The Quarrying Years
The quarries here provided limestone for the large cement works that stood until 1970 on the site of the present Cosmeston housing estate. Ownership of the site for the purpose of extracting the limestone for the production of cement commenced in 1886 to 1892 by W Li Morcom. In 1892 the land was leased (later purchased) from the Bute Estate and Cement was produced up to 1911 by the South Wales Portland Cement and Lime Company. From 1911 until its closure in 1969 the cement works were owned by BPCM (Blue Circle) The quarry forming the east lake was begun in the 1920s, but was enlarged when the quarry forming the west lake was opened up from the late 1940s.
The quarry had its own railway to take the stone to the nearby cement works. Limestone was transported over to the works using narrow gauge locomotives. The railway crossed the road where the present day park entrance is situated.
The peak year of production at the quarry was 1962, when 175,000 tons of cement were manufactured.
Originally, steam locomotives were used named ‘Marjorie’, ‘Annie’ and Doris named after the owner Walter Cooper’s wife and two daughters. From 1951, newly-built Fowler diesel engines, took over the workload. After the quarry closed one of the engines was decommissioned the other two engines were refurbished and bought by the groundnuts scheme in Africa but were never sent as the groundnut company failed. This resulted in one engine being sold to the Welshpool and Llanfair Light railway and the other sold to the Welsh Highland railway in 1968. Today both engines have been reunited as they were later bought by Whipsnade Safari Park (in 1972 and 1975) who named them 'Victor' and 'Hector'.
Their famous ‘Dragon’ brand of cement was used to produce many of the early paving slabs laid in Penarth. The works finally shut in November 1969. Blue Circle stated it was not possible to upgrade the old plant to increase production any further, nor extend the existing quarries, which were closed in June 1970. The end of production also resulted in the closure of the railway line from the cement works to Penarth and this has now become a popular footpath.
The company vacated the premises in 1970. Today the works have gone, replaced by houses, and the railway line is now just a path. However, there are still some reminders of the quarrying years seen today. On Lavernock Road the factory office building still stands and is now a restaurant and the owner of the Cement works 1892-1911 lived at “The Elms” house with four “Tied Cottages” between the Elms and the office building also still remaining.