River Wear Lime Kilns
Lime Kiln In Sunderland, Tyne And Wear
19th century lime kilns, located on the River Wear.
We've visited a number of lime kilns over the last two years, and these ones on the River Wear were built in a prime position to load lime straight from the kilns, into boats and off to it's destination.
They were built around 1800 and are located in the Southwick area of Sunderland, close to the Stadium Of Light. Limestone would have been extracted from the quarry at Fulwell and transported down to the river on waggonways. As we've said before, the limestone industry was big business in the North East and used in the agricultural and building industries amongst others.
The industries are celebrated by a series of plaques on the walls of the kilns, which include nods to the steel and glass industries too. There is also information on how the lime kiln worked, with a basic lesson on the chemistry of the lime kiln. We'll be testing you on this later. A diagram made of bricks also shows the inside of a kiln and how the layers of limestone and coal (used for fuel) would have looked when the kiln was in use.
There are around 20 kilns on the river, so the light and heat here must have been overwhelming. One of the kilns remains open so you can see inside and appreciate the size and height of the kiln. Another feature is a hole half way up the building, which would have been a chute to load the lime onto the boats on the water.
An interesting little factoid I discovered whilst researching the kilns on the river, was the phrase 'in the limelight' literally comes from the use of lime in stage lights in theatres. When a flame fed by oxygen and hydrogen is directed at quicklime, it produces an intense bright light, which was focused onto stage performers. Although lime is no longer used in lighting, the phrase has stuck around!
It's always interesting to see the old lime kilns and a great reminder of the area's past industry. Worth a wander down to the river if you're in the area.
How To Find River Wear Lime Kilns
Contributed by Sandra Clemens
I love the great outdoors and have been a National Trust & English Heritage member for years. I also love going off the beaten track and finding places like Sharp's Folly or Rothley Castle which are hidden gems in Northumberland. My favourite recent hike was climbing Red Screes in the Lake District on a whim, not fully grasping how high 776m was. It was still an achievement to conquer a Wainwright walk and I hope to do more one day.More Places from Sandra
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