The cement industry came to Thurrock in 1871 with the
foundation of Brooks Cement Company by Edmund Brooks. Thurrock,
was an ideal location for cement manufacture because of the
chalk deposits that stretch from Purfleet to West Tilbury, the
availability of clay and the access to transport via the Thames
and the railway.
Chalk from Thurrock's deneholes had been used
in farming to lighten the heavy clay soil. It had also been used
in construction, as a building material in its own right and to
produce lime mortar - an important component of medieval and
early modern construction.
However, after the invention of Portland cement, Thurrock's
chalk deposits began to be mined on an industrial scale. Over
the course of about 100 years, more than 5 billion cubic metres
of chalk were extracted from the quarries around Devonshire Road
and Warren Lane.
Many companies followed the lead set by Brooks and in the
late nineteenth century, the banks of the Thames between
Purfleet and Grays were lined with wharves, cement works and
lime burning. Beyond the banks was a stark industrial landscape
of quarries, tall chimneys, railway tracks and rolling stock.