milankovitch cycles disturb the ratio every half metre or so. In fact, the Chalk Marl is everywhere variable over 2 or 3% calcium carbonate in every metre, and the composition usually rises over a range of 10-30% over the entire formation.

Aside from its variability, the composition clearly is not that of "finest Portland cement", and this is a clue to the subsequent history of the plant. All other Cam Valley plants had marl higher up in the formation, with higher carbonates available.

The use of the Faija analysis as an endorsement is ironic. The analysis was probably done by David Butler. In his 1899 book, he quoted this analysis as typical of Cambridgeshire marls. His comments were uncomplimentary:

In Cambridgeshire and elsewhere natural marls are found, the chemical constituents of which approximate very nearly to that of raw slurry, i.e. Portland Cement before calcination. The earliest method of utilising these deposits for cement-making purposes, was to simply calcine the raw material as it came from the pits without any mixing or blending; owing to the varying and uncertain nature of the various strata, the resulting cement was altogether unreliable, and therefore this method had to be abandoned. The method now adopted, is to thoroughly mix and blend the marl; by passing it through a washmill in the ordinary way, generally with the addition of a small quantity of the chalk found in the neighbourhood.
The unreliable nature of the cement produced by the direct calcination of the deposits in the earlier attempts, gained a rather unenviable notoriety for the cements made from the Cambridgeshire marls, and, judging from samples that came under the author's notice some ten years ago, it certainly was the most utter rubbish that was ever honoured with the name of Portland Cement. During the last year or two, however, he has had occasion to test and examine samples of cement more recently produced from that neighbourhood, and the results show that, with proper care, a Portland Cement can be produced equal, if not superior, to the Thames and Medway brands. The following analysis, taken from our testing books of 1887, may be given as an example of the Cambridgeshire marls; it will be seen that they approximate very nearly to the constituents of raw Portland Cement slurry, and only require a very small addition of chalk to bring them up to the 76 per cent. of carbonate of lime usually present in an ordinary slurry or compo.

There can be little doubt that the "utter rubbish" he refers to is the product of the Standard plant.

A C Davis, who knew the plant well enough, having managed it, wrote in his 1904 book:

It is true that the natural marl deposits of the Cambridgeshire district very nearly approach the desired combination of chalk and clay, and, unfortunately, in one or two instances the manufacture is carried out as stated by burning the calcareous deposit just as it is quarried, and grinding the resultant "clinker" (a large proportion of which is dust) for Portland cement. The unreliable quality of a material so produced is demonstrated by the crudest tests; and, from a scientific as well as from a commercial point of view, where the deposit varies in its composition, as the analyses of chalk marls generally show that it does, such a process of manufacturing Portland cement—a chemical product—cannot be too strongly condemned.

The next date in the plant's timeline is 1890, when the Natural Portland Cement Co. Ltd was wound up, and Edward Prime was made bankrupt. At the hearing, his brief told the tribunal that the inadequacy of Edward Prime's testimony was on account of his stupidity. Subsequently the plant was up for sale, now under the name of the Standard Portland Cement Works. In the Cambridge Independent Press (7/2/1891, p 4), we find the following:

PORTLAND CEMENT WORKS,
NEAR CAMBRIDGE,
With Siding to the Great Northern Railway,
FREEHOLD PROPERTIES,
Which will be offered In Five Lots, as under.

Lot 1.—The STANDARD PORTLAND CEMENT WORKS, situate in the Parish of Barrington, near Cambridge, occupying an area of about 230 acres, together with the whole of the modern fixed Plant and Machinery, capable of producing upwards of 300 tons of cement per week; the buildings comprise Grinding Mills, Drying Sheds, Pipe Press, and Brick-making Houses, Dietzch (sic) Kiln House, 146 ft. by 43 ft., Engine and Boiler Houses, Chimney Shafts, Cement Stores, Stable, Manager's House, Two Cottages, &c.; there exists on the Estate a valuable Bed of Cement Marl, which, when drawn and broken, goes direct to the Kilns for burning, thus effecting the very considerable saving of the cost of washing, slurry pumping, drying &c., and beneath the marl deposit is a rich !ayer of Coprolites. There is also a Farmhouse and Homestead, with the right to farm about 210 acres of the surface land, knowing (sic) as Barrington Farm. This Farm is held at a rent of £147 per annum, on a lease not binding on the vendor as a mortgagee, but is sold subject to the tenant's rights (if any) under the Tenants' Compensation Act. 1890.

The plant by then had the kiln house sized for four Dietzsch kilns, with capacity sufficient to cover all the cement production, leaving the open kilns for lime. Note the option of returning the site to agriculture! At the time of sale, the plant was still nominally operating. There were no bidders. The plant was shut down in November 1892, and appears to have remained in limbo for two years, but in 1894 it was acquired by a group called the Barrington Cement Syndicate, and it commenced trading as the New Barrington Cement Co. The syndicate included Edward Prime. The company became insolvent in 1896 and was in the hands of Bailiffs. It was put up for sale again in 1897. Again there were no bidders, until a new company - the Royston Cement Co. Ltd - was set up by George and Arthur Keeble, and acquired the plant in June 1898. This was welcomed in the press as - at last - a serious venture. The plant was probably modified at this stage to make a ground, blended and briquetted rawmix, and this marks the first production of a genuine Portland cement.

The Keebles went on to build the Saxon plant in 1899-1900, and the immediate advantages of the superior high-carbonate marl at the latter no doubt clarified for them the deficiencies of the Barrington plant. It was shut down in early 1904, and was up for sale on 20/5/1904. Evidently, there was again no satisfactory bid. The whole estate was on sale, and the plant capacity was described as 300 t/week of cement and lime. The estate was again up for sale (as the Royston Cement Works) on 9/10/1909, the plant and railway having been dismantled, and the land was sold off piecemeal as agricultural land.

Although for most of its 20 years, its capacity was 15,000 tonnes a year, an analysis of the quarry shows that not more than 130,000 dry tonnes of marl was dug, making 86,000 tonnes of burned material, of which perhaps only half was "Portland" clinker.

In order to further firm up the description of this plant, contemporary pictures are now sought. Contact me.