Cement Kilns



  • Grid reference: NX968155
  • x=296800
  • y=515500
  • 54°31'27"N; 3°35'40"W
  • Civil Parish: Hensingham, Cumberland

Clinker manufacture operational: 1955-1976

Approximate total clinker production:4.4 million tonnes

Raw materials:

  • Anhydrite (Permian: St Bees Evaporite Formation: 260-268 Ma) from mine. The product drift emerged at 296492,515352 (Sandwith parish) and ran south-westwards beneath St Bees Head. Two seams were worked – 5 and 8 m thick, separated by 2.5 m shale, dipping to a depth of 300 m off the coast. A room-and-pillar system was used, with 60% yield.
  • Shale (Permian: St Bees Shale Formation: 252-260 Ma) from quarry at 296100,515900 and mine inter-burden.
  • Sand: source?


  • 1955 Marchon Products Ltd
  • 1955-1976 Albright and Wilson Ltd

Sometimes called Solway Works. The plant was constructed to produce sulfuric acid, principally to feed the Marchon phosphoric acid plant, which was primarily for the production sodium tripolyphosphate, for use in detergents. Marchon used their central European connections to obtain IG Farben technology, rather than that of ICI, which had been offered to them at an inflated price. Because of its use in an expanding niche market, the Whitehaven plant continued to expand in a manner not shared by the other Anhydrite Process plants. The anhydrite mine opened on 11/1/1955, and the acid plant started on 14/11/1955. For a while in the early 1970s, it became the largest sulfuric acid plant in the UK, making about 13% of national production, and it was by far the largest Anhydrite Process plant ever built. The cement was always distributed by Blue Circle, and after kilns A4 and A5 were installed, the surplus clinker was sent by rail to Widnes and Wishaw for grinding. The plant had the lowest local domestic market of any plant in this study, but benefitted from the use of the Blue Circle rail-fed depots for its distribution, and the local nuclear industry absorbed much of its early output. SO2 production by burning liquid sulfur imported from Texas began in 1973, and completely displaced the cement kilns in 1976. The kilns were removed in 1988 and the area was re-used. The Marchon site closed in 2005, and apart from the anhydrite adit, the cement plant has been obliterated.


Ball mills were used. The original installation had two 635 kW rawmills - presumable Allen. The sizes, suppliers, and dates of the later mills are unknown. Supplementary heat was used for raw material drying.

Five rotary kilns were installed:

Kiln A1

Supplier: Edgar Allen
Operated: 14/11/1955-1/3/1973
Process: Anhydrite
Location: Hot end 296661,515493: Cold end 296635,515558: unenclosed.
Dimensions: 230’0”× 11’0¼” (metric 70.10 × 3.359)
Rotation (viewed from firing end): anticlockwise
Slope: ?
Speed: ?
Drive: ?
Kiln profile: 0×3359: 70104×3359: Tyres at 8534, 26213, 44653, 64160: turning gear at 29870.
Cooler: rotary 73’0”× 7’0” (metric 22.25 × 2.134) beneath kiln.
Cooler profile: 0×2134: 22250×2134: Tyres at 5791, 17678: turning gear at 14630.
Fuel: Coal: there was an oil tank, and oil may have been used for a while, but I have no definite information.
Coal Mill: ?
Exhaust: suction provided by acid plant blowers and scrubbed by acid plant gas cleaning.
Typical Output: 219 t/d
Typical Heat Consumption: 8.4 MJ/kg

Kiln A2

Operated: 1955-1973
Location: Hot end 296672,515497: Cold end 296646,515562: unenclosed.
Identical in all other respects to A1.

Kiln A3

Supplier: Vickers Armstrong
Operated: 5/1962-28/11/1975
Process: Anhydrite
Location: Hot end 296688,515500: Cold end 296660,515568: unenclosed.
Dimensions (from cooler ports): 240’0”× 13’0”B / 11’0”CD (metric 73.15 × 3.962 / 3.353)
Rotation (viewed from firing end): anticlockwise
Slope: ?
Speed: ?
Drive: ?
Kiln profile (from cooler ports): -610×3353: 6401×3353: 9144×3962: 26822×3962: 29566×3353: 73152×3353: Tyres at 5486, 30480, 40538, 65227: turning gear at 62941.
Cooler: Reflex “Recuperator” planetary coolers: number and size not known.
Fuel: Coal: see A1
Coal Mill: ?
Exhaust: suction provided by acid plant blowers and scrubbed by acid plant gas cleaning.
Typical Output: 248 t/d
Typical Heat Consumption: 8.5 MJ/kg

Kiln A4

Supplier: Vickers Armstrong
Operated: 7/1/1967-5/1976
Process: Anhydrite
Location: Hot end 296701,515509: Cold end 296674,515574: unenclosed.
Dimensions: 230’0”× 12’0” (metric 70.10 × 3.658)
Rotation (viewed from firing end): anticlockwise
Slope: ?
Speed: ?
Drive: ?
Kiln profile: 0×3658: 70104×3658: Tyres at 3200, 24384, 41453, 60655: turning gear at 57836.
Cooler: rotary ?110 '× 7' (metric 33.53 × 2.134) beneath kiln
Cooler profile: ?0×2134: 33548×2134: tyres at ?7620, 22860: turning gear at ?21336.
Fuel: Coal: see A1
Coal Mill: ?
Exhaust: suction provided by acid plant blowers and scrubbed by acid plant gas cleaning.
Typical Output: 255 t/d
Typical Heat Consumption: 8.2 MJ/kg

Kiln A5

Operated: 21/5/1967-5/1976
Location: Hot end 296712,515514: Cold end 296685,515578: unenclosed.
Identical in all other respects to A4.

Sources: Cook, p 116: Jackson, p 302: "Electrical Equipment of a Sulphuric Acid and Cement Factory", The Engineer, 200, 16 December 1955, p 877: “Sulfuric Acid and Cement Plant at Whitehaven”, Cement and Lime Manufacture, 41, March 1968, pp 34-35: D. W. F. Hardie, J. Davidson Pratt, A History of the Modern British Chemical Industry, Pergamon Press Ltd., 1966, pp 124-125: Alan W. Routledge, Marchon: the Whitehaven Chemical Works, Tempus, 2005, ISBN 0-7524-3572-8, pp 30-31, 36-39, 49, 53-54, 65-66, 95, 121-123: Cumbria Industries website: Durham Mining Museum - this contains a number of pictures and plant descriptions.

© Dylan Moore 2011: last edit 15/08/2015.

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Old Maps

Whitehaven Detail

Approximate capacity: tonnes per year
Whitehaven Capacity

Whitehaven Picture
Picture: ©English Heritage - NMR Aerofilms Collection. Catalogue number A188009. A high-definition version can be obtained from English Heritage. This was taken on 17/7/1968, viewed from the southwest. The anhydrite adit is on the bottom edge, where a conveyor emerges, distributing rock to open and covered storage via a crusher. The rawmills and rawmix blending system are in the centre of the picture. The kilns are Nos 1 (nearest) to 5. Beyond the kilns is the clinker store, and beyond that the finish mills and cement silos. To the left of the kilns is the complex equipment - in five distinct lines - used to clean the exhaust gases and convert sulfur dioxide to sulfuric acid. Finished acid storage is in the tanks to the left of the stack. Most of the acid was used on-site in the phosphate plant.