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Report - John Ellis Concrete Products, Sileby, Leicester – May and July 2014

Discussion in 'Industrial Sites' started by Yorrick, Jul 14, 2014.

  1. Yorrick

    Yorrick 28DL Regular User
    Regular User

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    We spotted this on our way to Sileby maltings a few months ago.
    There's not much left, but it's an interesting bit of history.
    Visited with Eeka and a non-member in May, and then with King Mongoose a couple of weeks ago.

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    John Ellis was a member of the Leicester Quaker Ellis family who were involved in many aspects of Leicestershire's industrial development in the 19th century. Originally a farmer in Beaumont Leys, he played a major part in the instigation of the Leicester & Swannington Railway in 1832 which was one of the first railways in England and was constructed by the famous railway engineer George Stephenson. It was built to transport coal from the North Leicestershire coalfields to Leicester, and John sold the coal from a canal-side depot at West Bridge. The canal also brought lime from the county's major lime-fields at Breedon and Barrow upon Soar. This trade increased enormously when the Midland Counties Railway running through Barrow was opened in 1840.

    By the mid-1840's John Ellis & Sons was renting land off Sileby Road in Barrow to extract and burn limestone in their own kilns. By 1866 there were more than 30 kilns on the site. Most of the lime was taken from delphs east of the railway line which were linked by a 3ft-gauge tramway to the kilns; the tramway was replaced by a standard gauge track in the 1920's. By the 1870's the company also had lime extraction and burning operations covering 25 acres at Kilby Bridge near Wigston.

    In Barrow the company operated a driftmine near Heyhill Lane, off Sileby Road, and several large delphs around the village. The burning of the lime was carried out in bottle shaped, coal burning kilns.

    The pungent aroma given off by the kilns could be smelt throughout the village. Many said at the time that the aromatic air in the village was the reason for people in the area being cured of consumption. Indeed at the turn of the century it was apparently common practice for London doctors to send numbers of tuberculous patients to the village for the 'Barrow Cure'. However, the pure limestone dust at the quarry face was a killer and many of the workmen suffered from asthma and other similar bronchial complaints and only after the introduction of breathing aids were deaths avoided.

    In the 1880's, the Barrow works began making plaster, and then cement using the Portland process (Portland cement requires good silica shale to be burnt with the lime which was shipped from the Kilby Bridge area). This led to the development in the 1890's of the core business of John Ellis & Sons, concrete products, using granite chippings from Mountsorrel as the main aggregate. Initially, paving slabs, kerbs and sewer pipes were the main products, later reinforced structural products such as roof beams were developed, then a wide variety of products including water towers, reservoirs, fence and gateposts, and artificial stone products.

    In 1920, John Ellis & Sons was merged with the Mountsorrel Granite Company, although the two continued to be run independently. An additional 50 acres of land was purchased at Barrow on either side of the railway to expand the concrete products operations. The head office building still stands on the west side of Sileby Road.
    The company continued to produce lime until 1925, when they ceased quarrying locally, getting their raw materials from Kilby Bridge, Cement production ceased in about 1935 but the concrete products were still made, with the cement coming from Ketton and the aggregate by rail from Mountsorrel granite quarry.

    At the time of the Second World War, the company turned much of its manufacturing activity over to the war effort; air-raid shelters, pit props, compressed boards for army huts. After the war, products such as prefabricated houses to replace those destroyed by bombing were made. In 1955, over 55 thousand tons of concrete products were despatched from Barrow. The company was acquired by Redland in 1960 but the manufacture of concrete products continued at the Barrow works. Redland was taken over by Lafarge Aggregates in 1997.


    Since then the main office building has been used by a number of small companies, finally being abandoned around 2009. The manufacturing plant (over the road) is still in use by Lafarge.


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    Only decent bits were this floor and the stairs that I’ve failed to do justice to. The floor is all separate pieces put together like a jigsaw.

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    Not sure what these road sign details were doing here, they looked like they'd been posted through the letterbox.

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    The site circa 1928…

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    …and now

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    Just up the road is this previously listed house built circa 1910 by John Ellis Ltd, which showed off the possibilities of concrete in housing.

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  2. KM_Punk

    KM_Punk Muppet
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    Nicely done. Really thorough. I returned today and it is completely trashed, more than when we went.:thumb
     
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