Sunday, September 19, 2010

Demolition of Rugby / Cemex Cement Works Chimney

At 11 o'clock sharp this morning, the 375' chimney of the Cemex (former Rugby) cement works at Halling on the banks of the River Medway was demolished by a series of controlled explosions.
A large crowd of on-lookers witnessed the destruction of the local landmark.

The police closed the A228 main road through Halling, fifteen minutes before the demolition took place. Ten minutes later a warning klaxon was sounded which sent the pigeons and other birds, who had been roosting on the neighbouring buildings, skyward in a great flock.

The was a loud crack and the first set of explosives went off at the base of the chimney. A few seconds later a second set of explosives further up the chimney caused a crack to appear.

The strong breeze carried off large clouds of white dust across the River Medway.

Unfortunately it would appear that the explosives experts had misjudged the strength of the concrete in the chimney! When the dust settled, a large section of it was left defiantly standing.

No doubt the "experts" will be scratching their heads on Monday morning deciding what to do next.

The demolition of the chimney at Halling marks the end of around 150 year's of cement industry history in the local area and follows the demolition of the Blue Circle /Lafarge works at Northfleet which I wrote about a few months ago.

Lafarge have plans to build a brand new plant at Holborough (a couple of miles up the road from Halling) but despite having been granted planning permission in 2001, only site preparation work has taken place so far.

In light of the ongoing recession in the construction industry and ready availability of cheap imports I don't expect any developments in the near future. As a result there are currently no active cement works in Kent after over 200 years.

If you have any comments about this post, I would be very pleased to hear from you.

Other posts you may enjoy...

Manston Airport and the Hurricane and Spitfire Memorial


  1. shame to see the the chimney and works go, spent so much of my childhood in and out of there with my dad who was an owner driver for them. not many original rugby cement works left now as chinnor cement works was demolished about 2 years ago now and is actually having house's built on the site now. shame to see that the industry that was once so strong is fading away.

  2. Don't know much about the history, but it's always sad and nostalgic to see a once flourishing and sustaining way of life vanish and die out.

  3. What a shame. It must have been fun to watch though. They are tearing down the old paper mill in Dartford at the moment. The area is going to look so strange once it is all gone.

  4. I'll cut and paste the comments that I put on the Kentonline website about this subject:

    "I cant see why this chimney could not have been saved. It is a tribute to the history of cement making in the Medway Towns. Many other towns and cities have chimneys standing with houses built all around. The space it took up was only minimal.

    If I was in charge it could have been used to hold a Mobile Phone antenna to the top of the chimney to improve the dire mobile coverage in this part of Medway. The rent for the equipment could have easily paid for and future repairs to the chimney.

    What a shame. Part of me died inside when that was felled. So sad.

    It could have even been painted or used for something original and striking.

    Come on Kent County Council, you should have save it.

    Now if you want to knock down something that is an eye sore, how about that Mountbatten House Tower block in Chatham, now that is just plane ugly!"

    One huge missed opportunity blown away in seconds.

  5. Wow! Great pictures. I have never seen anything blown up in person but used to enjoy the early Fred Dibnah programmes when he was busy blowing all sorts of dis-used chimneys.

    Last year we came to Kent for a short break and instead of heading down to the south of the county, we went to Whistable. We drove down to places like Broadstairs (lovely) but i was really suprised of how much heavy industry exists, or the remnants of it, along the Medway. I mean, I knew there were coalfields, but my previous experiences of kent had been all the pretty stuff,so felt shocked to see so much metal and concrete!

  6. Fantastic pictures! I am amazed to see just how many people there were on the hills opposite.