Cement Kilns


Earles LogoEarle's Pelican Brand.


  • Grid reference: TA09973041
  • x=509973
  • y=430413
  • 53°45'31"N; 0°19'55"W
  • Civil Parish: City of Hull, East Yorkshire

Clinker manufacture operational: 1875-1969

Approximate total clinker production: 8.7 million tonnes

Raw materials:

  • 1875-1899 chalk ballast, River Hull Alluvium from 510400,430800
  • 1899-1909 chalk from Halling Manor, Humber Alluvium from Barton Ings
  • 1909-1913 Upper Chalk (Seaford Chalk Formation: 85-88 Ma) from Globe (Greenhithe) and hard Middle Chalk (Welton Chalk Formation: 90-94 Ma) from Leggott’s Quarry, South Ferriby, Lindsey 500000,421700, and alluvial clay from Killingholme, Lindsey 516550,419750 by barge (13 km)
  • 1913-1969 alluvial clay from Barrow on Humber, Lindsey 505100,423400 by barge (10 km): hard Upper Chalk (Burnham Chalk Formation: 85-90 Ma) and Middle Chalk from own quarries by rail to a common crusher/silo installation in Hessle (501740,425605), loading main line trains for 10.4 km trip to the plant: quarries at:
    • 1913-1952 Hesslewood Quarry, Hessle, ER 501950,425850
    • 1926-1969 Humberfield Quarry, North Ferriby, ER 501300,426100


A Roman Cement plant - ownership unknown - had existed here in the 1850s and is shown on the 1856 map. Earle’s had been making Roman Cement at a site on the Humber bank (at 508700,427700) since 1821. They first claimed to make Portland cement at that site in 1857, but this product was just a modified Roman cement. The company acquired the Wilmington site with the adjacent land south of the railway in 1866, and the Humber bank plant site was sold to the Hull Dock Company. Three kilns were set up for Roman cement production at the new site. These were small kilns, making together 45 t/week. A fourth was added in 1869, and production of Roman cement peaked in the early 1870s at around 3000 t/year. The Roman kilns were progressively turned over to Portland from 1877 when Roman cement sales started to drop dramatically. Two remained open (without bottle extension) as part-time “Roman” kilns until 1907, although from 1898 there were only two or three Roman cement burns per year. They were then converted into silos.

True Portland cement production began around 1875 with three bottle kilns (122 t/week ) and three more (122 t/week) were added in 1876. In 1882, a seventh (41 t/week) was installed and two of the Roman kilns were provided with bottle extensions, providing a further 54 t/week. The other two Roman kilns, left open, were also available most of the time for Portland, and could provide 41 t/week. This added up to a final bottle kiln capacity of 380 t/week. In 1888, eight Killick kilns were installed, yielding 461 t/week. In 1895, eight Batchelor kilns (208 t/week) were installed and in 1898, twelve Hilton kilns (311 t/week) were installed, bringing chamber kiln capacity to 980 t/week. The surplus dryings of the chamber kilns were used to feed the bottle kilns, allowing removal of the original separate drying flats.

One of the bottle kilns was converted in 1900 into a Schneider-type continuous kiln, output 80 t/week. In 1906, rotary kilns A1 and A2 were installed and the remaining bottle kilns and the Schneider were decommissioned. The plant capacity at this point in t/week was chamber 980 and rotary 860, giving a total of 1840 t/week. Davis’ 1907 capacity estimate was 2000 t/week . The plant’s clinker output was actually 91,450 tonnes in 1907. The Batchelor and Hilton kilns static kilns were finally cleared in 1912 in preparation for rotary kiln A3. The Killick kilns remained in operation until May 1915, after which they were demolished. During WWI, discussion continued on whether further capacity expansion should be at Wilmington or at Hope. The installation of A4 in 1920 was the immediate response to this, but the plant site was already being seen as misplaced, and from then on it became flexible, make-up capacity, with kilns A1 and A2 frequently stopped for long periods during downturns.

The plant continued into WWII, with only one destructive air strike on 17/7/1941, when the rawmills were hit (along with many houses in the adjacent streets), stopping the plant for three months . Following the 1944 downturn, the plant was shut down 7/1944-3/1946. The plant made sulfate resisting clinker alongside ordinary clinker from 1953 to 1969.

Transportation was initially by water using extensive wharfs on the River Hull. From the outset, sidings on the adjacent North Eastern Railway (originally the York & North Midland Railway Victoria Dock branch) were employed, and rail transport became dominant by the end of the nineteenth century. The site was totally cleared and is now a recycling depot and ready-mix plant.

When the plant shut down in 1969, it was an anachronism. It was the only plant (apart from Padeswood) remote from its raw materials, and A1 and A2 were the oldest and smallest kilns in operation. The Heath Robinson sketches of the plant, proudly circulated by Blue Circle, were not entirely an inaccurate representation. The plant’s longevity is a testament to the peculiar status of G & T Earle within the Blue Circle organisation.

Earle’s began in the early 19th century, in typical Hull tradition, as Baltic traders, and their marketing organisation was always more important to them than their production facilities. By 1912, they had a very efficient distribution system throughout the North, and by acquiring Earle’s, the Thames-based APCM obtained the key to an otherwise impenetrable market. At the time of takeover, Earle’s needed to expand, but were out of cash and very weak, and if they had continued independent, they might well have gone the same way as other north-eastern plants. Nevertheless, Earle’s were able to make an exceptionally good deal in the takeover, in preserving a degree of independence, and amassing a mini-empire within Blue Circle, and it thereafter consistently behaved as if it were still an independent company. The procedure of the take-over throws interesting light on this. BPCM first bought Robson’s (Stoneferry ) and Skelsey’s (Barton ). Then Earle’s bought them from BPCM using money borrowed from the BPCM sponsors. Then G & T Earle Ltd was liquidated, and BPCM bought it. Then G & T Earle (1912) Ltd was constituted as a subsidiary. The subsidiary was finally wound up in 1967, but continued in spirit until 1986 as Blue Circle’s Northern Area Office, Hull. It is significant that the last remaining (2009) Blue Circle-built cement plants are Hope , Cauldon , Dunbar and Cookstown – all “Earle’s plants”.

Please contact me with any relevant information or corrections. I am particularly interested in firmer dates and statistics.


The original plant used washmills to wash chalk and clay together on the unloading quay. After the use of Humberside chalk began in 1909, clay landed at the quay was slurried in two 15' washmills, and the slurry was then inter-ground with the hard chalk in ball mills.

Four rotary kilns were installed:

Kiln A1

Supplier: Polysius
Operated: 10/1906-7/1969
Process: Wet: an experimental Davis Preheater was added 3/1957-1958
Location: hot end 510044,430344: cold end 510058,430373: hot end enclosed.
Dimensions: (metric)

  • Original 32.00 × 2.000
  • From 1957 32.33 × 2.000

Rotation (viewed from firing end): ?
Slope: ?
Speed: ?
Drive: ?
Kiln profile:

  • Original 0×1700: 720×2000: 32000×2000: Tyres at 4510, 15520, 30380
  • From 1957 0×1873: 413×1873: 413×2000: 27870×2000: 29172×2305: 32334×2305: Tyres at 4578, 15646, 27318

Cooler: rotary: originally metric 10.00 × 1.000 beneath kiln: this was subsequently modified to 32’1½” long and shared with A2
Cooler profile:

  • Original 0×1000: 10000×1000: Tyres at 1845, 8425
  • Subsequently 0×1372: 4639×1372: 5553×1000: 9792×1000: Tyres at 1637, 8217

Fuel: Coal
Coal Mill: semi-indirect ball mill
Exhaust: natural draught direct to stack.
Typical Output: 1906-1929 60 t/d: 1929-1948 58 t/d: 1948-1956 66 t/d: 1957-1958 80 t/d: 1959-1969 70 t/d
Typical Heat Consumption: 1906-1929 10.6 MJ/kg: 1929-1948 7.91 MJ/kg: 1948-1956 7.37 MJ/kg: 1957-1958 5.37 MJ/kg: 1959-1969 7.37 MJ/kg

Kiln A2

Supplier: Polysius
Operated: 10/1906-7/1969
Process: Wet
Location: hot end 510040,430346: cold end 510054,430375: hot end enclosed.
Dimensions, metric 32.00 × 2.000
Rotation (viewed from firing end): ?
Kiln profile: 0×1700: 720×2000: 32000×2000: Tyres at 4510, 15520, 30380
Cooler: shared: see A1
Typical Output: 1906-1948 60 t/d: 1948-1957 64 t/d: 1959-1969 69 t/d
Typical Heat Consumption: 1906-1929 10.6 MJ/kg: 1929-1948 7.98 MJ/kg: 1948-1957 7.31 MJ/kg: 1958-1969 7.40 MJ/kg
Identical in all other respects to A1.

Kiln A3

Supplier: FLS
Operated: 5/1913 -1969
Process: Wet
Location: hot end 509856,430430: cold end 509917,430446: hot end enclosed.
Dimensions: (metric)

  • Original: 63.00 × 2.700B / 2.400CD
  • Final: 62.69 × 2.700B / 2.400C / 3.010D

Rotation (viewed from firing end): clockwise
Slope: ?
Speed: ?
Drive: ?
Kiln profile:

  • Original: 0×2400: 3000×2400: 3000×2700: 10350×2700: 12375×2400: 63000×2400: Tyres at 1900, 13675, 25575, 40075, 56850
  • Final: 0×2400: 3023×2400: 3023×2759: 10439×2759: 11963×2400: 57887×2400: 59106×3010: 61925×3010: 62687×2426: Tyres at 1930, 13705, 25605, 40105, 56880

Cooler: concentric rotary metric 9.50 × 1.050 / 1.650 beneath kiln: replaced with rotary cooler 62’5”× 5’0⅞” (metric 19.02×1.450)
Cooler profile:

  • Original: 0×1200: 3640×1200: 3640×1050: 3920×1050: 3920×1650: 9500×1650: Tyre at 2150 with trunnion end bearing: Turning gear at tail end.
  • Final: 0×1545: 19025×1545: Tyres at 3607, 15900

Fuel: Coal
Coal Mill: semi-indirect ball mill
Exhaust: initially natural draught direct to stack: ID fans were added after WWII.
Typical Output: 1913-1932 166 t/d: 1932-1940 176 t/d: 1940-1948 169 t/d: 1948-1969 190 t/d
Typical Heat Consumption: 1913-1927 7.6 MJ/kg: 1927-1932 7.06 MJ/kg: 1932-1943 6.68 MJ/kg: 1943-1957 7.15 MJ/kg: 1957-1969 7.00 MJ/kg

Kiln A4

Operated: ?9/1920-1969
Location: hot end 509858,430423: cold end 509919,430439: hot end enclosed.
Dimensions: (metric)

  • Original: 63.00 × 2.700B / 2.400CD
  • Final: 62.84 × 2.700B / 2.400C / 3.010D

Rotation (viewed from firing end): ?
Kiln profile:

  • Original: 0×2400: 3000×2400: 3000×2700: 10350×2700: 12375×2400: 63000×2400: Tyres at 1900, 13675, 25575, 40075, 56850
  • Final: 0×2400: 2718×2400: 2718×2759: 10135×2759: 11659×2400: 57582×2400: 58801×3010: 61544×3010: 61544×2400: 62840×2400: Tyres at 1625, 13400, 25300, 39800, 56575

Typical Output: 1920-1932 162 t/d: 1932-1941 176 t/d: 1941-1947 167 t/d: 1947-1969 185 t/d
Typical Heat Consumption: 1920-1927 7.6 MJ/kg: 1927-1932 7.14 MJ/kg: 1932-1954 6.79 MJ/kg: 1944-1957 7.19 MJ/kg: 1957-1969 6.86 MJ/kg
Identical in all other respects to A3.

Sources: Cook, p 57: Francis, pp 223-225: Jackson, pp 266, 279, 302: Pugh, pp 12, 19, 28, 53, 55-64, 103, 137: J. R. Heathcote, Earle’s cement, Humberside College of Higher Education, 1988, ISBN 1870001265: The Making and Testing of Portland Cement and Concrete, G & T Earle, 1925

© Dylan Moore 2011: commenced 07/08/2011: last edit 24/10/2016.

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Old Maps

Wilmington Detail

Approximate capacity: tonnes per year
Wilmington Capacity

Wilmington 1924
A rather idealised view of the pre-rotary plant in 1900, from a letter heading.
A. - 8 Batchelor kilns
B. - 12 Hilton kilns
C. - Main power plant
D. - Roman kiln bank
E. - Finish mills - remained located here until 1969
F. - Chalk wharf and main washmills
G. - 6 large bottle kilns
H. - Stores, maintenance etc.
I. - 8 Killick kilns
J. - Clay wharf and washmills
K. - Main cement store and packing area
L. - Offices
M. - Original Roman cement plant site
Any attempt at a logical layout must have been abandoned at a fairly early stage.

Wilmington 1924
Picture: ©English Heritage - NMR Aerofilms Collection. Catalogue number 10839. A high-definition version can be obtained from English Heritage. This was taken in 1924, looking north, and shows the plant shortly after the completion of the post-WWI expansion, after which very little more was done to the plant. The wharf in the foreground, once used to bring in both chalk and clay, now just handled clay brought by barge from the south bank of the Humber. The clay was washmilled in building to the right of the stockpiles. The chalk was now received by main line rail - full chalk trucks can be seen far right - and elevated to silos in the tall building by the rail track. In the right adjacent building (behind kiln 1/2 stack) contained the rawmills in which the hard Hessle chalk was interground with clay slurry. In front of these buildings are rotary kilns 1 & 2. With the installation of the much larger kilns 3 & 4, these became reserve capacity, used intermittently, but continued in that role, in increasing dilapidation, until the plant closed in 1969 - they were the last of the many early Polysius 30×2 metre kilns to operate. The larger kilns 3 (north) and 4 (south) were crammed into the northwest corner of the site after demolition of the bank of Hilton kilns previously there. The power plant (in front of kilns 3 & 4) was still operating.

Wilmington kilns
Feed ends of kilns 3 (right) and 4, around 1921. The slurry mixers between the kiln piers were a common feature of FLS designs of the period. The slurry bucket feeders were in the canopied structure, with a slurry overflow pipe returning surplus slurry to the main mixer off-frame to the right.