Remains of lime and cement works, Aberthaw

Remains of lime and cement works, Aberthaw

Aberthaw played a part in the development of cement in the 18th century, and substantial parts of an old lime and cement works still stand near the Wales Coast Path. To find the ruins, take the path which diverges north-westwards from near the eastern end of the sea wall.

Limestone along the coast here consists of relatively thin layers of rock – remnants of prehistoric mud. For centuries it was quarried from the cliffs and burned to form lime. By the 1750s cement made with Aberthaw lime was known to be able to set underwater – useful for constructing sea walls and harbours. The engineer John Smeaton was “very anxious to procure” a sample of Aberthaw lime in 1756 as he prepared his designs for Eddystone lighthouse, on rocks in the sea 23km south of Plymouth.

His scientific tests proved that cement made with Aberthaw lime was “considerably harder” than cement using common lime. He used lime from the Somerset coast (similar to Aberthaw lime) for the lighthouse but the fame of Aberthaw lime spread, boosting the industry locally. One quarry in Flintshire was even named “Aberdo” because it produced the same kind of lime!

The factory near here opened in 1888 to increase the scale of lime and cement production in the area. It had its own railway connection and worked until 1926.

The structures you can see today include a chimney and two large limekilns, c.20 metres tall. The raw materials arrived on basic railway tracks at an upper level, where they were tipped into the kilns. The finished lime was removed through holes near the kiln bases.

Cement is still produced about 1km north of here, at a factory founded in 1914. It receives limestone from an adjoining quarry. The facilities were modernised at a cost of £2m by Lafarge Tarmac in 2015.

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