Lime burning at Castle Point

A detail of a painting of Lindisfarne Castle showing the adjacent Lime Kilns burning

These kilns produced quicklime in the 19th century: adding water to quicklime (quick = alive) resulted in a violent reaction and produced slaked lime.

From the top of kilns, limestone and coal were added to the ‘pot’ (the brick-lined well) in layers. Once loaded (which took several days) the kilns were lit (the fire being about halfway down the structure) and the fire would spread upwards. The limestone was reduced to powder, which was filtered through a grate below the fire and was removed from the ‘drawing arches’ at the base of the kiln. As the limestone burnt down, more layers of stone and coal were added at the top.

The two types of lime were utilised in a variety of ways (mainly in agriculture and construction):

Quicklime

  • To make lime putty and hence lime mortar
  • To destroy infected bodies/carcasses in burials
  • To create ‘limelight’ in theatres
  • In ‘self-heating’ cans of food

Slaked lime

  • To make clay soils more workable and to neutralise acid soil
  • To make whitewash, mortar and plaster
  • To destroy odours in mass burials
  • To make bleaching powder, a disinfectant
  • To make caustic soda used to make soap
  • To purify sugar
  • In papermaking
  • In water purification
  • In effluent gas purification