Cement Kilns

Swanscombe

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

Location:

  • 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.

Ownership:


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.

Swanscombe
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.

Rawmills

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 : cold end : enclosed.
Dimensions:

  • 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 : cold end : entirely enclosed.
Identical in all other respects to A1


Kiln A3

Operated: 1901-1924
Location: hot end : cold end : 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 : cold end : 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 : cold end : entirely enclosed.
Identical in all other respects to A4


Kiln A6

Operated: 1902-1929
Location: hot end : cold end : entirely enclosed.
Identical in all other respects to A4


Kiln A7

Operated: 1902-1929
Location: hot end : cold end : entirely enclosed.
Identical in all other respects to A4


Kiln A8

Operated: 1902-1929
Location: hot end : cold end : entirely enclosed.
Identical in all other respects to A4


Kiln A9

Operated: 1902-1929
Location: hot end : cold end : entirely enclosed.
Identical in all other respects to A4


Kiln A10

Operated: 1902-1929
Location: hot end : cold end : entirely enclosed.
Identical in all other respects to A4


Kiln A11

Operated: 1902-1929
Location: hot end : cold end : entirely enclosed.
Identical in all other respects to A4


Kiln A12

Operated: 1902-1929
Location: hot end : cold end : entirely enclosed.
Identical in all other respects to A4


Kiln A13

Operated: 1902-1929
Location: hot end : cold end : entirely enclosed.
Identical in all other respects to A4


Kiln A14

Operated: 1902-1929
Location: hot end : cold end : entirely enclosed.
Identical in all other respects to A4


Kiln A15

Operated: 1902-1929
Location: hot end : cold end : entirely enclosed.
Identical in all other respects to A4


Kiln A16

Operated: 1902-1929
Location: hot end : cold end : 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 : cold end : 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

Cooler:

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 : cold end : 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 : cold end : 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 : cold end : hot end enclosed.
Dimensions: (metric)

  • 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 : cold end : 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 : cold end : entirely enclosed.
Identical in all other respects to S1


Kiln S3

Operated: 1937-1940, 1946-1962, 1964-1970
Location: hot end : cold end : 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 : cold end : 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.


© Dylan Moore 2011: commenced 07/08/2011: last edit 14/12/2016.

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