MILL BAY’S WHITE GOLD
(written by Maureen Alexander)
At the turn of the last century BC’s economy was booming and so was the construction industry. Unfortunately availability of needed supplies was a problem.
If you lived anywhere on the west coast of Canada you had to order any cement you needed from England, wait 3-4 months for it to be manufactured, shipped around the tip of South America and then pay an exorbitant amount when it arrived in the port of Vancouver.
It was at this point that Robert Pim Butchart arrived from Ontario and opened the only cement manufacturing plant west of the Great Lakes and north of San Francisco. Needless to say this was an extremely profitable venture.
Profitable for Mr. Butchart that is, not for the Associated Cement Co. of England who were extremely unhappy to have lost so many former sales.
They were quick to send their managing director Mr. H. K. Bamber to Vancouver Island with orders to find a suitable location so they could establish a cement manufacturing plant and compete with Mr. Butchart.
Bamber discovered Butchart’s limestone deposit at Tod Inlet continued under Saanich Inlet and reappeared on the west side. He immediately bought this land and in 1913 proudly announced,
“Our cement manufacturing plant is the most up to date in North America.
At the present time our population numbers about 300 people and our workers live in company houses that are so modern they even have indoor plumbing.
Quite the colony, don’t you think?”
The location and company town were named Bamberton in Mr. Bamber’s honour. In 1916 the company merged with Mr Butchart’s company and Robert Butchart then shut his plant down and Butchart Gardens was created.
For over the next 40 years Bamberton was the only major cement producing plant in BC.
“During the 20th century the industry and communities of BC were built on the products from this site. It formed a critical component in BC’s economic development and built the infrastructure for today’s lifestyle.”
(Dr. Bob Griffin, Royal BC Museum)
The Bamberton plant produced cement until 1980 when production was shut down and moved to the company’s plant in Vancouver.
To learn more about the Bamberton plant and the company village visit the Heritage Museum.