This week marks my fourth year of a weekly Friday blog. To celebrate, I decided to republish my first blog. It was my first try at promoting local heritage and I suppose it also gives a sense of my curiosity and determination to discover more about the features that surrounded me growing up, or the stories that I was told. I made one amendment suggested by my pal Blob the scientist in the comments and added in links to future kiln stories for ease of reference. Otherwise this is as it was first published May 16th 2014. As only 80 people have read it, its probably not an inconvenience to the majority of my present readers, but I do beg the indulgence of my early adopters 🙂
As a child I was intrigued by the building called the Limekilns in Cheekpoint. When I asked my father what it was for his answer reminds me of what I tell my daughter when she asks what the internet is…He said it was for making lime, as I might say its a means of getting information.
|Double Lime Kiln at the Green, Cheekpoint
When as an adult, fishing the river, I noticed others up the Ross River as we sometimes called the Barrow my curiosity was piqued again and at some stage, pre Internet days, I managed to get some written information that began to lift the curtain from my eyes. We do know, for example, that when Arthur Young did his Tour in Ireland and book of the same name, he stopped on two occasions with the resident landlords of the area, the Boltons. He recorded much of their entrepreneurial endeavours amongst which were Limekilns at Cheekpoint, Faithlegg and Ballycanavan (Jack Meades). His visit was 1796 and his second in 1798. The book is available on googlebooks for free here
|An English scene depicting a sailing boat carrying lime stones to be unloaded at a coastal kiln
accessed from http://ichef.bbci.co.uk/arts/yourpaintings/images/paintings/wtb/
Young tells us that the “progressive” Boltons had set the Kilns up to add lime to the fields in order to fertilise and enhance the crops and their yield. He also mentions that they sometimes dried salt on the top of the kilns (presumably for use in preserving). I also learned from other sources that many landlords actually encouraged their tenants to spread lime by offering free seed or other perks, suggesting that the tenants were possibly sceptical about the process?
Kilns were sited close to water as the lime stone, which was burned, was generally ferried by water. In the Suir and Barrow, the boats used were termed Lighters – so named because they were used to lighten the load of sailing ships who could be held back from port by sandbars etc. These had a three man crew one held the tiller and two pushed the flat bottomed craft along using poles. They drove them into the water and pushed from the bow to the stern to get the boat along. The crew also loaded and unloaded the craft which was no mean feat. I read recently that there were 150 Lighters working the Suir alone between Waterford and Carrick into the late 19th Century.
However it was at the stage that I cam across Shire Publications
and ordered my copy of Limekilns and Limeburning by Richard Williams that I finally had the completed answers to the process of the Limekiln.
Lime has been around since about 6000 BCE and was used by the Mesopotamians. The Greeks later used it in footpaths but it was the Romans who seem to have taken it to the building and agriculture level. Some examples have been found from the Roman period in the UK. There is evidence that the early Christian period used lime to wash houses and the Normans certainly burned lime to assist in their castle, church and bridge building. These kilns tended to be temporary builds and were left to deteriorate after the initial need for lime in building had passed.
|Anyone wondering how a lighter would access the kilns at Jack Meades
would get a good sense when considering the height of this recent high tide
It was the demand for food that spiked with the Industrial revolution that made lime burning so prevalent in the mid to late 18th Century. This combined with the Napoleonic wars which also drove demand and enhanced knowledge in agricultural sciences made lime burning a regular feature of rural areas which necessitated the building of more permanent Kilns. End Part 1
I went on to write a follow up piece the following week on the workings of local kilns
I publish a blog each Friday. If you like this piece or have an interest in the local history or maritime heritage of Waterford harbour and environs you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to receive the blog every week.
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