Peter briefly described the basic design of a limekiln, and the various processes involved in the making of products used mainly for building purposes or for spreading on fields to neutralise acidic soil. As he demonstrated by a wide selection of photographs, maps and drawings, there is no standard shape or size for a limekiln; constructed in many different locations from rivers, canals and coast, to inland areas exploiting the best available limestone.
He explained his own researches over the years, such as his survey of Dorset in the early 1990s, plotting the location of limekilns from old Ordnance Survey maps and other sources. One problem was that there was little in the archives about limekilns; they tended to be a small-scale domestic operation, so there remain few historic records, such as sales or accounts books.
Many of the recorded sites had long fallen into disuse and disrepair, often disappearing completely; those restored, tended over time to deteriorate because of insufficient aftercare and maintenance. Some uses of the converted included dwellings, storage areas, garages etc. Few were preserved or protected; perhaps considered as relatively unimportant items of industrial history and architecture, though he did show some examples from Britain and elsewhere of rather grand and impressive limekilns.
He concluded with a brief survey of limekilns in Somerset generally, especially the North Somerset coast, and those in the Langport area. The latter brought out much reaction and even some further information from members of the audience with first-hand knowledge of the local sites.
The next meeting will be at Langport Library on Monday 5th February, when Tom Harris looks at the history of bells and English church bell ringing. It is free to members (annual membership is £12): non-members are welcome, admission £2. Anyone interested in joining the History Society should contact Sue Standen (01458 273471, firstname.lastname@example.org). Follow the History Society at @langporthistory, and on its website: https://sites.google.com/site/langportheritage/home.
9th Jan 2018