The Romans first began to dig chalk from the area and perfected a way of making a material strong enough to bind courses of bricks and stone, but the making of Portland cement came later. The industry requires plentiful water supplies and chalk as its main ingredients, both of which were to hand in Gravesend and Northfleet. When in 1796, James Parker set up kilns on Northfleet creek to make his Roman cement, it was the beginning of a large complex of cement works along this stretch of the river. The manufacture of Portland cement began in April 1846 when William Aspdin, son of Joseph Aspdin, its inventor, acquired Parker's works and built new kilns.
Aspdin's works became Robins & Co in 1853, sold on to the Associated Portland Cement Manufacturers (APCM) in 1900. APCM became Blue Circle in the 1970s and this in turn was taken over by the Lafarge Group in 2001. By 1900, there were nine cement works operating on the Thames between Swanscombe and Gravesend, Bevan’s becoming the largest producer and as well as supplying local demand exported cement all over the world. A new factory replaced Bevan’s works in 1970 and this stopped producing cement in 2008.
It should be noted that pages 157 to 161 inclusive of ‘A Historical Walk through Gravesend and Northfleet’ by Gravesend Historical Society has detailed information about the development of the cement industry between Northfleet and Swanscombe
See also the section on this website on Famous People – Joseph Aspdin
Links to relevant websites: