The History of Cement

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    THE summer meeting of the Newcomen Society was held in Suffolk on June 7-10 with Ipswich as the headquarters. The itinerary included visits to the bell cage at East Bergholt, weaving factories at Sudbury and Hadleigh, the post mill at Saxstead, the tide mill and steelyard at Woodbridge and the works of Ransome's, Sims and Jefferies, Ltd. After the annual dinner on June 8 three papers were read, one of them being by Dr. A. P. Thurston on “Parker's ‘Roman’ Cement”. In 1796, James Parker, of whom little is known, took out a patent for “Cement or Terras to be used in Aquatic and other Buildings and Stucco Work”. This cement was made by burning in kilns the hard stone-like concretions called septaria, found around the coasts of Essex and Kent wherever the London clay bordered the shore and formed low cliffs. Previously this material had been used for building, but when the making of Parker's cement began there was a great demand for it, and the practice grew up of dredging it from the bottom of the sea off Walton-on-Naze and elsewhere. In 1857 there were between three and four hundred smacks engaged in this dredging. The principal factories for cement manufacture were at Harwich, and at one of these ‘Roman’ cement was made until 1890. Joseph Aspdin's patent for ‘Portland’ cement was taken out in 1824, but it was the improvements effected in its manufacture by I. C. Johnson at Swanscombe which led to ‘Portland’ cement superseding ‘Roman’ cement. Dr. Thurston's paper was accompanied by a bibliography of the subject.

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    The History of Cement. Nature 143, 1060 (1939) doi:10.1038/1431060b0

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