"The lime trade"

On Llyn, lime was not always available and some early builders used earth and clay between the stones. However, with the advent of a busy coastal shipping industry on the Llyn, Limestone, and culm the fuel needed to convert Limestone into quicklime became two of the more important imports to the area. 

The soil of much of the Llyn tends to be thin and acidic, not at all conducive to arable farming. As a result lime was needed for application to the soil to reduce acidity and thereby increase fertility. Lime was also very much in demand as lime mortar for building. It was also needed for Lime wash, the original whitewash used to paint stone cottages white.

The lime industry on Llyn started in the eighteenth century. The following “Porths” had kilns Pistyll, Morfan Nefyn, Porthdinllaen, Porth y Sgaden, Porthgolmon, Porth Oer, Porth Orion, Porth Meudwy, Aberdaron (2), Rhiw (Rhuol), Abersoch and Llanbedrog.

"Porthdinllaen's kiln, behind the cart"

Before the coming of the railways, the only way to get lime to the Llyn was by sea, limestone was brought in by small trading vessels. Often, it was offloaded into the water at high tide and then collected from the beach when the tide went out.

To make lime, limestone or calcium carbonate must be heated to 800 - 900 degrees to drive off carbon dioxide and leave calcium oxide or quicklime. This process was achieved in huge masonry kilns with a tapering internal furnace or 'crucible' where alternate layers of limestone and culm were introduced through the opening at the top. It is said that during the day they burned with a transparent blue waving flame while giving off thick acrid yellow smoke. At night they glowed and may have been useful landmarks for travellers both on sea and land.

Some surviving lime kilns from around Llyn.

"Abersoch"

Porth y Sgaden Porthor (Whistling Sands)

 

 

Example of Limestone imports to Llyn

(Morfa Nefyn)

1868 "Ebenezer of Rhiw"
1st August, 28 tons Limestone @ 3/- per ton £4-4-0
1869
6th October, 30 tons Limestone @ 3/- per ton £4-10-0
30th October 30 tons Limestone @ 3/- per ton

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Example. from 1870.
5th Oct 2 loads,
10th Oct 23 loads,
19th Oct 25 loads,
21st Oct 25 loads,
22nd Oct 25 loads,
26th Oct 30 loads,
27th Oct 30 loads,
28th Oct 40 loads,
£4-10-0

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The brothers Robert and William Williams of Bryn Bach, Morfa Nefyn were well respected local lime burners who worked at regular intervals on the beach, and were employed at the rate of 3/6 per day. An interesting record shows the time worked by these two men during November and December 1875. From November 20th until the end of the year they worked every day except Sunday and they worked half day on Christmas day.

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 (Aberdaron)

1886

June 17th "Caerhun"       32 tons, stones @ 4/5

£ 7. 1. 4

June 17th "Vivid"             22 tons, stones @ 4/5 £ 4.17.2
June 18th "Catherine"     32 tons, stones @ 4/5 £ 7. 1. 4
June 29th "Vivid"            21 tons, stones @ 4/5 £ 4. 9. 3
July    8th "Vivid"            21 tons, stones @ 4/5 £ 4. 9. 3
July  31st "Vivid"            21 tons, stones @ 4/5 £ 4. 9. 3

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1887

Sept  -

"Koh i nooz"                       35 tons, stones @ 4/3

£11.13.9

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1888

May 24th "Vivid" 20 tons, stone at 2/6  freight @ 1/8 for stone. £ 4. 6. 0
June 19th "Virtue" 28 tons, stone at 2/6 freight @ 1/8 for stone. £ 5.16.8
June 30th "Vivid" 20 tons, stone at 2/6  freight @ 1/8 for stone. £ 4. 6. 0
June 30th "Virtue" 28 tons, stone at 2/6 freight @ 1/8 for stone. £ 5.16.8
Aug 1st "Vivid" 20 tons, stone at 2/6  freight @ 1/8 for stone. £ 4. 6. 0
Aug 1st "Virtue" 28 tons, stone at 2/6 freight @ 1/8 for stone. £ 5.16.8
Aug 10th "Glyndwr" 42 tons, culm @ 4/6 freight. £ 9. 9. 0
Aug 16th "Vivid" 20 tons, stone at 2/6  freight @ 1/8 for stone. £ 4. 6. 0

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"Discharging Limestone at Porthsgaden"

Quicklime drawn from the kilns was sold to farmers who would leave it in small heaps on the fields to be 'slaked' to take in water and to be converted to calcium hydroxide before it could be applied to the land. Without slaking, the quick lime would have killed anything growing. The slaked lime was spread at some four tons to the acre.

 

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