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Shoreham Cement Works
Upper Beeding, Shoreham-by-Sea, West Sussex, UK
associated engineer
Oscar Faber & Partners
date  1948 - 1950
era  Modern  |  category  Factory/Industrial Plant  |  reference  TQ199086
The site of the former Shoreham Cement Works has been in industrial use for almost three centuries. The present works was engineered by Oscar Faber & Partners for Associated Portland Cement Manufacturers Ltd, and was their first new factory in England after World War II. The works are now derelict (2012).
Cement has three main ingredients — limestone, shale or clay and gypsum. At Shoreham-by-Sea, limestone and clay are readily available. At first, a chalk pit was in use on this site in about 1732, and there were lime kilns in 1814. Quarrying began in 1851. Beeding Portland Cement Co (est. 1878) began making cement here in 1883, using six Johnson chamber kilns to produce up to 144 tonnes per week.
In 1861, the railway between Horsham and Shoreham opened. A branch line (date unknown) was constructed to the cement works. This remained in use into the 1970s, even though the main line north of the works closed in 1966.
From 1890, the works was owned by H.R. Lewis and Co, passing to the Sussex Portland Cement Co in 1897. The company expanded the works with eight Michele chamber kilns (1898-9) and two Schnieder rotary kilns (1899) to burn excess slurry from the Michele kilns. These rotary kilns were among the first in Britain and operational from about 1900, powered by direct current electricity generated on site.
In 1911, it was taken over by Associated Portland Cement Manufacturers Ltd (APCM). The terraced houses of Dacre Gardens just north of the site were built between 1896 and 1909 to house the workforce.
After 1911, the Schneider kilns operated only during periods of high demand and were removed in 1930. The Johnson kilns were taken out of service in 1924 and the Michele kilns in 1924 and 1927. Two new rotary kilns were installed — A3 supplied by Krupp and in operation 1911-31, replaced by B1 in service 1933-67.
Shoreham Cement Works mostly shut down during World War II (1939-45), running intermittently until restarting in 1946. After the war, APCM engaged Oscar Faber & Partners to design the buildings (constructed 1948-50) for the cement-making machinery. They are generally steel frame with concrete wall panels. The office blocks are flat-roofed, while the process buildings (for crushers, grinders, kilns, water tanks, power plant, conveyors and storage) and workshops have pitched roofs, possibly clad in sheet asbestos. The offices, packing plant and packing plant silos are founded on reinforced concrete piles.
In 1951, two coal-fired Vickers Armstrong cylindrical steel rotating kilns (C1 and C2) were installed, in operation until 1991 and left in situ. Stores and bunkers for the kiln house have reinforced concrete retaining walls up to 9.1m high. The works' single tapering reinforced concrete chimney stands at the east end of the kiln shed. It is 91m tall and lined in brick.
The site covers 19 hectares, bisected by the main road (A283) between Upper Beeding and Shoreham-by-Sea. The industrial buildings and the quarry are to the east of the road and the railway line, packing and distribution plant and the administration buildings to the west. The two parts were connected by a tunnel under the road and a conveyor above it (no longer there). The facility was state-of-the-art at the time and included the installation of electrostatic precipitators and dust-removing plant, intended to "make the works virtually dustless". It also had its own electricity sub-station to transform national grid power from 33kV to 3kV.
Cement manufacture at Shoreham began with mixing crushed chalk from the onsite quarry with clay, from pits north of the site, and water to form a slurry. Its chemical composition was adjusted by being passed through six 10.7m diameter blending silos, or washmills, to the north of the kiln house. There were two 'roughing' mills and one secondary mill powered by 261kW motors and three screening mills by 75kW motors.
Flints were extracted in the roughing mills and cleaned by a 1.4m diameter rotary flint washer 7.3m long, sloping upwards at 5 degrees to screens with 51mm apertures where they were divided onto two belt conveyors. Oversize flints were stockpiled or loaded into rail wagons, undersize stones stored for rubble. The secondary mill used a similar process for 19mm flints.
Grit was removed in the screening mills and disposed. The remaining slurry passed into a thickener where it settled. Clear water was recycled, and the slurry returned to the roughing mills with fresh admixtures of chalk and clay.
After the mixing silos, the slurry was discharged by gravity into three 20.1m diameter storage tanks with conical bases. It was kept in suspension by compressed air agitation inside the tanks. Three reciprocating plunger pumps below the tanks pumped the slurry to a distribution box from which it was spoon fed to the kilns (one pump for each kiln and one on standby).
The kilns were designed to produce at least 23 tonnes of clinker per hour, operating 95 to 96 percent of the time. Each 107m long kiln has a 3m barrel (maximum diameter 3.5m in the burning zone) inclined at 1 in 24. The barrel is of 25mm steel plate for the first 33.5m and 22mm plate thereafter, with a 32mm thick renewable nose ring of heat-resistant steel. It is lined with alumina bricks and has internal spiral metal baffles and chains to move the slurry along the body of the tube.
Externally, the kilns have cogged rings that engaged with a drive shaft powered by a huge gear wheel, which rotated the barrels. Each one was driven by a 112kW variable speed motor and rotated anti-clockwise (viewed from the firing end) at between 0.67 and 1.33 revolutions per minute. The kilns are carried on H-shaped reinforced concrete piers some 10.1m tall at the higher end of the barrels.
Slurry was fed into the two kilns where it was heated to around 1,454 degrees Celsius — coal dust was blown in at one end of the tubes and ignited. The slurry was calcined (dried and burned) for about three and a half hours to form glassy rubble called clinker. The coal was delivered by rail and powdered on site by 112kW pulverisers.
At the lower end of each kiln barrel, the clinker dropped through a chute into a 2.7m bore rotary cooler 28m long, sloping at 1 in 20. It then passed through a 152mm mesh at the ends of the coolers, the oversize nuggets taken to a crusher and the undersize onto a shaker conveyor to separate large and small pieces. The coolers, driven by 37kW fixed speed motors, reduced the clinker temperature to 110 degrees Celsius.
Coal, clinker and gypsum (also delivered by rail) were stored in hoppers inside a building adjoining the south side of the kiln shed. Gypsum controls cement’s setting time and at Shoreham the cement manufactured contained typically 7 percent gypsum. Overhead cranes fed clinker and gypsum from the hoppers to four central shaft drive mills in a building at the south east end of the store where it was ground to a fine powder.
Two of the mills were 13.7m long and 2.55m in diameter, with four steel or cast iron-lined grinding compartments, rotated clockwise at 20.5 rpm (viewed from the drive end) by 895kW motors. A third grinding mill, 12.2m long and 2.3m diameter with three compartments, was driven anti-clockwise at 21 rpm by an 597kW motor. The fourth mill, also of three compartments and 1.8m diameter by 8.9m long, was reconditioned from the pre-war works and had a 298kW motor rotating at 25 rpm.
The finished cement was stored south of the kiln shed, in 12 cylindrical reinforced concrete silos each with a capacity of 1,270 tonnes. It was transferred by conveyors to two 914 tonne reinforced concrete silos adjacent to the packing plant, in the west of the site. One silo held ordinary Portland cement and the other rapid hardening Portland cement.
Cement from the silos was aerated to enable it to flow and poured through a 12-spout packing machine (maximum capacity 120 tons per hour) into stout self-sealing 50.8kg paper bags for onward transport and distribution. The works could manufacture 355,600 tonnes of cement a year and employed 250-330 people. In the 1950s and 1960s, cement production reached a maximum of about 460,000 tonnes per year.
Between January 1955 and June 1956, three filter presses were installed to reduce the slurry’s moisture content to 18-19 percent. The presses each had 80 plates 1.2m square and operated at 827kN per sq m (120psi). Kiln B1, renamed C3, was improved by adding a Berz preheater and then burned filter cake instead of slurry.
APCM became Blue Circle Industries Ltd in 1978 (in turn bought by French company Lafarge in 2001). In 1983, kilns C1 and C2 were converted to burn filter cake without a preheater, and two filter presses installed in the quarry. In 1988, the branch line rail tracks were removed.
Cement production at Shoreham ceased in 1991 and the distribution plant closed in 1997. The site is now (2017) owned by Dudman Aggregates Ltd, who used it (2011) for manufacturing secondary (recycled) aggregates. They also retain the licence to extract chalk from the adjoining quarry.
When work stopped, the machinery was left in place and the rusting kilns and water tanks may still be seen.
Various redevelopment ideas for the site have been suggested but not taken forward. The west part of the site is used as a bus and coach depot. On the night of 23rd/24th September 2017, fire broke out in the abandoned cement works, destroying two of the works' empty buildings and 19 vehicles parked on the site. Nobody was injured.
Contractor: John Laing & Son, Ltd
Reinforced concrete: Bierrum & Partners
Structural steel: Redpath Brown & Co Ltd
Mechanical plant: Mitchell Engineering Company
Clay plant: J.L. Kier & Co Ltd
Research: ECPK
bibliography
"Shoreham Cement Works", The Engineer, pp.122-126, 27th July 1951
www.abandoned-britain.com
www.british-history.ac.uk
www.cementkilns.co.uk
www.shorehambysea.com
www.theargus.co.uk
www.westsussex.gov.uk
Location

Shoreham Cement Works