Clinker manufacture operational: 1862-1909: an earlier date of 1858 may refer to the start of Roman cement production
Approximate total clinker production: 670,000 tonnes
Sometimes called Formby’s Works. The Formby Brothers operated the Clinkham lime plant on the Rochester site, and started the Whitewall plant as a sideline. The capping of Tower Hill with Tertiary beds prevented much exploitation of the on-site chalk, and chalk was subsequently shipped in from the lime plant. As with other early plants in the area, Whitewall made Roman Cement from the outset, perhaps exclusively. The plant started with a bank of six medium sized wet process bottle kilns (95 t/week, but some or all may have been used for Roman cement), expanded to 11 around 1870. In around 1876-1882, a further 8 larger kilns (210 t/week) were added, and three more (80 t/week) in 1888, giving a total 460 t/week. Around 1888, two of the earlier bottle kilns were converted to chamber format, and in the 1890s a block of 4 small Batchelor kilns was added, bringing the total to 515 t/week. Davis’ 1907 capacity was 500 t/week. Formby’s seem to have been forced out of business by intense competition and a depressed market, during which they could not afford to re-invest. The company assets were bought by Albert Batchelor Ltd, who developed the Clinkham lime site for cement. A new company was set up to re-start the plant in 1914, but did not get off the ground. The remaining plant at that time had contracted to 410 t/week of available capacity through loss of some bottle kilns, although the prospectus report (below) estimated it at only 200-250 t/week. The Whitewall site was very inaccessible, and solely water transport was used. The plant site was cleared after WWII, and is now partly waste ground: the northern part is under the A289 Medway Towns bypass. The quarry is waste land.
No rotary kilns were installed.
© Dylan Moore 2011: commenced 16/02/2011: last edit 05/02/2017.
Approximate capacity: tonnes per year:
The prospectus of the failed re-launch of the company in 1914 contains a list of the plant available on site at the time. The company was to be called The Whitewall (Medway) Portland Cement Company, Limited. The Directors were:
OBJECTS OF THE COMPANY.- The objects of this Company comprise the acquisition of the Portland Cement Works (late the Property of the Formby's Cement Works, Co., Ltd.), situated at Frindsbury, on the River Medway, and the extension of the same for the manufacture of high-class Portland Cement under the title of this company.
DESCRIPTION OF FREEHOLD PROPERTY.- The property is freehold, and comprises an area of over 24 acres (9.763 Ha). The Company acquires all the fixed and moveable plant, machinery, works, kilns, fixtures, tools, tramways, rolling stock, and appurtenances connected therewith, manager's house, twelve workmen's cottages, and other buildings. The Property has an extensive river frontage, 750 feet of which is wharfage, protected by a river wall running parallel to the works, at which a number of barges can be loaded or unloaded at the same time.
An elevated tramway runs over the wharf carrying three loco cranes, each of three tons capacity, for loading and unloading the barges and carrying the raw material to and the manufactured cement from the works.
PLANT AND MACHINERY.- The existing Works, which are at present not in operation, will, by means of a small outlay (see reports), be immediately be available, and are capable of an output of 200 tons to 250 tons per week. Meanwhile, it is intended to erect new kilns, reconstruct the premises, and lay down additional plant. When the alterations and improvements under contemplation have been completed, the works will have ample Warehouse room, and will be equipped with the most modern and economical plant, including the latest crushing and grinding machinery, elevators, wash mills, Batchelor kilns, engineering and fitting shops, blacksmith's forge, and cooperage, and will be capable of turning out 2,000 tons of Portland Cement per week, or, say, 100,000 tons per annum.
The Report described the property as follows:
At present erected thereon are the following buildings, consisting of-
The land is protected on all sides by a River Wall as a preventative from overflow at high tides, and has at one side thereof a Campshedded Wharf Frontage for about 750' with three 3-ton Travelling Cranes thereon for loading and unloading Goods from Barges which come alongside.
There followed of a rather vague description of the improvements planned, and the statement:
A MOST IMPORTANT POINT is that we are given to understand CONTRACTS HAVE BEEN ENTERED INTO FOR AN UNLIMITED SUPPLY OF CHALK AND CLAY at a reasonable rate, delivered at the Wharf.
The Prospectus was issued on 30/03/1914, and the approach of the War must have contibuted to the failure of the issue, but many plants considerably better than that proposed were being shut down at the time, and genuinely modern rotary kiln plants were being commissioned in the immediate locality.