Industry, People.

The Industrial History of Whitchurch. Lime burning on the Dowards.

Lime burning was a skilled job with the burner keeping his knowledge of the procedure to himself or in the family. The value of his product was dependant upon his skills. He had to know precisely how to layer the lime and charcoal within the kiln, how to judge and control the burn, an even the temperature throughout, and know when the burn was complete. The burner did this using a long iron rod which he passed down through the kiln judging the state state of contents by feel. A process called rodding. Under or overburnt lime, ‘bad lime’ was of little use or value and as the kilns were usually owned by the land owner who employed the burner and had a cut of the proffit, if the product was worthless he had a reduced income and the burner was paid accordingly.

The person who raked out the quicklime had the worst job. With little or no protective clothing working, he worked in intense heat inside and sometimes freezing ctemperatures outside the kiln, covered in quick lime dust sticking to his sweaty skin as he removed the contents through a small hole each side at the bottom. Then separating lime from ash and any stones before loading it onto a cart.

Little Doward Lime Kiln (4)

Burnt lime or quicklime, has been used for well over a three thousand years for mortar in building, the romans use it to construct their famous buildings, aqueducts and baths. They even invented a hydraulic cement that would set under water making it possible to construct jetties and harbors many of which are still in existence today. Quicklime from the Doward kilns would have been used more local for building and making a lime wash for painting walls, to cure foot rot in animals and in burying plague victims so that the disease did not spread outside the grave. Slaked lime was and still is used by farmers as an agricultural soil improver.
In 1824 the much improved Portland Cement was invented using a different process and slightly type of limestone not available around here and with the construction of railways, our local product was used far less and the local industry started its slow decline.

 

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