In 1866 Francis and Co also negotiated a lease from Lord Darnley for 15 acres for a tramway, and wharf on land between the Creek and the War Department land (fort). The Nine Elms works at the Creek were operating by 1868. In addition, a site for workmens’ cottages was also agreed, to be built at the end of Salt Lane. Alfred Francis also acquired a further one acre on the corner of Salt Lane and the track to the Quarry for his own cottage.

In 1875 Alfred Francis was taking over adjoining lands, including one acre for a whiting shed at the Nine Elms cement works.

In 1886 Francis and Co amalgamated with Empson, Holcombe and Co and Johnson Whiting to operate as Francis and Co Ltd., consolidating all the Cliffe sites under one ownership. In 1900 Francis and Co Ltd joined the Associated Portland Cement Manufacturers combine, the Nine Elms works closing soon after and the remaining works open until 1920 – an engineer’s report for the Sewer Commissioners in 1928 listed the ‘old’ factory’ and a derelict wharf). The surviving remains include nine bottle kilns, edge rollers and millstones. Its location close to Cliffe Fort caused friction with the military authorities – in 1871, General Charles Gordon (Gordon of Khartoum) complained that the fumes were affecting the garrison. The products of the works were of excellent quality, to the extent that Trinity House sourced cement from Nine Elms in 1888 for the pointing work on four lighthouses, including Eddystone and the Needles. The works were linked to the Quarry Works by an industrial tramway.


by Jim Preston (with additions by Richard James), Courtesy: RSPB/ASE


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