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  • Writer's pictureGethin Thomas

Frogmore Lime Kiln

Originally published on Photoblog by Gethin Thomas December. 18, 2020 480 views

To increase wheat harvests during the Napoleonic wars, farmers were paid a yearly subsidy to have a limekiln on their land. Limestone was burnt in the kiln to form lime which was spread out on the fields to reduce the acidity of local soil. In 1840 there were about 27 limekilns on the banks of the Salcombe and Kingsbridge estuary.

Sailing barges brought in limestone from Plymouth and Torbay and "culm" a cheap coal from South Wales, which were unloaded at the small quay at the water's edge, onto packhorses which carried them up the slope to the top of the kilns. There the "Kiln Master" supervised the unloading into the two kilnpots dug into the hillside.

He arranged the coal and limestone into separate layers over furze kindling and set them on fire. After many days of slow burning at about 900 degrees C under his close scrutiny, the lime was raked out through the grate at the bottom of the pot. Then it was collected by farmers in their carts.

The excess heat from the kiln was used by the villagers of Frogmore for drying washing and cooking their Sunday dinners in the low oven which you can see below, between the two kilnpots. Sometimes tramps used them for sleeping places on winter nights.

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