THE LIME AND CEMENT INDUSTRY
The Medway valley has been marked for generations by the scars of chalk quarries. Chalk was excavated in a small way from Roman times for the making of quick-lime. We have already noted William Lambarde in 1596 recording William Tilghman ‘throwingdowne a part’ of the tumulus at Holborough ‘for the use of the chalke ‘, and the small pit above Paddlesworth (actually in Birling parish) was created in the eighteenth century. Nearby was ‘Lime-Kiln field’, for the chalk was put on an iron grid inside kilns and slowly heated by a charcoal fire to 900 degrees C, when it changed to quick-lime.
During the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries a whole series of cement works grew up along the banks of the Medway from Frindsbury to Burham , each with its pits, industrial railways, works, wharfs and barges. The earliest of the group, at North Halling , began in 1799. A map of 1823 shows the beginnings of the chalk workings on the Halling-Snodland boundary (which eventually extended to Upper Halling ). At the manorial meeting held on 27 October 1819, it was recorded that John May’s executor Edward Wickham, who took over the Holborough Court estate after May’s death, was transferring it to Thomas Poynder and William Hobson. A deed dated 31 December 1819 confirms this, stating Poynder was ‘of Clapham Common’ and Hobson was ‘of Stanford Hill, Middlesex’. Further additions to their holdings were made in 1821 and 1826, when they were described as ‘ Limeburners ‘. The 1823 map refers to Holloway Court as ‘Mr Poynder’s house’, so presumably he lived there at that time. In 1845 the partnership changed to ‘ Poynder andMedlicott ‘ in the Overseers accounts, and the following year another transfer took place. By deed dated 31 December 1846, Thomas Poynder of Wimpole Street (son of the one mentioned above) and Edward Medlicott , Lime Manufacturers and Lime Merchants of Earl Street, Blackfriars , made over Holloway Court, Holborough farm and Gassons to William Lee ‘of Rochester’. (Thomas Poynder and William Medlicott also owned works and kilns in Halling .) William Lee, born in 1801, the youngest son of a Lewisham building contractor, had already worked as manager of lime works at Burham since 1826. Another deed of 30 May 1850 gives his address as Satis House, Rochester, but the 1851 census, taken of 30 March, finds him settled at Holborough with his wife Christiana, his son and partner Samuel, and six servants. The Poynder family seem to have retained some land in Snodland as William H. Poynder (the next generation) continued to pay rents into the 1850s and indeed he is described ‘Lord of the Manor’ in the 1882 Kelly’s Directory.
One name which dominates cement-making in the area is that of Peters. It is interesting to note that William Peters, the earliest of the family to become established here, is described as ‘Conductor of the Lime Works’ and ‘Agent to Mr. Poynder ‘ in the Snodlandchurch registers. He lived in the house now isolated from the main road some 200 yards north of Holborough mill, and had certainly settled there by 1823. The 1841 census shows only that he was born outside Kent, but we might guess that he came here in the company of Richard (1791-1880), perhaps a brother, who was born in Brentwood. Although Richard became a grocer, he spent some time as a lime labourer and so did five of his sons. He had lived for a time in Dorking, where his son Thomas William was born. A James Peters, limeburner , was also born in Dorking around 1808, but evidently was not a close relation because his daughter Emily married Thomas William at Snodland in 1851. Brothers William and Henry Peters developed their own works at Wouldham during the 1850s.
Samuel Lee died in 1852. Soon after, William Lee added Portland Cement to his firm’s products. Two kilns were all that existed when he took over the Halling works, but the business quickly expanded. The title changed to Lee, Son & Smith when a new partner was appointed – Alfred Smith of Rochester, who had married William’s youngest daughter, Sarah. Around 1876 his grandson Samuel Lee Smith joined the business and following William’s death in 1881 another of his grandsons became a partner. William Henry Roberts (1848-1926) was a cavalry officer and a friend of the Prince of Wales (later Edward VII). The company was renamed again, William Lee, Son & Co. Ltd., but the Halling works went into liquidation in 1912, when they were acquired by B.P.C.M (British Portland Manufacturers Ltd.). William Lee Henry Roberts (1871-1928), son of W.H.R., was the last managing director of the company, but around 1923 he established a new cement works at Holborough , known as the Holborough Cement Co. Ltd. This was sold to A.P.C.M. Ltd in 1931.
Holloway Court, rebuilt in the late eighteenth century by John May, (and of which one picture seems to have survived somewhere in America) was pulled down in 1884. In its place Holborough Court was built nearby. This was designed by Hubert Bensted and incorporated ‘a considerable amount of the materials’ from the old house; it was ready for habitation in 1886. William Lee Henry Roberts (1871-1928) succeeded to the property and when he died it passed to his nephew John Cook of Royden Hall, on condition that he took the name Roberts. He did, but subsequently sold the estate to A.P.C.M. and the house was promptly demolished. Some of the ancient fittings were saved and now form part of the furnishings of Paddlesworth church.