Fonds PR-2319 - British Columbia Cement Company Limited fonds

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British Columbia Cement Company Limited fonds

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  • textual record
  • technical drawing
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  • cartographic material
  • architectural drawing

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  • Source of title proper: Title based on the contents of the fonds

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  • [ca. 1900-1983] (Creation)
    British Columbia Cement Company Limited

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Physical description

36 m of textual records and other material

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Administrative history

The British Columbia Cement Company (B.C. Cement Co.) began as a joint venture of two competitors in the cement market in British Columbia: a large international company, the Associated Portland Cement Manufacturers of London, England (APCM) and the Vancouver Portland Cement Company Limited.

Seeing the need to end competition against each other, the British company and the Vancouver Portland Cement Co. (presided over by Robert P. Butchart) created Associates Securities Company Limited. It was incorporated under the laws of Canada by letters patent, on November 27, 1914. On February 24, 1919, that name was changed to British Columbia Cement Company Limited by supplementary letters patent. Throughout the company’s history ownership was shared by Canadian and British capital.

Butchart's company, with the aid of Ontario capital, had begun quarry operations and cement production at Tod Inlet on Vancouver Island in 1904-1905. The APCM -- directed by their engineer H.K.G. Bamber, and through their subsidiary, the Portland Cement Construction Company Limited -- had built a cement plant which started operation at Bamberton in 1913. After 1919, all lands and assets at Tod Inlet and Bamberton passed to the B.C. Cement Co. In the 1920s, operations at Bamberton were stepped up and Tod Inlet was phased out, (where the quarry became the location of Butchart Gardens), and Butchart’s company was dissolved. APCM (the British company) continued operating, and, in the areas of quality control, engineering, and research and development, would act in a vital role to support the B.C. Cement Co. throughout its history.

From the 1920s through 1980, the primary operation of the B.C. Cement Co. was its cement plant and quarry at Bamberton, where it built and maintained a small village for its employees. It also operated quarries at Cobble Hill, B.C., at Blubber Bay on Texada Island, B.C., and conducted mineral exploration and owned properties at various locations, including Horne Lake, B.C.

Robert Butchart held the position of president and managing director of B.C. Cement Co. until 1926 when he turned over the job of managing director to company treasurer Edwin Tomlin. When Tomlin died in 1944, his son, Nigel A. Tomlin, was appointed by the board as president and managing director.

In the 1940s and 1950s the B.C. Cement Co. products, notably its “Elk” brand cement, were used in building much of the infrastructure of the province. At the time, the company was virtually the sole supplier of cement in British Columbia, and would remain so until LaFarge Cement of North America Ltd. built a plant on Lulu Island that began operation in 1958.

In 1957, B.C. Cement Co. entered a merger with Evans, Coleman and Gilley Bros. Ltd. They continued to do business as separate entities within a new holding company, Ocean Cement and Supplies Ltd. This structure was changed on January 2, 1964, and B.C. Cement Co. became a wholly-owned subsidiary of Ocean Cement Ltd. However, throughout its years as a subsidiary of larger companies, through the 1960s and 1970s, B.C. Cement Co. maintained its status as a company on the B.C. Corporate Registry.

In 1971, Genstar Limited, a large, diversified company with headquarters in Montreal, purchased Ocean Cement Ltd. The different segments of Ocean Cement Ltd. were placed into their respective Genstar divisions, and B.C. Cement Co. became part of the Genstar cement subsidiary, Inland Cement Industries Limited of Edmonton.

By 1975 Genstar Limited had decided its Bamberton plant would be phased out over three years, as it was too old to run economically, could not meet government environmental guidelines, and was too far from the major market of Greater Vancouver. Genstar Limited built a new plant at Tilbury Island in Delta, B.C., which went into operation in 1978. In December 1980, the Bamberton cement plant was closed, with management citing the inability of the company and its union to effect a new labour agreement, rising oil prices, and declining U.S. demand for cement. Bamberton’s facilities would continue to be used to crush and ship out raw material, and as the company’s distribution point for Vancouver Island.

On January 1, 1983, the B.C. Cement Co. became inactive and was certified as continued out of the jurisdiction of British Columbia, and amalgamated into Genstar Corporation. On January 1, 2009 the company was amalgamated into Lehigh Hanson Materials Limited.

Custodial history

The records were deposited with Modern History Division, Provincial Museum, 1983. Records accessioned by BC Archives and Deed of Gift signed in 2013.

Scope and content

The fonds consists of the records of the British Columbia Cement Company and mainly relates to the company cement plant at Bamberton, B.C. Other locations of company activity and the creation of records were Tod Inlet in Saanich, B.C., Texada Island, B.C. and the Vancouver Island locations of Cobble Hill and Horne Lake. The records were created ca. 1900 to 1982, though predominantly after 1950. The fonds includes records from the 1960s and 1970s when the company became a subsidiary of Ocean Cement Ltd.

From the 1920s to the 1960s, the products of the British Columbia Cement Company were used to build much of the infrastructure of the province. Before 1958 the B.C. Cement Company was virtually the sole supplier of cement in British Columbia.

Most prominently, record types include: technical drawings, maps, plans, diagrams and architectural drawings; correspondence and memoranda; equipment manuals, operating guides, catalogues and bulletins; photographs; research reports and technical studies; cement plant shift log books; weekly and monthly reports on labour, production and manufacturing costs; daily journals for materials purchased (stores received); reports of chemical data regarding cement testing; budget papers and financial reports, and deliveries log books (journal recordings of product sold). Other record types include: company publications and employee newsletters; quotations for goods and services; complete technical journals and magazines, (and individual articles); news clippings; company annual reports; brochures, pamphlets and flyers; committee minutes; conference proceedings; staff lists and seniority lists; org charts; plant operation flow charts and stock certificate books.

A large number of the records (including textual materials, technical drawings, maps and photographs) were generated by the activities of cement production. These include records related to quarrying; rock and materials handling; the kiln, dry mill and wet mill operations; the electrical department; the purchase and consumption of fuel including coal and oil; cement packing; chemical testing, quality control and research; the sale and shipping of cement; the purchase, operation and maintenance of equipment, and environmental monitoring. Records were created in departments of the plant including the laboratory, by the plant chemist and research and quality control staff, at the quarries, the wet mill, the dry mill, the mixing department, the kiln department, electrical department, and the cement packing plant. Other company activities that generated records include mineral exploration, property acquisition and appraisal, and the transition to closing the plant. There are relatively few records from before the 1950s.

The records were also generated by routine business activities including company administration, corporate planning, annual reporting, union agreements and labour-management relations, budgeting, auditing and financial issues, personnel and staff training. Records were created by company executives, by staff in the plant main office, by the plant manager, the plant engineer, the purchasing agent and personnel manager.

A relatively small number of records were inherited from predecessor companies. These include records which originated with the Vancouver Portland Cement Company Limited, founded by Robert Pim Butchart, which produced cement at Tod Inlet. Some records originated with the British company, the Associated Portland Cement Manufacturers (London) and its subsidiary, the Portland Cement Construction Company Limited, which purchased the land and built the Bamberton cement plant ca. 1911-1913.

Records concerning Tod Inlet include photographs ca. 1905-1913, of the first arrival of machinery and early photos of the cement plant. There are also plant technical drawings and maps relating to the Tod Inlet area, and textual records concerning B.C. Cement Company's continuing ownership of property in Saanich. Records for the Bamberton plant and townsite date from 1911; these include photographs of historic value of the first development on the site in 1912-1913. Many photos were taken by professionals, and it appears they were created and maintained by company staff in order to document the history of the company. Records for Blubber Bay on Texada Island (ca. 1929-1949) include photographs, textual material, and technical drawings. Records relating to Cobble Hill, B.C. (ca. 1950-1975) relate to investigation for mineral deposits, company property holdings, mapping, quarry operation, and the building of the private haul road from Cobble Hill to Bamberton.

The fonds also consists of records for locations where the company owned properties or carried out exploration for minerals, aerial photography and mapping. These include Davies Bay on Texada Island, and Vancouver Island locations including Horne Lake, Deep Bay, and Harris Creek in the Cowichan Valley.

The records include a history of British Columbia Cement Company by a long-time company employee, Robert H. (Bob) Moffatt. It was researched, written and updated between 1976 and 1981.

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Physical condition

Immediate source of acquisition


In 1983, staff of the Provincial Museum and BC Archives removed the records from the Bamberton plant main office, laboratory, old bunkhouse and from the kiln and mill sites. Records were in disarray, and after their arrival at BC Archives in 2013 it was often not clear which department had created a file. The archivist restored original order where possible. When it was clear that the creator had classified files according to the company records classification system, the archivist used that as a basis for arrangement. However, in many cases it was necessary to create artificial series. Some of these are based on the type of documentary form; for example: photographs, technical drawings and maps, the literature collection, and correspondence and memoranda. Some series are based on subject matter.

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Some of the records are subject to the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act and access may be restricted. Some records may be subject to restrictions on access due to conservation issues. Please contact BC Archives to determine the access status of these records.

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General note

In the 1960s and 1970s, as a wholly-owned subsidiary of larger companies, British Columbia Cement Company Limited maintained status as a company with the BC Corporate Registry. It filed annual reports until 1982, and was certified as continued out in January 1983.

Robert Pim Butchart was born March 30, 1856 in Owen Sound, Ontario, where he was a pioneer in the cement industry in Canada, before relocating to Vancouver Island.

Bamberton was named for H.K.G. (Henry Kelway Gwyer) Bamber, a managing director of the British company, Associated Portland Cement Manufacturers (London). In 1911, Bamber travelled to Canada to investigate the possibility of manufacturing cement on the BC coast. He was responsible for the first site investigation and early development of the cement works on Saanich Inlet that became the BC Cement Company plant.

General note

Archives code(s): 2013.166.

General note

Accession number(s): 2013.166.1

Physical description

Includes ca. 1500 photographs, and ca. 8000 technical drawings, maps, architectural drawings and diagrams

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