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From Aug 2006 - Nov 2013 WeDig provided a live forum for diggers & fans of Vindolanda. It has now been mothballed and will be maintained as a live archive.

Here you will find preserved 7 years of conversation, photos, & knowledge about a site many people love. Vindolanda gets under the skin. (Figuratively and literally as a volunteer excavator!) It's a place you remember, filled with people you remember!

Thanks for 7 great years!

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Crindledykes Lime Kiln

Two views of Crindledykes lime kiln
(scroll over for a second image)


Just up the road from Vindolanda is a well-preserved testament to the region's more recent industrial past, Crindledykes Lime Kiln. From the 17th through 19th centuries, lime production was a huge industry for Northumberland. The county had some 300 kilns at its peak. Lime, made from the burning of limestone, was necessary for mortar. But it was even more valuable in agriculture, as it helped temper the acid soils caused by the North's heavy rainfall. Nearly all of the region's kilns have succumbed to time, but the one at Crindledykes (built late 18th - early 19th C) was restored in 1989 and is well worth a visit.


The picture to the right shows a cross-section of a lime kiln similar to Crindledykes.

The basic idea is very simple. The kiln is built in the shape of an egg cup. Layers of limestone rubble and fuel are added within the "cup" -- the cooking chamber -- until full. (At Crindledykes even the earthen ramp for ox-carts carrying the stone to the top has been preserved.) Then a fire is lit underneath, fed by air from the large draw arches. The temperature is held at about 1000 degrees Celsius, and the limestone simply burns down into quicklime, "lime" for short.

The turnaround time for a batch of quicklime was about a week. It would take a day to load the stone, three days to cook, a couple more days to cool down, and another day to empty. The fires were generally manned round the clock. It was important to keep the heat right; if it got too hot, the quicklime overcooked into useless "dead-burned" lime.

Cross-section of a lime kiln like Crindledykes
(image from Wikipedia)
Two maps to Crindledykes lime kiln
(scroll over for map from Twice Brewed Inn -- images from www.multimap.com)

A quick visit to the kiln is well worth the time. It's a nice reminder of another, more recent, layer of history & industry in the region. And it's very easy to reach from Vindolanda.

Directions from Vindolanda (best for walking/bicycle): Leave the museum by the rear, head toward the eastern parking lot. Continue straight past the parking lot along the lane. At the top of the hill when the lane dead-ends at an intersection, turn left. Follow the road about 1/2 mile and turn left at the next intersection. The kiln will be unmissable.

Directions from Twice Brewed Inn (best for driving): Leave the Inn, taking the Military Road (B6318) to the east. Go straight past the intersection signposted for Vindolanda. After about 1.2 miles, turn right at the narrow country lane, and follow it about 1/3 of a mile directly to the kiln.

Possible line of original Stanegate

To the left is a picture of an old farm gate just across the lane from the kiln. The track leading off into the distance may mark the original Roman Stanegate road. Vindolanda lies in the middle right distance of the photo, but isn't recognizable.

To the right is a picture of a disused quarry next to the kiln, slowly being reclaimed by nature. Today the landscape of Northumberland looks quite pristine. But it only takes a little digging to see signs of 2000+ years of human industry all over.

The region's quicklime industry actually only finally came to an end in the 1950s, as cheaper sources elsewhere made it uneconomical. It's true that many of Vindolanda's old stones can be found in the field walls and houses nearby. But much Roman handiwork surely met its ultimate fate here in the fires of this very kiln.
Disused quarry

References:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lime_kiln
http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/300834
http://www.northumberlandnationalpark.org.uk/understanding/geology/minesandquarries.htm

Page created by Harold Johnson