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Extract from:
A study of limestone quarrying at Llanymynech
Written in 1984 by Harvey Kynaston


Quarrying for limestone at Llanymynech Hill began many years ago. Amongst the diverse occupations of the people to be found in the Parish registers the word 'limeburner' appears as far back as the mid 18th Century. In later years 'limeman' can be found, as can the word 'labourer'. However, this loose term could also include farm labourers, roadmen and the like.

Evidence of some of the oldest quarrying and lime burning can be found at Pant. Not all quarries here sent limestone to be fired, some provided stone for roads, or for the towpaths running alongside canals. The quarries themselves are well hidden now behind a centuries growth of vegetation. Occasionally, a quarryman' s boot or even a piece of horse harness can be found, and it's still fairly easy to trace the paths of inclines and tramways, which used to carry trucks of limestone to local kilns or the Montgomery canal. The way in which these trucks travelled up and down the inclines deserves some explanation.

At the top of an incline was a large rotating wooden drum with either wire rope or chain wound around it [see diagram 1]. Trucks containing limestone were hitched at the top of the incline and let down, their speed being regulated by two factors; firstly a huge brake ( the mechanism of which can be seen in diagram 2 ), and secondly the weight of empty trucks coming back up the incline. At the bottom of the incline the full trucks would be emptied then hauled back up by the weight of full trucks coming down. The quarried limestone would then be either fired, in kilns, or loaded straight on to barges, then taken away by canal to be fired somewhere else or to be used directly as a hardcore for the construction of roads or towpaths.

Diagram 1 [a gin wheel]

gin drum

Diagram 2 [gin wheel brake]]

gin brake

Fortunately, at the date of writing, there are still several men living who have worked in the old limestone quarries of the area. One living in Porthywaen, and who once worked at the quarry there, described in detail the process of firing the old 'inverted bottle' type kiln:

First of all, planks would be placed over the draw hole [hearth], then brushwood and kindling thrown down from above. Alternate layers of limestone and coal were built up to the top of the kiln, loaded of course from above. It was important to judge the correct ratio of limestone to coal otherwise the lime would be spoiled. House coal was placed at the draw hole which would burn the planks and so begin to fire the kiln's load. The whole process took two to three days and was complete when the fire had reached the top of the kiln. The finished lime was then shovelled out from the bottom of the kiln through the draw hole. The wheelbarrows which took the lime from the kiln held approximately one to one and a half hundredweight so a limeburner could measure roughly how much came out of the kiln. The tallest kilns in the area produced about 30 tons per fire.

                       Sketch of ‘inverted bottle’ kiln shown below:

botle kiln sketch
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