Joseph Aspdin

Joseph Aspdin

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Joseph Aspdin was a British
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 cement manufacturer who obtained the patent
A patent is a form of intellectual property. It consists of a set of exclusive rights granted by a sovereign state to an inventor or their assignee for a limited period of time in exchange for the public disclosure of an invention....

 for Portland cement
Portland cement
Portland cement is the most common type of cement in general use around the world because it is a basic ingredient of concrete, mortar, stucco and most non-specialty grout...

 on 21 October 1824.

Joseph Aspdin (or Aspden) was the eldest of the six children of Thomas Aspdin, a bricklayer living in the Hunslet
Hunslet is an inner-city area in south Leeds, West Yorkshire, England. It is south east of the city centre and has an industrial past.Hunslet had many engineering companies based in the district, such as John Fowler & Co...

 district of Leeds
Leeds is a city and metropolitan borough in West Yorkshire, England. In 2001 Leeds' main urban subdivision had a population of 443,247, while the entire city has a population of 798,800 , making it the 30th-most populous city in the European Union.Leeds is the cultural, financial and commercial...

, Yorkshire
Yorkshire is a historic county of northern England and the largest in the United Kingdom. Because of its great size in comparison to other English counties, functions have been increasingly undertaken over time by its subdivisions, which have also been subject to periodic reform...

. He was baptized on Christmas Day, 1778. He entered his father's trade, and married Mary Fotherby at Leeds Parish Church
Leeds Parish Church
Leeds Parish Church, or the Parish Church of Saint Peter-at-Leeds, in Leeds, West Yorkshire is a large Church of England parish church of major architectural and liturgical significance. It has been designated a grade I listed building by English Heritage...

 (the Parish Church of St Peter at Leeds) on 21 May 1811.

By 1817 he had set up in business on his own in central Leeds. He must have experimented with cement manufacture during the next few years, because on 21 October 1824 he was granted the British Patent BP 5022 entitled An Improvement in the Mode of Producing an Artificial Stone, in which he coined the term "Portland cement" by analogy with the Portland stone
Portland stone
Portland stone is a limestone from the Tithonian stage of the Jurassic period quarried on the Isle of Portland, Dorset. The quarries consist of beds of white-grey limestone separated by chert beds. It has been used extensively as a building stone throughout the British Isles, notably in major...

, an oolitic
Oolitic may refer to:* Oolite, a sedimentary rock consisting of ooids* Oolitic, Indiana, a town whose name came from the underlying limestone...

Limestone is a sedimentary rock composed largely of the minerals calcite and aragonite, which are different crystal forms of calcium carbonate . Many limestones are composed from skeletal fragments of marine organisms such as coral or foraminifera....

 that is quarried on the channel coast of England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

, on the Isle of Portland
Isle of Portland
The Isle of Portland is a limestone tied island, long by wide, in the English Channel. Portland is south of the resort of Weymouth, forming the southernmost point of the county of Dorset, England. A tombolo over which runs the A354 road connects it to Chesil Beach and the mainland. Portland and...

 in Dorset
Dorset , is a county in South West England on the English Channel coast. The county town is Dorchester which is situated in the south. The Hampshire towns of Bournemouth and Christchurch joined the county with the reorganisation of local government in 1974...

. See below for the text of the patent.

Almost immediately after this, in 1825, in partnership with a Leeds neighbour, William Beverley, he set up a production plant for this product in Kirkgate, Wakefield
Wakefield is the main settlement and administrative centre of the City of Wakefield, a metropolitan district of West Yorkshire, England. Located by the River Calder on the eastern edge of the Pennines, the urban area is and had a population of 76,886 in 2001....

. Beverley stayed in Leeds, but Aspdin and his family moved to Wakefield (about 9 miles away) at this point. He obtained a second patent, for a method of making lime, in 1825. The Kirkgate plant was closed in 1838 after compulsory purchase of the land by the Manchester and Leeds Railway Company
Manchester and Leeds Railway
The Manchester and Leeds Railway was a railway company in the United Kingdom which opened in 1839, connecting Manchester with Leeds via the North Midland Railway which it joined at Normanton....

, and the site was cleared. He moved his equipment to a second site nearby in Kirkgate.

At this time his eldest son James was working as an accountant in Leeds, and his younger son, William
William Aspdin
William Aspdin was an English cement manufacturer, and a pioneer of the Portland cement industry.He was born in Leeds, second son of Joseph Aspdin. His father obtained a patent for "Portland cement" in 1824 and William joined his father's cement manufacturing firm in 1829. His father's product...

, was running the plant. However, in 1841, Joseph went into partnership with James, and posted a notice that William had left, and that the company would not be responsible for his debts. It can be assumed that William developed his modifications leading to “modern” Portland cement around the time of his departure. In 1844 Joseph retired, transferring his share of the business to James. James moved to a third site at Ings Road in 1848, and this plant continued in operation until 1900. Joseph Aspdin died on 20 March 1855, at home in Wakefield.

The Patent

The patent reads as follows:

TO ALL TO WHOM THESE PRESENTS SHALL COME, I, Joseph Aspdin, of Leeds, in the County of York, Bricklayer, send greeting. WHEREAS His present most Excellent Majesty King George the Fourth, by His Letters Patent under the Great Seal of Great Britain, bearing date at Westminster, the Twenty-first day of October, in the fifth year of His reign, did, for Himself, His heirs and successors, give and grant unto me, the said Joseph Aspdin, His special licence, that I, the said Joseph Aspdin, my exors, admors, and assigns, should at any time agree with, and no others, from time to time at all time during the term of years therein expressed, should and lawfully might make, use, exercise, and vend, within England, Wales and the Town of Berwick-upon-Tweed, my invention of "AN IMPROVEMENT IN THE MODE OF PRODUCING AN ARTIFICIAL STONE;" in which said Letters Patent there is contained a proviso obliging me, said Joseph Aspdin, by an instrument in writing under my hand and seal, particularly to describe and ascertain the nature of my said invention, and in what manner the same is to be performed, and to cause the same to be inrolled in his Majesty's High Court of Chancery within two calendar months next and immediately after the date of the said part recited Letters Patent (as in and by the same), reference being thereunto had, will more fully and at large appear.

NOW KNOW YE, that in compliance with the said proviso, I, the said Joseph Aspdin, do hereby declare the nature of my said Invention, and the manner in which the same is to be performed, are particularly described and ascertained in the following description thereof (that is to say):

My method of making a cement or artificial stone for stuccoing buildings, waterworks, cisterns, or any other purpose to which it may be applicable (and which I call Portland cement) is as follows:- I take a specific quantity of limestone, such as that generally used for making or repairing roads, and I take it from the roads after it is reduced to a puddle or powder; but if I cannot procure a sufficient quantity of the above from the roads, I obtain the limestone itself, and I cause the puddle or powder, or the limestone, as the case may be, to be calcined. I then take a specific quantity of argillaceous
Argillaceous minerals
Argillaceous minerals may appear silvery upon optical reflection and are minerals containing substantial amounts of clay-like components . Argillaceous components are fine-grained aluminosilicates, and more particularly clay minerals such as kaolinite, montmorillonite-smectite, illite, and...

 earth or clay, and mix them with water to a state approaching impalpability, either by manual labour or machinery. After this proceeding I put the above mixture into a slip pan for evaporation, either by heat of the sun or by submitting it to the action of fire or steam conveyed in flues or pipe under or near the pan till the water is entirely evaporated. Then I brake the said mixture into suitable lumps and calcine them in a furnace similar to a lime kiln till the carbonic acid is entirely expelled. The mixture so calcined is to be ground, beat, or rolled to a fine powder, and is then in a fit state for making cement or artificial stone. This powder is to be mixed with a sufficient quantity of water to bring it into the consistency of mortar, and thus applied to the purposes wanted.

In witness whereof, I, the said Joseph Aspdin, have hereunto set my hand seal, this Fifteenth day of December, in the year of our Lord One thousand eight hundred and twenty-four.

Signed: Joseph Aspdin

AND BE IT REMEMBERED, that on the Fifteenth day of December, in the year of our Lord 1824, and aforesaid Joseph Aspdin came before our said Lord the King in His Chancery, and acknowledged the Specification aforesaid, and all and every thing therein contained and specified, in form above written. And also the Specification aforesaid was stamped according to the tenor of the statute made for that purpose.

Inrolled the Eighteenth day of December, in the year of our Lord One thousand eight hundred and twenty-four.

Implications of the patent

Aspdin called the product Portland cement because set mortar made from it resembled “the best Portland stone
Portland stone
Portland stone is a limestone from the Tithonian stage of the Jurassic period quarried on the Isle of Portland, Dorset. The quarries consist of beds of white-grey limestone separated by chert beds. It has been used extensively as a building stone throughout the British Isles, notably in major...

”. Portland stone was the most prestigious building stone in use in England at the time. The patent clearly does not describe the product recognized as Portland cement today. The product was aimed at the market for stuccos and architectural pre-cast moldings, for which a fast-setting, low-strength cement was required (see cement
In the most general sense of the word, a cement is a binder, a substance that sets and hardens independently, and can bind other materials together. The word "cement" traces to the Romans, who used the term opus caementicium to describe masonry resembling modern concrete that was made from crushed...

). It was fired at low temperature (below 1250°C) and therefore contained no alite
Alite is a name for tricalcium silicate, Ca3SiO5, sometimes formulated as 3CaO·SiO2 . It is the major, and characteristic, mineral phase in Portland cement. The name was given by Törneborn in 1897 to a crystal identified in microscopic investigation of Portland cement...


The product belongs to the category of “artificial cements” that were developed to compete with Parker
James Parker (cement maker)
James Parker was a British clergyman and cement manufacturer who invented one of the pioneering new cements of the late eighteenth century.In 1791, he was granted a patent "Method of Burning bricks, Tiles, Chalk"...

’s Roman cement
Roman cement
For the architectural material actually used by the ancient Romans, see Roman concrete."Roman cement" is a substance developed by James Parker in the 1780s, and finally patented in 1796...

, and was similar to that developed much earlier by James Frost
James Frost (cement maker)
James Frost was a British cement manufacturer who invented processes that led to the eventual development of Portland cement.- Biography :...

. The process described is a “double burning” process in which the limestone
Limestone is a sedimentary rock composed largely of the minerals calcite and aragonite, which are different crystal forms of calcium carbonate . Many limestones are composed from skeletal fragments of marine organisms such as coral or foraminifera....

 is burned on its own first, then slaked, mixed with clay, and burned again. This was a common practice for manufacturers of both Artificial and Portland cements when only hard limestones were available. The grinding technology of the time consisted only of flat millstones, and it was more economic to comminute the limestone by burning and slaking than by grinding.

The limestone he used was the Pennine Carboniferous limestone of the area, which was used for paving in the towns and on the turnpike roads. The characteristic practise of the patent (and of his lime patent) is the use of “road sweepings” as a raw material. He says that if the sweepings are not available he obtains ‘the limestone itself”. It is significant that Aspdin was twice prosecuted for digging up whole paving blocks from the local roads. Limestone supply was clearly a major headache for Aspdin in the days before stone could be brought in by rail. This provides context for the friction that developed with his son William. William’s innovation was to make a mix with a higher limestone content, to burn it at a higher temperature using more fuel, and to grind the hitherto-discarded hard clinkered
Clinker (cement)
thumb|200px|right|Typical clinker nodulesthumb|200px|right|Hot clinkerIn the manufacture of Portland cement, clinker is lumps or nodules, usually 3-25 mm in diameter, produced by sintering limestone and alumino-silicate during the cement kiln stage.-Uses:...

 material, hence increasing wear-and-tear in the grinding process. William subsequently moved south to north-east Kent
Kent is a county in southeast England, and is one of the home counties. It borders East Sussex, Surrey and Greater London and has a defined boundary with Essex in the middle of the Thames Estuary. The ceremonial county boundaries of Kent include the shire county of Kent and the unitary borough of...

, where inexhaustible supplies of soft chalk
Chalk is a soft, white, porous sedimentary rock, a form of limestone composed of the mineral calcite. Calcite is calcium carbonate or CaCO3. It forms under reasonably deep marine conditions from the gradual accumulation of minute calcite plates shed from micro-organisms called coccolithophores....

 were available, and launched the “modern” Portland cement industry.

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