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Swanscombe Jetty
Swanscombe Marshes, Thames Estaury, Kent, UK
Swanscombe Jetty
associated engineer
Associated Portland Cement Manufacturers Ltd
Charles Percy Taylor
Oscar Faber
date  1906 - 1907
era  Modern  |  category  Jetty  |  reference  TQ599762
photo  Pier segment, Science Museum, photo: Jane Joyce
Swanscombe Jetty is an early example of precast concrete construction and was built at one of Associated Portland Cement Manufacturers Ltd’s main cement works on the south bank of the Thames Estuary. It is still in existence, though now disused.
Associated Portland Cement Manufacturers (established 1900, renamed Blue Circle Industries plc in 1978) operated a plant at Swanscombe from 1899 through to its closure in 1990, though the area had been used for manufacturing other types of cement since the late 18th century. The existing wharfage was insufficient for loading cement onto ships — a deep-water pier or jetty was needed and was designed in-house.
The jetty is situated on the west (lee) side of Swanscombe Peninsula, less than 500m north east of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link (completed 2007) tunnel under the River Thames. It was 1.2km from the plant and cement was transported between the works and the end of the jetty in covered wagons running on rails.
The structure is L-shaped with a 39.6m long frontage. Water depth varies from 11.3m at high water spring tides to 5.2m at low water spring tides. A timber dolphin 9m upstream of the jetty (west of the elbow) provided protection from ship collision and temporary mooring.
The jetty is founded on 32 columns, set out (except at the elbow) in pairs 7.6m apart transversely and 8.5m longitudinally. Each pair is connected at the top by a cross beam and above low water by a horizontal brace. The three pairs at the outward end are diagonally braced.
Site investigation showed that sound bedrock was some 18.3-21.3m below the jetty’s deck level, so piled foundations would be required. At the time, underwater concrete construction was not common and it was decided to use precast concrete instead wherever possible. The design also minimised falsework — the working platform was supported on what was already built.
Each column consists of a central pile surrounded by keyed precast blocks connected by rails passing through vertical holes in the blocks. The grout fill around the central pile and the rails was the only concrete poured in wet conditions. Column bases rest on a hollow reinforced concrete shell with steel edges recessed into the river bed, supported by both the central piles and three secondary piles 4.6m long around each column. The shells are filled with bagged concrete.
Columns are 1.7m in diameter below low water and 1.4m above, with a square cross section at the top. The column cross beams cantilever out either side of the jetty and support the nine rows of longitudinal beams that carry the deck. These beams were also precast, in sections 6.7m long, 0.3m wide.
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Location

Swanscombe Jetty