1824 Patent for Portland cement

The 1824 patent for portland cement, an immensely important patent that allowed us the docks, the sewers and tunnels under the Thames.

English mason and building contractor Joseph Aspdin of Leeds in Yorkshire patents Portland cement in 1824

Aspdin’s cement production was probably one of the most fundamentally important steps in engineering in the early part of the 19th century.

Joseph Aspdin

Joseph Aspdin

    • Aspdin was a bricklayer and was looking for a binding product that would be predictable in it’s behaviour and of a consistently high quality.
    • He pulverized limestone and clay together, burned it into a clinker and then re-ground it. The careful balance between calcium, iron, silicone and aluminium produced the product he was after.

Although it took a while for the engineering community to embrace the new cement, it was an invention that would have a huge impact on the rapid development in British towns and cities.

Who thought the history of cement could be so interesting?

    • It was of fundamental importance in the building of the Thames River tunnel and in other railway tunnels, built by Isambard Kingdom Brunel
    • Called Portland Cement because it has the colour of Portland stone .
    • It was essential in the building of the London sewer system in 1859-1867. Joseph Bazalgette was completely convinced that Portland Cement would be the essential ingredient necessary to make the sewers of London efficient and long lived.
Without the invention of Portland cement, much of the development undertaken in London in the C19th would not have stood the test of time and in truth, much would not have been capable of having been developed at all.
Not only did Bazalgette’s sewers rely upon a strong waterproof cement, so did the construction of the London docks.
Portland cement allowed for the building of less damp and therefore better houses.
In short, life in the C19th was improved through one mans innovation and invention and it is something all too easily taken for granted. The great engineers and contemporaries Brunel and Bazalgette recognized it’s importance and had the courage of their convictions and put it to good use.



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