Shoreham Cement Works, West Sussex

The Beeding Portland Cement Company was established in 1878 in Upper Beeding near Shoreham; production of cement at the site did not begin at the in 1883. Initially, six Johnson Chamber kilns were in operation in 1890 and had a maximum weekly output of up to 144 tonnes of cement. The Plant was taken over by Sussex Portland Cement in 1891, the new owners considerably expanded the manufacturing capacity of the site by commissioning eight Michelle Chamber kilns, alongside two Schneider kilns which burnt off excess dried slurry from the Michelle kilns. This expansion increased the weekly production by 230 tonnes. By 1900 two further rotary kilns had been installed, these are claimed by the company to be the first operational rotary kilns in the UK and were powered by DC electricity generated on site. By 1911, when Blue Circle purchased the plant, the site was achieving a weekly output of nearly 800 tonnes.

After World War 2, the plant was completely re-built between 1948-1950 and the arrangement of buildings that still stands today was established in the chalk quarry basin. These buildings contain the first ever installation of a Vickers Armstrong design of rotary kiln, which was subsequently widely replicated elsewhere in the country through until the 1970 when Vickers closed their cement machinery division. This installation was considered state-of-the-art at the time, with a typical output of each kiln at around 550 tonnes per day. Shoreham was a productive and successful site due to the establishment of good transport links by rail and road. The kilns are over 100m long and 3m wide. Slurry was fed into them, with pulverised coal being blown in and ignited to process the slurry at 2500°F; the resultant red-hot clinker was dropped into open ended cooling tubes. The tubes carried air upwards to avoid dust escaping into the building.  These high-output levels, coupled with this dust extraction method, inevitably brought with it high levels of pollution. For many years the area surrounding the site had a constant covering of dust, giving everything a whitish-grey tint. The kilns were highly successful but they were labour intensive to operate. They were converted to filter cake feed in 1983 with a filter press. This arrangement ultimately limited production, and along with the high dust loss was one of the reasons for the plants closure in 1991.

The site was acquired by a developer in 1997 who have since made the extensive hard standings and buildings available for mixed-used business purposes. Proposals for comprehensive redevelopment of the entire site are ongoing.

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Modified: 5th May 2020