Cement Kilns


Swanscombe LogoWhite's Brand.
Snowcrete LogoAPCM's Snowcrete Brand.


  • Grid reference: TQ60337502
  • x=560330
  • y=175020
  • 51°27'5"N; 0°18'27"E
  • Civil Parish: Swanscombe, Kent

Clinker manufacture operational: 1845 to 1990

Approximate total clinker production: 40 million tonnes (8th)

Raw materials:

  • Upper Chalk (Seaford Chalk Formation: 85-88 Ma) from successively more distant quarries:
    • 1845-1888: 560200,174900
    • 1888-1905: 559800,174600
    • 1905-1931: 559650,174400
    • 1931-1955: 559300,174000
    • 1955-1990: 559300,173500
  • Various clays:
    • 1845-1925: Medway Alluvial Clay
    • 1925-1940: Alkerden London Clay (London Clay Formation: 48-55 Ma) 560200,173100 (Swanscombe)
    • 1940-1966: Cliffe Alluvium 571400,177100
    • 1966-1990: London Clay from Ockendon, Essex (561200,182600), slurried at the quarry and pumped to Swanscombe Park by an 11 km pipeline under the Thames.
  • For white clinker production, siliceous kaolin from the company's own quarry near St Austell, Cornwall.


Old Maps

Approximate capacity: tonnes per year
Swanscombe Capacity

From the historical point of view, this is the most important of plant descriptions. Swanscombe's combination of size and longevity makes it uniquely important. However, like the comparable West Thurrock plant, it has proved extraordinarily difficult to obtain reliable technical information, and the article is likely to remain "work in progress" with much conjectural content for some time. Plans, photographs, data and firm dates are desperately sought! Please contact me with any relevant information or corrections.

Often known as White’s Works, and in earlier times, as Frost’s Works. Swanscombe was the longest-operating cement plant, and for much of its life, the biggest in the UK, from around 1846 to 1926, when it was overtaken by Bevans. It began life as a cement plant in October 1825, when James Frost commenced making his “British Cement” using wet process bottle kilns. The plant was acquired from Frost by Francis and White in 1833 and continued manufacturing the same product. The Francis / White partnership was dissolved in 1836 and John Bazley White and Sons commenced as a business on 1/1/1837, making both Roman and Frost’s cements at the Swanscombe site. I. C. Johnson was engaged as manager in 1838. His emulation of William Aspdin's cement (then made at Rotherhithe) was complete by October 1845, and the company advertised Portland cement for sale. By 1850, production was around 250 t/week of which more than half went for export to France where the first large scale use of Portland cement was for concrete in harbour work. Thanks to this market, Swanscombe became the largest plant. Large scale use in the UK only started around 1860, when the plant was capable of making around 640 t/week, using 23 bottle kilns. In 1864 there were 26 (688 t/week). In 1870 use of the “thick slurry” process began, in combination with an inefficient form of chamber kiln fed with partially pre-dried material. From 1877, three Hoffman rings were installed, with 25, 28 and 30 compartments (output 625, 700 and 750 t/week). Although launched with some fanfare, they seem to have been phased out by the end of the century. The old bottle kilns were replaced with standard chamber kilns in the 1880s, and by 1898 there were 127 of these (3800 t/week at ~14 MJ/kg), plus 16 shaft kilns (Dietzsch kilns? 1200 t/week at ~4.4 MJ/kg) burning surplus dried slurry.

Following the establishment of APCM, the largest rotary kiln installation took place, with sixteen kilns installed in 1901-1903, and the plant was among those alleged to have operated the first successful rotary kiln (see article). In addition to the large number installed, the kilns were the largest in Britain when installed, and were lengthened around 1907 to keep them ahead of most competing installations, although Sundon A2 became the largest kiln in 1909. The static kilns were undisturbed during this period, but they were rapidly phased out as the rotary kilns came on line and were not used after 1904. The rotary kiln system yielded around 7000 t/week by 1907, as confirmed by Davis, who gives a good photograph of the kiln installation. Some of the rotary kilns were fitted with waste heat boilers after WWI. The first rotary kiln set was replaced in 1929 with new “state of the art” kilns. The first three installed in 1929 together equalled the output of all the old kilns and the latter were decommissioned. The “good bits” of the old kilns were then re-assembled to construct the white cement kilns. The first two started in 1932, allowing the initial much smaller white kilns at Beddington to be shut down. The plant ran through WWII making grey cement without interruption. On 2/3/1958, kiln B1 ceased grey clinker production and was converted for white production and renamed S5. This replaced the small white kilns, which were then used as make-up capacity for grey clinker, except in 1967-1970 when S3 and S4 were briefly used for top-up white production. Grey production was earmarked for closure with the start-up of Northfleet in 1970, but because of the poor performance of the latter, the Swanscombe grey kilns struggled on. They shut down in 1981, but B2 and B3 re-opened to take on sulfate resisting clinker following the closure of Holborough. The final shut-down in 1990 (white production being replaced by imported Aalborg white cement) ended 145 years of Portland cement production at this plant. The site has been entirely cleared, although not yet developed. Foundations are still visible.

Picture: the block of sixteen rotary kilns in 1908, viewed from the south. The kilns were lengthened from 80' to 130' in 1907 by adding an extra bay to the building, so the kilns project beyond the stacks. Kilns B1-B4 were subsequently installed in the area in the foreground.

Swanscombe Interior
Picture: the interior of the above building as seen in 1922, viewed from the east. The enlarged cold ends were added in 1907.

Picture: ©English Heritage - NMR Aerofilms Collection. Britain from Above reference number EPW017658.
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 on 26/4/1927 and shows the plant from the southwest. The remaining fourteen of the original rotary kilns were operating. All kilns ran only on stack suction, and a third stack had been added between kilns 7 and 8 to improve the suction on the kilns in the middle of the row. Subsequently, the four more modern kilns were installed in the cramped triangular area to the right of the site, close to the road. View in High Definition.
I am keen to identify many of the features in this view. Please contact me with any relevant information.

This was taken on 27/2/1939 and shows the plant from the west. All four new "grey" kilns are now in place. Installation of B4 required demolition of the south stack of the old kiln block. B4 made use of the middle stack of the old kiln block. As part of the B3 installation, all four kilns were fitted with electrostatic precipitators. The slightly grey plume from the north stack is due to the white kilns, of which there were now three in operation. Zoom in on this in High Definition.


Washmills were always used. The 1930s plant had washmills in the quarry south of London Road, fed with chalk brought by rail from the quarry and clay slurry washmilled at Alkerden and pumped from there (~2 km). The main washmill system consisted of two 186 kW rough mills elevated to allow dumping flint from the base, used alternately. These were followed by two parallel lines, each consisting of a secondary washmill and three screening mills, powered by common 298 kW drives. Two larger washmills were added later.

24 rotary kilns were installed in three stages:

Kiln A1

Supplier: Fellner & Ziegler
Operated: 1901-1912
Process: Wet
Location: hot end 560274,175097: cold end 560313,175103: entirely enclosed.

  • 1901-1907: 80’0” × 6’3½” (metric 24.38 × 1.918)
  • 1907-1912: 130’0” × 8’10¼”B / 6’3½”C / 7’10½”D (metric 39.62 × 2.699 / 1.918 / 2.400)

Rotation (viewed from firing end): clockwise
Slope: 1/13.8 (4.156°)
Speed: 0.86 rpm
Drive: 30 kW
Kiln profile:

  • 1901-1907: 0×1918: 24384×1918: tyres at 4064, 12192, 20320: turning gear at 16408.
  • 1907-1912: 0×1734: 292×1734: 3404×2699: 8957×2699: 11417×1918: 31039×1918: 32410×2400: 39624×2400: tyres at 826, 12027, 20257, 27648, 35573: turning gear at 16408.

Cooler: rotary 53’0”× 4’10½” (metric 16.15 × 1.486) below firing floor
Cooler profile: 0×1486: 16154×1486: Tyres at 1524, 11278
Fuel: Coal
Coal Mill: all sixteen kilns indirect fired using common coal milling system - Griffin mills?
Exhaust: direct to common flue, suction being provided solely by the stacks at either end.
Typical Output: 1901-1907 30 t/d: 1907-1912 64 t/d
Typical Heat Consumption: 1901-1907 10.0 MJ/kg: 1907-1912 9.17 MJ/kg

Kiln A2

Operated: 1901-1912
Location: hot end 560275,175091: cold end 560314,175097: entirely enclosed.
Identical in all other respects to A1

Kiln A3

Operated: 1901-1924
Location: hot end 560276,175085: cold end 560315,175091: entirely enclosed.
Typical Output: 1901-1906 30 t/d: 1906-1914 64 t/d: 1914-1924 74 t/d
Typical Heat Consumption: 1901-1906 10.0 MJ/kg: 1906-1914 9.17 MJ/kg: 1914-1924 8.22 MJ/kg
Identical in all other respects to A1

Kiln A4

Operated: 1901-1928
Location: hot end 560277,175079: cold end 560316,175085: entirely enclosed.
Typical Output: 1901-1906 30 t/d: 1906-1914 64 t/d: 1914-1923 74 t/d: 1923-1928 78 t/d
Typical Heat Consumption: 1901-1906 10.0 MJ/kg: 1906-1914 9.17 MJ/kg: 1914-1924 8.22 MJ/kg: 1924-1928 8.32 MJ/kg
Identical in all other respects to A1

Kiln A5

Operated: 1902-1928
Location: hot end 560278,175073: cold end 560317,175079: entirely enclosed.
Identical in all other respects to A4

Kiln A6

Operated: 1902-1929
Location: hot end 560279,175067: cold end 560318,175073: entirely enclosed.
Identical in all other respects to A4

Kiln A7

Operated: 1902-1929
Location: hot end 560280,175061: cold end 560319,175067: entirely enclosed.
Identical in all other respects to A4

Kiln A8

Operated: 1902-1929
Location: hot end 560281,175055: cold end 560320,175061: entirely enclosed.
Identical in all other respects to A4

Kiln A9

Operated: 1902-1929
Location: hot end 560282,175049: cold end 560321,175055: entirely enclosed.
Identical in all other respects to A4

Kiln A10

Operated: 1902-1929
Location: hot end 560283,175043: cold end 560322,175049: entirely enclosed.
Identical in all other respects to A4

Kiln A11

Operated: 1902-1929
Location: hot end 560284,175037: cold end 560323,175043: entirely enclosed.
Identical in all other respects to A4

Kiln A12

Operated: 1902-1929
Location: hot end 560285,175031: cold end 560324,175037: entirely enclosed.
Identical in all other respects to A4

Kiln A13

Operated: 1902-1929
Location: hot end 560286,175025: cold end 560325,175031: entirely enclosed.
Identical in all other respects to A4

Kiln A14

Operated: 1902-1929
Location: hot end 560287,175019: cold end 560326,175025: entirely enclosed.
Identical in all other respects to A4

Kiln A15

Operated: 1902-1929
Location: hot end 560288,175013: cold end 560327,175019: entirely enclosed.
Identical in all other respects to A4

Kiln A16

Operated: 1902-1929
Location: hot end 560289,175007: cold end 560328,175013: entirely enclosed.
Identical in all other respects to A4

Kiln B1 (=S5)

Supplier: FLS
Operated: ?4/1929 to ?12/1990
Process: Wet
Location: hot end 560299,174971: cold end 560417,174991: hot end enclosed.
Dimensions: (metric)

  • 1929-2/3/1958 (from cooler ports) 120.00 × 3.450B / 2.850CD
  • 1958-1990 124.43 × 3.450B / 2.850CD

Rotation (viewed from firing end): clockwise
Slope: 1/25 (2.292°)
Speed: 0.426-1.23 rpm: in 1958 slowed to 0.343-0.99 rpm
Drive: 90 kW
Kiln profile:

  • 1929-2/3/1958 (from cooler ports) -2800×3450: 33200×3450: 36000×2850: 120000×2850: Tyres at 2000, 12800, 27200, 44400, 66000, 87600, 109200: turning gear at 47250
  • 1958-1990 0×3054: 762×3054: 1626×3450: 37626×3450: 40426×2850: 124426×2850: Tyres at 6426, 17226, 31626, 48826, 70426, 92026, 113626: turning gear at 51676


Fuel: 1929-1958 Coal: 1958-1990 Oil: from the mid 1980s, some Landfill Gas was used.
Coal Mill: Initially direct fired with a British Rema ring-roll mill. Subsequently, direct: 2 Atritors.
Typical Output: 1929-1937 358 t/d: 1937-1945 365 t/d: 1945-1952 372 t/d: 1952-1958 370 t/d: 1958-1990 (white) 317 t/d
Typical Heat Consumption: 1929-1937 7.34 MJ/kg: 1937-1945 6.94 MJ/kg: 1945-1952 6.83 MJ/kg: 1952-1958 7.17 MJ/kg: 1958-1990 (white) 8.49 MJ/kg

Kiln B2

Supplier: FLS
Operated: ?6/1929 -3/1981, 4/8/1984-?11/1990
Process: Wet
Location: hot end 560297,174980: cold end 560416,175000: hot end enclosed.
Dimensions (from cooler ports): metric 120.00 × 3.450B / 2.850CD
Rotation (viewed from firing end): clockwise
Slope: 1/25 (2.292°)
Speed: 0.426-1.23 rpm
Drive: 90 kW
Kiln profile (from cooler ports): -2800×3450: 33200×3450: 36000×2850: 120000×2850: tyres at 2000, 12800, 27200, 44400, 66000, 87600, 109200: turning gear at 47250
Cooler: Unax planetary 12 × 5.67 × 1.200
Fuel: Coal, except 2/1960-4/1968 Oil, 4/1968-2/1974 mixed coal/oil (average 40% oil)
Coal mill: as B1
Typical Output: 1929-1933 358 t/d: 1933-1946 367 t/d: 1946-1960 369 t/d: 1960-1968 387 t/d: 1968-1971 350 t/d: 1971-1974 401 t/d: 1974-1978 369 t/d: 1978-1990 345 t/d
Typical Heat Consumption: 1929-1933 7.44 MJ/kg: 1933-1946 7.01 MJ/kg: 1946-1960 7.04 MJ/kg: 1960-1968 7.75 MJ/kg: 1968-1971 8.03 MJ/kg: 1971-1974 7.36 MJ/kg: 1974-1978 7.13 MJ/kg: 1978-1990 7.43 MJ/kg

Kiln B3

Operated: ?7/1929 -3/1981, 19/8/1984-?12/1990
Location: hot end 560296,174989: cold end 560414,175009: hot end enclosed.
Typical Output: 1929-1933 358 t/d: 1933-1946 367 t/d: 1946-1960 370 t/d: 1960-1968 376 t/d: 1968-1971 346 t/d: 1971-1974 368 t/d: 1974-1978 363 t/d: 1978-1990 351 t/d
Typical Heat Consumption: 1929-1933 7.52 MJ/kg: 1933-1946 7.01 MJ/kg: 1946-1960 7.03 MJ/kg: 1960-1968 7.85 MJ/kg: 1968-1971 8.04 MJ/kg: 1971-1974 7.33 MJ/kg: 1974-1978 7.10 MJ/kg: 1978-1990 7.47 MJ/kg
Identical in all other respects to B2

Kiln B4

Supplier: Vickers Armstrong
Operated: 15/09/1935-3/1981
Process: Wet
Location: hot end 560286,174997: cold end 560376,175012: hot end enclosed.

  • 1935-06/1968 298’9½”× 12’0”B / 10’3”C / 12’6”/16’3”D (metric 91.07 × 3.658 / 3.124 / 3.810 / 4.953)
  • 06/1968-1981 302’1¾”× 12’0”B / 10’3”C / 12’6”D (metric 92.09 × 3.658 / 3.124 / 3.810)

Rotation (viewed from firing end): clockwise
Slope: 1/20 (2.866°)
Speed: 1.00 rpm
Drive: 172 kW
Kiln profile:

  • 1935-06/1968 -597×3353: 851×3353: 4356×3658: 25311×3658: 28029×3124: 52261×3124: 55004×3810: 84976×3810: 86043×4953: 88786×4953: 90157×2134: 91072×2134: tyres at 6871, 24092, 45428, 65545, 83833: turning gear at 42888
  • 06/1968-1981: -597×3353: 1873×3353: 5378×3658: 26333×3658: 29051×3124: 53283×3124: 56026×3810: 89808×3810: 91180×2134: 92094×2134: Tyres at 7893, 25114, 46450, 66567, 84855: turning gear at 43910

Cooler: Reflex “Recuperator” planetary 12 × 15’6”× 3’11⅜” (metric 12 × 4.72 × 1.203)
Fuel: Coal, except 2/1960-4/1968 Oil, 4/1968-2/1974 mixed coal/oil (average 40% oil)
Coal Mill: Direct: ball mill
Typical Output: 1935-1939 471 t/d: 1939-1954 449 t/d: 1954-1960 428 t/d: 1960-1968 404 t/d: 1968-1971 373 t/d: 1971-1974 448 t/d: 1974-1981 478 t/d
Typical Heat Consumption: 1935-1939 7.43 MJ/kg: 1939-1954 7.38 MJ/kg: 1954-1960 7.78 MJ/kg: 1960-1968 8.54 MJ/kg: 1968-1971 7.62 MJ/kg: 1971-1974 7.79 MJ/kg: 1974-1981 7.53 MJ/kg

Kiln S1

Supplier: made up from A-kilns, with new nose from Vickers Armstrong
Operated: 1932-1939, 1947-1958, 1960-1966
Process: Wet
Location: hot end 560274,175097: cold end 560313,175103: entirely enclosed.
Dimensions: 132’8½”× 8’10¼”B / 6’3½”C / 7’10½”D (metric 40.45 × 2.699 / 1.918 / 2.400)
Rotation (viewed from firing end): clockwise
Slope: 1/13.8 (4.156°)
Speed: 0.86 rpm
Drive: 30 kW
Kiln profile: 0×1734: 1118×1734: 4229×2699: 9782×2699: 12243×1918: 31864×1918: 33236×2400: 40450×2400: Tyres at 1651, 12852, 21082, 28473, 36398: turning gear at 17234.
Cooler: quencher then centre-discharge rotary shared with S2: 23’0” × 3’1½” (metric 7.01 × 0.953)
Cooler profile: 0×724: 1092×953: 3505 outlet: 5918×953: 7010×724: Tyres at 1372, 5638.
Fuel: Oil on white, Coal on grey
Typical Output: 1932-1939 (white) 66 t/d, 1947-1958 (white) 73 t/d, 1960-1966 (grey) 83 t/d
Typical Heat Consumption: 1932-1939 (white) 14.7 MJ/kg: 1947-1958 (white) 13.6 MJ/kg: 1960-1966 (grey) 10.4 MJ/kg

Kiln S2

Operated: 1932-1939, 1946-1958, 1960-1966
Location: hot end 560275,175091: cold end 560314,175097: entirely enclosed.
Identical in all other respects to S1

Kiln S3

Operated: 1937-1940, 1946-1962, 1964-1970
Location: hot end 560276,175085: cold end 560315,175091: entirely enclosed.
Cooler: quencher then rotary cooler: 14’0”× 3’1½” (metric 4.27 × 0.953)
Cooler profile: 0×953, 3658×953, 4267×826: Tyres at 914, 3353.
Typical Output: 1937-1940 (white) 68 t/d: 1946-1958 (white) 75 t/d: 1959-1966 (mainly grey) 86 t/d: 1967-1970 (white) 75 t/d
Typical Heat Consumption: 1937-1940 (white) 14.5 MJ/kg: 1946-1958 (white) 13.5 MJ/kg: 1959-1966 (mainly grey) 10.65 MJ/kg: 1967-1970 (white) 13.3 MJ/kg
Identical in all other respects to S1

Kiln S4

Operated: 1949-1962, 1964-1970
Location: hot end 560277,175079: cold end 560316,175085: entirely enclosed.
Identical in all other respects to S3

Sources: Cook, p 69: Eve, p 14: Francis, pp 49, 77, 130-144: Jackson, pp 260, 300: Preston, p 69: Pugh, pp 88, 271-272: Swanscombe: 1825-1975 (pamphlet), APCM, 1975: “The Swanscombe Works of the Associated Portland Cement Manufacturers, Ltd. ”, Cement and Cement Manufacture, 3, Jan 1930, pp 6-18.

The following is a transcript of an anonymous article that appeared in the London Standard on Monday, 24 August 1874, page 6.

By 1874, the overwhelming majority of people of the region between Dartford and Gravesend were employed in the cement industry. The largest producer and employer was the Swanscombe plant of John Bazley White & Brothers. As at many other locations, long after the establishment of extractive industries, relatively well-heeled commuters started to move into the area, and began to complain about the local industry, bringing to bear legal resources that the earlier working-class residents could never have afforded. As it turned out, their efforts to curtail the industry failed, and the plant continued in operation for another 116 years.

The demonstration was also described in The Building News on 28 August, and the article is quoted by Francis. It says that the complainant was S. C. Umfreville of Ingress Abbey. It says that the foreman (here called Walkland) stated the object of the proceedings was to "shut up all the cement works in the county".


The high road running through Northfleet, Stone, and Galley-hill, was, on Saturday, the scene of an unwonted demonstration. A procession of bloused workmen, their wives and children, to the number of between four and five thousand, accompanied by bands, and carrying numerous flags and banners, was on the march to the Rectory Grounds, Swanscombe. The main body of these people consisted of the employees of Messrs. J. B. White Bros. Portland Cement Manufactory, Swanscombe, and their friends. The occasion of the display needs a word of explanation. Certain of the inhabitants of Swanscombe and Northfleet state that their health is seriously affected by the smoke from the chimneys of the cement manufactory; others, that the vicinity of these works deteriorates the value of their property. Those finding reason for complaint have taken legal proceedings with a view to entirely suppressing the manufacture of Portland cement in the neighbourhood. To consider their position then, under this aspect of affairs, the workers belonging to Messrs. White's firm, and the tradespeople and residents of the several immediate parishes, turned out to enter their solemn protest against any disturbance of the existing state of things. The country for several miles round was profusely decorated with flags, many of which bore inscriptions, such as " Honest labour should be well protected," "Live and let live", "Success to all cement manufacturers". Before the procession marched a man bearing a loaf aloft on a spear, behind came several with paintings representing the cement factories, over which were written the significant words— "Our daily bread". The occupations of some of those depending for their livelihood upon the manufactories were brought very visibly before the eye. The boatmen were drawn along the road in an immense boat with sails unfurled and pennons flying; the carrier had his van. Those trades which did not admit of so forcible a representation as the foregoing were depicted, in their leading characteristics, upon canvas. Northfleet and Swanscombe contain a population of about 6500 inhabitants (Note 1), the majority of whom, either directly or indirectly, derive their sustenance from cement manufactories. In the one establishment of the Messrs. White 800 men and boys are employed, and the number of souls depending upon the exertions of these is 4000. The average earning for a man is 30s. a week; the total weekly wages paid is upwards of £1000 (Note 2).

Shortly after four o'clock in the evening the processionists assembled in the meadow appointed for the purpose at Swanscombe, and the Rev. T. H. Candy, rector of the parish, was called upon to preside. His testimony with regard to the alleged nuisance was that during the six years of his residence the number of deaths had been steadily diminishing, even although the population was increasing. At present it is about eleven or twelve in 1000 (Note 3). The parish of Swanscombe numbers 2000 people, which is double what it was 20 years ago (Note 4). After the reverend chairman, a host of working men came to testify their soundness in wind and limb. John Bardoe, a bricklayer, had been employed in the cement works for 36 years. He was as healthy as could be desired, and knew no cause of complaint in the neighbourhood, save one— that cement workers were universally troubled with large families. This sally produced a good deal of mirth, which rather increased when the philosophic bricklayer reproved the audience in the following terms: — "It's no laughing matter, mind you, I've got the trouble to bear on my own shoulders". James Walkley, a man of about 24 stones (Note 5) weight, remarked that he was "one of the sick ones". He had been engaged in cement making since 1830, during which time he had not been a day either sick or idle. Before the factories had been established in the district ague had been very common (Note 6); but, owing to the smoke from the furnaces heating the air, the disease did not amount to one-fourth its former prevalence. Hugh Mitchell, the secretary to the working men's benefit club, had been engaged in the works for seventeen years. The health and comfort of the men and their families were shown in the fact that at Christmas there was a balance of £123 14s. to the credit of the club, which sum was apportioned among the men in shares of 8s. 6d. each. The Rev. Mr. Odell, Wesleyan minister, explained that an application had been made to the attorney for the prosecution of the indictments to allow the case to stand from October till the following sessions, in order that there might be an opportunity to judge of the effect of the extensive improvements in process of being carried out at the manufactories. The reply was that no alterations or improvements would satisfy the complainants, who believed the nuisance to be irremediable (groans) (Note 7). Nearly £4,000,000 had been paid for labour in the various cement works since they were commenced. Fathers had placed their sons in the factories, and the latter, in their turn, brought their children up to the same employment. They could not consent to the wishes of those who wanted the position of the works changed; as the manufacture could be only carried on where nature had provided a suitable place (Note 8). The Rev. Mr. Shrewsbury, Congregationalist, said the experiment which had been made within the last two years for diminishing the smoke had proved satisfactory. He lived a great deal nearer the chimneys than some of those who complained, and only once or twice in the period of the four years of his residence had he noticed anything like smoke in his neighbourhood. It had never in the slightest degree injured his health. With regard to the deterioration of property, three or four years ago there were 18 empty houses worth from £40 to £80 per annum to the landlord. These were now all let except two. A portion of land near the factories of the Messrs. White had been offered eight years ago for £500 per acre; only a short time since it was valued at £1000 per acre (Note 9). Those chronically sick persons who were affected by the smoke, and their number could be counted upon the fingers, would have to leave the vicinity. Large interests could not be disturbed because a few people murmured. James Ward, aged 60 years, had been employed 40 years in the cement works. He was now "open to run or jump with the best of them". Mr. Heys proposed a resolution to the effect that the proceedings against Messrs. White were unjustifiable. He had an experience of fifteen years, close under the chimneys, and neither he nor his family during that time had been affected by the smoke. The only nuisance in the neighbourhood was the marshes, the owners of which, he thought, should be compelled to drain them. The resolution was adopted. Mr. D. Pearse moved a resolution to the effect that the meeting regarded with anxiety the misery that would ensue should opponents succeed in closing Messrs. White's establishment. The resolution was adopted. The Rev. Mr. Shrewsbury moved a resolution to the effect that the meeting was cheered by the idea that those who figured in the prosecution would considerably modify their mode of procedure on maturer reflection. The Rev. Mr. Odell, in seconding the resolution, maintained that if the manufactory were to be closed "some 20,000 Kentish men would know the reason why" (great cheering). The testimony of the masters of the ships in the river was, that health of the boys on board the Goliath, Chichester, or the other vessel, had not been in any way affected by the smoke from the factories. The resolution was adopted. A protest against the pending proceedings, signed by a great number of those who were prevented from attending the meeting, was read; and a protest of a somewhat similar character was extensively signed in the field. Votes of thanks to the chairman and principal speakers brought the proceedings to a close.

- o - O - o -


Note 1. The actual census data are of interest:


In subsequent censuses the number directly employed in cement manufacture declined, reaching zero in 2011.

Note 2. £1 (1874) = £95 (2015)

Note 3. The crude death rate for England as a whole was around 21 per thousand in 1873. However, crude death rate is irrelevant, since a low and falling death rate is to be expected in a rapidly-expanding population consisting mainly of young people.

Note 4. He probably means the ecclesiastical parish, excluding Greenhithe.

Note 5. 1 stone = 6.35 kg. James Walkling (born in Horton Kirby, Kent, 1814) was listed as "labourer" in the 1841 and 1851 censuses. In 1861 he was "superintendent" and in 1871 "sampler". He died in 1880.

Note 6. Malaria had been an endemic scourge, and the principal cause of death, around the Thames estuary. Mosquitoes are attracted by carbon dioxide, and kilns kill them! The reduction in malaria in places with lime kilns is frequently claimed in 19th century texts.

Note 7. There is a degree of logic in this point of view, in that the "improvements" probably consisted mainly of "being seen to be doing something" rather than actual remedies. The installation of chamber kilns with high stacks would have improved things, but White's were reluctant to do that.

Note 8. Mother Nature provided the Thames Estuary with the perfect raw materials for a cement industry of exquisite inefficiency.

Note 9. Strictly speaking, of course, this is the price - not the value.

Original content © Dylan Moore 2011: commenced 07/08/2011: last edit 05/07/2017.

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