The Historic Limekilns of
has been used for building since 7000 BC ( South Galilee, Israel). It
was widely used by the Egyptians and later by the Romans who invented
various mixes including a waterproof lime mortar for use in aqueducts
by including volcanic dust in the mix. In Ceredigion, lime was not
always available and some early builders used earth and clay between
the stones. However, with the advent of a busy coastal shipping
industry in West Wales, Limestone, and culm - the fuel needed to
convert Limestone into quicklime became two of the more
important imports to the area.
restored Lime Kiln at Cwmtydu beach.
|The soil of much of inland and upland Ceredigion
tends to be thin and acidic -not at all conducive to arable farming. As
a result lime was needed for application to the soil to reduce acidity
and thereby increase fertility. Lime was also very much in demand as
lime mortar for building - lime mortar was used in Ceredigion before
Portland cement was available. It was also needed for Lime wash - the
original whitewash used to paint stone cottages white.
the coming of the railways, the only way to get lime to the west coast
of Wales was by ship. The limestone was brought from Gower and
Pembrokeshire by boat. Often, it was offloaded into the water at high
tide and then collected from the beach when the tide went down.
|To make lime, limestone - or
calcium carbonate must be heated to 800 - 900 degrees to drive off
carbon dioxide and leave calcium oxide or quicklime. This process was
achieved in huge masonry kilns with a tapering internal furnace or
'crucible' where alternate layers of limestone and culm were introduced
through the opening at the top. It is said that during the day they
burned with a transparent blue waving flame while giving off
thick acrid yellow smoke. At night they glowed and may have been useful
landmarks for travelers both on sea and land. Some of the kilns are
round (Llangrannog, Cwmtydu and Mwnt) while others are square
(Llanrhystud and Wallog north of Aberystwyth). I have found no record
of the shape of the Cei Bach kilns. The shapes drawn on the 1840 Tithe
map (below) are indeterminate.
This part of the 1840
Tithe map clearly shows a group of 4 Lime kilns where the present beach
path enters the beach (top left) and a group of 2 near Troedyrhiew Farm
(right) to the east. Click on the map for a larger version.
This is the remains of
a wall or possibly part of one of the lime kilns at the eastern end of
Cei Bach Beach. It was certainly an internal part of a massive structure
the base of the kiln is one or more triangular or arch shaped openings
leading to a small aperture or draw hole where the fire could be lit
and the finished lime drawn off. The well preserved lime kiln complex
between Llanon and Llanrhystud was one of the major lime producer in
the area with four kilns, each of which has three draw holes. There
were also several kilns at Cei Bach close to New Quay - the 1840 Tithe
map clearly shows at least six kilns. Unfortunately, coastal erosion
has destroyed the kilns at Cei Bach. All that remains is the
central portion of a single wall - which may or may not be part of one
of the eastern group of lime kilns, stripped of its protective stone
(see photo above).
of the Llanrhystud kilns shows that both interior and exterior walls
were of dressed stone, while the cavity between was filled with rubble
- all that is remaining at Cei Bach.
drawn from the kilns was sold to farmers who would leave it in small
heaps on the fields to be 'slaked' - to take in water and to
be converted to calcium hydroxide before it could be applied to the
land. Without slaking, the quick lime would have killed anything
growing! The slaked lime was spread at some four tons to the acre.
remains of the circular limekiln at Mwnt near Cardigan
of the square kilns at Llanrhystud
At Llanrhystud below
the lime kilns there are the remains of piers constructed in the same
manner as the original pier 'Penpolion' at New Quay with stakes driven
into the beach with stones between them. The stones have long gone
though but the stakes remain.
hole at Llanrhystud. The four kilns here are built into the hill so
that only three sides needed to be built. As the top of the kiln is
level with the field above, it was then an easy matter to drop lime and
culm into the top opening.
lime industry in Ceredigion started in the eighteenth century. However
it died out towards the end of the nineteenth century as the railways
proved to be more cost effective than the coastal shipping trade and as
other fertilizers such as guano became more widely used. By 1900 almost
all the coastal kilns had stopped work.
and erosion have removed all traces of many kilns including most of
those at Cei Bach. Others such as those at Cwmtydu, Llangrannog and
Mwnt are built well away from the edge of the sea and remain more or
less intact. However, the best un-restored examples remain between
Llanon and Llanrhystud. Presently the kilns are well away from the edge
of the soft clay/rubble cliff. However these cliffs are very vulnerable
to storms and without coastal protection the Llanrhystud kilns could
well be lost within just a few generations. See them while you can.
© Rod Attrill 2003